Making The Map
Before you can fight, you have to have something to fight over.
Steel Beasts comes with a wealth of maps already installed on the CD. They are loaded when the game is loaded, all of the maps cover a lot more ground than any one scenario uses. Look under the Documents folder of your SB Pro PE install. There you will find two files that describe the maps included with SB. SBMaps.kmz is a google earth file - if you have google earth installed, it will open up and display a series of "e" markers indicating the location of the bottom left hand corner of each steel beasts map. SBMaps.pdf is a manifest of all the included maps.
But before we look at the mechanics of setting up a map let’s first ask ourselves a couple of questions.
The scenario you’re designing has a goal in mind. The map you choose should be an expression of that. Often a designer will want to show a certain type of action involving use of terrain, such as defense of a ridge line, for instance. Other times, a designer will want to show how terrain affects the conduct of an assault, or an attack.
As an example, say you the designer want to show how a smaller force might defeat a larger force through the use of terrain. The map you use should give the smaller force some solid options regarding how it might go about defeating that larger opponent. If you chose a flat, featureless map with nothing for the defender to hide in and/or behind, the scenario might be over before it really started.
Here’s another example. You are really curious about how well infantry can do in woods against armor. You will want to pick (or make) a map that has lots of forests that the other guy has to move through.
Here’s a third example. You want to see at what distance a tank can shoot at, and hit a target. Or you might want to see for yourself what the maximum ranges are for certain ATGMs. Or you might want to find out how BMP-2s do against Jaguars, or Marders against Bradleys. A perfectly flat map would make for a great testing surface, in this case.
One more example: You pick a piece of terrain where one large hill dominates everything else around for miles. That will end up being the focal point around which the whole scenario will revolve.
The map you choose (or alter, or make) will determine to a great degree how the battle you’re fighting will actually get fought. Choosing your map well can spell the difference between a dull scenario, and one that people will play over and over again.
Steel Beasts, in addition to providing you the designer with a fulgence of pre-assembled maps, also allows you to alter those maps and to save the changed terrain. To do this, you use the Map Editor.
Setting the scene
As I said, before you have a fight you have to have something to fight on. The first step in constructing a scenario is finding a map. To do this, select the Map Editor from the Main Menu screen. Once in the Map Editor, you’ll be presented with a map, devoid of features except for elevations and grass. From here you can construct your map, or you can select another map from the map library.
Most of the buttons the map editor uses are self-explanatory. Selecting Grass, for example, allows you to place grass anywhere on the map. Same for Woods, or Water, or Dirt.
Tree and Bush allow you to place scattered patches of each.
A couple of controls bear further explanation, however.
Erase is used to remove trees and bushes. Other terrain, such as Dirt or Sand, or Woods, are not affected.
These controls move the map, and zoom it. You can also move the map by moving the mouse and right-clicking, if you at any level of zoom.
The View button shows you a ground level view of the map. To use the View button, click on it. The lettering will start to blink and the cursor now appears on the map as a set of cross-hairs. Clicking again shows you the view a unit at ground level will see at that part of the map.
You can turn the view into an aerial view by pressing and/or holding down the Q key. Holding down the Q key will take you to an elevation high enough so that you can see the terrain surrounding the spot you place the Viewing cursor. Pressing and/or holding down the Z key returns you to ground level. W allows you to move forward, X backwards, A turns left and D turns to the right. Holding down the Shift key in combination with all of the keys make react much faster.
Pressing ESC returns you to the map editor.
NOTE: If you go ‘up high’ in View mode, you will not be able to look straight down. If you are interested in seeing a particular spot from the air, when you move the Viewing cursor move it to a spot a little to one side of what you are wanting to look at.
Using the Theme Editor
Before we start discussing the map editor, we should first discuss a subset of functions that controls almost every aspect of how the map will "play" and look. If you have a high speed connection, theres a video available that runs through the basic functions of the theme editor: Using the Theme Editor
From top to bottom:
Terrain type: This drop down will control the skin sets selected for vehicles, as well as the default set of terrain types available in the editor.
Ground type: This drop down selects which one of the 16 terrain types you want to edit/control.
Name: This will change the name of the terrain type in the map editor.
Is Water (checkbox): Select this ONLY if the terrain type is water.
Map Color: Use the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) sliders to control the color of this terrain type. The color will apply to both the selection box on the right hand side of the editor, and will appear on the map itself as you "paint" on this terrain type.
Low texture: Selects the texture file that will be used for the base color for this terrain type. Use windows explorer thumbnail mode to preview the textures, they can be found here: C:\Program Files\eSim Games\SB Pro PE Beta\terrain\low. If you add new textures, keep in mind that anyone else using this map/theme MUST have these textures installed in order to see them. If not, they either will see default textures, or worse, SB will just quit to the menu.
High texture: Selects the texture file that will be used to layer over the low texture. This semi transparent texture gives the base layer some "depth". The high texture is only seen at very short distances in the 3D world. A example would be the cracks on the ground in a desert theme. Use windows explorer thumbnail mode to preview the textures, they can be found here: C:\Program Files\eSim Games\SB Pro PE Beta\terrain\high. Same warning applies about new textures.
Water texture: Selects the texture file that will be used for water. It can only be changed if this terrain type is selected as water. Same warning applies about new textures.
Bumpiness: In 2.375+, the bumpiness slider controls the roughness of the terrain. It has a visual effect, and also can affect the speed of the vehicle and the accuracy of gunnery at high speeds. Here are some recommended settings from ssnake:
- Agricultural area: Up to 10%
- Natural meadow: Up to 30%
- Heath, scrub: Up to 40%, typically less though
- Stony desert, detritus, bare rock, boulder fields: Up to 100%, typically maybe rather 75%
- Swamp, moor: up to 20%
- Forest ground: Up to 80%, typically rather 50% - in highly cultivated forests it may even be down to 20% (exception!)
- Pure sand: up to 25%, usually just 15%.
- However: Pure sand is a rare find in nature. Some parts of the Sahara maybe (those that are usually shown in National Geographic program).
- More common however is:
- Sand/clay mix: Up to 70%, typically rather 30-60%
- Gravel surfaces: Up to 55%, typically rather 40% or less
Using the Map Editor
To get started making a map, select the Map Editor from the Main Menu screen. You will be taken to another screen showing a map with a grid. Terrain controls will appear on the right. You begin making your map here.
This is what it looks like.
I went to File, right-clicked, and selected ‘Open’ from the fly-out menu. I then selected ‘MP with roads.raw’.
This is the result. You’ll notice when you try this that the area you can see on the screen is a lot smaller than the map itself, in entirety. What you see on the screen will be the surface your scenario uses, the rest of the map will be ignored when it comes time for the game to set up and run your scenario. You can apply terrain anywhere on the map you wish, but only the area you see displayed will be in play when you begin building the scenario in the Mission Editor. The directional arrows allow you to move the map.
For this chapter I want to use this piece of the MP with roads map, therefore this is where I’ll be doing my terrain alterations.
At this point in the design process you should ask yourself ‘Is this piece of ground the piece of ground I want?’. Think about what your scenario is going to accomplish. Remember also that you can alter the ground, the terrain doesn’t have to be perfect. On the other hand, hills can neither be altered nor removed, so if they aren’t in the right place you might want to shift (using the directional arrows) to another section of the map, or use another map altogether.
This patch of ground looks okay for a start, though.
At this point, if I were happy with the terrain, I’d save this map with the name of my scenario. Then I’d go to the mission editor, call this map up, and start placing units.
This map isn’t going to be good enough, though. For one thing, I don’t want that L-shaped stretch of river in the left corner.
So I got rid of it
I selected ‘Grass’ from the terrain-type buttons. Then I filled in the L-shape of the river with Grass. I could have done the same with any of the other terrain types.
I used the boxes immediately below the terrain-type buttons tell me what size grass-patch I’ll be placing I start placing terrain. Note that they come in four sizes and allow you to put grass, or any other terrain, down in four different sizes.
To place terrain put the cursor on the map where you want the terrain placed, left-click, and it plops the patch down there. You don’t need to lay down terrain as a series of left-clicks, either. The Map Editor lets you draw your terrain as well as place it. Holding down the left mouse button as you move the cursor over the face of the map allows you to fill in areas much as if you were painting with a paint brush. Selecting larger and smaller patches allows you to paint with a finer or blunter stroke, as you wish.
As you can see, there are eleven different specific varieties of terrain incorporated into the Steel Beasts map editor. Of these eleven, eight are placed on a map the way I demonstrated for grass.
The ones which aren’t are Road, Ditch, and Object. Road and Ditch are placed in a similar manner. Road is placed by selecting Road, then simultaneously right-clicking and dragging the mouse. As the mouse moves, a line is drawn on the map. This line is where the road will be placed on the map. Releasing the right mouse button leaves a segment of road along the path you dragged the mouse.
Here I added a road.
The text in the illustration shows what steps I took. Note that the road crosses a body of water at two places.
When that happens, the map editor automatically creates bridges, as the following illustration indicates.
A bridge looks like this:
To create ditches, do the same as you would for a road.
The three blue lines are where I’ve placed ditches on this map. Note that one of them crosses a body of water. When a ditch intersects with water, it creates a ford at the intersection and looks like this:
As mentioned, the ditch assumes the level of the water. Speaking of water, before I mentioned that a road placed over a body of water will create a bridge. Doing the reverse, creating a river that intersects a road, will also create a bridge.
The map editor also allows you to create buildings. They are created by selecting the Object button. The Object button shows a menu which allows you to select two types of structures, which the map editor calls barns and are named Barn 1 and Barn 2. There are no significant differences between the two buildings, other than appearance.
Barn 1 looks like this:
And Barn 2 looks like this:
A water way intersecting buildings neither erases the building nor the waterway, nor does it create a little plot of land on which the building sits. Instead, the building looks like it floats on the water.
Removing Roads, Ditches, and Objects is easy. Left-click on Select, then left click on the Road, Ditch, or Object you wish to remove. Press Delete, and the highlighted item will disappear.
Another way to create terrain is to make a border with the terrain you want, then selecting the Fill button. Returning the cursor to inside the area you have created, and left-clicking, will fill that are with the terrain.
CAUTION: If you create a border, be sure that there are no gaps in it. The Fill button will fill the area, then spill through the gap and continue to fill until it either runs into an elevation contour or runs into another patch of terrain. Think of the border areas a cup you have made. If there are holes in your cup, the water will run out of them. If there are holes (gaps) in your borders, the terrain will do the same.
The illustration below shows what it looks like.
And the border area, filled.
Note that the terrain doesn’t spill outside of the border, because the border was created without gaps.
I could have filled the border with any terrain I wanted. I could have made it water:
Finally, a word about aesthetics. It’s not necessary to have a map that looks nice in order to create a scenario, but it helps. The tendency for most of us is to judge favorably something that looks nice, and unfavorably that which doesn’t. This will, for good or bad, spill over into the scenario itself. If the map looks good, the scenario will gain favor. If it looks bad, it might still gain favor, but not as readily.
This is not to suggest that every map need be a work of art, but then it’s so easy to create a map using the Map Editor that art isn’t far away. Experiment, play with it. As a designer you’ll be doing that anyway, and the more you play with it the better you’ll get at using it.
--Sean 02:03, July 17, 2008 (UTC)Sean