I want to start a debate regarding whether rivers should run between squares or on squares. This may or may not be an important issue for Elemental, but down the road this will have a big impact on what we can do with mods. I want to get people talking about this early because this issue might involve changing the game engine. Modding is going to be an important part of Elemental and those of us with modding experience ought to be thinking ahead and thinking out loud.
Back in the old days, square tiled game maps used to run rivers through the center of each map tile. This natural, obvious setup allowed ships to travel along rivers, as they are known to do in the real world. Take a look at this screenshot from Merchant Prince II:
I took this picture of Budapest because the river running through it, the Danube, is a major trade corridor. I think it is very cool and fun that you can sail from Venice, through the Black Sea and up the Danube all the way to Budapest by boat! This doesn’t just happen in the real world either, as witnessed by this scene from a popular fantasy movie:
By the time Civ3 and Civ4 came around we were seeing rivers that actually flowed between map tiles. I am not sure why the Civ series switched to this method of presenting rivers.
The only advantage that I can see for presenting rivers this way is that if you want to assign a penalty for crossing a river to attack another tile, having the player actually ‘cross’ the river can make this mechanic more clear. However, using the old style method of river tiles, it is also very easy to give a river tile a defensive bonus. For example, in the Total War series, whoever is defending a river tile can set up his defense on the opposite bank of the attackers approach. It works just fine.
Aside from that one slight advantage, I can see only disadvantages. For one thing, the later Civ series also uses rivers as lines of communication like roads, but because the rivers are between the tiles and the roads are on the tiles, it can be very unclear when cities and resources are connected by a river/road combination. It takes a bit of investigation by an experienced player to predict the results, and is very unintuitive.
The biggest disadvantage of running the rivers between tiles is then you cant use them for units that travel on water! That’s a big disadvantage in my opinion. I can’t make a Merchant Prince mod with that! I can’t even make an LotR mod unless I leave out stuff! ^^^ According to the existing Elemental screenshots, so far at this early stage they are going the Civ4 route and running rivers between tiles.
I for one would like to see them redo the river mechanics from scratch, and do it the old fashioned way, on the tiles. I know it would take alot of work to make navigable rivers. Units in Elemental arent simply icons as in earlier games, they need to fit into a 3D world. Maybe it's too much work, but I hope not.
What do you guys think?