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The New Mapping Guidelines


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Now that I have finished redoing maps for most parts of the game, it's probably worth posting up some new guidelines people can follow if they want to create their own maps which match the style of Goldhawk maps for each mission type.

Here they are.

--- Crash Site Maps ---

Map size:

There are 4 categories of maps for crash site missions, as follows:

Light Scout: around 50x50; used only for Light Scouts (i.e. they only have Light Scout spawn points defined)

Small - around 60x60; used for Scouts and Corvettes

Medium - around 60x80 (so they are taller than wide); used for Corvettes, Landing Ships and Cruisers

Large - around 50x100; used for Cruisers, Carriers and Battleships

It is worth noting that some types of UFO (Corvettes, Cruisers) appear in multiple sizes of map. This is intended to provide a wider array of maps for those common UFO types, and also to provide better variation of mission pacing even when facing the same UFO repeatedly.

All of the above are rough dimensions, and do not need to be rigidly adhered to! Some of my maps are smaller or large than those values, dependent on what I felt was needed for the individual map.

The reason that "large" maps are not much bigger than "medium" ones is more of the action in these maps takes place inside the UFOs, which contain large interior spaces and multiple floors, and these effectively make the map play area larger.

MAP TIP! Always make any new map 100x100 in size, and build the map starting in the top left corner so that it roughly fills the size of area you want it to be (i.e. 50x50 for a Light Scout map). Then when you are finished building it just open the map xml file in a text editor and change the width/height dimensions to chop off the unused space from the bottom and right hand side of the map. This approach is unfortunately required as the resize map functions in the map editor usually do not work reliably.

Dropship/UFO spawn locations:

All crash site maps need to have at least one spawn point for all 3 types of player dropship. The UFO spawn points needed depend on the size of the map as above.

For all my maps I have tried to have at least 2-3 spawn locations for all dropships and each relevant type of UFO, but for some of the larger UFOs (Corvettes on small maps, Cruisers on medium maps etc...) it may only be possible to fit one. That is fine, and you shouldn't ruin the layout of your map just to try and fit multiple large UFOs.

Generally I place dropships on the other side of the map from UFOs, and generally the dropships were towards the bottom of the maps with the UFOs towards the top, but this is a very flexible.

You should also never place a spawn location hard up against a map edge - if you do an alien could spawn in the empty gap between UFO and map edge and be trapped. Always leave at least 1 navigable tile between map edge and spawn submap.

When placing dropship spawns remember that the player might have a 3x3 sized armoured vehicle to get out of the spawn, so keep the ramps clear of obstructions.

MAP TIP! When placing UFO/Dropship spawn submap, remember that the game will automatically remove props and objects that the spawn submap overlaps IF that spawn location is used. This is extremely useful, as it means you can have multiple ship spawn locations in a map without having to have a large empty space at the unused spawn locations; don't do this with entire buildings though, as it doesn't work so well!

Map layout:

When making a map it is a good idea to open a test map in the map editor first and look at the size of the submaps you have to work with in the tile set you are going to use. Keep the sizes of the submaps in mind and then do a very quick sketch on paper/digitally of how you want the map layout to look. Think of a theme for the map and use the layout to emphasise this - is it a desert military base, an industrial rail depot etc...

You should aim to have at least 2 viable paths from each possible dropship spawn to each UFO spawn; more if possible! You should also try and make sure these paths through the level have different levels of cover, lines of sight, lengths etc... so the player has to make meaningful decisions when choosing which to take. Divide the map into sections based on these paths using buildings and walls, but give the player opportunities to cross between them at certain points too (and remember players have explosives to get through walls!).

Again, keep in mind when laying out the map that a player might have a 3x3 vehicle in their force, so make sure at least one path is wide enough to get it through to the UFO spawn locations. Of course you could also offer the player a shorter route through the map if they leave their vehicle behind!

Also keep in mind most tile set have a rough theme: Arctic and Desert maps tend to be quite open, whereas Industrial maps are quite cramped and Farm and Middle East maps are between the two. Arctic, Desert and Middle East maps tend to use the large rocky "mesa" props and tree clusters to break line of sight, whereas the other map types use buildings and walls to do this.

Alien/NPC spawn points

Firstly you should set the number of civilian and friendly AI (these are armed human AI soldiers) to an appropriate setting for your level. Some maps, such as barren Arctic wastes, should have no civilians/soldiers at all; for somewhere moderately populated (such as a farm) I would add 2 civilians and 1 solider; for densely populated maps (industrial) I had 4 civilians and 2 soldiers. This may not seem like many, but having fewer means meeting them is more of a surprising experience, rather than them just being everywhere - it also keeps turn processing time down.

For the actual spawn points themselves, set them as follows:

Aliens (red): There should never be any in direct line of sight to the dropship. Place a sparse number of spawn points in locations of dense cover or in buildings relatively near the dropship, then place them more densely the closer to the general locations of UFO spawn points you get. You can safely place them in buildings, as the game will automatically move units out of objects if they would otherwise spawn in one. Place at least a dozen of these.

Drones (light blue): This sets where the large alien drones spawn. The large footprint of the drones (up to 3x3) means you never want them to spawn in a building. Place a few of these out in very open areas near the UFOs. Place at least four.

Civilians (yellow): Concentrate the civilian spawns on the side of the map nearer to the dropship, with a few scattered in some of the further away buildings on the map to generate alien activity. Place at least six.

Friendly AI/Soldiers (dark blue): Place these roughly between the denser areas of civilian spawn points close to the dropship, and the denser alien spawns on the UFO side of the map. This will generate interesting fights between the soldiers and aliens, but without them being instantly surrounded and killed on turn one. Place at least six.

Tiles are picked for spawning at random, so the units spawned in the map should end up roughly evenly placed no matter how many spawn points you add for any type.

Don't place spawn points in parts of the map you don't want the player to go - for example behind the larger UFOs, or crammed behind a building right at the back of the map.

--- Terror Site Maps ---

Making Terror Site maps are similar to crash sites, except you are using the Town and Soviet Town tile sets and they do not need UFO spawn locations to be defined (but they still need spawn locations for all three dropship types!).

Map size:

There are three rough sizes of terror site, as follows:

Small - around 60x60

Medium - around 60x70

Large - around 60x80

As you can see each type is not hugely different in size, the difference mainly comes from the larger maps containing greater numbers of aliens and thus being a bit more intense to play.

Map layout & spawn points:

Terror site maps tend to be more densely packed with buildings than most crash site maps, given they are in urban areas. Reflect this in map layouts, but use roads to leave long open lines of sight for snipers and heavy weapons to fire along. Generally the player dropship spawn locations are at the bottom of the map.

Alien and Alien Drones spawns should be sparse near the dropships, and at their most dense near the top of the map.

Civilian spawn points should mostly be near the bottom of the map, so that the Xenonaut soldiers have a chance to protect them.

Friendly AI soldier spawn points should mostly be near the Civilian spawn points, but also you should put two or three of the "military" submap (which is a sandbag fortification) deeper in the map and populate them with a few soldier spawn points too.

...Up next: Alien base maps!

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No, it's a bad idea and should be avoided. When we do the final file compression to speed up loading times, the game won't be able to display tiles from other tilesets.

You can create new tiles in the correct tileset with the same images if you want, though.

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Hmm, but many of the official sub-maps have props from other tilesets (like industrial barrels in desert warehouses etc.)?

Another question: can I place the human landing craft and ufo both at the same place to have more variation in levels? Like both in same place on the east side of the map and both on the right side of the map?

Edited by Skitso
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  • 4 weeks later...
Another question: can I place the human landing craft and ufo both at the same place to have more variation in levels? Like both in same place on the east side of the map and both on the right side of the map?

Did you ever try this? I've assumed it could cause a crash. A way to tie spawns together ("if UFO spawns in NE then dropship spawns in SW, if UFO spawns in NW then dropship spawns in SE") would be fantastic, but the suggestion is probably causing a vein to buldge in a dev's forehead.

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Exactly... and that would be pretty much game breaking.

No, it's not. If place is occupied game just roll for another spawn point. It can not work if there only one spawn for ufo and dropship and its overlaped but even then nothing "game breaking" will happend - game will not find correct spawn point and will pick another map.

Gauddlike must knew it, He's been here for ages.

Edited by TT3
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