Posted from my blog
I was asked to make a post on mapping forests. It’s most important to determine what kind of forest you’re doing when you start it. If you are an artist, it would help to sketch up a design for the forest that you want. It will help give you an idea of how the general look will be like.
Everyone has seen a generic forest in an RPG. How will yours be different? We’ve seen the foggy dark forest and the bright and full of trees forest. How about one where you go from above the ground to under ground by a big tree root system? Or having the forest be modified by deforestation? -TFT
Basically, don’t rush into the map. You don’t have to necessarily get out graph paper and plot out every tree or plant but it’s good to plan beforehand. A good way to go about it is to simply ask questions to yourself. What kind of forest is it? Dark, swampy forest? If so, then why do they have to go through there? If it’s between 2 towns, how do they trade? If by a river and boats, could the player do the same? How do you use boats as a gameplay mechanic? Maybe you have to navigate snake and crocodile infested swamps and don’t have the bigger safer boats that merchants generally use? Or maybe you can go in the safer merchant boats but it gets shipwrecked?
It’s not an example from my game, but that should help give you ideas for the area. Enemies have to make sense in the environment. Traps, puzzles, story, design, all of that should at least be plausible (or fun, though they are not mutually exclusive) in the environment you place them in. Think about what nature and wildlife would exist there. To really make it feel alive, you should add birds, small animals and other sprites going around their own business. A good thing to note is if you have touch based encounters, to differentiate the random wildlife from the enemies. You might have bird enemies, but if you use the same sprites for regular birds and enemy birds, people might assume all wildlife is out to get them, or assume it’s just in the background and get attacked.
Your area being a forest means you can still use heights, especially if it’s on a mountainside. I can’t say x is a best way to create a forest, but you will want to keep a few things in mind:
1) Where can the player walk? Don’t change the rules and have the player walk under some tree tops but not others. Keep a clear path where the player can walk.
2) Have the forest feel bigger than the player can explore. You can always block of players paths with stones, fallen trees, cliffs, water, or many trees together, but they should feel there’s more to the forest than the part they travel. I wouldn’t go too crazy or else people might assume they are missing a hidden path or something.
3) How open or cramped the maps are change the atmosphere of the forest. It can make a difference between feeling like a stroll in the park and a claustrophobic forest.
4) I covered this before in another mapping topic. Landmarks. It still applies here. If a forest looks pretty much the same wherever you go in it, the player can get lost easily. Vary the landscape, vary the plants a bit depending on where you are. Maybe you’ll have one open area in the forest map so people will notice where they are if they ever return back to it.
Forests are random and organic so make a super crazy path outline (conducive to the gameplay intent of the area of course) and then build the forest around it, and never ever neglect the concept of elevation because forests can be incredibly dynamic and layered gameplay areas when a lot of thought is devoted to hills, cliffs, slopes, trees fallen across a crevice etc. Water such as creeks, rivers, waterfalls, ponds can add a whole other dimension to your forest. -Ciel
Forests tend to only be an RPG dungeon for people to put random battles between towns. As a developer, you need to think more of it, not just designing a dungeon for no real reason. It has to be driven by what is happening in the story and something interesting to the player, not just pointless filler.
This post has been edited by Oceans Dream: Sep 28 2011, 10:51 AM