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Map Making

From Populous Wiki

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 TheGabber with a few submissions from others) were the only major third party maps available for download. Most of the Multiplayer mappacks were created by TheGabber and then other successful mappacks such as Fate Worlds were submitted by people. Now that a public Map Editor has been released more people have been able to create new Multiplayer levels.

General Concepts

For anyone just jumping into map making, there are a few general concepts to know about making maps. These are things that can improve the level and make the playing experience better for anyone using it.

  • Populous Has a Third Dimension

Yes, Populous was a revolutionary game for its time - in part because of its three dimensional maps. When designing a map, make sure to include hills and changes of elevation. Not only does the map play better when it includes hills, but it will also look a lot better to people previewing it, which, will make them more want to play it. Hills add lots of interesting strategies for players in terms of defending and attacking so the maps will be better.

  • Round is Good

The overall theme of Populous is a prehistoric natural world. Apart from what the braves build, there isn't much that should be square looking. That includes the coast lines and changes of elevation. While sometimes walls can be interesting (such as in the UW level Fortress), typically they're a sign that the map maker did not spend the time to work on the level enough. Most map editors include a smooth or round function, so that should be used to improve the map. Flat Square Worlds are not only boring to play, but they've been made lots of times.

  • Mind the Paths

Braves aren't all that smart, so sometimes they won't pick the easiest path to get places. That means they will attempt to climb steep hills or go around the edges of cliffs in order to get to trees or huts. Sometimes this means trees will be inaccessible and braves will die trying to get to them (ok if there are other trees nearby, but frustrating if trees are scarce). Also, if there looks like there should be an obvious path between two tribes, don't make them walk around the world because there is a hill that is too lumpy.

  • Check the Triggers

Probably the most amount of mistakes come from problems placing and linking triggers. Remember that the trigger needs to be in the same place as the stone head, and that it must be linked correctly. Check over all the triggers when testing to make sure they perform the desired actions and last the right amount of time. Additionally, just because it's possible to add a head/trigger/effect, doesn't mean it will make the level better.

Single Player

The creation of single player maps emerged at about the same time the creation of multiplayer maps did, although since back then people could only use the scripts the game came with in their maps and could not create their own, a good single player map was rare. Over the years, script edits have been released that allow the community to create their own AI scripts for single player maps. Some of these programs include:

  • ALACN's Script Compiler / Decompiler
  • CD Player's Notetab librarys
  • Wildman Productions Script Editor
  • Nexus' Auto Scripter
  • Khickman's Syntax Coloured Text Editor
  • TedTycoon's Script Editor

Some talented people have been helping out the community greatly and written tutorials which may help when creating levels.

Concepts

The concepts in making single player maps are alike in some ways and different in some ways from making multiplayer maps. Here is a list of things you should remember when making your single player map:

  • The maps don't have to be fair!

Unlike multiplayer maps, it's actually a good thing if single player maps aren't fair. Normally the player should have a big disadvantage to pose as a challenge.

The AI could start out with a set base making the level harder as there are many ways to rush the AI if they had to build a base. Giving the player a full base would make the level far too easy and nobody would get a challenge out of it. Another way is giving the player smaller land or less trees than to the computer which will make the level more challenging.

  • Provide Objectives

Just like in multiplayer, single player maps should have more objectives other than to destroy your enemy. Including stone heads and Vaults of Knowledge will create more creative maps.

  • Include Effects

Populous contains a vast amount of effects which are rarely used in the original campaign (if they are used at all). Linking an effect to a timed trigger or to a totem may also increase the overall quality of the level. A good example of this are the earthshatters in Fractured Earth.

  • Use a good script!

When testing maps any of the original scripts can be used, to do so, in Alacn's world editor, under the Edit/General/Header category, the numbers must be replaced by those contained in the name of the script (In case of The Journey Begins its script is cpscr010.dat). The following scripts are those for level 24 and could work with little issue in a custom map:

- For Red, use script cpscr053.dat

- For Yellow, use script cpscr054.dat

- For Green, use script cpscr055.dat

The AI in these scripts will build and attack decently.

These scripts are not suitable for a challenging level. Read the article below for a brief discussion on how to create good AI scripts for your single player maps.

AI Scripts

If you want a good single player map, you need a good AI script to go along with it. This can be achieved by using an AI scripter or simply creating one using notepad and compiling it with ALACN's AI script compiler.

You probably don't know how to make scripts and explaining scripts here would be a bad idea, so go here. You will find all kinds of information about scripting put together by a player named Megafont. There are many tutorials around which give lots of information about scripting and if you are unsure about something feel free to ask about in the Populous: Reincarnated forums.

Script Standards

Your script must give a player a challenge. You should make it as human-like as possible, because if not, it will be easy to beat.

Try not to make your script too hard, though. If it's too hard then nobody will want to play the map because it will be impossible to beat. Populous 3: Age of Chaos is a good example of this. King Warg and his team made the levels far too hard and King Warg even admitted that the levels were pretty tough, and they are. Don't make an Age of Chaos.

So here is a list of things you should have in your script.

  • If you have a level with boats and/or balloons in it, make them use them.
  • Make the AI attack each other. Most people enjoy levels where the AI attack each other such as everyone fighting over the stonehead in Middle Ground or the Dakini tribe killing off the Chumara tribe in An Easy Target.
  • Let the AI cheat. Give them spells the player doesn't have. Give them mana at the beginning of the game. Start them out with a nice base with a lot of people and buildings. It makes the AI cooperate better and makes the level harder, too.
  • Make unique scripts. Don't make the AI just attack. Make them try and pray to a stonehead or sidedoor and/or backdoor. Something interesting like that will do just fine.
  • Some things that have to do with the player go in the script. Player doesn't start out with a reincarnation site? Goes in the script. Player gets one shot of lightning at the beginning of the game? You bet your bum it goes in the script.
  • Timed levels are always fun. Objectives such as praying to a certain stone head or killing a certain amount of people or escaping from a prison all in a given amount of time will increase the excitement in the level.

Using these tips and the tutorial on Megafont's website, you should be able to create excellent AI scripts.

Multiplayer

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.

Simple 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 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 massive 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. Usually 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 wood, and red more wildmen, 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.

  • 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.

  • Balance Resources

It's nice to have lots of trees and land, but that doesn't mean the level will be good. Giving players too much land will make stand-offs that usually end with players wiping each other out with a backdoor attack. Part of the strategy of the game is picking which spells to charge with limited mana - that gives players the option of making more land. For the same reason, too many trees and wildmen will cause tribes to grow to quickly meaning that a player who is slightly better at handling the game can be able to attack before the other player gets off the ground.

On the other side, not enough land will force people out into neutral areas (unless they are separated by enough water). Also, players can do fatal damage to a player with a single earthquake or firestorm, making the game possibly based upon a single early attack. Too few trees just means the game will be very slow and frustrating to the players.

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.
  • 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.


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