If you play RTS games, first person shooters, or tactics games, then you know that when it comes to playing multiplayer that you have favorite maps. So, what makes a map fun? Simply put, the best maps drive action through compelling options, routes, and objectives.
How does this apply to miniature gaming? Unfortunately, it does not apply often enough. Far too often, I have seen players set up a scenario and begin play, only to totally ignore the mission objectives and end up attempting to just destroy they other player’s force. This is either the fault of system design, map+scenario creation, or a little of both. Let’s avoid that!
Today, we’re going to look at a simple map just uploaded for the BETA and talk about how you, the player, can use some of the tools in the RTS game engine to design your own or tweak this one.
The RTS game engine gives you tools for design in the form of Resources, Tactical Objectives, Strategic Objectives, and Overdrive. Terrain BLOCKS and Obstacles are used to further refine, or change, they flow of a map.
To keep things simple, the only Resource that we will be considering today is CAPs.
Although Strategic Objectives can be used to trigger events or gain access to TECHS, resources, and one-shot abilities, the most common use is for Victory Points.
It may seem obvious, but this is important to remember_ The placement and value of Strategic Objectives control the ultimate end game battle areas AND the major unit paths in the game.
On this map, there is a singe Strategic Objective in the center of the map. Deployment Zones are along the top and bottom edges of the map.
The placement and value of Tactical Objectives is effective for either forcing action to a particular zone of the map or creating an interesting secondary battle area. Although extra CAPs are not necessary, they are useful and central to certain player’s list.
Armies with lot’s of vehicles, EXO suits, and MECH will many times require additional CAPs to maintain optimal performance. Forces whose major composition is Infantry Squads are not as dependent on CAPs, but they will often want to deny these locations to the enemy in an effort to cripple their machine heavy army.
Let’s look at our map for some examples of Tactical Objective placement_
Here we begin by placing 3 Tactical Objectives close to the right edge of the map. All of these yield 2 CAPs when captured and controlled. What does this placement accomplish?
Each player has a Tactical Objective that is just outside of their Deployment Zone. For most players, the choice to Capture these objectives will be just too tempting and seem like a no-brainer.
If these are Captured, then we have instant tension.
The Tactical Objective between will most certainly become a point of contention. The placement of our building here will allow short-range fire fights and CQ to take center stage and shine. Likewise, the close confines and chokepoints created will make this area very dangerous for vehicles and MECHA.
You’ll notice as well that there is a triangle created between the 3 Tactical Objectives and the Strategic Objective. Both players will be able to threaten the Strategic Objective from the row of Tactical Objectives.
Now for the Tactical Objective on the left side of the map_
Two things are immediately apparent when looking at it.
. It yields 4 CAPs when captured and controlled.
. It’s completely out in the open with a lot of open ground between it and the deployment zones.
Once again choice comes center stage with the focus being on the question of risk versus reward. 4 CAPs for controlling a single Tactical Objective is tempting to any player- but at what cost? Depending on your armies speed and durability taking this objective could be a difficult and costly task.
Here we have set-up a battle area where fast vehicles and AIR units can shine. As well, TANKS and other long range weapons have open fields of fire to attack those moving towards this Tactical Objective or moving from it to the Strategic Objective.
The non-objective Building Terrain BLOCKS on the map haven’t been mentioned yet. Even though they are not objectives themselves, they are central to the flow of the game.
Medium range and long range weapons can be used to great effect here. These Buildings both have LOS to the Tactical Objective 4 Terrain BLOCK and two of the Tactical Objective 2 Buildings.
The close proximity of the Strategic Objective makes this a useful staging area for last minute assaults once End Game has been triggered.
Since there is almost unlimited freedom in force construction, it makes it important to have symmetry in battlefield design. This means that any advantage comes from either playing to your armies strengths or overcoming its weaknesses.
Simple variations on this one map can yield very different play experiences. Some options_
/ Try placing 3 connected Wilderness Terrain BLOCKS in between the Strategic Objective and the Tactical Objective 4.
/ Place some obstacles and barricades scattered around Tactical Objective 4.
/ You can change Tactical Objective 4 into a Strategic Objective 1, and change the previous Strategic Objective 1 into a standard Building Terrain BLOCK.
/You could also change all the Tactical Objective 2 Buildings into Strategic Objective 1sm , and change the previous Strategic Objective 1 into a standard Building Terrain BLOCK.
I plan to revisit the topic of map design in more detail in a later article. There we’ll discuss_
. Various Game Modes
. Open Battle Areas
. Main paths and branches
. Units+play styles and advanced design [rushers, roamers, turtles, etc.]
Some great advice, thanks Brent.
I hope that it’s useful.
I really want to do a complete guide after the BETA is complete on map/level design as it applies to the RTS game engine [and tabletop games in general].
This article is very simple, but I thought that if player’s could see some examples of how I developed the elements to work together, then it would help spawn some creative community maps/scenarios. You know the old adage_
You have to know the rules to break them effectively 🙂
Yes, it was definitely useful to me. Even though it was brief you conveyed the sense that you had a wealth of knowledge to share and I’m looking forward to more in the future.
I’m totally going to have to try my hand at some custom maps now. Thanks!
I am the editor of Battlespace magazine (www.thebattlespace.com). I can’t find your contact details anywhere. If you could send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that would be great. I would like to include information about OP4S in the upcoming issue.
Thanks for the interest!