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Scenario Design

The Map Making Process In Summary

Hello and welcome to the mapmaking community of Age of Wonders. If you are veteran, you may be browsing these pages for new ideas and perhaps a bit of inspiration from the collected ideas we have here. If you are novice at the craft of scenario design, perhaps you are looking for how-tos and advice on how to start making your own map.

I'd like to start by reassuring you that the AOW Shadow Magic map editor is still one of the friendliest map editors to be included with a game. It isn't all that hard to put together a playable scenario that you and your friends can enjoy. As with all programs, it does have its limitations but with creativity and sometimes inventiveness, such difficulties can be overcome. The mapmaking community is generally willing to help if you have any questions at all, so by all means visit our scenario design forum! There are far more tricks you can pick up from an interactive forum than a website, that's for sure. (I'm not so egotistical to think that I know more than the whole mapmaking community put together.)

So how do you put together a balanced and playable map that people will enjoy?

Three main stages - Planning, Building, and Testing.

Planning - What do you want to do?

The first thing to do is figure out what kind of map you want to make. Is it for single-player? Is it for multiplayer or PBEM? Is it a story-driven map with event triggers and scripts, or just a simple multiplayer map for you and your friends to slug it out online? What size of map are you making; a large sparse map or a small packed one?

The first thing you see when starting a new project.

In any creative project, the first thing to decide is what do you want to do, who do you want to do it for, and what is the end result you are trying to achieve. For an example, slugfest type maps are usually not story driven. The purpose is for players to get into the game, start wars with each other, and see who comes out king of the hill. Now, if you are making a story driven map, such as maps based on Tolkien's world (Lord of the Rings), you may select a larger map-size and spend more time thinking about events, popup messages, and cleverly placed units to drive the story of the map as it is played.

Building The Map - Getting Your Hands Dirty.

After you have decided what you want to do, the second thing is to start doing it. Just do it!

Everyone has his or her own style of building up a scenario. Some start painting the landmasses first, while others start placing cities before sprucing up the landscape. Some put story elements like signs and events when the map is almost done with all the cities and nodes placed, while some others do it as they go along. Some fine tune city and unit settings as they place them, some do it only after the map is almost finished. It's about finding your own style and your own system that works. If you are a first timer at it, try out different styles. Ask for advice on the forums and don't worry about asking questions that are "too stupid". We were all new at this once.

The most important thing to remember when using the editor is SAVE OFTEN! Write it on a card and paste it on your monitor: Save Your Work! Many scenario designers have become disheartened after losing hours of work to a computer crash, and you never know when the power might go out.

Keep backup copies of the map-in-making at different stages in the design process. Should the map somehow become corrupt in the design process, you can at least step back to the latest map backup that's in good shape. - Angel Nojd


Remember to always click on this button to check for validity of the map. This button checks for stuff that you might otherwise miss, like putting in coordinates for a teleport or placing all wizards.

The only thing left to do before releasing the map to the public is to playtest it. There is no way to avoid playtesting because some scenario problems cannot be discovered in the editor alone. When playtesting, you will want to look for the following:

  • See if the scenario is balanced (This is very important!!)
  • Verify that events are happening when they should
  • Check that the AI isn't getting stuck somewhere.

You can choose to playtest the map yourself, trying out all sides and reading the end-game graphs for indications of balance. You can also go up on the forums and ask for beta testers. There is no lack of beta testers for any game; the gaming community is ready to help.

In addition, always remember to have lots of fun. Never rush things. If you get tired, stop. Come back to it when you feel up to it. Set your mind on producing quality work instead of quantity, and your efforts will pay off.

Happy Map Making!

- Talon-Thorn


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