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Ever since I was a child in the 1990s, I have dreamt of digitally recreating my unique childhood block and its nearby residential areas as some kind of computer "game" (simulation), for the purpose of nostalgia, recreation "and more".

Having installed software such as Blender and Unity countless times, only to soon afterward uninstall them in crushing disappointment, I have given up all hope of ever doing this by manually creating every item in this 3D world myself, and trying to code/integrate some external "3D engine". It's just not going to happen, even if I were given a 500-year lifespan. My brain simply isn't capable of doing that.

What I envision is some sort of GUI software which was specifically made for this kind of thing. Not a video game. Not a CAD software. Not some engineering simulator. Literally something which allows me, as a completely unskilled 3D artist, to slowly (but surely) build the houses by using various logical tools in a GUI which allow me to drop in very realistic real-life objects, big and small, parts of walls, etc., so that the end result will be a fully walkable (no interactivity or virtual people is expected) house and outdoors with a very close approximation of what it looked liked from my memories (sometimes aided by reference photos).

The software would allow me to do something like "Create stand-alone executable" which would package my world into an EXE program which can be started and which then goes to fullscreen with my specified starting position and time inside my world, and then it allows me to walk around as if it were a "first-person shooter" (sans weapons), with the typical WASD controls and mouselook. Also basic jumping/skipping/climbing. Standard, established stuff. Just not as part of a video game.

The sun and moon would rise/set according to how they move in reality (this part is the most trivial), and it would support fetching historical weather data for the location and time, so that if it rained there at the first of May in 1995, and this is the current time and location in my simulation, it rains inside of it. Same for wind and so on.

Suitable ambiance background sounds can be set up in an ambitious editor specifically for this.

I don't want to end up with some blocky "Minecraft" world here, or something that looks like it's from a late-1980s music video.

It should be noted that I don't exactly expect pre-created full 3D models of every unique object/product in the world. However, I did not grow up in the USA in one of those typical neighbourhoods of identical houses with identical grass front lawns and everything looking just like a video game. (Not that I hate those places...) The place where I grew up was very unique in many ways, and no two houses looked the same. For this reason, I fully expect that there will a lot of work involved even with this imaginary tool which I hope exists. If it does, I plan to start off with my own house and then slowly expand the 3D world around it.

I want to be sure to be using an appropriate, future-proof tool for this and not start pointlessly put in countless hours of work only to realize it was all in vain.

It would really help if I could start the process by selecting the coordinates on a world map and then get a few kilometers of auto-generated terrain. That is, I would not have to manually decide/create all the height differences and hills and stuff, because the software would use existing "height data" to generate the basic landscape. The next step, I imagine, would be to place out the correct kinds of trees and major rocks and stuff like that, and decide where there are paths and (of course) asphalted roads.

My end goal is to be able to create a Childhood.exe which I can run on my desktop computer and which instantly puts me at a specific GPS coordinate at a specific moment in time and lets me walk around in this environment as a short avatar (my child self), remembering how it all used to look and how beautiful it was. Since I have been a complete failure in life, I no longer have any serious thoughts of being able to purchase this land and doing this in real life, and because they have destroyed the physical location, I can't take walks there anymore. So I want to recreate it digitally, and, as VR hopefully matures at some point in the future, I could more or less "move in" there permanently. But forget about VR right now. I'm "just" talking about a "photo-realistic" 3D environment on a normal 2D computer monitor.

Given how low my demands are for interactivity and "AI" (again, there would be no people or animals except maybe birds and the odd cat, and no "missions" or any kind of "cutscenes" or "story" or anything like that), I think this is not a completely unrealistic request. I could easily see this being an in-demand product if it exists, for people who are stuck in the past like myself and who hate the present time. I'm not rich but would be willing to pay "good money" if it really worked like I imagine it would.

There certainly is nothing that technically prevents this from happening at this point, short of the amount of work required for the countless 3D models and textures required to make this look non-generic and realistic for a rich variety of (Western) locations/objects/products.

I have seen various videos showing somebody walking around in a 3D environment (rendered in real time) which looked unbelievably close to doing the same thing with a camera, so the engines do exist for this. The question is just if there is a product which contains this extreme level of "assets" bundled into it and is meant for people who haven't spent the last 30 years working 24/7 in advanced 3D software...

  • There are actually some of your requests that may be harder than you think to create, especially movements. Jumping is integrated into software like Unreal or Unity, but Climbing and Skipping may be more difficult to implement. As per Roybin93's comment in your ArqadeSE question, it looks like you want to use something like Unity or Unreal (I guess Unreal may have more realistic ready to use assets if you don't mind paying a little) without learning to use it. I guess your best option is to find someone willing to help you which could create it for you, using these tools. – Matthieu Foltzer Nov 13 '19 at 14:10

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