What makes a good RTS map? My thought process on making fun engagements.
Hello any and all who read this. This is my first blog post, it will be informal, probably unprofessional and highly likely to be the first of many. This blog will use terminology used in the Dawn of War community and the Warhammer 40k lore.
This first blog is dedicated to how I process making a multiplayer map for one of my all-time favourite games Dawn of War 1. I only use the Mission Editor tool for the map (which can be found here) and I use Gimp 2 to make the .tga files needed for the minimap and icon.
So lets get started. The first thing I need for a map is an idea. I want to know the story of where I am, what I'm fighting over and how I can beat my opponent. So lets take my most popular map Victoria and see what I did.
So setting: its an old city, dedicated to the Emperor of Mankind. A temple dominates the city, silent stone guardians watch the steps. However an Ork ship has crashed into the grey wastes outside the city walls and with ferocious tenacity they have laid siege. Craters and burned out buildings now scar the sight which is all so common to the 40k universe. So with this idea in mind, I start creating, but another big factor in how I design maps is what the main points of interest should be.
For Victoria the temple is key, it hosts 3 main objectives, two critical locations and a relic. Vital for players who want to win. There is also a critical location at the city gates and a relic in the attackers spawn. To counter act the defenders having a huge advantage at the start of the game I made the temple be accessible to everyone. The defenders have to reach the centre of the map to begin climbing the temple steps, which still gives them an advantage but buys the attackers some vital time. To further nullify the temple advantage I've also given the attackers two slag deposits to boost their production times.
As for the rest of the map the starting capture points are divided equally between the 8 players, they each get 3. The defenders points are in better defensive positions but the attackers points are closer. The remaining five capture points are spread out in a semi circle facing towards the defenders, allowing either side to capture them and then push on with the attack.
So, now the player should know what they are fighting over and they each have a fair chance. But how do they win? In my mind a multiplayer map, especially for a RTS game, should be able to accommodate multiple game modes and play styles. I think I hit the nail on the head for this with Victoria, let me explain.
First of, the classic, and the most common game mode in DOW, Annihilation or Conquest/Deathmatch for non DOW players. Each team wants to destroy the other. For the attackers its simple, the defenders are split into two groups of two, mass attack one and then turn to the other. For the defenders it's a little harder, but 'turtling' is a viable strategy with better production rates/defences or attack and destroy one attacker and move down their spawns as they have very little defensive positions.
For other game modes, Victoria has you covered, Take and Hold and Control Area as mentioned earlier are balanced, both teams have the same number of capture points in their spawn, and then five more to fight over for Control Area. Where as in Take and Hold, the three critical locations centre around the temple which is easily accessed by all players and is hard to defend.
Now for play styles, Victoria has distinct paths for troops, tanks and super units (units such as Titans found in Ultimate Apocalypse mod) but doesn't limit the players to lanes like MOBA's. Troops can move from building to building, with great cover and easy to hold locations. Tanks can move up small roads to bottle infantry up or crush them. Titans have huge areas to move, without getting stuck (which is a common issue in DOW) and have access to every base. Each of these units can turn the tide of battle and with good strategies even the strongest units could be taken down. To me this is key for a fun map.
So in conclusion then, if you've followed my ramblings, for me a strong RTS map is well designed for all types of play, has a great backstory to it and is fair at the start of battle. I want all of my maps to follow these rules and in doing so, I hope to provide good fun for the remnants of the Dawn of War community.
Thanks for reading,