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Shilo

Mapping Our WIP Map

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My girlfriend is creating a map in Intersect. She's a beginner artist and mapper and we would like some constructive criticism from the community to improve the map. We are aware that it needs more details and feel like there is a bit of a creativity block. It's still work in progress.

 

Is there any tips/tricks and/or tutorials to help with designing maps in general and making them professional and attractive?
How do we know when there's too little or too many trees and so forth?

Is there a general distance we should use between trees?

Any other suggestions is welcome!

I'm sure all of this is vague, but art and creativity is definitely not my strong suit and it's hard to help her with mapping. I am a programmer and logical by heart, so I lack creativity. Any help would be much appreciated by both of us, thank you very much!


Here's the map:

http://ascensiongamedev.com/resources/filehost/4dce8f345bf5bfce5ace45adee711cb5.png

4dce8f345bf5bfce5ace45adee711cb5.png

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24 minutes ago, Zetasis said:

The only tips I have atm is not the mix retro style graphics with modern style graphics. They don’t mesh well together. 


Thank you for the input.

We were definitely worried about that and trying to strive for assets that meshed together. She says that she's using the Mack (RPG Maker) tilesets and the new Intersect tilesets in this map. Aren't they similar in style? It does seem like the new Intersect tilesets are trying to be more retro though.

Could you please point us to the tiles and areas that look out of place and dont mesh? Personally I cant see any tiles that look really out of place.

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5 minutes ago, Shilo said:


Thank you for the input.

We were definitely worried about that and trying to strive for assets that meshed together. She says that she's using the Mack (RPG Maker) tilesets and the new Intersect tilesets in this map. Aren't they similar in style? It does seem like the new Intersect tilesets are trying to be more retro though.

Could you please point us to the tiles and areas that look out of place and dont mesh? Personally I cant see any tiles that look really out of place.

 

I believe Zetasis was trying to advise the resolution of the textures don't mix well, for example see below red highlighted and blue highlighted.

2be99e3e634b8836563a234255da8311.png

 

Notice how the red has a much higher resolution than the blue highlighted, it makes for a Frankenstein type looking map. Things seem out of place this way.

 

 

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Unfortunately that are correct... if you posted this in a game discussion website very few people would notice, but as fellow game devs that sticks out like a dude wearing pajamas in a high class restaurant (or cargo shorts.. do we still hate cargo shorts?) 

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@StalysRex
Thank you. Actually after I made that post, I noticed that the fence was lower resolution then the rest of the map. It definitely helps to see the massive difference when comparing it to the well and signs. I am guilty of overlooking things when it comes to my girlfriend's work to be supportive and encouraging.

@jcsnider
Very true! Although I wouldn't call that unfortunate at all. It's nice to have an outside opinion to make sure things are up to par.

 

Quote

but as fellow game devs that sticks out like a dude wearing pajamas in a high class restaurant (or cargo shorts.. do we still hate cargo shorts?) 


HAHA! I'd be one of those guys wearing casual wear at a high class restaurant, GUILTY AS CHARGED!

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9 minutes ago, Shilo said:

@StalysRex
Thank you. Actually after I made that post, I noticed that the fence was lower resolution then the rest of the map. It definitely helps to see the massive difference when comparing it to the well and signs. I am guilty of overlooking things when it comes to my girlfriend's work to be supportive and encouraging.

@jcsnider
Very true! Although I wouldn't call that unfortunate at all. It's nice to have an outside opinion to make sure things are up to par.

 


HAHA! I'd be one of those guys wearing casual wear at a high class restraunt, GUILTY AS CHARGED!

 

I get it, trust me I really do. I would say always be supportive. If your goal is to immerse the player these are the things to look for though, especially if you want her to be the best mapper ;).

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Well I found the map OK, yet there is still some issues here and there :

  • The roof of the most northen is weard, it shouldn't be cut like it is right now
  • It lacks trees and vegetation
  • The pound/lake/fountain on the top left is a bit too squarish, nature is never that symmetrical

Other than that, it's a good start :) 

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Very good points, I noticed those too. She will definitely be adding more detail and we will fix the roof and rectangle ground inside the pond, as well as change the fence.

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There's a lot of empty space (notably the relationship between the houses and the townsquare): this might be intentional but creates a very empty feeling. Mapping everything closer together makes it feels more lively and detailed.

 

An example of this in practice:map_2_rpg_maker_vx_ace_by_kdtwifi-d7n0iq

Notice how there's no need for large spaces to create a sense of vastness.

 

A negative of mapping like this that it can look very 'busy', especially with players running around. I personally like to find a balance between an empty style and a more closeknit one.

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18 minutes ago, Zoagel said:

There's a lot of empty space (notably the relationship between the houses and the townsquare): this might be intentional but creates a very empty feeling. Mapping everything closer together makes it feels more lively and detailed.

 

An example of this in practice:map_2_rpg_maker_vx_ace_by_kdtwifi-d7n0iq

Notice how there's no need for large spaces to create a sense of vastness.

 

A negative of mapping like this that it can look very 'busy', especially with players running around. I personally like to find a balance between an empty style and a more closeknit one.


I REALLY love the example a lot! She will appreciate it very much and get inspiration from it. I do agree with you on all your points and trying to find the right balance of the empty and busy feel. This map is really beautiful and will definitely help give us some ideas! I am really impressed.

May i ask what asset is being used in this example or is it custom assets? I'd love to buy it. They are so beautiful.

 

Thank you for the awesome example! Did you create it?

BTW, do I see a character hiding in a bush, and a character hanging on the wall of a house? Haha, very interesting map!

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Sadly those are RPG Maker VX or VX ace assets, which RPG Maker only allows usage of in their engines :(

 

Another tip, and it takes practice to do all of this well, is to give the illusion of various heights in your maps. The world isn't flat so why should your game be?  Here is another map (also with rpg graphics) that @Kibbelz made like 8 years ago that I always send off for reference. Of course this doesn't work in all locations, it's a judgement call and shouldn't be done if it would feel out of place or forced.

dfazgy.jpg

 

 

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I love it. Utilizing the height/z dimension definitely brings more liveliness and realism to the game. I was thinking about something similar for this map, like creating small hills and/or appearance of uneven leveled ground. Is there a good or standard strategy to making small or big hills without the cliffs?

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That might be beyond my expertise to answer, my own mapping expertise is roughly the same level as yours/your girlfriends.

 

Be careful with the actual ZDimension attribute though, it can make things very, very tricky, and really should only be used for bridges.

 

That map I posted worked without ZDimensions, everything is on the ground/mask/mask2, it just plays tricks on your eyes to look like there's depth.

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Ya, I actually didnt mean the feature itself, just the appearance of having a third dimension on the map. I havent had a chance to use the z dimension attribute yet, I would definitely like to use it at some point, but not in this case!

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1 hour ago, jcsnider said:

Sadly those are RPG Maker VX or VX ace assets, which RPG Maker only allows usage of in their engines :(

 

Another tip, and it takes practice to do all of this well, is to give the illusion of various heights in your maps. The world isn't flat so why should your game be?  Here is another map (also with rpg graphics) that @Kibbelz made like 8 years ago that I always send off for reference. Of course this doesn't work in all locations, it's a judgement call and shouldn't be done if it would feel out of place or forced.

dfazgy.jpg

 

 

 

Holy moly I remember this map. Blast from the very distant past.

 

It is certainly a very good example of how to make a detailed map with very few assets. This is quite bad by my current standards but certainly a good example.

 

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34 minutes ago, Kibbelz said:

 

Holy moly I remember this map. Blast from the very distant past.

 

It is certainly a very good example of how to make a detailed map with very few assets. This is quite bad by my current standards but certainly a good example.

 

 

It does look nice. Do you mind explaining what's bad about it based on your current standards and how you would improve it? Anything to help me think like a better mapper. ;)

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My current designs with maps mostly soley revolve guiding the player to where you want them to go. Especially the over world. I do this by incorporating pathways (See Nightmare for examples on this). The major flaw with this map design is that everything is too condensed together so I cannot make a pathway to show a sense of direction to where the player is going or could be going. A player who is lost and has no idea what to do will give up very quickly and quit your game. I found that out during the Nightmare alpha.

 

I think the biggest thing that separates good mappers from bad is always depth, no matter how much detail you add to your map without any depth everything looks flat as paper.

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Awesome feedback from everyone. It has already been said, but choose a single graphic set and stick with it. Time Fantasy, 7 Souls, or High Fantasy are popular right now.

Check https://www.gamedevmarket.net/or https://itch.io/game-assets

You can also find some graphics on the Rpg Maker site or Steam on other websites that allow you to use it outside Rpg Maker.

 

I don't have much time tonight, but let's look at this monstrosity to see an example of what everyone is talking about:

 

645c25f46472528e693bd99d36e3a37f.png

 

 

1. Transitions: If done correctly each connected map should look like it is connected (like a puzzle piece). Look at this map how some of the maps line up (trees, grass) for the most part look good/okay from one map to another. Then we get some maps that lines up the grass/hill on one side doesn't connect or is not the same size as the other map next to it. There are even instances (bottom left corner and top right corner) there is no connection at all.

 

2. Mapping: The areas are large enough for exploration and combat (even with several players). We got a pretty straightforward path through the area; however, we have some exploration areas as well. The problem is depth. Some of the hills are mapped to the correct height and flow correctly. Then we get others (Top Middle/Right) that throw off the depth. There is variation to the terrain decorations in some maps that look okay/good, but we get other maps where the terrain has little in it or repeating decorations next to each other.

 

3. Ground/Mask/Fringe: This is important because it affects the character within the game. I will get back to this one later, if no one else does it is getting late here.

 

Btw feel free to discuss the map and tear it apart for education purposes ;)

 

 

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I'm at work so I can't give you a full in detail review but one thing that stood out to me from a quick glance was the fact that your cliff height is not consistent. You have places, especially between connecting the top right  and top middle map where the cliff is extremely high then suddenly drops. This breaks the illusion of depth and makes it look horrible. Always keep the amount of tiles in height of the same cliff consistent. By all means have different heights of different unconnected cliffs, I highly encourage it! Just remember when working with cliffs, count tiles in height always :P

 

I'm impressed by how much you've improved Jamie. I personally would add more dirt paths showing direction, especially between the houses since its a settlement!

 

There are some mapping bugs though, especially during transition between two maps. Look at the bottom of the middle two maps. The grass gets cut off by water and there is even a half cut tree. When you play through it ingame it will stick out like a saw thumb even though its not easily noticeable when working on 1 map at a time. Always check map transitions are fluid and nothing gets cut off!

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Sorry everyone, I am having trouble finding time to reply.
 

@Agoraphobic

Thank you for sharing your map, it looks great! I can definitely see what you are pointing out. Also I totally forgot about itch.io, thank you for reminding me! 7Soul's assets and High Fantasy assets are also new to me, they look nice.

 

I REALLY appreciate the in-depth tutorial you posted. No need to explain the layers. I have no issues with the technical side of things, more so the design aspects.

Sorry I don't have the time to discuss your map. :( But I think it looks great and we will take inspiration from it!

@Kibbelz

You did a review on the map for me! Very good points. I agree, I am impressed with the map, even if its old.

@Everyone
Thank you all for the great and helpful input. We will learn and improve from this. I think our plan is to go over all the graphics and limit our tiles/entities/ect to a couple sets of assets, with similar style/resolution, and go from there again.

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One of the improvements we would like to make on our maps is grass that looks more realistic, seamless, and appear less tiled.

I took 2 tiles of grass from "time fantasy" and randomized both 6 times that resulted in 12 unique randomized tiles of grass. I randomized the tiles with the following application: https://github.com/Shilo/pixel_scramble

I then drew a map to test the difference between the original "time fantasy" grass and the new "randomized" grass that I created.

Here is the result I got:
07978684bef19ec65e825fa8ed3b367a.png

 

The top half is "time fantasy" grass, the bottom half is the modified "time fantasy" grass that's randomized.
Left side is 1 single tile repeated for both "time fantasy" grass and my new grass.
Middle is all 6 tiles repeated (2x3) for both "time fantasy" grass and my new grass (Note: "time fantasy" grass doesn't have 6 unique grass tiles for this specific grass, so its technically 1 tile).
Right side is an attempt of mixing all the tiles together to make it look more random.

Can I please get an opinion on the results and/or graphics itself? In general, I just need a thoughts on the right side, top vs bottom.

Personally, I prefer the new randomized grass I created, but I do notice that it looks more "noisy" and not "smooth". So it definitely has cons that I don't like. I realise that randomizing the grass is what results in the noisy look, but i'm not sure how to go about fixing the issue without drawing 6 unique tiles (which I don't really trust my skill to do so beautifully).


TBH, If I look at @Kibbelz grass again:
dfazgy.jpg

I can see how the grass looks more "full" and also less "noisy" and beautiful all around. It doesn't share any of the issues my randomized tileset has. I wonder how I can achieve that kind of feel with the time fantasy grass.

Thank you for any input!

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Its because I mix between two grass layers. I fill the ground with a default grass (the short grass) Then I have patches of longer grass on top of the short grass. Randomising grass is not the solution here, just make best use of different shades of grass autotiles. Keep it simple :)

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10 hours ago, Shilo said:

(Various grass tests)

Thank you for any input!

 Heyooo, the unscrambled grass is better from a pixel art perspective. The randomised grass is very messy and hard to read. If you want to fix the tiling look, put your grass tile on a 3x3 grid, then grab ANY random section that's the tile size (like 16x16 or 32x32). You can then balance out the grid lines you notice in that new grass selection with mad pixel art skills, then put that tile in a 3x3 grid again and repeat. Hope that makes sense :) it helps keep the integrity of the original grass tile while fixing the tiled look.

Edit: Tip time!
1.
Create an autotile version of your grass to go over top of your current grass. With this new autotile you can change the hue, saturation and brightness to add different layers of grass and a new depth.


2.
Create micro tiles of flowers, mushrooms, rocks and various details that only take a "corner of a tile", with a 32x32 sprite this can be a 16x16 detail! Then you can take that tile and position it anywhere within that tile to create many different bunchings of micro tiles. This can be very fun, as you can apply this technique for many different things like house details and etc.

3. Start with really big basic randomised shapes using your lowest and basic tiles. These shapes or random mappings make everything a lot more natural, and can kind of look like a heat map if done correctly. At this point you can build your natural landscape from those shapes, then "carve" your human structures from those natural landscapes - visualisation and the process makes a big difference :)

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