Archive for the ‘War Leaders: Clash of Nations’ Category

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!

This post is the second part of how to create a map in War Leaders: Clash of Nations. You can see the first post here.

The next step is to create an orography according to the 2D design. We will work with heightmaps, where the greyscale indicates the heights.

To add realism to our mountains we will create some elements using a terrain edition program like Terragen, and once we have something that looks nice, we save it to use it in our heightmap.

As shown in the picture below, we create the river, the plateau and some hills. We can use the photoshop to adjust the levels of greys and to copy and paste the pieces we got from the Terragen. We can add some features that will not interfere with the gameplay, but that will enhance the visual aspect of the map.

The heightmap has the levels adjusted so we are able to appreciate the range of greys

Once we think we are done with the heightmap, we load it in the map Editor. At Enigma Software Productions we worked with an own Editor that was being developed at the same time that the game. We had terrain edition tools, but we used them to smooth the details and to add small changes. At the end we mostly used photoshop. While we worked on the orography we usually added one texture layer of the main color that would have the final map. In this map, we used a grass green. It helped to get a better view of what the final map would look like.

The next step would be setting the roads according to the desing. We had a tool to create roads setting ponts over the landscape, and the editor would join them together using a bezier curve. You were able to choose between several different materials (asphalt, dirt…) and a wide selection of crossroads and forks. I used to set the roads adapting the curves to the hills and variations in the terrain, to give them a more realistic aspect. There is an option to apply the roads over the map texture, but we will not use yet. Only when the map is finished, with the final textures.

The Map texture in this game consisted on one final texture that was projected vertically over the terrain. To create this map texture, we used masks assigned to each different color texture, painting directly in the editor.  One of the big problems we found was that in this game the cameras could be very close, as in a first person shooter, and really far, while using the airplanes. So we had to add, on one side, detail textures in addition to the color texture, and on the other side, variations in the color of the main color (grass, dry grass, dark grass).

River's bottom color texture mask

Grass detail texture mask

So we ended up with one mask for each color texture and one mask for each detail texture. The final touch was given editing the mask of each texture and painting them with photoshop, because the editor brushes were not as accurate. Once we were happy with the result, we had to collapse all the masks in one .dds file that was the final texture you see in the game.

At this point we could apply the roads, but keeping in mind that we will have to make further adjustments to the textures once the objects are placed in the map.

Final Texture with roads applied

Once we are finished, it’s time to place the objects as we will see in the next post.

In the next series of post I will talk about the proccess we followed while designing and building maps for the PC game War Leaders: Clash of Nations developed by Enigma Software Productions.

I was working there as an in-house level designer from october 2005 to october 2006 and after that as a freelance level designer till mid 2007. The level design team was responsible for the whole creation of the maps that were shown in the final game.

We always started with a 2D Concept of what we wanted to have in that level. First of all we should decide the size of the map. In this case it can range from 1024×1024 to 2048×2048 pixels, where one pixel is one meter. If we make a large map we will be forced to include less objects and details because it will be harder for the engine to move. This would result in a map that would look like a map of “Rome Total War” and would be more appropiated for a desertic map which is more likely to contain a little amount of objects and therefor, polygons. One the other hand, a smaller map will let us to inlude a large amount of detail but the counterpart will be that the playable zone will be smaller. This would be a map like in “Panzers”

In this example we would like to design a map that could be place in Europe, so we chose the second option. The total size including the margins for the camera limits would be 1024×1024 pixels.

The map will have natural obstacles like the river and a plateau. The gameplay will be enhanced with two bridges to cross the river and two slopes to reach the top of the plateau. To protect them, we will place bunkers, two of them for each army.

The armies will start in points numbered with 1 and 2. One will have the river as a natural defense and the other the plateau. There will be two supply points on each side of the maps, at the same distance from each army, so they have to leave their area if they want to earn the benefits from the supply point.

2D Concept

(This post will continue in part 2)