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With the new support adding modded maps to Warhammer campaigns, we would like to share some of our own internal best practices for battle map design. It’s important to consider how your maps will affect people’s overall game experience. Fighting battles is an important element of a successful campaign, and nobody likes to lose (or even win) because of odd terrain quirks or unexpected unit behaviour. Let’s review some common issues and share how the Warhammer team generally resolves them.
The sharper the peak of a ridge or hill, the more problematic it is for missile troops. From high camera heights, it may be difficult to notice that not all of the entities in a unit are firing.
Half of the unit cannot fire (no line-of-sight to the enemy). The incline meets the decline without a level plateau. The variances in terrain height are difficult to see, and may be missed from some camera angles.
A wider ridge, 20 meters deep, allows the unit to be all on the same level. There is a slight slope on the top, which the texturing reinforces visually.
Forest Ground Type
Visually communicating that a cluster of trees will conceal units is a tricky proposition. If you paint the area under a small cluster of trees with the Forest ground type, it may not feel natural. Worse yet, the area may not look like units can be concealed there, but they can.
This example area is 50 meters by 90 meters and contains 12 trees. The density is very low, and includes many dead trees. Most of the trees are of the same height and type. Five or six units may be able to hide in this area, but it doesn’t look like a tactical hiding spot.
A good example is a larger area (over 100 meters in each dimension). The trees are high density, include many types, have different heights, and include some ground-level objects (shrubs and dead trees). The edge of the area is consistent and clear. The area can hold any number of units, and offers concealed movement between areas of the battlefield.
Terrain Height Clarity
Terrain height changes should always be sign-posted if they are dramatic enough to influence gameplay.
The height changes in this valley are imperceptible from a high (or default) camera height, and are difficult to see even up-close. Entities in this valley may not be able to see an enemy standing nearby, and vice-versa.
Here, a shadow and a darker texture visually reinforces the valley, feathering outward from the trough. This makes is clear that the valley exists and visually implies a gameplay effect, from any camera angle.
Cliffs and Ridgelines
When creating cliffs or ridgelines, be aware of pathfinding and AI implications. When a long block of hard collision prevents units from moving directly to their desired location, players may be taken by surprise and AI may begin to show indecisive behaviour.
Moving around these obstacles takes a significant amount of time. AI group formations may be forced to split up unexpectedly while navigating. The defending army can have powerful missile superiority in these situations. Obstacles with a 45-meter diameter can take an additional 30 seconds to circumnavigate. Obstacles with a 90-meter diameter can take an additional 75 seconds to circumnavigate. This particular example will take the slowest unit in the game (Zombies) roughly 4 minutes to navigate from one side to the other!
Multiple breaks in the obstacle greatly reduce pathfinding diversions. The defender still has a potential missile advantage, but no longer an overwhelming one. Attacking AI will still be broken up by the obstacles, but will not show indecisive behaviour due to long paths.
Clusters of Objects
Take care when placing objects with 3D collision. These “hard collision” objects can cause unexpected complications, which affect gameplay, pathfinding, and flow.
Sharp angles and tight spaces may trap entities, or even whole units. Fragmented hard collision can force formations apart. Units may have to take obscure and unexpected paths.
Manually drawing “no-go” areas around clusters of hard collision objects can resolve the above issues, but cause new ones. Players will see visually valid areas, through which they cannot navigate. These “invisible walls” always feel artificial. In addition, manually drawing “no-go” areas can be rather time consuming.
No concave areas or path-finding traps. Object clusters are as convex as possible. Objects placed so that no manual “no-go” areas need to be drawn.
These are just a few of our internal best practices for battle map design. Exceptions may of course be made for specific reasons – whether artistic, authenticity, or gameplay. Keep these intricacies of the Total War battle engine in mind when designing your new maps for the Warhammer campaign. As Total War: Warhammer continues to expand the possibilities are truly limitless. We can’t wait to see what you create!