Frequently asked questions



Procedural modeling

3D content on the web

ArcGIS platform

System requirements



What is CityEngine?

CityEngine is a desktop application that provides unique interactive design and procedural modeling capabilities for the efficient creation of 3D cities and buildings.

What's new in CityEngine 2021.1?

See What's new in CityEngine 2021.1 for more details.

Who can use CityEngine?

CityEngine is used by professionals in the following industries:

  • Urban planning, design, and development (architectural visualization and local government)
  • Entertainment (films, commercials, games)
  • Real world simulation, emergency response, and defense
  • Academia

What is the long-term vision for CityEngine?

Over the next few years, we see CityEngine becoming the desktop application of choice for city planners, urban designers, and architects. We will invest in advancing special-purpose capabilities such as procedural master planning tools, interactive urban analytics on the GPU, or the management, comparison, and communication of redevelopment scenarios. At the same time, we will continue to tightly integrate CityEngine with the ArcGIS 3D platform, namely, interconnect CityEngine with web apps such as Scene Viewer and Story Maps, and with VR/AR apps based on Runtime SDKs.

Is CityEngine really used in the production of Hollywood blockbusters?

Yes. CityEngine is used by several major animation studios and visual effects houses for the creation of digital sets of urban environments. CityEngine can generate Alembic geometry caches of unlimited size on disk. Alembic allows for the hassle-free management and rendering of massive 3D models in DCC tools such as Houdini or Maya and is typically used in the production of feature films.


Can CityEngine export 3D GIS data to Unity or other VR/AR visualization engines?

Yes. CityEngine is well suited to export your 3D GIS data or city models to Unity, the tool of choice for developing Virtual Reality applications (for example, Gear VR, Hive, and Oculus) or Augmented Reality solutions (for example, HoloLens). As a result, CityEngine writes the popular FBX file format, which can now be flawlessly read by Unity. In the typical use case, an FBX so-called "instancing" feature allows for small file sizes and high frame rates in Unity.

Does CityEngine support the creation of 3D KML files?

Yes. The ability to import and export KML is available in CityEngine. Industry-standard 3D object properties such as advanced materials and multiple textures are supported by CityEngine and can be read by KML viewers such as ArcGIS Earth.

Can I use CityEngine to generate 3D buildings out of LiDAR data?

No. CityEngine does not support LiDAR data nor are tools provided for the automatic extraction of surfaces out of point clouds. However, based on ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine RPKs, Esri provides solution workflows to extract building and tree parameters from LiDAR and generate procedural representation of buildings and trees at various levels of detail.

Can I use CityEngine to generate LOD1 buildings out of a DSM?

Yes. If you have a detailed DSM (digital surface model, including buildings), you can compute the building height and automatically generate LOD1 buildings in CityEngine. To get the building footprints, you could use the CityEngine Get map data functionality, which imports OSM data and the underlying digital terrain model.

Procedural modeling

What is CGA?

CGA (Computer Generated Architecture) is a unique programming language specified to generate architectural 3D content. The idea of grammar-based modeling is to define procedural rules, or CGA rules in CityEngine, that iteratively refine a design by creating more and more detail.

How long do I need to learn CGA?

If you have programming experience and 3D knowledge, you should be able to learn CGA in about a week. If you are a beginner, expect between one to two months to learn CGA.

What exactly is procedural modeling?

Procedural modeling means that 3D geometries and textures are constructed using rules (procedures) instead of labor-intensive manual modeling.

A single procedural rule can be used to generate many 3D models. For example, the rule can use feature attribute information stored in GIS data—such as the number of floors, roof type, wall material type, and son on—to generate a series of alternate 3D models that accurately represent the properties of each feature. The more attributes you have, the more accurate the generated model can be.

Where can I get these procedural rules?

ArcGIS Online

CityEngine comes with a number of example projects that contain rules that you can modify to see how the rules drive the 3D content. Also, in the CityEngine Navigator you can search and Portal for ArcGIS for RPKs that can be imported to CityEngine as procedural rules.

3D content on the web

What is the CityEngine Web Viewer?

The CityEngine Web Viewer is the original, special-purpose application on ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise that allows you to view exported CityEngine Web Scenes. CityEngine Web Scenes are hosted on ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise and viewed in 3D on browsers that support WebGL, a web technology standard built into most modern browsers for rendering 3D graphics.

What is Scene Viewer?

Scene Viewer is the general-purpose application in ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise for authoring and viewing 3D content in the browser. You can author scenes in Scene Viewer by mashing up existing scene layers created by CityEngine or ArcGIS Pro with basemaps and feature layers.

What is the difference between CityEngine Web Viewer and Scene Viewer?

The original CityEngine Web Viewer visualizes CityEngine web scenes (3WS), which are limited in size. It is a viewing-only tool that allows commenting and comparing scenarios (for example, using the swipe tool). The CityEngine Web Viewer can only view content created by CityEngine.

Scene Viewer can visualize 2D and 3D content created at any scale with an unlimited extent. The content viewed by Scene Viewer can be used across the entire ArcGIS platform, (for example, authored and viewed in ArcGIS Pro, CityEngine, ArcGIS API for JavaScript, ArcGIS Story Maps, and so on). However, Scene Viewer does not yet support the same easy-to-use commenting, comparing, and offline user experience as the CityEngine Web Viewer.

Will Scene Viewer replace the CityEngine Web Viewer?

In the future, Scene Viewer will take over the same functionality and user experience as the CityEngine Web Viewer. Until then, the CityEngine Web Viewer will remain on ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise with mainstream support guaranteed. Additionally, after Scene Viewer takes over the CityEngine Web Viewer, you will still be able to use the CityEngine Web Viewer safely for another two years.

What formats are supported by the CityEngine Web Viewer and Scene Viewer?

You need a desktop web browser that supports WebGL. The latest versions of the most common desktop browsers have WebGL built-in.

Can CityEngine host 3D content on the web?

No. CityEngineCityEngine is not a web server and does not contain hosting capabilities. You can, however, use CityEngine to download content from ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise and add to your CityEngine scenes. You can also share CityEngine Web Scenes (3WS) to ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise in the CityEngine Web Viewer and through scene layer package (SLPK) files that can be consumed by Scene Viewer.

ArcGIS platform

Is CityEngine part of the ArcGIS platform?

Yes. CityEngine is integrated into the ArcGIS platform and supports capabilities such as the following:

  • Consumption of basemaps and elevation from ArcGIS Online
  • Publishing of 3D object layer (SLPK)
  • Support for feature layers
  • Managing, searching, and sharing items in ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise

How do ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine work together?

There are several ways ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine work together. Both ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine can share layers via Web GIS, read and write geodatabases, and provide support for a wide variety of compatible 2D and 3D exchange file formats. While ArcGIS Pro is a powerful general-purpose application that manages, analyzes, and visualizes GIS data on any scale, CityEngine provides unique interactive design tools, for example, the editing of multipatch features and the parametric modeling of detailed 3D roads, as well as powerful 3D export capabilities.

Can I use CityEngine to author custom procedural symbol layers in ArcGIS Pro?

ArcGIS Pro includes system styles that contain procedural symbol layers. The latter derive all their properties and 3D geometry from RPKs. To create procedural symbol layers, you can find RPKs by searching ArcGIS Online. Alternatively, you can author your own custom procedural symbol layers in CityEngine and export them as RPKs for use in ArcGIS Pro.

System requirements

What are the system requirements for CityEngine?

On what operating systems does CityEngine run?

CityEngine runs on all three major operating systems: Windows, OS X, and Linux (verified on Red Hat).

Does CityEngine have native 64-bit support on all operating systems?

Yes, CityEngine is a native 64-bit application. Therefore, if needed, CityEngine could make use of all your memory (and not just 2 or 3GB as in 32-bit applications).

Is CityEngine supported in virtualized environments?

Yes. CityEngine can virtualize well. The same user experience that is available on a physical desktop can also be delivered on a virtual desktop, that is, on all of the major virtualization environments.


I work for a city government and want to build my own city in 3D with CityEngine. How can I get started?

Many cities all over the globe want to go 3D with their GIS. To get started, check out the series of follow-along-demos Esri provides that are designed to introduce users to the basic concepts of CityEngine, demonstrate the workflow for creating a 3D city model, explain how to create and share RPKs, outline the process for exporting 3D models from CityEngine to various 3D formats, and publish a 3D scene to ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS. You can search the course catalog for available CityEngine courses and training at the Esri Academy.

If I have an older version of CityEngine, how do I get the new version?

Visit My Esri to upgrade to CityEngine 2020.1.

Where can I get more technical information about CityEngine?

Visit CityEngine Resources for videos, blogs, technical information, and more.