Starting positionsThere is nothing more frustrating than unfair starting positions. Random map do often have such flaws, so do not let this happen with your maps! Some important points are:
- All players should have the same resources to start with, i. e.: the same amount of wood, stones and gold and the same number of gazelles, elephants and berry bushes.
- All starting positions should have an equal distance from coastlines. If naval attacks on one player are possible, it is extremely annoying if he cannot strike back in the same way.
- Elevations and rivers offer strategic benefits. Make sure that no player has an unfair advantage. If some player can build a wonder on a large hill near his starting position, all other player should have the same possibility.
Map designWhile geometric designs guarantee a fair game, they do not look very appealing. Creating a natural looking map is not easy, though. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid straight lines, make rivers, coastlines etc. look irregular.
- Dirt patches near coasts or on top of mountains give your map a realistic touch. A few trees and rocks spread through the map will do the same.
- Do not make your forest look like a "tree nursery" (as in random maps) where all trees stand next to each other and are of the same sort. A few clearings and some trees of a different kind will improve the design of your map a lot!
- Do not use a bunch of alligators or other animals! They will slow the game down (using bandwidth for the network and CPU capacity), and will only be an annoying obstacle in high numbers. There should not be more than 12 animals per player.
ResourcesThe amount and distribution of resources decide whether a map is playable or not.
- The starting position should have enough resources to get past the Stone Age and enough wood for buildings.
- Near the starting location, some gold and stone is required so it can be mined during the Tool and Bronze Age.
- Avoid accumulating all resources at the same spot. Make some sites where there are two or three resources (e. g. a forest with some gazelles nearby and maybe stones or gold) given in a reasonable amount (between 700 and 1000 is usually a good number).
- Make sure there are some positions for expansions with resources to defend. Games are much more interesting if people have to fight in order to be able to advance to the Iron Age.
PlaytestingPlaytesting is of course crucial to make sure that a map is good. Test it against the computer first (with "reveal map" and "fog off" so you can see whether each player has a good start), then against human opponents. Correct any flaws and test it again.
Single player maps have different goals. There your aim should be to make sure that the map will be played the way you intend it and that there are no "cheap tricks" that allow the player to circumvent any traps that you have set up etc. If possible, give the map to someone else to test it and ask him how he won.
Then ... submit it!
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