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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Map development log: Homm III - Forest Of The Old Godz

Go directly to the map pack's download:
Tane Norther's Heroes of Might And Magic III (SoD) XL-map pack (Download)

I'm working with one more quite straight-forward XL-size map for Heroes Of Might And Magic 3 Complete. I'll add it to the updated map-pack of mine once finished. Not sure when it'll be ready, though. It's called "Forest of The Old Godz", and will feature two full-blown "above the ground" maps (underground isn't really underground, at all). It'll be 4 vs. 4 scenario, whereas above-the-ground-layer represents South-half of the overworld, and underground-layer represents North-half of the overworld. North and South halves overlap, being sort of a continuous one big map, and you can reach from North-half to South from South-end teleports (which enter to South-half's North-end, and vice versa), plus one extra two-way teleport in the middle of both halves, connecting them further.

Few general thoughts about map-making in Heroes Of Might And Magic III at first:

Not sure if the best way to do a map for HOMM III, but when I do, I start with initial very early plan of how many players/teams belong to the scenario, and where they start at. I have an early idea in my head what kind of a landscape to do (to emphasize on forest, desert etc.). I don't think that much of a story (too deeply), since I don't generally play story-driven maps that much myself. If I get a good idea, however, I'll stick with it. I then draw the early sketch of the main terrains with editor and place initial positioning of the castles of each players.

It's good to have some sort of an idea of the story of the map, however, at this point, so you will know whether it will affect to the map design, object placement, and later on to events. Then it's time to think how to divide the main-areas of the map (do you make the progress of the map rather straight-forward or more freely explorable), and place the mountains in to the map to see how the main areas would play out, and which of the main-areas can be reach from where. It's a bit like making a labyrinth.

Then I move into making the smaller paths inside the main-areas, add area-related vegetation to each of the main areas, such as trees, dunes. It's good idea to leave fair amount of dead-ends considering small paths, so you can place important well-guarded objects there.

When done, it's time to place extra castles, dwellings, and other places of interest in the map. It's good to keep count of how many major things such as level 4 artifacts, dragon cities, and libraries of enlightenment you place and where (to keep things balanced).

After this is done, I'll finalize the looks of the map with adding additional terrain/area-related objects and vegetation to spice up the looks of each area. Bare in mind that one-square wide extra-narrow paths may cause some AI issues since only one hero at a time can fit in there (width-wise), and therefore if one hero faces another friendly hero, if the width of the path is indeed one square only, neither one can't pass another. It's good idea regularly to turn on "Passability"-tab in the editor to see quickly if certain narrow paths are impassable or run only one square wide too far. I add monsters and events last, test the map out, re-balance when needed, and sort out errors.

In Forest Of The Old Godz, if you think those two layers, halves of the whole map as one overlapping area, another team starts from the middle of it all (2 allies of team of 4 from South-half's North end, and the rest 2 allies of team of 4 from North-half's South end). You can see that the 4 teams in the middle of the whole map have starting castles rather close to each other, but their connection to each other has been prevented from North to South (and vice versa) and East to West (and vice versa) with Border Guards. So, the middle 4 players can defend each other rather well (sort of a turtle-defense), but only after they have found Keymaster's Tents to unlock their paths to each others.

The other team of 4 players, however, starts in a way that the other 2 players start from very North end of the map, and the other 2 from very South end. They are split so, that only 2 players are close to each other at a time, and have harder time in theory to defend each others, but either stacks of 2 players at North or South don't have Border Guards between them, so 2 North-players and 2 South-players have earlier access to each other's castles in the beginning. Right in the middle of South-overworld-layer is a two-way teleport to North-overworld's middle (and vice versa). I won't make it easy to reach in the beginning of the game, but once you do, you can enter the other half of the map faster. The teleport will make things bit more interesting as you can surprise the other half of the maps players with a surprise-attack. I don't know how well balanced this starting-positioning for players (teams) is, but at least it makes the scenario varying depending of which team you belong into.

I haven't thought of the plot too much, but I can tell you it will be rather shallow. I was thinking of making this map tailored for 2-4 different races. It will be either outer teams being definitely Elves (Rampart), possibly the other 2 being Castle or Fortress not sure yet. Holding a grudge, but against who? That won't be revealed yet. ;-)

Forest Of The Old Godz will definitely be an exploration-map with forest-theme (but won't be just all-around-forest), meaning, that the paths will not run only to one direction in a railroad-y fashion, but there will be crossroads, and the land-area is rather big. That being said, there are some mountain-ranges which do block the most direct ways for opposite teams to reach each others. I will add some tailored events for everyone, but will not go "too deep" into that. I'm not into that far in making the map yet. Perhaps friendly extra troops (small amounts by rather random), some extra encounters fitting the theme with combat and rewards, and perhaps some experience bonuses for discovering certain places.

Update 2/7/2015:

The map is coming along quite nicely. I attached a new picture of the whole map below this blabber of text. I have changed the idea of the map a bit. I might make the original 2-team 8-player version of the map later on, with much more exploration space, compared to my current plans for the first version.

I decided, that instead of having 4 Rampart players teaming up against 4 Dungeon players (each with 1 town) - leaving hefty amount of neutral space between the opposite sides (both Underground and Overworld maps featured 2 players starting from the North-most end, and the opposing 2 players at the South-most end of the map) - I'll have 2 Rampart players at the original starting positions, against 2 Dungeon players. Each of them starts with 2 towns, so I reduced the original number of Dungeon and Rampart players in half (2 of each, total of 4), but doubled number of each of those race's castles from one to two (one town with, and one without the Fort). I have done enough maps, where each sides start out from opposite ends of the map, having only "dead-space" in-between the teams. I like these kinds of maps. They last long and they have much to explore. On the other hand, it will be 4-5 in-game months before you meet the opposite player, and by then, most of the map is already explored. Maps like that suffer action-wise, but benefit by careful planning of building one's heroes and army.

The initial "empty space" in Forest Of The Old Godz between the Rampart and Dungeon teams is filled with 4 additional players (2 teams of 2 players), making the map less explore-able, but more action-packed. The new races will be team of 2 Fortress players and 2 Inferno players. Both players of the Inferno team, and likewise of Fortress team, starts from different sides of the map (UG vs. Overworld), but have connective teleport rather near to switch sides of the World.

While Rampart and Dungeon teams both have 2 players, and each player starts with 2 towns (Dungeon team has 4 towns in the beginning (2 with the Fort), and Rampart equally so), Inferno and Fortress team both have 2 players, but each player starts with 1 town only. In addition, they'll be sandwiched between Rampart's and Dungeon's war - being moderately weaker in the beginning due their lesser count of starting towns and positioning in the map.

The upcoming map isn't meant to be balanced similarly for all the 4 teams (8 players). Rampart allies (2 players) and Dungeon allies (2 players) are rather equally strong, with same amount of starting towns, but have bit different kind of routes to reach and defend each others, and different kind of positioning. With Inferno allies (2 players) and Fortress allies (2 players), I want to make different kind of a scenario - they are meant to be tough sides to play! Less towns in the beginning, bad positioning. On the plus side they have connective teleport, though guarded. Inferno, of course, can get Castle Gate (not banned on this map), which will help at defending the team. For Fortress players, I'm thinking of placing one or two Town-Portal scrolls (not sure if to disable the spell, for other players) to the locations to which they can reach the quickest. Either heavily guarded, or perhaps being granted by doing a quest for a Seer.

For Inferno and Fortress, their second town in order to be conquered, does have the Fort-building ready, while Dungeon and Rampart start with 2 towns each player, but the other has no Fort, and their third town to be conquered also has no Fort ready. Fortress and Inferno teams will also have mines bit more tight-packed and closer by distance than Dungeon and Rampart teams, and they will have better chance to get the most important resources, too.

The main terrain is pretty much done at this point, with areas quite fleshed out, but bound to be beefed up by their looks a bit at later stage of development. I still need to add monsters, map locations, resources and treasures, plus some events if I come up with anything meaningful.

Be ready to choose the side of either major participants of the war, Dungeon or Rampart, and have a grand start against your arch-enemy, or choose the battle-of-survival, and get sandwiched between the war with Fortress and Inferno teams.

The new development pictures (2/7/2015):

I have marked starting and neutral castles to the map with letter, as well as all the mines at each player's starting location and nearby. Ge,Cr,Or (etc.) abbreviations which are stacked with more than one couple mean, that the mine is abandoned sort of a mine and has chance to be one of those types presented. This mini-map also has keymaster's tents and border-guards marked. Teleport's are not marked, but each half (UG/OG) has one near the middle of the half, leading to each other. Lower left inferno area is isolated, since the position wouldn't really fit as a starting place. They have teleport leading out of isolated area to snow-terrain at North. This kind of a map with self-placed markers will help me to notice problems and flesh out balance (with mines eg.).

Question to any possible readers: Since Dungeon players have a short way to reach each others, after discovering keymaster's tent's and unlocking the border-guards, should I add one teleport for both of the Elven players, reaching from the top-left corner of the map (in the picture above) to the low-right corner of the map, guarded perhaps with a border-guard, with a rather hard-to-reach keymaster's tent? 

This would give Elven players rather equal chance to defend each others, than Dungeon players now have after unlocking the border-guards, but wouldn't change map structure otherwise that much. Elves would still attack and proceed to explore the map from either end of the map. Just crossing from edge to another would be a new option - after a sacrifice to reach the tent. I'm thinking of doing this. It doesn't affect to Dungeon's defense much, nor to Inferno's or Fortresses, for that matter.

One of the Elven sides. As you can see, map locations and monsters aren't still placed.

Neutral Elven town without a Fort. Thinking of placing a quest at this area with a reward. Against the Undead, perhaps.

Here are some more early development pictures:

Not sure if small pond was the most optimal way to fill the area

Some cold desert in the West

A river-crossing "road" between North and South

Some ancient forest

Just initial sketch of main-areas and biggest mountains, and the progress atm.

A quicker-access teleport between North and South (won't it too easy to reach, though) (moved from my other blog:

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