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Variety is the spice of life

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When you first fire up the Aurora Toolset, and start to build your own areas there are a few things one should have in mind...

  • Just because an area is 10x10, does not mean you have to fill all 100 squares with walkable areas. Water, cliffs, walls, and such allow you to break up the area and provide a different environment.
  • Again, just because the 10x10 area is square, doesn't mean the walkable area has to be. Most things in nature are very random in appearance, so would that corridor follow a strict straight line? Same thing goes for square rooms. In caves for example, you can easily get a nice view by simply creating a vertical-line room, rather than a perfect square/rectangle.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Every area, for the best effect, should bring something to the module (except houses of course, unless it adds to the story. Too many to produce to all be unique ). Just because you have 5 caves doesn't mean they all gotta be dark, gloomy and wet. Maybe one set of caves is actually reasonably light due to holes to the surface, whatever. Spice up the colors, the looks, etc. Keep in mind its occupants, some creatures prefer dark caves and others like light.
  • If you only need 4x2 squares, dont leave the area at 8x8, its wasted space that does add to load times. Choose Edit, Resize Area. Be aware that it removes squares from the top and right, so you may need to rotate the area to get rid of the bottom row, etc. The toolset has the ability to copy and paste, this might be handy as a safe way of making a back up of any area you wish to edit (or even just copy the whole area before any changes are made). Just keep in mind, if its not used space why have it there. A map can be edited to be enlarged later if needed.
  • Try to make the areas seem to follow on from one to another. If you transition from an area facing East, you should come out the other end facing East. This is also for your benefit, so you can tell which area links where in the toolset.
  • Placeables allow you to do what is otherwise impossible to do with the tiles alone. Don't be afraid to add a lot of placeables to enhances the area's looks and visual effectiveness. It doesn't add to lag, it adds to load time (sorry for people with slower load speeds), and tbh, I would rather take 10 more seconds to open an area which is visually stunning than a quick load to a drab, empty area. Be careful with the default placeables though, some of them have scripts on them. Stay away from the containers completely, as well as the 'Skeleton bones' and zombie corpse in battlefield options. As well as the gargoyle statue. These all produce creatures or loot that we (i assume) want to keep under control. If you plan to use the containers a lot, add them to the pallete using edit copy and set them as unusable, plot, static. Clear out all their scripts also. Or even better simply make new containers using the placeable wizard. That way you dont have to worry about missing one and causing undesired random side effects.
  • Think about what creature is going to inhabit the area. If it is, say, Formians (those ant creatures), chances are it will be a cavern or catacomb, with twists, turns, and areas where egg sacks can be seen (placeables). Multiple exits will probably exist. This is very different to a dwarven cave/mine, which would be well planned. Not necessarily square though. Chances are they would use natural barriers such as cave walls, pits, and water to safeguard their home. Most dwarven homes in fantasy are in general a 'Grand Hall' much like an underground castle. I suggest you use Castle interior, with placeables having some dwarven style.
  • Sounds make the area. If it makes sound in real life, it should in the game. That waterfall isn't silent. That lake still makes sounds, even if it is still. Caves are underground, and occasionally rocks do fall, and dont forget the bats and rats. Don't leave out these sounds. They bring the map to life. Forests have even more options. Twigs, branches, grass movement, etc, all add to the feel of the area with the smallest amount of effort. Also remember to set the cutoff distances for water sounds based on how close you are to the 'Water Pool Small' and 'Stream Soft'. So if it looks wet, be sure to add one of the water sounds. Most important of all is to be creative.
  • Make areas work with its inhabitants. Elves are unlikely to clear out large sections of forest to make way for their temple, or guard post, preferring more natural settings which dont harm the forest. They also wouldn't usually wall off sections as it splits nature's forests in two. They would probably prefer a more natural blockade in the form of a large river, pit, or unpassable bramble filled forest. Maybe they don't blockade things at all. An outpost doesn't have to be a walled off area. It could well be a few elves that camp there, hiding from visitors, waiting for them to get close before confrontation. As for humans however, they would rip up half the forest to slap down a city for their people, wall it up, and make use of the nearby materials.
  • Post by Soulfiend (minor edits by Arin Dragon-Fyre) Nice job Soulfiend!
  • Headbuilder of The Untold Path[1].
  • Moved to its own article by Klingon Mage 11:49, 30 Sep 2005 (PDT)

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