War Leaders: Clash of Nations. RTS Map Design (Part 3)

Posted: November 26, 2011 in PC, Professional, War Leaders: Clash of Nations

Continuing with part 2, we are going to add objects to our map. What were “objects” for our editor? They were everything that was over the terrain and wasn’t interactive. We had two categories:

  • Vegetation: trees, bushes and grass.
  • Props: houses, benches, fences…

Some objects were just placed in the map selecting them from the editor and adding them on the terrain (they were automatically placed at ground height at any point). Other objects had special tools to help deploying them. I have to admit that most of the times I didn’t use them because of the unrealistic results, but that was up to the level designers to use or not. They were:

  • Brush to add trees
  • Lines and squares to add fences
  • Brush to add grass
  • Masks to add grass

We learnt that was very useful to group objects into clipboards. That is, we were able to select a group of objects and save them separatedly. It was very helpful because we were able to load, copy and paste them whenever we needed. Of course, you had to be very careful not to place them too close, so the player might notice them. And you could always add a detail or remove something to make it look slightly different.

When adding houses to the terrain, we had to be careful. Soldiers were able to enter the doors and shoot through the windows, and that means that the doors should be always at ground level, and it was hard to find a place flat enough. We found that the easiest way to deal with this was to use the flat brush of the terrain editing tools to lay a flat surface were we can place the houses.

Other things that we should keep in mind when lying objects in the map are:

  • The amount should be enough to make to map look nice but not too large to load the engine with too many polygons.
  • Large objects block the path of the AI. Small objects in large amounts can slow down units, like forests.
  • We should place the objects in a way that there are nice looking corners everywhere… the best thing would be that if someone wants to take a screenshot of the game, it will always look good.
  • Realism vs gameplay. We need to have references to place the objects in a realistic way, but keeping in mind that sometimes too realistic layouts Are bad for gameplay. For example, streets in little towns should be wide enough for the AI of the troops to cross them.

We had a tool to know how many objects of each kind were set on the terrain. We could export an image that has a color for each kind of object, and it was very useful for two things:

  • To see the load of each part of the map.
  • To have a fast way to add the final touch in the map texture. Using this image, we could edit a texture mask adding darker colors under the houses and the trees to help them integrate better on the terrain.

Object distribution in the map

The last step will be the creation of a Landscape that will increase the deepness of the map and will enhance the feeling of horizon. Since we have planes and a camera with few constraints, it would be a problem to see the “end” of the terrain. A landscape is a new map of low resolution that will have to be painted and filled with objects as the playable map. We have to be careful not to add too many objects or the performance of the engine could be affected.

And we are done! The map is ready to play. Here you can find several screenshots of the results.

In future posts I will take a deeper look in some of the steps, like how we made the terrain passable to the units, or the process of building a landscape. Hope you enjoyed it!


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