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    Darius’ Design tricks

    Map Design Tricks

    by Darius

    N.B. This page has several graphics that have been optimised as much as possible without compromising quality, but may still take a minute or two to download fully. Please be patient.

    This article contains map tricks that should help make your scenarios look as good as possible. Beautiful terrain is something overlooked often, maybe not so much now as before, but I still see it in some custom campaigns that I have played. It does take a lot work and know-how, but it’s an important part in making your scenario not only look more realistic but also more enjoyable to the player. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll state it for the record. This is a sequel to Ingo van Thiel’s article “Map Design Tricks”.

    The first trick I will be discussing is probably the most popular of all:


    There are three types of swamp that you can make.

    1.   Shallow Water Swamp

    With this type of Swamp, boats and land units can be placed and walk about on it, but you cannot build. You achieve this by placing Gaia Desert Patches on already existing shallow water. You might run into problems in doing this. It will appear that you just cannot place these patches in some spots. It happens away from shore, as well as near. You can often solve this problem by doing all of the following: 
    ~ Deleting all fish patches witch are near(you can put them back later once you have your swamp all squared away).
    ~ Deleting a bit of the shallow water surface.
    ~ Deleting all small objects such as rocks and skeletons that appear at the shore.
    ~ Surrounding the shallow with desert(it will be unlikely that it will resort to this, but if it does, you can cover this desert ground with desert patches so it will still look green).


    As far as I know Ingo van Thiel invented this type. He used it in his “Tai Gun” campaign as seen above.

    2.   Swamp on Grass Ground

    With this type not only can land units be placed and move about on it, but you will be able to build on it, place resources, ruins, trees, you name it. Only boats and fish patches will not be able to be placed on this type (one trick I use though is a mix of the swamp types, I place under my Swamp on Grass Ground, one or 2 tiles of shallow, then cover it up with Gaia desert patches, and place a shore fish patch in it. It adds a nice effect, you now have a fishing hole away from sea!). You achieve this type by: 
    ~ Start out with an empty grass ground. (Make sure there are no rocks, stones, nothing can be on it, yet)
    ~ Cover the ground with a layer of Gaia grass clumps(and or desert patches if you like).
    ~ Put a bit of shallow water somewhere on your map for raw material(you will only need one tile).
    ~ Click unto Units, and then the Gaia menu.
    ~ Now select move, and move one of the shallow tiles over to your grass clump cover ground. Now select place, and you will now be able to place as many as you like.
    ~ Place these tiles onto the layer green grass clumps. They will half disappear under it.


    One good idea too is to place gazelle on it, and it will look like they are drinking. As far as I know Imhotep invented this type. He used it in his “David Saga #2” campaign as seen above.

    3.   Swamp on Water

    This is just a variation on Shallow Water Swamp. It follows the same guidelines, only land and water units will be able to be placed and move about on this. You cannot build. To achieve this you: 
    ~ Place a patch of shallow water(whatever size you want).
    ~ Delete the shallow using the “delete” function in the units section.
    ~ Then just place Gaia Desert Patches on it as you would Shallow Water Swamp.

    It helps if you put a little shallow in with it too. This cannot be done if you have the 1.0c patch installed on your RoR game (and you can’t play on the zone without it). With the patch installed it won’t allow you to delete shallow (don’t ask me why they did that). Luckily though (thanks to my brother) I have two hard drives, and I installed AoE on both, one has the patch, the other doesn’t, that way I can still play on the zone. As far as I know, I invented this type. I haven’t seen it in any other scenario I have played. But if someone knows something I don’t, let me know. I don’t want to discredit anyone. Here’s a pic:


    Update: Although shallows cannot be deleted with the latest patch, they can be moved. You can move them onto grass or to other places in the water, and the water where they were can be walked on. So you could, for example, move the shallows and make a swamp with them or something.

    Let’s move on to the second most popular trick:


    1.   Trees and other items on cliffs:

    The one basic rule about cliffs is that it’s only an illusion. There is no actual height difference. Everything is on the same level.

    Cliffs alone look dull and plain. The only time it looks good is if its a desert scene and your going for that “deserted” bare look. Otherwise it’s boring. Adding trees will spruce it up a little. Any good-looking map has it. Now then you can place just about anything on the cliff, the only idea is that you place it first and then draw the cliff up underneath it.

    A Few Notes:
    ~ If you work with AoE, you can put rocks and skeletons on the cliff after placing it. It doesn’t work with RoR.
    ~ In AoE and RoR you can place Gaia paths onto the cliffs. You cannot walk them, though (remember, only an illusion).
    ~ Dead trees can also be placed onto cliffs after there placed. It looks a lot like dead tree roots sticking out.


    2.   The Impenetrable Hedge

    This trick will make a cliff look like an army hedge! It keeps enemy soldiers out, and it’s also useful in funneling attacks to a certain area. You achieve this by:
    ~ Place the thin outward facing cliffs on some blank terrain.
    ~ Then go into Units and on to the Gaia menu, and select “dead tree”.
    ~ Now cover the entire cliff.

    You now have your impenetrable hedge! It can’t be destroyed, because it’s actually cliff under there. You have to be careful with this trick, don’t over do it, otherwise it can be an eyesore. This trick was invented by OldGrex.

    3.   Walk Through Waterfalls

    This trick will let land units walk through cliff waterfalls! You achieve this by: 
    ~ Place a succession of cliffs(at least 3 sections).
    ~ Cover the cliff with waterfalls.
    ~ Delete one section of cliff.

    Now units can walk up a waterfall onto the top of the cliff. I love this trick, especially using to in a small tool age town, and you put shore fish at the bottom for Villagers to gather (take a look at the pic below). As far as I know this was invented by Phoenix.


    4.   Bridge over Water

    This is the last and final trick with cliffs. This tricks lets you make, well a bridge over water. This is a little complicated to type out, so I’ll use visual aids. You achieve this by: 
    ~ Start by making a river


    ~ Now add a desert strip across, and add the walls


    ~ Now draw the cliffs up underneath the small wall.


    Now you’re done! Just add a few finishing touches and you’ve got an army crossing the rapids to engage in battle!


    Kyle Leach invented this trick.


    ~ The width of your bridge may disrupt things, depending on how wide or narrow you make it. This is because when you draw the cliff up underneath it, it may come to far across or not close enough. Just make the desert strip a tile wider or smaller. Then try again. Stay with it though, because this is definitely one of the better tricks.

    Burning Gaia Cites/Injured Gaia units

    I don’t see this very often in scenarios, and there’s a reason why. This is one of the most painstaking tricks to do. It takes hours on top of hours of preparation and testing, testing, testing, testing, testing, and oh did I mention testing? What happens is it will run one way when you test it, then you test it a second time and it screws up, and then a third time and it works again, and then same with fourth, and you think you’ve got it, then the fifth time, it screws again….. AHHHHHH! It is really a patience tester. If you survive all that, you just might end up with a damn good effect.

    There are two methods:

    1. The Catapult Method (Imhotep)
    2. The War Elephant/Scythe Method (Ingo van Thiel)

    In either case you have two computer players battling each other and the nearby buildings get damaged.

    1.   The Catapult Method

    This is probably the easier of the two. Place a computer Sentry Tower (e.g.. a red one) next to the Gaia building you want damaged (e.g.. a Barracks). Now place a yellow catapult out of the range of the Sentry Tower, but where the catapult can still fire at the Tower. Make sure that red an yellow are enemies. Now when the game starts it will destroy the Yellow Tower and damage the Gaia Barracks, yet not destroy it. Now if you want to cover your tracks, put an alligator next to the catapult, and it will slowly destroy the catapult (hopefully) before the human player gets there. NOTE: Don’t use a lion in place of an alligator, the lion will paralyze the catapult. If you want to have fragile buildings or units damaged, place a yellow blind lame Priest next to it. The blind lame Priest will be destroyed in one blow, compared to a Tower that would take 3-4 blows, and that would end up destroying the building/unit. For a city though, you will probably need more then one catapult. More like 2 or 3. If so, you should be sure to place them all in one spot or out of range of one another, otherwise they will defend their fellow unit and kill your scapegoat: the alligator, and the catapult will remain. Like I said it will take testing, testing, testing. Between the walls and the trees on top of the pic, you can see the destroyed catapult that was exchanging fire with the Tower.


    Imhotep was the first to use this. He used it in his Campaign: “David Saga #2.”

    2.   The war elephant/scythe method

    War elephants and scythes fight next to the Gaia building and damage it in the meantime. The thing with this method is you have to lock in the “fighting parties” so that they don’t run off and ruin something. You have to keep them locking in next to the building by draw a cliff underneath them or surrounding them with trees. This method works best when Gaia Towers are involved, because Gaia Towers shoot at everything that isn’t Gaia. That’s another way to cover your tracks. Just for the record, computer players cannot discover anything Gaia.

    Now that you have your town set up, test it. If it works fine, test it 3 more times. If it screws up your have to start at square one. You have to be absolutely positive those units are going to do the same thing every time, before you can let others play it, or else it can screw everything up. I cannot stress this enough. It is a huge scenario killer if it doesn’t work. Unless the burning town is just a display and doesn’t have much to do with the game play, but still, you have to work out all the bugs the best you can. It is completely worth it though in the end. Quoting from Ingo van Thiel’s article “A Burning Gaia City requires a lot of time and strong nerves. You’ll have to test it until your eyes are burning as well. Start the game, type “reveal map” and “no fog” and see what happens at the Gaia city. Even if everything seems to be fine, test it again. And again. I spent many hours just because buildings got hit too often and were destroyed completely. Sometimes the buildings were burning nicely, and I thought “yeah, finished.” But when I restarted the same scenario version, I just got some pathetic piles of ashes. You’ve got a 99% chance to avoid these accidents – but only if you keep on testing.”


    There are a few neat things you can do with cacti. Also try placing cactus with dead trees, for a nice effect.

    1.   Water Plants

    I don’t personally care for this trick, but some like it. I think it makes the scenario look cartoonish. To achieve this you:
    ~ Place some shallow water.
    ~ Delete the shallow.
    ~ Now you can place cacti onto the water where you deleted the shallow.


    2.   Hedges

    Now this I like. You achieve this by placing lines of cacti that are close to each other.



    Once you start placing the cactuses on your map, don’t stop doing it until you have finished! Don’t choose any other function (“move” instead of “place”, or any option in the menu) before every cactus is in its place. If you do that, the cactuses will get a mind of their own. You will find it impossible to place them next to each other – they will jump into all sorts of places. Deleting the cactuses doesn’t help in that case. Change the ground under the faulty cactuses to Desert and then back to Grass. The old cactuses will disappear, but the new ones will “obey” you again.

    3.   Sand Dunes

    This trick I like, especially for desert scenes, but there’s only one drawback: If you use too much it adds lag to your game, probably not so much now with ever faster machines available but some people don’t spend everything they make on hardware, so don’t overdo it.

    All you do is just place Gaia desert terrain cracks really close together. This is Agamemnon’s neat little trick.


    4.   Invisible Wall

    This little trick will create an invisible wall that large units cannot pass through. Only Villagers and Priests can. If you have ever been in the Gaia menu of the scenario editor you might have seen a unit called “tree forest,” but when you go to place it, you don’t see anything. Well you are actually placing a unit. After you place one hit CTRL+A, this will bring up the boundary lines of every object. You should now see a little white box where you placed your “tree forest unit” now you can place these accurately in a line to make an invisible wall. Because of the spacing, only the small units like Villagers and Priests can maneuver through this wall. These tree forest units can be only so close together, but it will still stop the larger units. By moving a unit into a tree forest you will render it unable to move. This may be helpful in making some interesting scenarios.

    5.   Dock Away From Shore

    With this trick you can place a dock in the middle of the water. All you have to do is place the dock at the shore first and then just add the water around it, making sure not to add water directly under the dock, just around.


    I hope this helps you. I had a lot of fun writing this article! If you know of any tricks I haven’t covered here, please let me know along with any corrections or mistakes I might have over looked.

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