Tutorial:Creating a MP Level

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The following information is a simple guide on making decent Multiplayer Populous levels. IF you want to get your maps online, then this is the place to start.

Introduction

Map Making has been one of the greatest hobbies of Populous players new and experienced alike. Players began emerging in early 2003 with nothing but a simple Hex Editor and a great passion for making superb maps. Back in the day, Populous New Worlds (Made exclusivly by The Gabber with a few submissions from others) were the only major third pary maps avaliable for download. Most of the Multiplayer mappacks were created by The Gabber and then other successful mappacks such as Fate Worlds (Khickman) were submitted. Now that a public Map Editor has been released more people have been able to create new Multiplayer levels.

Main Concepts

The most important thing about maps is ensuring that they are both enjoyable, and practical. Not all maps need to necessarily fit to a mold, but they should follow a few simple guidelines to ensure they are fun for all and provide a decent match for players. Here is what can be done to make fun and enjoyable maps:

Make Fair, but Interesting Maps

One of the largest complaints about any map in Populous these days is about the maps being unfair. The typical complaint usually refers to Blue's land on the level Face Off being too small while everyone else can build a larger base. While there is a great deal of importance in making a map fair, not everything needs to be perfectly 100% symmetric. Usually the best practice is to design the land, use TedTycoon's Symmetry Tool to make a symmetric skeleton and then go back into the map and change things around a bit.

It's good to give one player an advantage over the other, while giving the other player some kind of a different advantage. For example: give blue more wildmen, red closest to a stone head, yellow more land, and green more trees, but only in small increments. Practicing such ideas will make your maps fun, fair, and even more importantly, desired to be replayed as there will be four different strategies to practice as opposed to just one for everyone.

Do Some Landscaping

There are very few squares in the original Populous levels even though the land naturally will fit into square shapes. Even though the world editor can make all sizes of squares, it's important to round them off a bit to make the level more interesting. This includes horizontally and vertically created land. Square Flat Worlds is a boring mappack, so add some hills around the map for some variety. Use the smooth tool to make vertical changes look better and work for followers walking over them. Finally, add trees, water, and wildmen around in places to make the map more attractive.

Balance Resources

The balance of resources in a map is very important to its gameplay. This is separate from having a fair distribution among player, instead the balance of resources for a single player. The main resources in the game are land, wood, followers, and mana. Each one needs to be considered carefully when designing a map.

  • Land: Players will need some land to build huts on, so there needs to be areas with flat ground - preferably around the Reincarnation Site. Giving players too much land is a common mistake made by new map makers, as it removes the gameplay limitations on huts and mana, usually leading to "spamming" of high level spells by both sides.
  • Trees: Trees fit in well with land. Depending on the design of a map, the amount of trees could vary. Limiting the trees to only a few will make the game start out slower, and require players to manage their building more carefully. Too few trees will frustrate players who won't be able to make new buildings. Giving players lots of trees can work well if there are restrictions on how fast huts can be built such as small land, few braves, or putting the trees in strategic locations.
  • Followers: The number of followers a player can get without building huts is also important for balance. This includes wildmen placed around the map, wildmen placed in the Reincarnation Site, the number of huts pre-built, and and wildmen automatically converted once the level starts. Many followers will give faster starts to the level, and more mana, but can lead to imbalances if players convert them aggressively - not always a bad thing, but worth considering.
  • Mana: Mana is based on the the other resources and any worship items that can help the player. The spells have different charge rates for a reason, so if there is too much mana available or spells given out too cheaply, the balance of spells is negated.


Provide Objectives

Players need something to fight for in order to get the game going. If you have a map with just land for the players to use and that is all, then there are no real strategical points to fight for. Usually, the best practice is to add a stone Head or two into the map which provides a powerful spell that each player will want to fight for in order to gain control of the map. Providing opportunities to sidedoor or backdoor an opponent can allow for the possibility of a rush or a less one-sided experience as the game goes on.

Be Practical, but not Predictable

There is a great deal of importance in how a map is designed (obviously that is why this guide has been submitted). It is a common bad habit of new map-makers out there to make a map which they see to be ideal (significant amounts of land, tree's, wildmen, etc..) but it is also important to consider that you are not the only person playing your map if you intend to take it online. Thinking outside of the box is definitely a good trait to have, but remember not to push the envelope too far. No one likes to have 100 clones of the level Face Off, so don't bother making another one, but at the same time, no one wants to spend 6 hours defending a Stone Head from their enemies only to find out that it is one shot of the Blast spell. Make your maps interesting, but not pointless by providing weird twists which will be figured out after having played the map just once.

Online Map Standards

All online maps should abide by a simple set of standards to ensure they not only work properly, but also provide enjoyment to those who play them. Here are some simple tips to follow:

  • Do not exceed more than 300 objects, including braves, shamans, trees, wildmen, Stone Heads, triggers, discoveries, and effects. Any other object not specified may be used, but can be subtracted from the total number of objects as long as the final number is less than 300. For example: 300 objects with 5 huts for each side is acceptable because 5 huts for four tribes equals 20, but the huts are not included in the list of objects which are crucial to the map. 350 Object plus 4 huts would be bad. 290 objects plus 5 huts for each tribe would be acceptable.
  • Use script 122 in the header files.
  • Provide a level name in the header file for easy identification when in the Map Editor.
  • Do not set any alliances in the header files.
  • Set the number of players to the exact number of people intended for the level, don't just use four as it will be mis-identified in-game.


Before submiting any mappacks online, make sure all the levels have no issues (test them both offline and online - under the test map feature). Don't forget that test maps will always be unranked, even if you don't check the 'unranked' option.


Tutorials
Map Making: Creating a SP LevelCreating a MP Level
AI Scripting: AI Scripting
Mod Making: Sprite Editing