Thursday, November 11th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Esri ships CityEngine 2021.1

Originally posted on 10 June 2021. Scroll down for news of the 2021.1 update.

Esri has released CityEngine 2021.0, the latest version of the procedural 3D city generation software, adding new options for publishing projects as VR panoramas that can be viewed in a web browser.

Other changes include new brush-based tools for sculpting terrain, a new system for exporting Unreal Engine Variants of a scene, and the option to import or export data in DWG and USDZ format.

A powerful procedural tool for generating 3D city models for urban planning and VFX
CityEngine generates detailed city models from simple procedural rules, importing data in standard file formats like OBJ and DXF, and exporting in formats including FBX, Alembic and USD.

Although aimed at architects and urban planners – it integrates with ESRI’s ArcGIS platform – the software is also designed for entertainment, and comes with connections to DCC tools and game engines.

In recent years, it has been used on some major movies: Scanline VFX used it for city-destruction shots in Independence Day: Resurgence, and Walt Disney Animation Studios used it on Zootopia.

Export 360-degree panoramas for viewing in VR via a web browser
For client previews, CityEngine enables users to publish projects in 3VR format, which generates 360-degree panoramas for every camera bookmark in the project.

The panoramas can be viewed interactively on mobiles and desktop PCs in standard web browsers.

In CityEngine 2021.0, it is possible to view panoramas in virtual reality on a wider range of hardware, since Esri’s new 360 VR web app now works with “all popular VR headsets”, not just Oculus Go and Gear VR.

New brush-based terrain editing tools
Other changes include new brush-based tools for sculpting terrain.

They’re fairly basic: the Terrain Edit brush pulls the ground surface up or down to the height selected, and the Terrain Reset brush undoes the effect.

To judge from Esri’s demo video (embedded above), they’re mainly intended for levelling small areas of terrain before placing 3D buildings on them rather than sculpting entire landcapes.

Create multiple versions of a design and export them to Unreal Engine as Variants
In addition, CityEngine’s Scenarios system – which enables users to create multiple variant designs for a project and view them side by side – has been expanded.

The implementation now supports Graph, Map and Terrain layers, and Scenarios can be exported to Unreal Engine as Variants, making it possible to view them inside the game engine as well as CityEngine itself.

Workflow improvements, plus support for DWG and USDZ
Smaller changes include usability improvements for the Rotate, Scale and Transform tools, making it easier to adjust individual 3D buildings; plus extensions to CGA, CityEngine’s procedural modelling language.

Users can now also import or export data in AutoCAD’s DWG format, or in USDZ format for use in augmented reality applications. Support for USD itself was added in CityEngine 2020.

Updated 10 November 2021: Esri has released CityEngine 2021.1.

New features include IFC import and export, for exchanging data with BIM applications; and a new material encoder, making it possible to export and reuse materials defined using CGA.

The software also now generates 3D buildings with more detail when pulling in OpenStreetMap data.

Updates to features added in the 2021.0 release include new options in the terrain sculpting tools for fading edits into the original terrain, and better render quality in the 360 VR app.

Other changes include the option to use custom reference systems for the transform tools, as well as working in world or object space; and workflow improvements to the Dashboards system.

In related news, CityEngine is also one of the latest applications to get an integration plugin for Omniverse, Nvidia’s new real-time collaboration platform.

Pricing and system requirements
CityEngine 2021.1 is available for 64-bit Windows 8.1+ and Server 2012+ and RHEL 7 Linux. Esri has now discontinued the macOS edition of the software.

Since we last wrote about the software, Esri has begun listing prices in its online store. Perpetual licences cost $4,000, while subscriptions cost $2,000/year.

Read an overview of the new features in CityEngine

Read a full list of new features in CityEngine in the online changelog