Making interesting worlds

By on January 25, 2011 1:21:52 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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One of the challenges we’ve had in War of Magic has been making the world interesting.

On the one hand, you want a world that looks ruined. But on the other hand, you don’t want a world that looks boring. 

During the betas of War of Magic, we had rivers in the world. Unfortunately, they looked horrendous because they couldn’t easily change the way they looked based on the morphing terrain system.

For those of you not familiar with Elemental, in War of Magic, the terrain is totally morphable. It doesn’t just change shape but changes texture and such. We couldn’t get the rivers to look satisfying with this system and took them out. Unfortunately, this only made the world look even more uninteresting to players.

One thing we could/should have done was have paths and roads right from the start.

image

In Fallen Enchantress, a major effort is being put in to have truly randomized landmasses.  In War of Magic, the worlds are randomly generated but the land masses are not. Part of this was an issue of how long it takes to generate land (anyone who’s ever coded fractal code knows what I mean). It’s certainly not undoable. Civilization does it and there are some freeware tools that can do it as well. It just takes time and optimization (i.e. budget) which has been allocated for Fallen Enchantress so that we can get our roads, rivers, and randomly generated land masses.  For us, the challenge isn’t to create randomly generated maps (the editor does it already) but to make them fun and interesting and pretty (hence no rivers in War of Magic).

As War of Magic and Fallen Enchantress diverge, it’ll be interesting to see how different they end up being in the long-run because War of Magic will have its own source tree and continue to evolve on its own while Fallen Enchantress has its own path as well. 

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January 25, 2011 1:34:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Does this mean we get rivers in Fallen Echantress?! 

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January 25, 2011 1:37:47 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Will this be coded in such a way that modders can make map scripts for it?

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January 25, 2011 2:09:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Here's a legit question- how many of us want resources to be spent on War of Magic once FE comes out, if FE ends up a much superior game?

 

I'd rather see the resources spent on what 99% of people will be playing, not the other 1%. 

 

That's not to say improvements from FE could be back-ported to EWOM, but I wouldn't want anything over token sums of money/time spent on that, provided FE ends up being what it needs to be.

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January 25, 2011 2:10:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Bazinga!

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January 25, 2011 2:34:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Frogboy, I really think you need to look at the ambient noise generated from the map as well as bringing the actual map to life.

At present the sound is really weak.

Play a random game of Age of Wonders, close your eyes, and then scroll around. The sound communicates so much of where you are in that game and can either make you feel hot, comfortable or cold. Elemental is really lacking in this area.

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January 25, 2011 2:35:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

wait.... what do you mean roads? i've seen maps start with roads in new games going back to 1.09ish i think.

 

is that carried over from old games or some such (eg... i don't know... playing a certain map meant something is changed on it and stored.. beats me why) or do those maps have roads anyway? or are you talking about stuff that's sort of implemented already?

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January 25, 2011 2:46:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Frogboy, I really think you need to look at the ambient noise generated from the map as well as bringing the actual map to life.

At present the sound is really weak

 

I agree with this as well

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January 25, 2011 3:09:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,
Here's a legit question- how many of us want resources to be spent on War of Magic once FE comes out, if FE ends up a much superior game?

I'd rather see the resources spent on what 99% of people will be playing, not the other 1%. 

That's not to say improvements from FE could be back-ported to EWOM, but I wouldn't want anything over token sums of money/time spent on that, provided FE ends up being what it needs to be.

I'll happily accept what is produced.

I'll happily purchase what is not free.

How the resources will be spent will ultimately be up to them, but either way, progress made will be to our benefit (and theirs in return).

-.-

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January 25, 2011 3:09:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes yes yes! A good looking world will make this game so much more interesting for me.

Don't forget to add colorful fantasy stuff! I want a fantasy world, not a brown, flat desert.

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January 25, 2011 3:10:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Das123,
Frogboy, I really think you need to look at the ambient noise generated from the map as well as bringing the actual map to life.

At present the sound is really weak.

Play a random game of Age of Wonders, close your eyes, and then scroll around. The sound communicates so much of where you are in that game and can either make you feel hot, comfortable or cold. Elemental is really lacking in this area.

I love the crystal shard sound.

Yeah, I can 'dig' the ambient sounds.

-.-

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January 25, 2011 3:32:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Does this mean you've "thrown in the towel" on getting rivers and truly random maps into Elemental? I hope not... . Also, I think I have to disagree about the roads. In a ruined, destroyed, burnt out landscape, I would expect to see "pieces" of roads. Maybe parts of roads that were, for the most part, utterly destroyed. However, small parts might remain here and there but unless they were repaired wouldn't really lead to anywhere useful (or they could lead to hidden goodies if you follow the pieces).

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January 25, 2011 3:55:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alfdaur,
Does this mean we get rivers in Fallen Echantress?! 

 

Well i hope we get that for E:WoM with the 1.2 patch. This would be a very nice addition.

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January 25, 2011 4:01:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

When I play I use the cloth map, and not because my pc can't handle it.

It's because I have a better overview this way, sometimes I check and see up close. But after a while I just let it stick in cloth map because it plays faster so i'm missing all the land morphing things.

 

I'd like to see the cool land things and still have the better overview style of the cloth map.

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January 25, 2011 4:42:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Ahara,
When I play I use the cloth map, and not because my pc can't handle it.

It's because I have a better overview this way, sometimes I check and see up close. But after a while I just let it stick in cloth map because it plays faster so i'm missing all the land morphing things.

 

I'd like to see the cool land things and still have the better overview style of the cloth map.

 

Yeah, I really wonder, what's the percentage of players who don't play on the cloth map.

 

Currently the only graphics I see while playing is during battles and when creating new units, else it's only the cloth map. Since, to be honest, the graphics of the game are just not able, for me, to give me the info I need.

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January 25, 2011 4:59:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Is there a way we can choose the world designed like the one on the map that came in my box set.  I would like to play that in sandbox.  It would be even better if I could choose the regions, but I would be happy with just the default map.

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January 25, 2011 5:07:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm sorry, but roads and rivers are the last thing Elemental needs in order to be interesting.

Wide ranges of unique monsters, distinct races, clashing magics and terrain types, secret relics locked away in forgotten tombs. This is the stuff that will make Elemental interesting. Not infrastructure or water.

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January 25, 2011 5:13:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah, I really wonder, what's the percentage of players who don't play on the cloth map.

I use the cloth map sparingly.  I really enjoy the close up graphics and will use the cloth map simply because its eaiser to see what makes up the towns and an overview.  My gameplay is probably slower than most, up close I feel like i"m a part of the game and not just looking down on a map moving pieces around.  I'm glad both options are available to us.

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January 25, 2011 5:27:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting TheProgress,
I'm sorry, but roads and rivers are the last thing Elemental needs in order to be interesting.

Wide ranges of unique monsters, distinct races, clashing magics and terrain types, secret relics locked away in forgotten tombs. This is the stuff that will make Elemental interesting. Not infrastructure or water.

 

Exactly.

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January 25, 2011 5:40:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

For my part I really enjoy the idea of life comming back to the lands as your empire advances - dried out riverbeds have water in them, perhaps even fish and fishers when zoomed in, at first the landscape is ultra-dead, but eventually forests and grasslands start to show up. Animals. New animal resources. That sort of thing.

Concidering it's suppost to be post-apocalyptic, it's a shame that you see some color before the world starts comming back to life. Besides, anyone who doesn't think bleak landscape can't have it's own beauty hasn't seen the desert, or the arctic.

I really think the graphics should be about the transition from bleak and broken to vibrant and new. Landscape, buildings, equipment, everything. Perhaps goodhuts are always(mostly) run down graphics. That way the graphics help tell the overarching story of the world recovering.

As a side note, I am kind of curious why rivers just werent't run like roads. It seems to me that running nodes between specific nodes on the map with river graphics might fix some problems, or at least give us a cheap way to get rivers before the expansion. Especialy if roads are already set up to get broken by things like high mountains.

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January 25, 2011 5:42:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting TheProgress,
I'm sorry, but roads and rivers are the last thing Elemental needs in order to be interesting.

Wide ranges of unique monsters, distinct races, clashing magics and terrain types, secret relics locked away in forgotten tombs. This is the stuff that will make Elemental interesting. Not infrastructure or water.

Yess! Frogboy, tell us about monsters, races and AI.

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January 25, 2011 6:15:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting TheProgress,
I'm sorry, but roads and rivers are the last thing Elemental needs in order to be interesting.

Wide ranges of unique monsters, distinct races, clashing magics and terrain types, secret relics locked away in forgotten tombs. This is the stuff that will make Elemental interesting. Not infrastructure or water.

 

I think they're two sides of the same issue.  The world needs more evidence that things live in it or used to live in it.  Right now it's random quests, random spawning monsters (no lairs, etc), no logical sense to the ruins/adventure locations.  No rivers.  No roads.  No half collapsed cities.  

No sense that a civilization used to be here somewhere underneath all the fog.  It's emptiness filled by random random random.  

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January 25, 2011 6:17:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I thought a bit more about the premise of what Frogboy said, which I interprete as that: The current Elemental maps are boring, because they look boring.

 

(I hope I understood that right, else, big rant against a strawman incoming. )

 

I have to disagree heavily with that. Let's take a look at something similar, cause I'm more familiar with that, and see what makes maps their interesting: Maps in RTS, especially StarCraft.

What is a good map, or more importantly, what's the difference between maps in SC?

You have a variety of props and different styles for maps in that game to make a map pleasant looking. (Ie. rivers and roads in Elemental). The consequence for gameplay of that is pretty much zero though. Lost Temple is not such a memorable map because it has a nice look, grass, ruin props and stuff but because of the gameplay it allows.

Maps in SC are mostly defined by:

- Size of mineral and gas in the main

- Number of ramps up to your main (ie. number of access points, chokes)

- How close an expansion is and how easily it is defendable

- Other possible expansions on the map

- Routes to the enemy and number of choke points

- How close the enemy is to you and how close your allies are.

- Size of the area where you can build in

Etc.

Map image taken from here. C theirs too.

This is a map of Lost Temple for SCII. Important features are, only one choke to your main base, easily defendable expansion, 2 xel naga watchtowers in the middle which give you, when occupied an increased view in it's area, 2 possible expansions with yellow crystals, which give higher income. 3 routes to the enemy, one through the middle, 2 left and right, which are slightly hidden by props that make it impossible to look through it.

What does this mean for gameplay on this map? You can wall in easily (only one access to your base) expand safely (expansion close to main and only one access too it too). Or you can expand to one of the more lucrative but more dangerous yellow crystals (for which you need to destroy a rock first to be able to build there). You can use ground attacks through the middle, or air lift troops behind the enemy bas, on higher ground, where if the enemy doesn't have air units itself, they can't fight back. Controlling those towers can give you an early alert to incoming enemy attack, so they can be important to hold or to denie them to the enemy. There are 2 expansions, top left and bottom right, which can't be reached by ground troops, so can be pretty save to expand to or flee too, or deadly traps if the enemy has air superiority. Units that can jump over cliffs can attack from all sides and air raids from all sides are dangerous too. Etc etc.

IE. this map has a lot of possibilities. And none of them have anything to do with how it looks. It's not a fun map because of it looks, but it's a fun map of how it plays.

 

Let's go back to Elemental then:

That's how the game always looks for me, since I play (by necessity) almost always on the cloth map. I started in the bottom left btw.

Would rivers or roads thus make an impact to me? Nope. (only if rivers were only crossable by bridges... )

What elements do we have on this map?

We have sorta 2 chokepoints, which I could seal of with building a city on top if it.

That's it. It doesn't matter where I build cities, it doesn't matter how I build cities, it doesn't matter where I station my units.

City placement only matters insofar as I want to cover all of the map with my influence, so eventually I am able to get all the resourcers on the map. Unit stationing only matters in so far, as they have to be closer to the enemy then a city of mine.

While in a game of SC, the very layout of a map makes it interesting and different, all maps in Elemental are the same, since in the end result it doesn't matter for building, for moving armies, etc. where cities and units are, as long as it is in my area of influence. Thus the maps aren't boring, because they're not graphically different enough, they are boring, because it doesn't matter what kind of map you get, it doesn't change your strategies at all. No need to change your city building, your unit composition or your magic or tech research. Get one sucessfull strategy in Elemental and it will work on every map. Get one sucessfull strategy for a certain map in SC and try it on a different map... oh hey, suddenly it doesn't work so well anymore.

/Rant

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January 25, 2011 6:21:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Das123,
Frogboy, I really think you need to look at the ambient noise generated from the map as well as bringing the actual map to life.

At present the sound is really weak.

Play a random game of Age of Wonders, close your eyes, and then scroll around. The sound communicates so much of where you are in that game and can either make you feel hot, comfortable or cold. Elemental is really lacking in this area.

I totally agree, ambient noise is almost completely absent. I only hear a few birds singing from time to time, that's it. Which is a shame, because going through the sfx folder I found a ton of sounds. Please implement more of it, because it is a really easy way to make the world seem more alive.

Quoting Vandenburg,

Yeah, I really wonder, what's the percentage of players who don't play on the cloth map.

I hardly ever look at the cloth map, I mainly use it when I'm searching for quest tiles and goodie huts. I'm no graphics whore, but if I can choose between pretty and plain, I'll take the pretty.

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January 25, 2011 6:30:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Apples and Oranges Vandenburg. You can't compare randomly generated maps with meticulously designed and play tested maps balanced for a competitive Esport. To try to draw comparisons between the two is idiocy. The comparison should be between other random map generating engines.

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January 25, 2011 6:40:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I never look at the cloth map either.

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