Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards.
One of the biggest decisions I faced at the end of 2015 was what to do with the map. I had hired a cartographer to make this:
I wanted the map to feel like the ones in my Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms campaign source books. The concept was the map was set but the locations of towns, dungeons, monster lairs, would all be dynamically generated. And it worked, I think pretty well.
Two challenges came out of this:
The first, and more minor, is that after I paid the cartographer he never sent me high resolution files. So for my money all I have is the above low res preview pic of what is a very large map file. After he was paid he stopped responding to email and any attempt to contact him otherwise. I even tried to get others to track him down posing as new clients, to no avail. I think he either died, or skipped town for other reasons. What this means is that without a high res map I have to hire someone else to redo the map at a resolution appropriate to the game.
Second, having a static map, even though your starting location and all other locations are randomized, still, unfortunately, tells players it's the same thing over and over. I encountered this when demoing the game and making the trailer: people thought the map was always the same like Skyrim. I couldn't speak over the noise of the graphics staring right at them. It was time for a radical shift in thinking.
After playing Crowntakers for a bit (thanks Steam sale!) I was convinced a hex map could meet my artistic goals.
Archmage Rises is all about your custom story in your unique world. No two games are the same. Procedurally generating terrain (like my favs Civilization, or Dwarf Fortress) reinforces this message rather than combating it.
So we started with this concept:
That looked really good. But could we actually make it look like that?
We started with this quick prototype:
Promising, but it sure feels like a board game! Very Settlers of Catan.
We revised the concept:
After some more work we started making variations of each terrain type like this:
So this is where we are at now:
Looking like a strategy board game could be a turn on or turn off. I really don't know. So what do you think? Does it feel too board gamey???