I’m pretty excited about this game, and I’ve been poking around the dev notes a bit to see how things are going. I noticed a few posts regarding map generation and I have some comments. Map generation is something I know a thing or two about from making map scripts for Civ4, including the Erebus map script for the FfH2 mod.
The notes and screenshots I’ve seen are a little flat in my opinion, and I want to make sure the devs understand that map generation, if done well, can really add a great deal of drama and immersiveness to a game like this. You really want to get this right, and you don’t want to view it as an afterthought. You want to pack the map with information such that it tells it’s own, older story in addition to the main story involving the player.
One type of information that solves many problems is altitude. If you know the altitude on a map location you know where the rivers will flow and what climate options you should have. One of the challenges I had on the Civ4 map generation is that there is no ‘altitude’ in Civ4. You had hills, peaks and flatlands. I chose to ignore this system and use climate to convey the altitude, in hopes that I could create an illusion of gradual altitude changes. Not everyone can see it, but I think it works well. For an example of this, see the screenshots of my PerfectWorld2 mapscript here. http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=310891
A fantasy map needs to be very dramatic in my opinion. There must be impossibly high peaks, dense jungle lowlands, vast deserts! Everything should be overstated; a caricature of real nature. When I made the Erebus map script, I wanted to capture that kind of melodrama. It wasn’t easy to do this. Many people were kinda shocked by the use of peaks to delineate the differing climate regions, as this was very different than a normal Civ4 map, but I was limited in what I could do with the Civ4 map, and I think I wanted to shock people a little bit. I think I pulled off the illusion pretty nicely, but it could have been easier.
For a game such as Elemental, I think it would be better to not follow in Civ4 footsteps with its flatlands, hills and peaks, and instead model altitude directly on the map, and display it as a real high relief map. This might seem like a lot of work, but I argue it’s actually easier. Modeling altitude is a great foundation to make natural looking landforms and river valleys, and if you are going to model altitude, you might as well let people see it directly!
I've learned alot of tricks and solved alot of problems while making my Civ4 maps. I'd be happy to give my insight regarding any map generation difficulties. Send a private message to cephalo at civfanatics with any questions. I usually check those every day.