How a good terrain should be?

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How a good terrain should be?

Postby SkyStormer17 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:16 am

So, I was wondering, what is needed to make a good terrain for a map? How should it be? I know, of course, that each map's terrain is set to the needs of the map itself, but what I mean is a good terrain, one that looks natural. What must it have? How should I make it? Thanks! :)

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby HelpMe » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:32 am

At the moment there's a few things I consider when I'm terraining. Let's start with...

THEMES

A lot of times the player is required to go from point A to B, and you'll often find that the "in-between" areas are what make up for the greater portion of the map. These segments are not always dictated by story elements as to what they should be or look like. Because of this you may find yourself looking at a completely void and featureless terrain whithout any idea as to what to do with it. So instead of randomly adding stuff with no real meaning or intention to it, I try to come up with a theme.

This is IMHO one of the most helpful and interesting aspects of terraining. It basically means you'll try give an area a specific look and feel, limiting yourself to a particular choice of elements, which seem to come together in a certain style or share a common idea. This may sound confusing and abstract, but it's a 100% intuitive process; once you've defined the theme for an area you'll instantly know what belongs in it and what doesn't, which doodads and layers to use and which to ignore. It's like a compass in that sense.

I use this as my first and foremost tool for making the entire map. I'm currently working on a 256x256 and I'm learning a lot through trial and error. Such a big map demands more different themes, since I'd like the player to pass through a variety of places, each of them with a distinct look to it. Helps keeping things fresh, and gives that feel of adventure IMO.

I think the real beauty of the themes is that they work as a dialogue between the campaigner and the player. When you get to a paricular location and recognize the theme, you can grasp what the author's intentions were. As if he were to say, "for this place, I wanted to do x, so I added such and such to give it this look you see now".

Maybe I'll add a screenie to help illustrate this. I'll look up some maps, see if I can find some good examples. In the meanwhile, just try and experiment, it's fun. :D


EDIT: some examples from campaigns.

Image
Image
Image
Image

From top to bottom: Antioch Chronicles Episode 2, Antioch Chronicles Episode 1, Celestial Irruption, Echoes of the Swarm. I own nothing! :gah:

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby SkyStormer17 » Sat Jul 09, 2011 7:06 am

HelpMe wrote:At the moment there's a few things I consider when I'm terraining. Let's start with...

THEMES

A lot of times the player is required to go from point A to B, and you'll often find that the "in-between" areas are what make up for the greater portion of the map. These segments are not always dictated by story elements as to what they should be or look like. Because of this you may find yourself looking at a completely void and featureless terrain whithout any idea as to what to do with it. So instead of randomly adding stuff with no real meaning or intention to it, I try to come up with a theme.

This is IMHO one of the most helpful and interesting aspects of terraining. It basically means you'll try give an area a specific look and feel, limiting yourself to a particular choice of elements, which seem to come together in a certain style or share a common idea. This may sound confusing and abstract, but it's a 100% intuitive process; once you've defined the theme for an area you'll instantly know what belongs in it and what doesn't, which doodads and layers to use and which to ignore. It's like a compass in that sense.

I use this as my first and foremost tool for making the entire map. I'm currently working on a 256x256 and I'm learning a lot through trial and error. Such a big map demands more different themes, since I'd like the player to pass through a variety of places, each of them with a distinct look to it. Helps keeping things fresh, and gives that feel of adventure IMO.

I think the real beauty of the themes is that they work as a dialogue between the campaigner and the player. When you get to a paricular location and recognize the theme, you can grasp what the author's intentions were. As if he were to say, "for this place, I wanted to do x, so I added such and such to give it this look you see now".

Maybe I'll add a screenie to help illustrate this. I'll look up some maps, see if I can find some good examples. In the meanwhile, just try and experiment, it's fun. :D


EDIT: some examples from campaigns.

Image
Image
Image
Image

From top to bottom: Antioch Chronicles Episode 2, Antioch Chronicles Episode 1, Celestial Irruption, Echoes of the Swarm. I own nothing! :gah:


Thank you so much! :D I've been doing some own work for some time now, and I like what I made! I'm posting some screenies so you can see what I've done so far and if you like it, or if it should be improved. :) Anyway, thank you so much sir! :D

Echoes of the Swarm is actually a good campaign, specially regarding terrain. I took it as inspiration among other campaigns, because of its marvelous doodad placement and terraining. :) I'd like to thank omega20, but he hasn't been active for some time now. I hope he reads this someday. :)

Also, I've read of several programs which may be of great help when making maps and campaigns: ScmDraft and SCX-Editor. I got them and am already experimenting with their possibilities and limitations.

Here you have some screenshots. :)
Attachments
screen01.jpg
screen02.jpg
screen03.jpg
screen04.jpg

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Pr0nogo » Sat Jul 09, 2011 8:40 am

Decent ice terraining, and a good ashland job. Ashland is really irritating in that it's limited on practically everything, from doodads to basic terrain types. It always seems to look good, somehow, though...

Keep up the good work. Here's a few editor shots of an old map I made that had really awesome terrain.

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Lavarinth » Sat Jul 09, 2011 9:11 am

I see you like using the same tree doodad eight times as much as the other tree doodads.
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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Pr0nogo » Sat Jul 09, 2011 9:12 am

That's how good terrain is! :)

It's funny, I don't remember my mindset when I made this, so I can't explain that.

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby SkyStormer17 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:44 am

Pr0nogo wrote:Decent ice terraining, and a good ashland job. Ashland is really irritating in that it's limited on practically everything, from doodads to basic terrain types. It always seems to look good, somehow, though...

Keep up the good work. Here's a few editor shots of an old map I made that had really awesome terrain.


Thanks! :D Your shots are really good! I've made a few more screens with what I've done so far. I hope you find them nice. :)
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screen06.jpg
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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Pr0nogo » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:47 am

Your bottom piece seems just a tad bare on doodads, but this is coming from the guy who loads every map with those (which isn't ALWAYS the best of ideas, it really depends on what style your map is). The rest, however, look great!

I'm interested to see this thing you're working on. If you need any voicework or modding help, you can hit me up with a PM or something.

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby SkyStormer17 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:54 am

Pr0nogo wrote:Your bottom piece seems just a tad bare on doodads, but this is coming from the guy who loads every map with those (which isn't ALWAYS the best of ideas, it really depends on what style your map is). The rest, however, look great!

I'm interested to see this thing you're working on. If you need any voicework or modding help, you can hit me up with a PM or something.


I'm still experimenting with these, but I'm glad that they look good, which means I'm on the right way. :)

I'll tell you about what I'm working on by PM. :)

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby AngelSpirit » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:29 pm

I'd also like to add that you shouldn't let the limits of the isometric terrain tool inhibit your ideass. A good example is that, by default, there's only ramps for the bottom left and bottom right of cliffs. In other words, you can normally only do this:
Image


However, if you have a more advanced map editor such as SCMDraft2 or StarForge, you can easily make a ramp off the back of a cliff, like this:

Image
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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Pr0nogo » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:31 pm

The above is especially important if you're trying to introduce new and exciting areas to the player. Maybe there are trees growing from the water on this jungle planet, or that ashworld planet has geysers that spout gases every now and then. Through the use of extended terrain and sprites, you can create amazing new pieces of art.

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby GnaReffotsirk » Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:53 am

Yeah, it's all about "what this place really is in real life" so to speak. Say it's a marsh or a muddy pit of death, or an a fertile virgin forest. Something like that.

A city, or perhaps an abandoned installation that once housed civilian trade, etc.


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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Scotch » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:00 pm

There is always the risk of overdoing it but I haven't seen that here.

Looks great, guys.

EDIT-

Question. Do you base your terrain on the mission outline/script/storyboard or do you start out with terrain and then develop it on from there? Do you come up with mapsize first?

Also - where do you guys start brushing terrain? In the corner or the middle?
Last edited by Scotch on Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Pr0nogo » Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:57 pm

Unless I've had time to think about the mission extensively, I think of the place I want the campaign to progress (assuming I've already done the first mission) and I start terraining, usually a little above or below the centre of the map. I always take into account pathing and gameplay when I'm terraining and especially doodading, because it's important for terrain to be both beautiful and functional. If it looks good but doesn't work, I'm going to make it work. Never sacrifise functionality for beauty, because at the end of the day, you're trying to make a playable map, not a pretty painting.

If it's the first map, I purposely spend AT LEAST two days in a row working on the terrain alone (including doodads), because I really need to set the scene in the first mission (see the NOMAD VLOG in the thread "The NOMAD Saga" for more on why I think this is so important).

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Re: How a good terrain should be?

Postby Lavarinth » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:56 pm

GnaReffotsirk wrote:Yeah, it's all about "what this place really is in real life" so to speak. Say it's a marsh or a muddy pit of death, or an a fertile virgin forest. Something like that.

A city, or perhaps an abandoned installation that once housed civilian trade, etc.


PRECISELY what Gna said. I'm extremely meticulous with terrain. You see the road you have in your last batch of screenshots? If it were me, I'd click the thousand+ times it'd take to make sure EVERY road piece had the yellow divider paint on it in the middle. My installation maps? Every wall had the SAME wall tile. Hell, even in StarCraft II I do that and that takes even longer.

Scotch wrote:Question. Do you base your terrain on the mission outline/script/storyboard or do you start out with terrain and then develop it on from there? Do you come up with mapsize first?

Also - where do you guys start brushing terrain? In the corner or the middle?


http://thebunker.campaigncreations.org/blog/?p=27

While this was written while working on StarCraft II, the same rules applied to StarEdit. This is my process of mapping and has evolved to this position after a long period of time. In regards to where I start mapping, it's typically where I planned the story to begin, I map in regards to how the story unfolds. But again, in tiers as dictated in blog post.
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