Map planning tools you use

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Obviously, you can just do your maps quite easily in RM itself.

However, do any of you pre-plan/prototype your maps somewhere else first? Either drawing by hand or using another program? What might be the benefits?
 
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Arctica

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I will look up maps from RPGs I've played in the past and use them to derive ideas from.
 

Sarena

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I rarely use tilesets for my maps, and mostly only make my own parallax backgrounds, so the majority of my map planning and creation happens outside of RPG Maker. I usually start with a rough sketch of the layout, sometimes even laying out events and other areas that the player can interact with, then I lay down the details.

I sometimes did this in the past when planning out maps using tilesets, but not as often since it is fairly quick to set those up in the engine itself.

The main benefit to planning it out externally though is that you can quickly plan events without getting caught up in choosing the right charset for them or figuring out the technicalities of it all. It's nice to just focus on the overall level design at a very broad level first.

As for tools, sometimes I'll just sketch a map layout in my sketchbook using pencil and paper. Other times I'll draw it out in Photoshop so I can use colors or quickly import concepts. When I've taught RPG Maker classes, I've also done activities with students where we draw a map together on a dry erase board. So it really depends on what you want to use!

To show an example of a sketch that I did do of a tileset map, this was the original sketch:
Gek World.png

And then I turned it into tilesets that looked like this:
RMMV_Gek.jpg

Like with any art form, the final product sometimes changes from the initial sketch, but I do think it definitely helps to have a plan to start with!
 

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