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Dakota Badlands

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File Details
Game Version: TWC
Dakota Badlands
A random map script for AOE3: TWC
by RF_Gandalf

Dakota Badlands is my entry into "The Dakotas Random Map Contest". This map was designed to give a taste of the appearance of the badlands section of South Dakota with adjoining areas of prairie and the foothills of the nearby Black Hills. I have tried to make this a visually appealing map, as well as providing unique gameplay. The center of the map is a rugged badlands with little resources except some buffalo herds or antelope, and all of the forest is in the raised foothills at the periphery of the map. The badlands on this map is an arid area with mostly steep cliff walls at its edge, with numerous cliffs and interspersed small clearings in the midst. The cliffs used in this map do not quite accurately portray the strangely eroded steep slopes of the Dakota Badlands, but are as close as I could come with the tools available. The map is just slightly rectangular, providing a longer distance to the enemy players. This map is slightly larger than most of the standard maps - approximately 20-25% larger in area.

Player position and location will vary randomly, with players or teams starting in any of 4 quadrants. The most variability is in a 2-player game where the players are not always in a directly opposite position. In team games there can be variability in how close teammates are placed to provide differences in effective strategy. There is full support for Free-For-All play with any player number, with the players placed randomly.

Each map always has 2 trade routes, one on each side of the badlands, each with 2-4 trade post sockets, partly dependant on player number. For 2-3 players both routes have 2 or 3 sockets, for 4-8 players both have 3 or 4 sockets. The trade posts may not always be buildable by all players, as sometimes they fall within a Town Center 'no-build' radius.

There will be 1-3 Native American types per map, chosen randomly. These will vary in number and are placed in a variety of fair patterns and combinations, some in badlands and some on prairie. These native village positions are not fixed - they can be placed in the badlands, foothills or prairie. Their position can vary quite a bit and could be slightly closer to one player than another, but should always be outside of the 'no-build radius' around Town Centers. The number of native villages is partly based on player number, partly on chance, with up to 7 villages per map for 8 players. The natives can be Cheyenne, Comanche, and/or Cree (I know that the Comanches and Crees were not in the Dakota Badlands area, but they represent other plains Native Americans in the interest of better gameplay).

Resources vary a little from most other maps - there are the usual starting deer, pronghorn, elk or bison near the player start areas, but out away from the players, more in the center of the map, there are significantly larger herds of bison; some will be on the prairie, some in the badlands. These are large enough to be worth fighting for control of at any point of the game. There will be a few berry bushes near the player start areas as well, and occasionally extra berries are placed. The forests are placed around the circumference of the map, representing the Black Hills foothills. Forests are not found out in the central prairie or badlands, making a difference in wood collection - note there is still a good amount of wood compared to the standard maps (yes, I know the Black Hills are west of the Badlands, not circumferential, but gameplay > realism). Mines are placed in a pretty standard manner, except they are all located outside the badlands. There are a few extra treasures on the map, which are usually more concentrated in the badlands.

Another feature of the map is that there are two variations in the map appearance - a summer pattern where the prairie looks more yellowed and dry, and a spring pattern where the prairie is greener and flowers dot the plains. With the pattern variation, the type of badlands cliff used will also vary - spring has the redder "Texas" type cliffs with a redder badlands floor, while summer has the more sand colored "Sonora" type cliffs and badlands floor ( I created both patterns, then could not decide which looked best since neither exactly represented the badlands, so you benefit from more variety in the map). This script also has several different lighting sets possible (not triggered lighting changes). If you have spent much time out on the prairie or in the badlands in different seasons, in different weather or times of day, you would note how different the natural light can make the landscape appear. I have tried to capture a little of that variability.

Note that the RMS contest was to have a new building named by the winner appear in the center of the map. This feature is currently disabled on this map. If this map wins the contest I will release an updated version to re-enable that building.

As a bonus - I have also made a 'large' version of the map similar in scale to the 'large' versions made by ES of several of their maps. This map is 40% larger in both dimensions, giving about a 2x map area for any player number as compared to the original map. The map features and resources are scaled appropriately to the size increase, plus there are a few more herds, mines and treasures proportionally. The Badlands area in particular is a lot more fun in the larger version, and I find this larger version seems to give a better feel for the vastness of the plains. If you have a slow computer, low RAM, a poor video card or slow connections the map size could give you problems, particularly on higher player numbers.

To play this map, the files (Dakota Badlands.xs and Dakota Badlands.xml and/or Large Dakota Badlands.xs and Large Dakota Badlands.xml ) must be placed in the folder: My Documents\My Games\Age of Empires 3\RM2. Please do not place them in the game's install folder - that will not work. When you start up a skirmish game in Single-player or Multiplayer, use the small blue 'Custom Map' button, which allows you to then select one the random maps in that My Games folder from the drop-down window. Please do not place these in the usual folder for the original (or vanilla)AOE3 custom random maps, as the use of the Cheyenne natives will cause the map to not work properly.

I have enjoyed making this unique random map script. Thank you to ES for giving us the tools to do this, and for hosting the contest! Hope you enjoy the map.

Feedback appreciated!
AuthorComments   ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )
AjaxMinoan Yes, more maps by Gandalf!
Spectruz I just played ur map, its a nice map, very well done, well balanced, I just didnt like the cliffs on center, but I think it make the difference from many others and good strategies could come with it.
King Bob VI Hey Gandalf, just wanted to say thanks for all of these great RMSs!

I just recently bought AoE 3 and I was elated to see all the dozens of wonderful maps you've made here, having enjoyed the ones you created for AoK very much as well.

My seven year old brother is also enjoying them as well, he is always eager to try new maps that I've downloaded for his favorite game!

Keep up the good work!

edit: and good luck with the contest!

[Edited on 07/22/07 @ 01:32 PM]

Arthur85710 I really liked the center "maze." This is my new favorite map!
Cookiecrisp13 Awesome! congrats on winning! Its plainly obvious that you deserve this.
Splash_Z Congratulations !!!!
Gandalf won eso 1 prize.
File Author
walker_5 - not sure how lighting can affect lag - I never encountered that problem from any of the 14 different lighting sets that can be used on the map. None involve any triggers. To the best of my knowledge any lag is likely from pathfinding issues - likely related to the center cliffs. I have a computer with worse settings than yours (512 MB RAM and 64MB graphic card!) that I used for some testing and I had to turn down the graphic settings to play for 4 players and over, but on my better computer I did not have that trouble.

gerophil - Thanks for your comments and interest. Sorry you did not like the size - the map is clearly marked as a little larger, which certainly makes rushing a little slower. The map dimensions are 320 x 400 tiles for 2 players (GP is 297x297 for 2 pl.) - about 1/3 longer to the enemy, and 420 x 504 for 4 players (GP is 420x420), about 20% longer. I will try to do some testing of villager speed across the map, but I never noted quite that much descrepancy (and I promise there is no quicksand in the center). And yes there is some random asymmetry in the mine and herd placement - but the number of mines and herds close by (within about 3 screens of each starting TC) is equal... only the distant ones have the variability and they are far enough from the bases to be fairly fought over. And by my count on the screen you showed there are 7 treasures on each side and 4 in the badlands. It loos like there are 11-12 food groups on each side of the map(sorry, hard to tell berries from the smaller herds on the screenie, but any berries should be symmetricly placed), some are in the forested areas and a little harder to see, plus more in the badlands. That looks pretty balanced to me - again, many of the herds on a 'side' are pretty far from your base and are kind of up for grabs and open to raiders. There are 3 native TPs in the badlands, far from any base - they are in a no-man's land - yes 2 are a little closer to one side and one closer to the other, but this is not Yucatan with a native in your front pocket.
And sorry you did not understand the creativity it took to put together the badlands with an inverted cliff for the badlands area and right-side up cliffs and the various terrains needed to make the center look realistic. I will see what can be done regarding the pathfinding issues, but it might be hard to eliminate that completely due to the game mechanics with any cliffs.
gerophil HI again!, I know i was a bit severe for the balances, no map can be balanced perfectly with ress placed at the same place for each oppenent ! :s
For the map size, it's not only my opinion, many player are saying : "It's a multiplayer map! Too large to play 1v1 on !", what's the aim by making this map larger ?, making game longer, have more ressources ? It's only my opinion, but i really like the maps you make but I always find them too large to play on (1v1/2v2), i don't know why, maybe because it's harder to find ennemy advanced base on it, or to go through the map from TC, but it makes the game slower than aoe3's and I found many players dislike that.

But no misunderstand what i think, it's a great map (like many of yours), just this size i dislike :s

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