How do you go about making huge maps

NeoFantasy

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When designing open areas in my games, I tend to make them a series of interconnected maps (Think like the Original Zelda) However, I’ve been far more ambitious in my new title and designing open areas my old way isn’t giving me the scope I’m looking for. I’m currently working on a 100x100 map and am kind of overwhelmed. I told myself I’d work on smaller areas at a time, but I still feel so overwhelmed.

It there a particular strategy you use when mapping out such a large area? Do you map out the basic structure and then focus on details, or do you build it up as you go.
 

Faherya

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I never create maps larger than 30x30. In addition to collaborating on performance, setting up smaller maps is easier. You have a better view of the details and are less likely to let something go unnoticed. I avoid having to create bigger maps than this because I may have to deal with a lot of empty space to fill too.
 

NeoFantasy

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I normally think that way as well. My only issue is that it feels too confined. I think that’s fine for a smaller pathway, but I feel the transition between maps is too jarring for a field.
 

XIIIthHarbinger

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What I do is I use a complex system of RNG values to determine the nature of the map, & then construct it in phases.

First I draw up a "world map", which is actually to serve as a blueprint of all of the interconnected maps positions relative to each other. Then I divide the up the "world map" into scaled sections to represent each of the interconnected maps or "field maps". Then I assign region characteristics to each of the "field maps" sections on the world map. Call this phase Zero.

I then further subdivide the "field maps" on the "world map" into sections, for potential terrain features. For example in my own project my field maps are 250 by 250, each terrain feature is assigned a 25 x 25 tile grid, & each 25 x 25 grid on the field map is represented by a single tile on the blueprint "world map".

I then generate a random number sequence with each integer ranging between two amounts, one integer for each of the terrain feature potentials, ten thousand in all. I.e. I create a number sequence with each number between 0 to 9, that is 10,000 units long. I assign a terrain feature to each amount, conditional upon the region IDs of that section of the "world map" blueprint. After which I fill in all of the terrain features on the blueprint.

I then generate a second random number sequence, again with integer ranging between two amount, numbering ten thousand in all. However, this time, each amount of the integer is indicative of the terrain features connection to its neighbors to the North, South, East, & West. For example 3 = equals the terrain feature connecting to its eastern, western, & southern neighbors.

Then I'll draw out all of the terrain pathing over the terrain features, via some self created assets. After which I'll check to ensure all one hundred terrain features can be reached via a terrain path, & make additional pathings if necessary. Call this phase One.

After that I begin to draw the various terrain features on the "field maps", each "field map" has one hundred in total. I've already plotted out their locations via blueprints, as well as the pathways for them, so the overwhelming majority of the maps is already decided I just need to lay tile. Call this phase Two.

Then it's just a matter of final artistic touches & decorations, random rocks, trees, flowers, cave wall irregularities, etcetera, & you have all of the maps created.
 

Harrumi

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I do 60x40 maps then piece them together, when I start my new map I make the new one 64x44.. in the extra 4 spaces I copy a portion of the old map to build off of to help make it look more natural; then I remove it when I'm doing using it as a guide. I work from the edges in, and I like to take a screen shot of the map and put the pieces together in my favorite art editor... That way I have a picture of my map to put quick travel nodes. I'll update my map and show you some screenies for examples if it helps.
 

bgillisp

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I map the main route on paper, then all side routes that I feel are needed. If there are two routes, I note them both as main routes. Then, once that is done, I map the ground tiles for just my main paths. Then I fill in the details. usually working from upper left to lower right.

It takes time though. My largest map in my game is 140 x 140 tiles (for an underwater dungeon) and it took me 3 full days to make.
 

Titanhex

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I've had to do large maps before. They weren't terribly difficult.

Start by placing exits. Then, connect the exits via pathways.
You've now completed the functional aspect of making a map.

You can add whatever thematic elements you want along the pathways.
Honestly, you don't want a huge amount of content outside those paths because a map that is both open and aimless is not a good map.
 

ChampX

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I have a world map I have started developing that is rather huge. It is easier to visually draw and see how everything connects this way, and then if down the line I notice a performance hit, I can use right clicking to copy a selection of tiles to then be placed in a smaller map and use the method Harrumi mentioned for seamless transitions. So far I haven't had any drop in frame rate on any of my test machines so hopefully I won't have to resort to that as I would rather optimize events if possible first.
 

NeoFantasy

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@Harrumi That’s what I did with my previous project. It’s Always really cool to see how all the maps look teogther when edited.

@Titanhex That might help actually. Though my goal is to make it aimless. So the player can either go off to explore and see what they can find, or head straight in to the plot. Indefinitely don’t want them wondering where they have to go though.

@ChampX Waitc you can copy and paste parts of the map? I thought that was exclusive to XP?
 

Harrumi

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yeah you can highlight parts of your map with the hold + left click, then paste by right clicking.
 

NeoFantasy

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I’ve been using Ace for four years and I can’t believe I hadn’t realized that.
 

Andar

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the best way to go is not to determine the size of the map as the first step.

The first step should be to plan the map - what should be on it and how should the player go between those special points.
Only after you know what should be on the map and where, only then decide on how big the map should be to contain that content.
 

Kes

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Andar's advice is worth its weight in gold. Not only will it help with the size of the map, but that sort of pre-planning will help ensure that the map is coherently planned, and avoids the whole business of empty space being filled with useless junk just because it was made too big. See all those regal bedrooms stuffed with barrels etc as an example, but one also sees it in external maps too.
 

shadefoundry

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Maybe its because my strategy towards game design is basically nonexistent, but I've found that the best way to do maps, at least for me is to go in knowing what I want to map as well as what stage of the game the player is going to be at when they're on that map. From there I start with a map sized at the minimum dimensions (I'm currently working in Ace so 17x13) and start to map. I generally begin with an entrance and map the entire small area. From there I increase the dimensions to fill in more space as needed until I have a map of the size that I want. I feel that this works quite well for natural type maps, although I have yet to make it work well with towns, although that may just be because I've not really prioritized finishing them, and have been settling for minimum required for function while in development.
 

NeoFantasy

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@Andar Sounds like a really solid strategy.

@Kes Yeah, I used to do that with rooms when first starting out. Nothing but a bed and crates.

@shadefoundry I might give that a try. For towns I find it easiest to place pathways around the village first and then start placing the buildings along it as I go.
 

bgillisp

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One thing I do also find that helps is to make the map bigger than you need in the editor, then once you map the need parts trim it down. I've had many a dungeon that I set up as 60 x 60 in the editor that ends up at 40 x 35 as that is just how it worked out once the needed parts were done. Plus, I find it is easier to cut space than add it in, but that is just me.
 

Marquise*

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You know, I thought I had it figured out, but... I am still learning new things in here.
 

flashbax

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I love huge maps for an overworld. I first create each continent, island, etc; bare bones. From there I go into each landmass and lay the mountains and rivers, followed by grasslands/forests. From there I place unique features, villages and cities. I only do a little work at a time, never letting it get exhaustive. I think my last 256x256 map took me some 20ish hours.
 

Phenax

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The problem with huge maps I see is that when you create them they might look fine, but once you're ingame they often feel boring because details are lacking. What I like to do is to first dermine the terrain. Relative to the size of the other maps which size makes sense for this map? Then I start with the cliffs. I think even maps that are supposed to be flat should have elevated areas here and there to make things more interesting. While doing that I keep the points of interest in mind that I plan to have on my map and think of how the terrain could highlight them with the terrain staying natural at the same time. After cliffs I add water where it could make sense. Maybe a river eins through the map with a small lake having formed somewhere. After that the paths although I prefer natural paths. Then I add the general flora. I spray the map with trees and flowers like Bob Ross. Now I'm at the point where the map looks done if you look at the big picture, but the small picture which is what the player sees is lacking. Often I will fine myself unhappy with the placement of certain trees or flowers or maybe the terrain needs a little bit of adjustment. I think walk around the map, this is uber important to me. What's relevant is not the big picture, but how the player feels walking around the map. In my opinion there should not be a single sector (sector = size of game screen) with nothing interesting for the player except if it's your intention to make the player feel like they're walking along a Russian forest. The player should always have the next thing in sight that he can either interact with or at least differs from the norm of the map like a bridge or something. There should not be a single sector on the map that wouldn't be good enough for a screenshot that shows off the game. When done with that I like to add animals to the map because they make it feel more alive. Whtdragon has such a great collection for this. I love having birds that fly across the map if it makes sense for the map. If there is a pond or lake, why not have a duck or two swim in there? Then using yanfly's region restrictions I make sure that the animals can't get into the path of the player or cutscene. After that I like to add sunlight, falling leaves, rain, snow, fog - whatever fits. Then comes the last part, the sound. There's so much free to use music on the internet that it's really hard to justify not having custom music that fits a map very well. For maps with birds flying around I like to have the sound effect of chirping birds in the background. That's really everything. I like big maps. I'm not a fan of games that consist of 200 small maps, it destroys my immersion.

 
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