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> [-Mapping-] Tips n'Tricks, Tints and pictures and events oh my! (pics fixed~)
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Pentagonbuddy
post Jul 8 2010, 09:40 AM
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This is just a collection of little things I feel are helpful for making your maps more fun, put into one tutorial.

General mapping tips:
Spoiler:

Make the most out of your tiles!

At times, the RTP might seem limited or boring, but it’s really not if you make the most of it. For example, have you tried mixing and matching the different shelves in Tile C?
This is what they look like if you use the ones provided…



…But with a bit of mixing and matching using the extra parts, you can make several combinations.



Sometimes they don’t always work out. If you look at the ones involving the wine bottles, either the corks are cut off and stuck on the bottom tile, or the top tile is missing the corks, which makes the bottles look backwards. Personally, I don’t find it too jarring. Some if your eagle-eyed players might notice, but it’s not impossible to imagine them as other details instead.

Variety:

When mapping, it’s good to try and add variety, but at the same time, don’t make all your maps too detailed or use all the same tiles on every one. When you’re working with the RTP, or a single tileset in general, the repeats can become noticeable if you don’t vary your maps.



Look at this field. There’s a bit of taller grass to help make it look a bit different, but still. Bo-ring!



Yo dawg I heard you like grass so we put some grass on your grass so you can -- *cough* Sorry about that. Anyways, I added some grass using the three weed/grass tiles in the RTP, but I tried to place them so that they weren’t all clumped together and looked a bit different. I also didn’t use very many, since your map would look silly if it was covered in them. But it’s still pretty dull, and it’s all one color, Booo-ring!



See how it looks a bit better even with just the dirt path and the two yellow weeds? It’s important to give your player a sense of where to go in a map most of the time. Think about where the transfers will be when you’re designing your maps, and don’t make the player have to search to find them! Trust me, it gets old real fast. Use the map itself to point out a path.



Details are what bring a map alive. Again, all I did was put in some flowers and a bit of dirt, but it’s already looking better. Now, I could have used the red flowers in the RTP, but I wanted to have spots of yellow in the particular field, and the white flowers add a bit of variety without being as in your face as the red flowers. Remember, when placing natural details like these, try to make them seem random.

And now with even more details, it’s starting to come together. Although it’s a field, depending on where you’re at it’s not uncommon to see some trees growing around. I even added a few stumps, which implies people are nearby if trees are getting cut down like that. Thinking about why something is there is a great way to add purpose to your map. If you go far enough with this, your mapping can help make your entire setting memorable.

Also take note of how simple the dirt path is. This is what guides the player, so it’s best not to add too much clutter that makes it hard to follow. Feel free to go crazy with background detail, but keep the main walking areas simple.



And there’s the final result in-game. I took my own advice and added a little roadside grave. ); Someone wasn’t very lucky! I also used en event to layer over that tree, which AlyMay has a wonderful video about, and stuck in a wandering butterfly and a rock. Notice the flowers by the grave -- this could be a cutscene or even just a small comment from one of your characters. Adding in events the player can interact with (outside of plot reasons XD) helps to make a map fun to explore, since you can do things in it.

All of that being said, it’s an okay map. There are plenty of better ways to make a field, I’m sure, but it works for a tutorial like this.



When mapping large areas or areas that span several screens, remember to make most of them unique in some way. Here’s another map in the same “area” -- a general field of some kind. Except this map has a little stream and a bridge, which makes it worlds different from the map with the grave. Using details/landmarks like these can help a player get a sense of direction in larger/longer areas where they might otherwise get lost. “Oh, the exit to this place is past the screen with the grave and the bridge!” Things like that, though that’s a painfully simple example. XD


Using tints:
Spoiler:

Another way to add some spice to your maps is with tints. They’re great for setting the mood of a map, or generally making your game look different. If you’re trying to make a “serious” game, chances are the bright colors of the RTP aren’t going to help the atmosphere.



Here’s the map from earlier, this time with a grayish tint to it. It makes the whole place seem just a bit more somber. (exact tint is just -17, -17, -17, 120, for anyone curious.)



Brown or sepia tones can be used to represent flashbacks, if you don’t want to go with the usual grey. (0, -35, -85, 220 for that one)



They can also be used to show the time of day… (40, -30, -120, 170)

…Or night~! But when using darker tints, don’t make them completely dark. Always think of the player when mapping! It sucks to navigate a map when the screen is too dark to see.



Try not to do it like that. It’s hard to really see the map, and the details don’t stand out at all anymore. You wouldn’t want the player to miss something important because they couldn’t see it, would you?



Here’s a slightly better one. (-110, -110, -50, 150) It’s still a bit dark, but you can make out most everything on the map, and it looks dark/blue enough to pass as nighttime.


Tinting tilesets:
Spoiler:

Another way you can apply tints is by directly tinting the tiles themselves. How? Well, in Photoshop…



Do this to select all of your tiles, make a new layer, and without losing your selection, fill this layer with some kind of color. Then use layer styles to try and get the tint you want, or hue/saturation on the original layer, or even variations…I happen to cover some recoloring techniques in another tutorial of mine that can easily be applied to editing tiles. Here’s a set of the RTP tiles with a night-time style tint applied to them; feel free to use them credit-free.
Spoiler:


















Alright, so you have some nighttime tilesets, but how to use them without replacing the original RTP? Easy! Use bulletxt’s tile swapping script. If all you use it for is to apply tints, you won’t even have to fiddle with passage settings, and can map normally in the VX editor without the use of bulletxt’s program, if you wanted. (Although I recommend using the program anyways, that way you can design your maps with the tint in mind.)



Here’s an example of a little snowy map using the tinted tilesets. The method I used for this particular set turned out to not be so great; you can still see some odd pixels in places like the snowman, for instant. <___<; Whoops on my part! Remember, kids: tint responsibly!


Using pictures:

Spoiler:
Pictures can be a way to give your maps just that extra bit of “oomph!” and add subtle screen effects. One of the simplest ways to use them can be for lighting effects, such as having a dark circle to obscure the player’s vision or having a bit of bright sunlight on your screen. Now, about the dark circles…

To set one up, first you’ll need the image that will be your darkness, and an event to show it properly. The picture just takes a little bit of graphical know-how, and the event is simple, too.



The two variables keep track of where the player is on the game screen, then the show picture command…shows the picture. Easy, right?



Here’s the show picture command itself. You want it to display from the variables that track the player, because the picture will be moving around with the player, and you want it to display from the center so that the darkness will surround the player. The zoom is to make sure you don’t accidentally see the edges of your darkness. It kills the effect.



See? XD



Now, unless you have some kind of reason, it’s best to avoid limiting the player’s vision like this picture. It hides your map and can make it hard to navigate, which isn’t always a good thing. And if you’re using this for something as simple as a nighttime feel, why the heck is it so dark anyways?



Here’s a much better example. Only the edges are cut off, allowing the player to see the important details and have a better time of following the map’s path. When you’re using pictures as light effects, remember that being subtle is the key! If they’re too noticeable or invasive, your pretty light effects can interfere with gameplay.

Using pictures to add a bit of light to a screen is much simpler. Make your light effect, then use a “show picture command” and you’re set. By default, VX lighting comes from the upper left. So unless you want a bizarro world where shadows laugh in the face of nature, make sure your light effects come from the upper left, too.

Here’s a sample picture, made with Obsidian Dawn’s light beam brush set.



Now, let’s stick it on the river map from before.



Again, subtlety is key here! It’s not so strong that it’s in your face, but it makes the map look warm and friendlier. In this screenshot, the picture’s blend mode is set to normal. However, sometimes changing the blend mode looks better than leaving it on normal. For something that’s supposed to be bright, using the ‘add’ blend mode can help.



=___= Eeeeh, sometimes. In this instance, that makes the sunlight look brutal, man. Poor Masada-sensei must be sweating down there in that unitard of his.



But after setting the opacity to 175, the light still looks bright, but not quite melty-bright. I think it’s a nice balance. n__n


Using pictures to add background:
Spoiler:

Another use for pictures is to add things to your background, though I should note this can get complicated. Understanding C7’s tutorial about parallax mapping helps very much when trying to do things like this, even though you aren't using parallaxes. Since this is meant to be a simple tutorial, I’ll just use a picture to add some extra bits to the inside of a house.



Here’s a screenshot of the house with the basics mapped out. I take this screenshot, plop it into photoshop, then open up my tilesets so I have things to put in some of the empty spaces. (Side note: When working with maps in PS, I usually have a 32x32 grid on, that way I don’t accidentally put something where the player can walk all over or under it.)



Here’s the map after fiddling with it in PS. I pretty much just added things, really, and combined a couple tiles. The apples in the basket are just the apples from the box in Tile C copied and pasted into the empty basket, for instance.



And this is the picture I’ll be using in-game.

So now I have some things to put in my background…but that’s not all I can do to make this a spicy house. Remember, tint responsibly and use subtle lighting effects for maximum damage!



Here are some lights I can put in the house; the red glow is for the fireplace. I also put a tint of -30, -30, -30, 70, and set the light effects to add with 150 opacity.



Final result~!

One little note…I didn’t tint my background objects because the tint was an afterthought. n__n; In this case, I don’t think it stands out too much, but if my tint were more dramatic it’d make the background stick out like a sore thumb. Not good!


Other things to consider:
Spoiler:

-Remember, events can bring your map from just average or even good, to memorable and fun to explore. This includes tints and pictures and animals and scenery to interact with…To say nothing of all the fun things you can have NPCs do.

-When using light effects, if you place them correctly into a character sheet, you can add them to the map as an event rather than a picture, then use a move route command to set the proper blend mode and opacity. By doing this, you can have animated light that flickers or fades in and out. Things like that.

-All of these maps have been 17x13 for example purposes, but if your map is any bigger you’ll have to take that into account when placing pictures on it. Or else the background will move on the screen with the player! Modern algebra has a script to fix pictures to the map, which can really help when it comes to this.

-Try to avoid making maps that are too large. It’s much better to have a series of smaller, more detailed and higher quality maps, rather than one huge one with big empty spots or massive lag from all the events. And by too large, I mean you can safely stay under 100x100 for most areas. This doesn’t mean anything bigger than that is instantly a fail map; it just means it’ll take a lot more attention to detail and variation to keep it looking fresh as the player travels through it.

-In case it hasn’t been mentioned enough: Always think of the player when mapping. Will they be able to walk through a map without getting confused? Do screen tints or lighting effects interfere with vision? Are the tiles’ passabilities correct? Can the player move through the map without having to zigzag and dodge obstacles? Sure, sometimes you have reasons to do some of those things, but if the player is just taking a stroll through a town, chances are they won’t like having to deal with any of that.


Tips for improvement:
Spoiler:

-Be sure to frequent the Game and Map Screenshots thread. You can ask for critique on your own maps, or do what I do and lurk to study how other people do theirs. ;D

-Read tutorials! This forum is full of great ones on mapping. AlyMay has one on making forests with Mack tiles, mark333 has two brilliant ones that focus on designing towns, cities and dungeons. BigEd can show you how to whip autotiles into shape, there’s the above mentioned C7’s tutorial on using parallaxes…These are only a few. There’s an entire section about mapping in the tutorial master list with all kinds of helpful tutorials I haven’t linked. Go check it out~!

-Learn a few design basics, such as color theory.

-Loosen up! Relax! Don’t always take things too seriously, and don’t try to make every single map detailed and complex or 100% perfect. You want to finish your game in this lifetime, don’t you? Have fun with your mapping, even if it means sometimes pouring hot lava all over a map that’s frustrating you.

That’s all for now. Hopefully you learned something new~!


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rexilia
post Jul 10 2010, 04:01 AM
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WOW!!! Best tutorial ever!


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Cyl
post Jul 10 2010, 04:16 AM
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Bookmarked.

Excellent work. Why's there only one reply?


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sgt massacre
post Jul 10 2010, 04:29 AM
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Sweet tut pent tongue.gif I never thought of using pictures to ad more definiton to a map until I used them to make my sphere grid lol tongue.gif


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Pentagonbuddy
post Jul 10 2010, 04:48 AM
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@rexilia: XD You flatter me too much! But thank you. <3

@Cylindrical: Oh, it's still pretty fresh. Glad you liked it, though~! I've never considered myself an amazing mapper or anything, but it's nice to know I can make a good tutorial on the subject.

@sgt massacre: Pictures can make for some great maps, but they're very time consuming. XD Just an extra word of advice there if you plan on working alone.


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Cyl
post Jul 10 2010, 05:05 AM
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Never thought of adding light rays in Photoshop.
I need to work on my creativity.

This is also good for parallax mapping. :3


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faded112
post Jul 10 2010, 06:20 PM
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This is a great tutorial! I have a question, though. When you use pictures to add background, wouldn't the player be able to walk on them?
Or is there a button that makes the picture unpassable?


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Pentagonbuddy
post Jul 10 2010, 07:20 PM
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QUOTE (faded112 @ Jul 10 2010, 11:20 AM) *
This is a great tutorial! I have a question, though. When you use pictures to add background, wouldn't the player be able to walk on them?
Or is there a button that makes the picture unpassable?


Yes, the player will still walk on it. That's why the picture is for background areas, since those are places the player isn't meant to explore. In the house example, if you look at the base map...



And then the background...



You can see that I only put tiles in places the player couldn't reach, like the area blocked off by the jar and barrel, or on tables and whatnot.


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The Almighty Tik...
post Jul 10 2010, 09:55 PM
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Excellent tutorial, man. I thought my mapping was decent, but I still learned a few tricks. :3


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faded112
post Jul 11 2010, 01:11 AM
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QUOTE (PentagonBuddy @ Jul 10 2010, 03:20 PM) *
You can see that I only put tiles in places the player couldn't reach, like the area blocked off by the jar and barrel, or on tables and whatnot.


Oh I didn't notice that... thanks for the clarification smile.gif


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Emertinel
post Jul 11 2010, 03:37 AM
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Why, thanks for the Light Beam Brush Set, so now I can make those sexy light beams xD. I'll definitely use some tips from this tutorial, because a lot of my game doesn't have all that great of an atmosphere. >.>

So I'll use this tutorial!


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Ryan A
post Jul 14 2010, 02:19 PM
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Oooooo, awesome <3


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Celianna
post Jul 14 2010, 03:15 PM
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I never knew about the 'add' blending mode, so thanks for pointing that out! Now I can finally have some sweet effects in my game.
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Hitotsumami
post Jul 14 2010, 04:36 PM
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I have a quick question that probably has a simple answer. I made a new Event and used "Use Picture" and applied some lights coming through windows. It works fine when I enter the house. When I leave the house to go back into town, the lights remain on the screen.

Is there a way to fix this? Thanks in advance!

This post has been edited by Hitotsumami: Jul 14 2010, 04:37 PM
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Emertinel
post Jul 14 2010, 05:33 PM
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QUOTE (Hitotsumami @ Jul 14 2010, 12:36 PM) *
I have a quick question that probably has a simple answer. I made a new Event and used "Use Picture" and applied some lights coming through windows. It works fine when I enter the house. When I leave the house to go back into town, the lights remain on the screen.

Is there a way to fix this? Thanks in advance!


Yes, just add Erase Picture: n while n is the number of the picture.


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Ph33rSn1p4Z
post Jul 17 2010, 01:39 PM
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Could you maybe give us the black/flashlight picture? I searched google and couldn't find something like it.
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Pentagonbuddy
post Jul 17 2010, 07:02 PM
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Mine are kind of sloppy, but there you go. n__n; There's another tutorial about the subject, with picture included, and I remember seeing another one on here, too, but I don't remember where.


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CrayDragon
post Jul 17 2010, 09:49 PM
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QUOTE (PentagonBuddy @ Jul 10 2010, 03:20 PM) *
You can see that I only put tiles in places the player couldn't reach, like the area blocked off by the jar and barrel, or on tables and whatnot.

Well, you could also block off those tiles with invisible player level events, right?


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Gingercake
post Jul 17 2010, 10:08 PM
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The "Picture as a Background" trick is really interesting, never thought of doing something like that >.<.

Overall, really nice collection of tips and tricks from the very basic to more advanced mapping techniques.


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Pentagonbuddy
post Jul 17 2010, 11:56 PM
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QUOTE (CrayDragon @ Jul 17 2010, 02:49 PM) *
Well, you could also block off those tiles with invisible player level events, right?

You can, but if it's a larger area you have to watch out for lag.


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