Map-making awesomeness looms for both Dawn of War III and Company of Heroes 2 fans. Company of Heroes of 2 has just announced the 2v2 Map Making Contest! Read all about that here. For fans of Dawn of War III, Annihilation mode is fresh out the oven, and we’re sure community map makers are keen to create some Annihilation centric battlefields!
Making great multiplayer maps can be tricky. It’s not just a case of plonking down resource points, cover, and objectives and then pressing publish. Well… you could do that, but your maps probably wouldn’t become fan favourites. Various elements of map design can influence gameplay in a big way. If you know how to work with these factors you can make awesome maps; if you don’t, you might struggle.
However don’t fret; one of our resident map masters, Ben is here to offer some pro tips. Perhaps Ben’s passion for cartography started in his starry-eyed youth, where he spent ages messing about with the map builder in Warcraft 2. He reflected, “It’s weird, because I never really thought of that as my career path, and now that I’ve come back to it I feel like I’m a kid again.”
Ben’s all grown up now though. He’s worked here at Relic for six years, and he’s been designing maps for a good chunk of that time. Having created multiple multiplayer maps for both Company of Heroes 2, and more recently for Dawn of War III, he’s definitely a good guy to listen to if you want to make it big in the map game.
It might sound obvious, but when you start designing a map, you should have a plan. According to Ben “People should start doodling and getting things down on paper, but before even that you should consider some key points and define what you’re aiming for.”
Here are a few questions you can yourself, that should help crystallize your design: Do you want the map to be open, or have lanes and chokepoints to control the flow of the combat? What game mode do you primarily intend it to be played on? Will it be a grindy affair or an all-out slugfest? Is it aimed at competitive PvP or for casual comp stomping? How many players will you design the map for?
One of the biggest issues a novice map designer is likely to face is getting size right. Size affects the timings of movement speed between starting bases, resource points, and objectives. Make a map too big, and you risk breaking immersion. Make it too small and you can end up with cluttered matches that feel tactically stifling. Our maestro claimed, “You need to get a feel for that timing, run some units around and think about how long it takes to move from say your base to resource point one, or to your enemies base, and see if it feels like you imagined it to.”
Resources might just be the most important factor in determining how your map will actually play. When it comes to Company of Heroes 2 Ben said, “ten tactical points, two fuel points and two munitions seems to make the best economy for a competitive map.” However, you can get away with some experimentation if it supports your overall design.
Using Dawn of War III as an example, Ben explained, “If you put a lot of requisition and power on a map, but maybe only one Elite point, Elites become less crucial as you’ll have a lot of line units on the field, and Elites will die a lot quicker.” This example could be flipped on its head to make a Dawn of War III map more Elite dominant.
The map man said that when he created Dawn of War III map Solarian’s Gate, his aim was to “create a standoffish slugfest between massive armies.” He intentionally put high resources near both bases so that players could quickly build up big forces. To complete his grizzly vision, he designed the map to have three lanes with limited lateral movement, forcing players to meet each other head to head in devastating engagements.
Getting good feedback can really help make your map a great one. At Relic, Designers will often talk through how their maps are playing and if they are delivering the intended experience. Ben noted, “The community can rely on each other for feedback, it’s a massive pool, and if someone hosts their map in a public game, they should be able to get some valuable advice.”
However, he also pointed out that not every map is for every person. People have their own preferences, and when getting feedback, it's important to filter opinions and find the information that could actually improve the map experience as you envisaged it.
On a closing note, Ben said that to attain map mastery, practice and patience are key. Don't be disheartened if your first few attempts fail to turn into community classics. Stick with it, make adjustments, and soon you'll be making brilliant battlegrounds. Now go forth and make maps!