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Intro to Mapping 101 (By Fugue)

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Intro to Mapping 101 (By Fugue)

Post  Iordor on Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:04 am

There's already a mapping guide in this forum, but it's out of date and the topic creator doesn't seem to be around anymore. Since we seem to have no shortage of new people interested in making maps, I figured it might be useful to have a more up-to-date guide to making maps.

If anyone has anything to add, please mention it.


INTRO TO MAPPING 101:
Okay, first of all, I'm not going to tell you what kind of map to design. That's something you need to come up with yourself. Some people work great freestyle mapping, just plunking terrain down, and suddenly there's a pretty battlefield to lay waste to. Personally, I can never get anything done without a plan already in mind. Just go with what works for you.

Secondly, these are guidelines. Maps don't need to follow all of these rules, and some maps can violate several yet still be fun and fair. But if you're new, and just trying to get started, it's probably a good idea to follow as many as you can. Once you're more comfortable with how games play out, then you can start experimenting with new ideas.

Thirdly, you can never catch everything wrong with a map on your own, especially if you made it. Get other people's opinions. Play against them on the map. Don't ask other people to play for you, just start a few public games on the map, wait for opponents to join, and see how they play out.

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD, FAIR MAP:
1: Your map should be symmetrical. Yes, yes, symmetry is boring and hard to spell. But it's also easier to balance. You can use either rotational symmetry, which is the most common and most recommended, or lateral/diagonal symmetry, which are less common but still viable. Either way, all armies need to be able to reach the same amount of resources at the same speed, and be able to benefit or be hindered by the same terrain. Anything else is just too hairy.

2: Keep the number of deployment properties down. IS maps often have 3-6 tightly clumped bases accompanied by hordes of ports and airports throughout. This is bad. This leads to a horrible, horrible infantry spam. Do not do it. Most maps will be fine with only two bases near each HQ, possibly with one or two neutral bases for each army midway to the frontlines.
Good numbers for air and seaports vary. The most restricting factor for these units tends to be their high costs, not the number of facilities available. Having only one or two air/sea ports makes them important, irreplaceable properties, while having several spread out around the map means losing one isn't the end of the game. Regardless of how many you put on the map, however, it's probably a good idea to space them out.
Also, don't make maps with the intention of making piperunners useful. It is sometimes possible to work piperunners into a map... but these are exceptions, not rules, and most of the time it will end up being nothing more than an annoying gimmick that nobody wants to deal with.

3: FTA (first turn advantage) exists on all perfectly symmetrical maps, with the exception of a handful of specially-designed gimmick maps. This is a mathematically provable fact. You need to compensate for it. Always.
SmackCakes has a pretty good visual explanation of why FTA is bad and how to deal with it in some of it's many forms.
http://www.takeyourturn.net/t680-fta-extended-by-smackcakes **
Always try to keep in mind exactly what FTA is, and what causes it. The goal of an FTA counter is to give the second player exactly half of the advantage gained by the first from FTA. Does your counter accomplish this, or very nearly accomplish it? If not, change it so it does.
Also, consider how quickly each army can get out a Recon. Measure out in your head or in-game to see if either side can use a Recon to stop the opponent's early expansion without any possible counter. If they can, slow the recons down with plains, mountains, forests, etc.

4: On a land or land/Copter map, you'll want a final income of at least 8,000G minimum, probably closer to 11,000-16,000 G. Any less and there's just no way to tech up.
On a land/air map where you want to see heavy air units like fighters or a sea map where you want to see anything more than a black boat or two, you should have at least 16,000G, probably more.

5: Terrain variety is very nice. Don't clump similar properties in huge, uniform blocks. The occasional mountain range or small forest is okay, but those long 1-tile-wide mountain corridor and giant forest- or plains-only maps get old after about three turns.
You should rarely have properties that are directly adjacent to any other property, as well. A pair of adjacent cities or a base touching an HQ every now and then is okay, but stretches of cities like, say, Bean Island, just look weird.
Pipes are okay in moderation, since they do serve a definite purpose (blocking air units), but don't overdo it.
Finally, consider putting a few scattered reefs in the sea to help mix up naval combat. Even if you don't have naval units, it just looks better, really.

6: There should be cities very close to the front lines of combat. Without frontline properties to steal, it's very hard to make headway against a player of similar skill.
Note that I said "cities." Bases, Airports, Ports, Labs, and Com Towers are NOT cities. Placing them on the frontline is generally a bad idea, as it makes dealing with FTA more difficult- one player is just going to get there first if they try hard enough. Try to keep them around the midway point between the armies and their front lines.
You may also want to put them off to the side of the frontlines, to help encourage the fighting to spread out in a given direction.
If there is an actual 'line' of symmetry on the map, try to avoid placing any properties on it, or you'll end up with FTA or STA. Just move them a tile or two away from the line.

7: Have both chokepoints and open areas to fight in. A map without chokepoints leads to an endless sea of tanks. A map with only chokepoints... yeah, artillery blobs for the not-win. Try not to make them either too large or small. Alternate between the two or connect them using segments that are a little of both.
Getting a good balance between the two is something that only really comes with experience, but you can look over the maps on the A- and S-rank lists to get some examples of what does and doesn't work. This is one of the hardest parts of mapping!

8: Roads. If you do not have at least a few roads around, you will make Recons, Missiles, and Rockets very sad. They're a bit funky, but they're still nice units- don't be cruel to them without good reason.
If roads don't fit the map where you need them (or perhaps you just hate Koal and want him to suffer, like me), you can also use shoals or bridges, since they both have 1 movement cost for all units as well.

9: Consider having multiple main fronts, or perhaps a large main front with some minor side fronts. Multiple fronts forces you to divide your units up strategically, and helps reduce stalemates.

10: Com Towers should be used in moderation. Avoid letting any player get more than one if possible. They can spice up some map, but many others are fine without them.

11: When placing deployment properties, make sure it's not possible for either player to reach another player's deployment properties right away. This sort of spawn-camping can happen in several ways. For instance, if there are two airports within 9 spaces of each other, a Fighter built from one will be able to attack any unit built on the other right away- or block it completely if a unit isn't built. Also keep an eye out for close ports and bases which can be covered by an artillery or rocket from behind a mountain range, sea, or pipes.

12: No silos should be reachable during the expansion phase. Put them behind pipes or on distant islands if you really want them. Whoever gets to them first gets an advantage. Make sure that it won't be the same player getting there first every time.

13: Think about CO bans. The broken five (Colin, Grit, Hachi, Kanbei, and Sensei) always need to be banned, but on some maps other CO's might have unbeatable strategies of their own. Go through the entire list and either change the map or make mention in the map's comments of any other CO's who should be banned on the map.
The most common offenders:
Drake: His +1 naval move may let him reach islands before anyone else.
Javier: Javier's Com Tower bonuses make him very dangerous on maps with even one Com Tower, especially ones with a lot of chokepoints.
Kindle: Kindle's dangerous on almost any map thanks to Urban Blight and and insane firepower. Unless there are very very few cities on the map given it's size, she's pretty much going to need to be banned.
Rachel: On small, cramped maps, Covering Fire basically turns into 3-9 mass damage. Yeeek.
Sami: Important properties in vulnerable positions == Sami can take the match with a single Victory March. She also has extra transport movement, giving her a few deadly tricks on some maps.
Sturm: He has perfect movement over all terrain. That's really all you need to say.

** original link has been redacted since the old forum is dead - I've linked to the intended article that I've also uploaded on this forum.
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