- Jun 1, 2008
Tutorial Difficulty: 4/10
INTRODUCTIONBackground InfoThe Importance of Good Terrain
Perhaps the least useful area of starcraft modding for me to first explain, however i believe terrain is the first place any mapmaker/modder should explore. After all, no matter how great your map systems and data are, the first thing your users will appreciate is the terrain.
As a simple rule of thumb as to why terraining is important just remember: Good Terrain = Longer Before a Player Leaves.
Terrain is where the players of your map will first get to know You! As with outside of the game, inside it is also important to make a great first impression.
Take this example. Your looking for a new map to play but your also short on time so you go into a game quickly. The first thing you will see will be the minimap. If the minimap looks really bad your not likely to go into the game so minimap presentation is just as important if not more important than the actual look of the terrain. However as many maps already have discovered, players prefer to see a custom minimap image rather than the actual layout of the map.
Good Terrain Vs Bad TerrainNoteI believe there is already a tutorial on how to do this on the hive so i shan't explain how here.
Anyway, after starting this game you will instantly be presented with some kind of terrain, unless a character selection system has been implemented or something of that nature, even if there is an initial cinematic upon the game startup the terrain involved will be vital to your users.
Take a look at the following two screenshots. If you were looking for a new game to play which would you choose off first impressions.
Admittedly both these images are in completely different regions and intended for different purposes. All you need to really understand from these two examples
Is that the left image is ideal terrain to use for a visually appealing map. The image on the right isn't really all that bad, but there are multiple bad practices used within it's structure.
The first thing to notice is that the left terrain uses no cliffs for height variation. Where as the other uses only cliffs to add levels of dynamics to the game. This works, however is not very nice to look at. Other things that are noticeable are the variations in the textures used in the good one opposed to the single flat texture in the bad one.
Back to ContentsNoteYou should also know that both these simple landscapes literally took less than 10 minutes each to build from scratch.The ToolsYou don't need to know Everything!
It's true! you actually don't need to know everything. In fact you only have to know 5 basic tools:
These tools on thir own will give you almost full control over your terrain. Foliage is a tool I tend to avoid as its really just a shortcut through placing custom foliage. It also spawns it evenly which is Not a good thing.
Clearly the most important part to the aesthetic feel of terrain is the texture, after all you can't have a map "Supposedly" in a tropical jungle based off a char texture set. It would be misleading and char is not a jungle planet so it's clearly a Bel'shir set or something similar you want.
Anyway, as a description:NoteIf you don't like the texture set blizzard has provided, there's nothing to stop you creating your own. Just keep in mind the default texture sets use textures to complement each other and they look Good.
Textures are simply tiles using a specific image that I'd used to style the ground layer of terrain. They do this by repeating these images across the tile spans. Starcraft II has introduced the ability to layer textures upon one another which has made life 10x easier for Terrainers.
A single texture on it's own isn't s pretty sight. It looks dull and absent. In order to bring the texture to life, you have to combine them. In Warcraft 3 you could overlay textures but as there was no alpha it replaced the texture underneath it. Unfortunately this lead to blotchy and repetitive texture patterns which could be styled to look good with the right doodads, but the new usage of alpha is a Terrainers dream come true if they know what to do with it.
This tool in my opinion is one of the coolest new additions to the terrain module. Sure there aren't that many types of road to choose from, but they sure bring a whole new dynamic to the game, especially for urban maps.
However despite their usefulness, roads seem to confuse a lot of people. To place roads all you have to do is go to the roads tab in the terrain module and choose a size for your road with the slider. (I've always found 1 is a good size). Following this all you have to do is click where you want the road to start, click again where you want it to end, then go through the road adding anchor points to shape it exactly how you want it.
There you have it! Roads! Easy and absolutely fantastic to have in any urban map. Hopefully that should mean no more confusion to anyone who's read this. If you are still slightly confused, don't worry we're going to be including roads in one of the terrain examples so there will be some screenshots to all those visually learners out there.
HeightNoteThis new feature for sc2 should not be underestimated. The ability to place roads can significantly enhance both the look and feel of a map.
Also note that just because you have roads, your units will not necessarily follow them, and to the best of my knowledge there is currently no method supported to allow such ability without some lengthly triggers.
If you used the height tool in Warcraft 3 your already off to a flying start! The sc2 height editor is dead simple to use but brings the whole 3D part of the game to pass. To use it you simply go into the height tab in the terrain module, after that just choose one of the tools and get stuck in!
Height variation is almost as important as texture variation but it's so easy to apply to your map! I personally think the only excuse to have flat terrain in a map is for areas using concrete/ bricks/ stone, basically any manmade textures as unfortunately doodads do not "bend" with the terrain.
CliffsTipTo make your life dead easy, as soon as your done with painting your textures, grab the Noise Tool and just go over the entire map anywhere with non-manmade textures.
My personal view on sc2 cliffs is "Don't use them unless you really need to (Or you're making an urban map)" However thats just one opinion, I'm sure plenty of great terrainers will love the sc2 cliffs. After all, you are now allowed to merge natural and manmade cliffs together, which can be really useful for making rural areas near canyons and other interesting environmental areas.
However i believe the best part about the new cliff tool isn't that it can merge, it isn't that the new cliff levels have been reworked to make life simple. Its just that its not really changed too much from wc3!
The reason i say that cliffs should only really be used for urban areas is because most height variation in a jungle, wasteland, desert and most other areas can be done by just using the height tools and a little work with pathing. Keep in mind however that there is no reason why you can't prove me wrong and create a stunning map using cliffs!TipIn order to turn on cliff merging, go to tools > brush > cliff merging. It's amazing how many people can't find this option (Me Included!)
This is what makes terrain in wc3 look like a child's drawing in comparison with sc2. The ability to make water that actually looks like.. well.. water!
Water in sc2 can be highly customized. flow rate, flow direction, transparency, these are just a few of the options you can configure with water in the new editor.
Back to ContentsTipAny map that does not include a section of water is a map that is seriously lacking. Of course this isn't entirely true, but keep in mind, water in sc2 will take your map up a level of awesomeness. (If you do it well of course).Why Bother With TerrainNo matter what anyone says - Good terrain makes a map!
No matter how outstanding your gameplay concept, unless you put the effort into the terrain, no one will play your map. Lets take some examples.
On the First page of the battle-net custom maps page you can find some perfect examples:NoteI have included the following examples for reference purposes only. I have no connection to the respective authors and have no intention of increasing popularity of any one of them through my reference.
- Desert Strike
- Protoss Tower Defense
Believe it or not this map has a bareback structure behind the randomly generated terrain. If you check out the ground carefully you'll find some serious texture and height variation. Look to the edges of the map and you'll also find that there entire map has been surrounded by water.
This might not be the best example, but you can see it doesn't look half bad because it has some of the details listed above. Admittedly, the terrain for this map is fairly poor even with the randomly generated terrain. To improve upon this, the random generator should also create a large-medium area of lowered ground and water tiles underneath so that a small lake could appear. Also in addition to the rocks, some destructible trees and different types of rocks should be included.
This map, however, is a perfect example of where using the generate foliage tool would actually be useful.
Again, look at the ground and you will find texture variation. Although it lacks the height difference that Mineralz provides. However the minimap actually is fashioned to look quite cool in this example which is something that isn't easy when your using as small amount of the map as this game does.
There are also doodads placed within the map which add to the feel, and although its a tournament based map, the extra detail only benefits the popularity.
Protoss Tower Defense
This map has been designed in a totally different way. As a tower defense, cliffs are perhaps the best choice for the map design. Also The textures have still been varied to add to the aesthetics of the map.
However in general this map genre is somewhat of an exception to the terraining rules i have set in my mind, as it doesn't need to look great so long as it works. With this map it works well.
Wait a second?
You may have noticed, that all three of the above maps are from genres that do not particularly rely on the terraining skill of the creators. Tower defense, Tug of War and a randomly generated map are not typically the kind of maps you would expect to have outstanding terrain. I have tried to illustrate here how there are exceptions to the attractiveness of terrain in maps and the dominating factor it holds. But in truth i do not believe these maps are worthy of their place on the battle-net page #1.
So why have they become so popular?
I hate to say it but, partly due to fluke, mainly because the battle-net map popularity system is somewhat lacking in it's ability to put new maps on the first page in any reasonable amount of time.
Back to ContentsSide NoteThe actual popularity system on battle-net makes the information shared by individuals like myself, who have conducted independent research into topics such as this one, seem less credible. However i assure you that the current popularity system will not last too long as there have been a few too many complaints.