Mapmaking Tips by Endarire

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Map Making Tips by Endarire

By Endarire, 2005-12-21 @ 15:00:30

My opinion is that SC maps should not wholly attempt to recreate a game, movie, or book, and most times not even a scene, since if I wanted to experience Diablo II for example, I would play the commercial game. As for ideas, think of something you want to do; preferably something that has not been used extensively before. Most of us have played the Ye Olde Mappe where someone kills and kills and kills, perhaps gaining money, experience, items, or/and other nifty stuff along the way, but if you have a story, and, by your desire to create this RPG, you should, then have a point to it.

Storycraft 101

The foremost point of any story is to have the audience pay attention. This is often done by portraying characters in some sort fashion that is appealing to them. Overall, people will care more about characters with whom they can relate and try to anticipate. If you feel you can't do a reasonable, believable, non-cheesy love story, then don't do it! The same goes for war stories, sibling rivalries, and all other topics; while there must be action and there should be a point, start out, at least, with topics with which you are most comfortable.

Regarding specifics, the next thing is, once you feel you have your hook and plot and perhaps characters is to create the world in which they will do their thing. While this could be an existing world, if you use, say, the land of Final Fantasy VII, then please do not simply retell the story of that book, game, movie, or otherwise. This does not entirely rule out using characters, events, places, and the like from that game world so long as you twist them enough to make them your own. For example, in Final Fantasy VII, one thing to do would be to create a map depicting what you think happened that led to AVALANCHE's assault on the Midgar mako reactors using clues from the game to create your world.

One other note though; most 'good' stories have humorous moments to relieve tension, allowing players and sometimes characters to sigh, smile, chuckle, or/and facepalm. Jurassic Park's line, "Check all the snack machines!" is an example of humor, and the PC game Anachronox is loaded with these. Unfortunately, most maps lack this humorous element.

To Play's The Thing

While, admittedly, I stress story, games should be interactive and there must be a fusion of narrative and interaction. If there is a question of whether to prioritize gameplay or narration, default toward gameplay. People should feel that their worldly interactions have some meaning, which relates to character attachment above. In many RPGs, kings tell the PC heroes what to do without a word of complaint or question. What if you added the option to mouth off to the overbearing illegitimate child, facing appropriate consequences? Alternatively, what if you, as a player, felt obligated to honor some NPC's request because you liked him?

If you treat NPCs like 'real' people with emotions, attitudes, and priorities as well as portraying them as such in your game, you will be more comfortable with them, but, perhaps more importantly, they will be more likely to behave logically and consistently. When NPCs are logical, their tasks for the PCs can be more logical too. Instead of the typical, "I am evil; therefore, I kill things!" villain mindset, you could depict the acts of a tragic hero who was betrayed, hypnotized, and decided to exact his vengeance on the world.

Regarding dialog, assume people will read what you write if it is interesting. For example, only write "WTF?!" if the character actually says it. If you want to write action, you could use brackets around the text. <Kato jumps for joy while whipping out his crossbow and aiming it straight for your head.> is a sample. Do not be afraid to cuss if the situation warrants it, but, unless a character has Turrett's or enjoys swearing more than Slim Shady, don't pull out George Carlin's list of the 7 words you can't say on TV. For example, if your best friend betrayed you for the enemy, captured you, and holds you his prisoner and eventually you two meet face-to-face, you could start out with, "You son of a biznatch." To help prevent this article from being rejected for vulgarity, I will not use the entire f word that is the second half of a compound word usually started with mother, but note that this word is the epitome of all common curse words and should be used only rarely. Frequent use of curses dilutes them and drives up movie ratings and spamming f often results in the R or M rating, depending.

Now seems an appropriate time to enter the player versus character debate. Remember that the character is the player's means of interacting with the world. As a general rule, do not make player characters so dumb that they would be oblivious to the surroundings and puzzle solutions, nor so smart that the player has almost no chance short of seeing the solution of solving a puzzle. Realize that sometimes people lie, cheat, and steal, and that, if you want, you can allow your players to do the same. There are times when appealing to the player and not the character are appropriate, namely when explaining something the character should know how to do. If possible, mesh player and character terms.

Crude, yet somewhat effective (Player Appeal): "Build a Probe to flee from fights."

Pretty good, though a bit corny (Player & Character Appeal): "Once you step on the grass, the green-hating Xyros will not follow, allowing you to flee."

Outright confusing (Character Appeal): "You can run away by radioing the people at command central and ordering a Supersonic Capture Vessel."

Usually, keep all game mechanics terms, such as HP, armor, and damage, as interface tools. For example, on a medic used to indicate a heal spell, you could write Heal (3 MP) - Restores 250 HP.

Custom Spells & Items

Since you asked, I shall answer. I believe that custom spells and items should, along with the typical HP & MP restoration and unit revival & spawning do things not normally possible without triggers. A slow spell could, in a turn-based game, reduce the amount of time enemies have to attack. Think about more than just unit creation and killing.

Something New

Sometimes, copying from a book or other source is necessary for learning, but if you want your map to stand out and be remembered, it should do something no other map in recent memory has, at least in your specific way. While there have been various turn-based RPGs, Fate & Destiny has probably had the most successful time with it.

"Playable" maps are more than just tricks and innovations; it is using these techniques viably that will help your map to succeed.

Complex: To Be or Not To Be

Some people like myself prefer long, deep maps, namely "good" RPGs to those simpler ones, like bounds and defenses. RPGs, unless they are built to be short, should not be, and often you will find that a story demands a certain map length. Considering the limits of the StarCraft engine, err on the side of what is most personally comfortable. Note, however, to think in stages for your maps; do not try adding everything at once! Not only will you burn yourself out, you will likely miss important bits. Start from where the players do and build from there. Note that most public users prefer shorter, more action- and twitch-packed games.


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