Lu-Chan's Mapping Commandments

PixelLuchi

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Luchi-chan's basic Mapping Commandments:
 
It's been a while since I did a tutorial, so I'm going to share some of my wisdom in creating really eye-catching maps. It will only cover basic editor mapping, but attractive maps can still be achieved even with the basic RTP ( VX or VXAce ). And naturally, I will show some screens as well. No mapping tutorial is complete without them.
 
So, let me start with some basic tips:
 
1) Think practically over style. You aim is to guide the player on their journey, not to give them graphasms on every map because its so cluttered with visually appealing maps. Those maps
are worth zilch if they only serve to confuse the player if no basic layout is planned before hand. This is especially true on dark-tinted/night maps. Which brings me to my next point.
 
2) Keep your tints SUBTLE. Don't overdo it. A simple tint can do wonders for even an ordinary RTP map. They can also convey mood, atmosphere, even hint at a change in weather ( Eg. a map with a tint more inclined to the grey-scale can hint at rain or create the effect for a real moody scene ). And I'd stayaway from Khas's awesome light effects for VXAce if I were you... It makes my eyes bleed just looking at maps with that script. Harsh and anything but subtle.
 

Even simple VX RTP can look good.
 
3) Ease down the lighting effects. I've seen far too many games that used the dreaded large sunbeam effect without bothering to turn down the opacity. If you want to use a sunbeam, fine. Just keep it subtle ( like 30-40% Opacity ).
 
4) Nature is NOT symmetrical. It is ordered chaos. The opposite is true for buildings on a grand scale ( like palaces, large temples, mansions ) where trees/shrubs/bushes etc. may be planted in neat rows, flanked by symmetrical pillars on either side. See below image for an example.
 

Grand scale buildings tend to go for the symmetrical look.
 
Interiors:
 
The number of shoddy interiors I've seen brings up this next couple of hints.
 
- Try to use as much of the default map size as you can. I prefer black borders as well around my homes ( think SNES-era small interiors. Those are the best, I assure you ). You can always expand the map if you feel you need more space.
 

A simple shop interior.
 

Small, but oh so pretty.
 
- Divide the rooms up. Make a small lobby that maybe leads to a lounge area, then create more rooms for the kitchens and bedrooms ( and bathroom. Just don't make it the first room the player sees as soon as they walk into your house. :\
 
- Think practicality again.
 
I will update it if anyone has a query on how to map a certain area they're having difficulty with. And I will add how to add lighting effects without the use of a script as well ( as seen in the last screen ). Well, maybe not entirely without a script. You still need one that holds the image in place.

Lighting Effects: A more detailed tutorial on this can be found in my signature.
 

 
 
It is a really easy tutorial, but to achieve the best effects, you will need some knowledge of shading and the use of tints ( covered in another tutorial of mine. It is in my signature ). This tutorial is recommended for small to medium-sized maps, but you are welcome to use it with larger maps as well ( 60x60+ ). I prefer to keep even my large interior maps under 50x50. But small-scale maps are my fort.
 
First of all, you need:
 
- A script that will keep the picture in place ( like the parallax-lock script for VXAce and OriginalWij's Sprite Picture script for you VX users. I'm not too sure about XP.
 
- A graphics editor like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. Basically, any program that allows you to work with layers and supports transparency.
 
1) Take a screen of your WHOLE map ( for large maps, you can use the script that allows you to take an entire screen, but I just use the Snipping tool because my maps are generally pretty small. But you will have to crop this image EXACTLY the same dimensions as your map as well. Even if it is off by one pixel, it will be noticable. So zoom in if you must and crop from there ).
 
2) After you are done with that, open up your image with your graphics editor of choice. I prefer PaintShop Pro 8.
 
3) Then, create a new layer, and fill it with black, then drop the opacity to around 40% or so.
 
4) Now comes your light sources. Using a soft eraser ( 0% Hardness, 30-35% Opacity ) start to erase the black portions where your light sources are coming from ( windows, lamps, torch brackets etc. ). It will take a bit of practice getting it right, though. You can't have too much or too little light. 
 

 
5) I rarely add in shadows unless there is a VERY strong light source, because the black that you filled the map with created automatic shadows once you are done with the erasing.
 
6) For torches or anything that uses fire, use the colour replacer tool and select a colour from the torch bracket ( preferably a light orange or so ) and use a very soft brush and paint around that area. Unfortunately, I can't make it flicker...The same technique could apply to your crystals and other shiny objects. But only for objects that emit light. If you want to make the effect even more intense,
you CAN use Khas' Light Effects for Ace or BulletXT's for VX/XP. But I prefer keeping things subtle.
 
You'd get something like this:
 

This is only like the 2nd or 3rd parallax map I've made in my years of using RPGMaker... Most of you guys know I'm an editor-mapping gal. XD
 
7) After you are done with that and happy, save it as a png with the transparency still intact. NOTE: If you are using VX and Original Wij's Sprite Picture, you will need to save it with [FIXED](mapname), otherwise the image will move with the player. I've never used the parallax-lock script for Ace, but I'm quite sure you guys know what I'm talking about.
 
8) Next, open up your game editor and find the map you just made a lighting overlay for. Run a parallel process and use the Show Picture command ( for VX ) or run the script needed for Ace showing that overlay you just made. You may need to mess around with the opacity depending on how dark you want the map to look.
 
9) Next, add a subtle tint to your map.
 
10) Here's the before and after images:
 

No tint and overlay. Regular editor map.
 

The difference is subtle, but instantly noticeable.

A quick little add-on to my mapping guidelines:
 
Using Mack/VXAce Trees PROPERLY:
 
 

 
The one on the left is how most people use these type of trees. They just select the whole tree and paint the map with it. This is wrong, people. It is completely unappealing and looks like a clump of bushes stuck together. The trees on the right of the map is how I generally start out when mapping with these Mack-style trees. Random chaos.
 
I don't think I need to explain much more after this. The visuals are a good enough indicator.
 

 

 

 
Done. There, isn't that so much better? Simple, but overlooked. You can use a blank tile to 'cut' spaces in between the trees if they still look too clumpy to you, then select individual parts of the single tree to complete. Like the bottom part was a bit too clumpy for me so I did the same thing.
 

So it looks a bit like that. Remember people, nature is NOT ordered, but rather, ordered chaos.
 

 
So, I hope you found this tutorial easy to follow. If you would like something else/request something to be explained in this thread, then feel free to ask. =)
 
That's all I have for now. Happy RPGMaking. =)
 
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Dalph

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This is certainly helpful, I would love to see also a cave tutorial in future.

Keep up the good work.  ;)
 

kerbonklin

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Will definitely refer to these as I work on mappings.

Also I loved the word graphasms. xD
 

ShinGamix

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Thank you for this tutorial. I hope you do more tutorials like this or make it a series of tutorials.

-The Interior Shop pic won't show all the way...only half the pic loads.
 
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cabfe

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Yes, subtlety is the key word for mapping and special effects.

In fact, often it is better when you don't even see them !

(I mean, not physically transparent but so subtle you did not stop playing to look at it - but the atmosphere is felt by the brain).
 

WNxTyr4el

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Great tutorial Luchino! Thanks for it! It'll definitely help me out.

Though you say to stay away from Khas. Why is that? I'm currently using it and it seems okay for my purposes but if there's a better script out there I'd happily use it :)
 
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RyanA

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Awesome tutorial Lu-chan *w*
 

Nirwanda

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After seeing how GORGEOUS your game looks, I'll be eagerly awaiting for that lightning update.
 

Dark_Metamorphosis

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After seeing how GORGEOUS your game looks, I'll be eagerly awaiting for that lightning update.
I second that! I'm having a hard time bringing atmosphere to my maps, I think my mapping is pretty decent but I just can't add any moods or feels to make a specific location stand out. I'm using khas's script to add light effects to my game at the moment, but it just doesn't feel right (I'm having some script errors with it as well, and it causes a lot of lag) so adding light effects without the use of a script is something that I would love to learn! Can't wait!
 

PixelLuchi

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Ok guys, I said I'd do a section on how to add lighting effects to your game without the use of lighting scripts. So, here goes: 

 



 

 

It is a really easy tutorial, but to achieve the best effects, you will need some knowledge of shading and the use of tints ( covered in another tutorial of mine. It is in my signature ). This tutorial is recommended for small to medium-sized maps, but you are welcome to use it with larger maps as well ( 60x60+ ). I prefer to keep even my large interior maps under 50x50. But small-scale maps are my fort.

 

First of all, you need:

 

- A script that will keep the picture in place ( like the parallax-lock script for VXAce and OriginalWij's Sprite Picture script for you VX users. I'm not too sure about XP.

 

- A graphics editor like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. Basically, any program that allows you to work with layers and supports transparency.

 

1) Take a screen of your WHOLE map ( for large maps, you can use the script that allows you to take an entire screen, but I just use the Snipping tool because my maps are generally pretty small. But you will have to crop this image EXACTLY the same dimensions as your map as well. Even if it is off by one pixel, it will be noticable. So zoom in if you must and crop from there ).

 

2) After you are done with that, open up your image with your graphics editor of choice. I prefer PaintShop Pro 8.

 

3) Then, create a new layer, and fill it with black, then drop the opacity to around 40% or so.

 

4) Now comes your light sources. Using a soft eraser ( 0% Hardness, 30-35% Opacity ) start to erase the black portions where your light sources are coming from ( windows, lamps, torch brackets etc. ). It will take a bit of practice getting it right, though. You can't have too much or too little light. 

 






 

5) I rarely add in shadows unless there is a VERY strong light source, because the black that you filled the map with created automatic shadows once you are done with the erasing.

 

6) For torches or anything that uses fire, use the colour replacer tool and select a colour from the torch bracket ( preferably a light orange or so ) and use a very soft brush and paint around that area. Unfortunately, I can't make it flicker...The same technique could apply to your crystals and other shiny objects. But only for objects that emit light. If you want to make the effect even more intense,

you CAN use Khas' Light Effects for Ace or BulletXT's for VX/XP. But I prefer keeping things subtle.

 

You'd get something like this:

 



This is only like the 2nd or 3rd parallax map I've made in my years of using RPGMaker... Most of you guys know I'm an editor-mapping gal. XD

 

7) After you are done with that and happy, save it as a png with the transparency still intact. NOTE: If you are using VX and Original Wij's Sprite Picture, you will need to save it with [FIXED](mapname), otherwise the image will move with the player. I've never used the parallax-lock script for Ace, but I'm quite sure you guys know what I'm talking about.

 

8) Next, open up your game editor and find the map you just made a lighting overlay for. Run a parallel process and use the Show Picture command ( for VX ) or run the script needed for Ace showing that overlay you just made. You may need to mess around with the opacity depending on how dark you want the map to look.

 

9) Next, add a subtle tint to your map.

 

10) Here's the before and after images:

 



No tint and overlay. Regular editor map.

 



The difference is subtle, but instantly noticeable.

 

So, I hope you found this tutorial easy to follow. If you would like something else/request something to be explained in this thread, then feel free to ask. =)
 

Dark_Metamorphosis

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I'm trying this out now, but I just can't get it to look right. I guess I'm using the wrong settings on my brushes because I can't really make that 'glow' as seen in your screenshots. It's also a bit tricky to erase the correct amount of light in order to keep it consistant on all the light sources. Guess I just have to practice this a bit and see if I can work it out. Gimp is a bit messy when it comes to using the brushes in my opinion :(

Edit: Here's my first attempt, what do you think?

I havn't tried using it inside houses yet, but that's my next goal. In any way I totally love you for sharing this! With some practice I think I can make it look nice, and no more errors and lags from Khas' script (Me happy)

(And to be honest, I think this kind of light style has a cooler feel to it).
 
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PixelLuchi

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A quick little add-on to my mapping guidelines:

Using Mack/VXAce Trees PROPERLY:





The one on the left is how most people use these type of trees. They just select the whole tree and paint the map with it. This is wrong, people. It is completely unappealing and looks like a clump of bushes stuck together. The trees on the right of the map is how I generally start out when mapping with these Mack-style trees. Random chaos.

I don't think I need to explain much more after this. The visuals are a good enough indicator.







Done. There, isn't that so much better? Simple, but overlooked. You can use a blank tile to 'cut' spaces in between the trees if they still look too clumpy to you, then select individual parts of the single tree to complete. Like the bottom part was a bit too clumpy for me so I did the same thing.



So it looks a bit like that. Remember people, nature is NOT ordered, but rather, ordered chaos.

 

Tsukitsune

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Whoah this is some lovely mapping

Can you put all your tutorials all in the first post?  It'll make it easier for viewers if they're all in one spot instead of having to go through each page to find each different tutorial post.
 

PixelLuchi

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Hey guys. If you want to know anything map-specific, feel free to ask me. If you prowl around the Screenshot thread, you'll know that all of my maps are done in the editor. So, go ahead. Pick my brain. =)
 

Dalph

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You're the best mapper of the site to me, seriously...your maps are gorgeous and full of atmosphere, and you don't even use parallax to accomplish that! Amazing.

I would love to see a dungeon (or a forest) tutorial from you.
 
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PixelLuchi

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A forest, you say? I can do that easily enough. =) But I did a valley mapping tutorial as well, so it's sort of similar ( the link is in my profile ). As for dungeons, well. That's a rather broad topic, since a dungeon is basically any area where the player has to fight hostile foes, get loot, progress the game and often ends with a boss fight. XD
 

Dalph

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A forest, you say? I can do that easily enough. =) But I did a valley mapping tutorial as well, so it's sort of similar ( the link is in my profile ). As for dungeons, well. That's a rather broad topic, since a dungeon is basically any area where the player has to fight hostile foes, get loot, progress the game and often ends with a boss fight. XD
Oh...how I missed that tutorial? Great stuff.

I believe it's ok then, don't know what else suggest for now...maybe a volcano or a mountain?

I'm not that bad at mapping (but I love the atmosphere of your maps), however I don't know if it would fit with my game's theme, which is half humorous and half serious, like Indrah's games.
 

PixelLuchi

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Whether a game is serious or not, the atmosphere is what will draw you into the game's world. =) I'll do a lava cave tut ( I should still have the old, ancient tutorial over at RMVX.net, where most of my tutorials come from, but the chances are that the images are broken ) with the Mack tiles. No exterior or interior is too difficult for me. Just give me the right tiles, and I'll do my magic. ;)

I miss the old days of that site... ;_;
 

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