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Lengo Offline
#1 Posted : Friday, August 30, 2013 9:19:29 PM(UTC)
Joined: 12/17/2010(UTC)
Posts: 70
Location: Springfield, OR

Thanks: 2 times
Was thanked: 4 time(s) in 3 post(s)
Here's a way to make more complex terrain by starting with a height map. Normally you have an idea in mind, and might have drawn a sketch on paper, but figuring out how to make a complex landscape such as a mountain or a canyon is very difficult. Well, the solution is simple. You start with a sketch. You do a little math. Then you make a height map.

A height map is merely a sketch of what altitudes your terrain is. A height map is very handy for mountains, canyons, and a variety of complex landscapes. In this tutorial, we'll be making a height map of a canyon to fight along (not across).

You start as you normally do:

1. Create a new map with a base level of 16 (10 ft), and make it's largest dimension no more than 380 units. For this example, the map is two player, so a map that is 275 x 380 is just right.

2. Lay down two bases that are 100x100 with any color (I prefer the default gray, 0% rocksType2 (be sure to pad your base off the edge of the map by 5 units)

3. Find your centers (see my post "Make it look Real". This allows you to put down placeholders for the goodies on your map such as oil derricks)

finding the centers

4. Divide up (paint) the rest of your map into equal sized sections and color them, then note the height in feet, and if you're wise, note the height of each patch in WorldBuilder's units. I did my math before hand, so I know how many units are left after the west canyon is built, and I know how high I am willing to go. In this case, 110 feet was my highest playable altitude. However, I ended up changing that to 100.

starting your height map

Notice the bottom of the image. There are patches on the right and left of the base. Each color represents a basic height. On each height you can still make hills or swales, badlands and flat lands.

For a canyon, simply make the same patches the same size for both bases. I did my math before I got started. I know how big the west patches must be to be equal. I know that to get a slope that is not passable and that you can shoot either up or down, that sloop must use 3 units, and the top must be at least 30 ft higher than the previous. I know this from advice and from experience. If units are 30 feet above another and the slope is too steep, the units cannot fire at each other because they are too close to each other (the slope is too steep).

We want a canyon on both sides of the base. We don't care much about the west side (left). Most of the fighting will be done in the east canyon. Thus, the patches on the east are much larger than the patches on the west.

Both bases have patches laid down in the same fashion. Both base's initial patches match each other north and south. If I reversed the two sets of patches on the north side, I'd be fighting across a canyon. That's not what I want. I want to fight through this canyon.

Now start connecting the colored patches, freehand.

connecting the heights

When you're satisfied with a basic design, fill in the rest of the color. Make all boundaries for each color, then use the fill tool.

connecting the heights

Each color represents a basic height, so you begin by raising from the bottom up. Never work downward! You can't see over the tops of cliffs. Always work from the bottom up!

Start by going around the perimeter of a color with a size of 3 and a feather of 3. This way you can do more detailed work. When you're done with the perimeter, set the brush larger and fill in all the rest of that color.

Do one color at a time. Complete all of the blue (I had an image but the image is lost). Then you'll do the green. But be sure that where ever a road is going to use a slope, the ramp will be wide enough. Here is a picture of using two tempChokePoints to measure where the ramp will go.

measuring minimum ramp width

When you're painting with the height tool, you should go into the next color. You don't want small crevices between the two heights, so go past the edges a little for each color. Remember: This is just a height map. It is a guide. You are free to change things as you go.

Here is a picture of the east side of the map.

east side of canyon

The above image also shows a small variance in height. Look closely at the little canyon in the green. This height, I have already detailed. I simply chose a height 1/2 of the difference between the blue and the green, and with the brush settings shown, I painted in a little canyon outlet. Perhaps I'll finish it off with a dry creek.

Here's a picture of the map entirely height mapped. NOTE: These heights are your working heights. You can still make hills on them. You can still make valleys and swales. I intend to make a small 'badlands' area near the center, and surrounding the center paths. Note also in the picture, I have marked the paths' entrances into one base, so that I know where each goes. The bases will be symmetrical.

the final rough cut

Making Ramps

There's lots of ways to make ramps. You can use the height tool. You can use the smooth tool. You can you the ramp tool, BUT DON'T! The ramp tool is cheap and ugly, and it makes your map unplayable in places. It has no feather on it's edge! Remember the rule: 30 feet in difference needs a feather of 3.

There! You have heard the worst way -- the ramp tool. Now, here's the best way. Use the height tool two different ways, and use the smooth tool also. That's right! Use all three. The variety will make your map much more enjoyable to play. It is fun to watch your units go up and down slopes.

You're probably wondering what are the two ways to use the height tool. It's pretty simple. One way is to fan out from the upper height. The other is to dig into the upper height with the lower height. Simply match the diameter of the ramp, and set the height accordingly and the feather to 6 or 7. Here's a picture:

fanning from the top

I didn't match the width of the brush to this ramp. I simply dragged it along the edge. Look at the green hill at the top of the picture. That one is fanned. See how it looks? It looks like sand spilled over the edge.

Here's another picture of the same scene. I decided to dig out the tan into the blue because the top ramp is fanned. You get two different kinds of slope. Such fun to watch your units run over!

two types of height tool ramps

Here's a picture of all three kinds of ramps. Gong from tan to blue (1), I simply used the smooth tool. Going from blue to green (2), I fanned the top of the green into the blue. Going from green into the base I dug into the green to get to the base's height, then smoothed it with the smooth tool. Finally, I used the lift tool and smoothed some more. Looks good, don't it?

multiple methods of ramping

As you can see, height mapping is a very useful method for making complex landscapes. All those basic heights can be worked from. The cliffs disallow enemy travel except where you want it. Ramps, made correctly can greatly improve the appeal of your battle map! Use height maps! Ramp correctly. Never use that ramp tool unless you're in dire straits.

"Well, fine!", you say. "How much time did you spend on this?"

I spent six hours so far. I'll spend another 6-8 doing more to the map. And guess how many hours I'll spend playing it when it's finished! Right now, I'm looking VERY forward to playing it. I can hardly wait! This is exciting!

What's next for this map?

1. Testing as is.
2. Terraforming each individual height.
3. Deciding on a texture palette and painting it.
4. Decorating it with trees and a small village and a hermit's hut and a uhhh... SUCH FUN!
5. Testing it.
6. Fine tuning it.
7. Playing it against all other factions, on hard and medium difficulty, again and again and again.

The time spent making a map is well worth it. The better it is, the more likely you're going to enjoy it and play it. I'll probably spend a lot more time playing it than I did making it. I'll play it for years, but it only took me about 12-16 hours to make!

Make it look real!

Lengo Offline
#2 Posted : Tuesday, September 3, 2013 1:58:41 PM(UTC)
Joined: 12/17/2010(UTC)
Posts: 70
Location: Springfield, OR

Thanks: 2 times
Was thanked: 4 time(s) in 3 post(s)
Detailing the Cliffs

Take a look at this:

same heights

This doesn't' look very natural. Cliffs aren't straight and they don't have the same height everywhere. Here's how to fix that to make it look very natural.

add some curves

It's now curvy and much more interesting. That's a start, but we'll also change the height in appropriate places. We'll raise the points that jut out, and lower the ones that form little canyons. This will look much nicer.

To raise a cliff, place the mound tool where shown in the next picture. Don't raise the cliff right on the tip. We start at the edge and drag towards the tip. Do this from both sides of the tip. Use a brush that is a little smaller than the jut, and place it as shown, right on the cliff with the feather not touching the floor below.

don't start on the tip

The mound brush should have a feather radius at least one size smaller than you used on the height brush. Now drag from both sides and from the bottom of the back cliff toward the edge you're modifying. The result will look like this:

no smoothing

Don't worry. You just smooth it. Here's a picture with all three juts raised and smoothed.

3 juts smoothed

Looks much better already, eh? Now I'll show you how to lower a cliff. We'll lower two of the little canyons. This time, you'll use the dig tool. Make the brush small and the feather again 1 unit smaller than the height tool. Here's a picture showing you where to place the brush over the cliff.

ready to do the canyons

Notice that the brush is right on the cliff, but does not spill onto the floor. Now tap a few times, then drag toward the rear cliff to make a shallow canyon.

Here's a check. Turn on Show Passable areas and see where you need to paint.

View Impassable areas is on

Fortunately, I got lucky. I only have to paint more cliff texture on the back cliff, and paint 'impassable' onto the front cliff. Remember: If it looks impassible, it better be impassable. Also, if it looks passable, it better be so or you'll frustrate players.

All that's left now is to rotate it to the default angle so that you catch the light and see the shadows, make the hills a little larger with the mound tool (about 5 units with a 3 unit feather), then add some interest by painting with similar colored textures:

hills raised and then painted

All that's left is adding some trees!

Note: You don't have to detail everywhere. Detail only where the player will spending a lot of time. You need not do the edges of your map. I only chose the back end of my map for this tutorial because I had already done the more central places and wanted to show you how to do this.

Making Rocks

Have you ever been frustrated by not having the right colored rock? Here's how you make your own.

Choose a small brush with no feather, then lift the ground with the mound tool. Tap in one place with View Impassable on just until you see red. Use an EVEN NUMBERED RADIUS FOR YOUR MOUND BRUSH. Don't use odd numbers or you'll end up with pointed rocks. For the rocks shown here, I used a radius of 2.


Looks good, don't it?

The name of this map is LG Gold Rush Canyon. I wanted gold rocks. I'm still testing it and modifying it. I'll post it soon so that you can dig for gold.

Make it look real!

General Lengo
Lengo Offline
#3 Posted : Sunday, September 15, 2013 8:40:19 PM(UTC)
Joined: 12/17/2010(UTC)
Posts: 70
Location: Springfield, OR

Thanks: 2 times
Was thanked: 4 time(s) in 3 post(s)
This map is now available. It is named LG Gold Rush 3. Give it a spin. It plays a little different than most and it looks good while doing it.

Let me know what you think of the result, eh?
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