Killing Fields

Regretfully, it’s been more than a month since my last post. Mainly, I just haven’t found the time, which is funny considering I only have classes three days a week this semester. Some of the reason for my lessened time is that I’ve been working on a new Company of Heroes map/scenario. You may recall about this time last year, I was dabbling in making a map based on my university. That map was doomed from the start because it was too large, and the gameplay suffered as a result of building scaling issues.

Thankfully, my new map is very small, so I may actually finish it. It was inspired while I was playing through the Panzer Elite campaign of the COH expansion pack, Opposing Fronts. One map called Best (after a town in Holland) has an expansive pine forest area littered with makeshift fortifications and the occasional burning tree/scorched earth. I found it made for very intense combat weaving through the trees and defenses. Perhaps I just wanted an excuse to play around with the World Builder again, but the burning pine forest was the early inspiration.

    The main physical features of my map include:

  • A stream that divides the two players’ halves of the map
  • A road that runs perpendicular to the stream, crossing it with a simple earth and stone bridge
  • A small church with adjacent parking lot and graveyard
  • Farmland where the axis base is
  • The rest of the map is all pine forest with some clearings for the various control points and existing defenses.

Obviously, the bridge over the stream is the major chokepoint; however, the stream is shallow enough to allow crossing at any point. The resource control points are arranged so that advancement will take considerable time (i.e. there is little fuel). Unless one chooses a doctrine that has tank reinforcements, it’s unlikely the game will take long enough to see tank combat. The map focuses on infantry combat, as tanks are difficult to move through the forests and the one road is easy to defend. The choice of doctrines, units, and strategies is immensely important in this small map as the room for error is minimal.

Of course, I am equally concerned with the visual appeal of the map. For each of the 11 sectors, I have gone through the laborious task of adjusting the heightmap through coarse and fine brushes, painting the various terrain tiles, adding decorative and defensive 3D objects, laying out texture splines for paths and edging, placing splats (basically texture patches) to reduce terrain texture redundancy, and finally placing grass (where applicable). I’ve even gone through the trouble of creating time passage through environmental changes (mainly lighting, fog, and sky adjustments). I’m hoping all this work is producing a believable world for the player that is nearly on par with Relic’s (the developer) maps. I’ve noticed many COH mappers don’t even bother placing much more than roads, buildings, other 3D objects, and the necessary control points and HQ.

However, while I was mapping one day over spring break, a most unfortunate tragedy occurred. Our newest kitty addition to the family, “Crush”, was killed in the street. I had trouble not being overcome by flashbacks for a while. I had to watch helplessly as he died when only three hours prior, we had cuddled up for a nap together. A sweeter, more lovable kitty I have never known. As such, I will dedicate this map to him, and in it, I have composed a digital grave for him to cat-nap forever.

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