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Map Making Theory: elevation variance and small landings

Posted January 20th, 2010 at 05:05 PM by dok
This is the fourth post in a series about the theory of mapmaking. Part 1 was about glyph placement, part 2 was about map footprint size and shape, and part 3 was about map orientation and map symmetry. This installment is about elevation variance and small landings.

When I mention small landings, I mean areas of only 1, 2, or 3 hexes that are on a different level than all the surrounding terrain. Mole Hills would be an obvious example of a map with a lot of this sort of terrain feature, but just about every map has some irregular terrain somewhere on the map. To take an example from my own maps, the 2-hex bumps on the sides of Swamp Helix are such an isolated bump, and even the steps leading up to the platform on that map sort of qualify, although those spots obviously surrender height advantage to the platform itself.

I want to make it clear that I'm not talking about having a lot of height on a map. It's entirely possible for a map to have very large...
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Map Making Theory: orientation and symmetry

Posted December 20th, 2009 at 02:21 PM by dok
This is the third post in a series about the theory of mapmaking. Part 1 was about glyph placement, and part 2 was about map footprint size and shape. This installment is about map orientation and map symmetry.

When I say "map orientation", what I'm basically talking about is the angle between the two opposing sides with respect to the hexagonal grid. There's two basic ways this can work:
  1. Traveling from your end of the map to your opponent's end involves zigzagging back and forth slightly with each move.
  2. Traveling from your end of the map to your opponent's end involves a straight shot along one row of hexagons.
I'll call the first version "zigzag-oriented" maps, and the second version "linear-oriented" maps.*

I tend to prefer zigzag-oriented maps, for a couple reasons. First, zigzag-orientation compresses the map. It's easier to put the startzones close to one another in inches in a zigzag-oriented map, while keeping...
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Map Making Theory: map footprints

Posted November 6th, 2009 at 05:43 PM by dok
In my previous installment, I discussed glyph placement. In this installment, I'll discuss map footprints.

I am a big fan of the movement toward smaller map footprints. I like the way smaller maps tend to allow slower units to reach the fray quicklly, and give melee units a better chance of chasing down shooters in endgame. Also, because there's less material being spread out wide, there's more material for interesting terrain features. Smaller maps tend to show a bit more polish, although that's far from a hard and fast rule.

Some may see my preference for small maps as conflicting with my established preference for wide startzone separation, and particularly enough separation to prevent an OM-1 Z-bomb. While I feel much less strongly about that issue than I once did, it's worth noting that this sort of separation can be achieved on a surprisingly small map. Even if you restrict yourself to a very small footprint like the 30" by 24" Gencon map...
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Map Making Theory: random glyph placement

Posted November 2nd, 2009 at 12:54 PM by dok
This is the first in what may be a series on things I look for in competitive 1v1 (or 2v2) maps.

I want to start with some thoughts about glyph placement. I think glyphs can be a vital part of a good map, by bringing more features of the map into play, discouraging camping, and preventing the game from degenerating into a race for high ground. However, lots of maps, including maps by very good map-makers, sometimes put glyphs in places that seem odd to me.

This is particularly true in the case of random glyphs, as these glyphs can have drastically different effects on the game depending on what they are.

Anyway, two big-picture thoughts on placing these glyphs:
  1. All random glyphs should be exactly (or almost exactly) equidistant from both start zones. Or, to put it another way: it's not enough to just give each side a "home" glyph. Furthermore, all random glyphs should be roughly equally easy to attack (or defend)
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Zelrig and small maps

Posted May 6th, 2009 at 07:16 PM by dok
This is just a slight edit of a reply I just made in a map comment thread, archived here for easy reference.

On several occasions when critiquing maps, I've criticized maps where Zelrig can hit more than a couple hexes of the opposing start zone in his first activation with a Majestic Fires attack. I feel that on an ideal map, there should either there should be 13 hexes of separation between start zones, or there shouldn't be a possible landing space for Zelrig in the first turn where he can hit the opposing startzone, or at least, the startzones should be configured such that no more than a few hexes can be hit with one Majestic Fires attack.

I've had this discussion a few times on the board, to the point that people who follow those thread might think I'm more strident about this issue than I really am. I feel pretty strongly about this, but at the same time I don't think it's actually that big of a deal, if that makes sense.

The common...
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