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Bill101

A Brief Guide to using the SC2 Map Generating Tool

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A Brief Guide to using the SC2 Map Generating Tool

So, you’d like to design a campaign but want to avoid as much of the work of creating the map as possible? Here’s the solution: the Strategic Command 2 map generating tool, MapGen.exe!

The SC2 MapGen.exe was designed some years ago by one Michael Avraamides, and it enables you to create basic tile maps quickly and easily from a bitmap, providing a good starting point for a new scenario.

MapGen.exe’s main use is in defining coastlines, so it won’t be of much use in designing a land-locked map, but it will be of great help in designing maps of most parts of the world, and has been used to design a significant number of the campaign maps used in the SC series, including most of those in our Pacific release.

The map it produces won’t be perfect and it will need some fine tuning, but overall it should give you a good starting point for designing the scenario, thus hopefully saving you a lot of time in the initial map creation phase.

Getting Started

In the Extras folder of whichever version of SC2 you are using, you should find a Map Generator folder. Within this folder there are a number of files that are needed for the MapGen.exe, not all of which we need to look at but they do all need to be kept within the same folder for this program to work.

The way the MapGen.exe works is that it takes the source.bmp, a full color (24 bit) bmp file, and when the map is generated it converts all areas in that file that are pure blue (0x0000FF, or 0,0,255 in the rgb spectrum) into water, while any other colour will become land.

The MapGen.exe converts the colors within the source.bmp into a text file containing data that can, at the click of a button, be turned into an SC2 map. By way of example we are going to create a campaign using the map of Europe and North Africa contained within the source.bmp file that comes with the game (see below for creating new images to help you design maps of other parts of the world, or at different scales).

Preliminaries

1) If you already have the editor open, please close it as we will not need it until later in this process.

2) To easily follow the instructions below, please ensure that File Extensions are visible in the Map Generator folder. To do this:

  • Go to Tools
  • Folder Options
  • Untick the box “Hide Extensions for known file types”
  • Click Apply
  • Click Ok

The file names should now look like this:

FileExtensions.gif

Using the MapGen.exe

1) In the Map Generator folder, run MapGen.exe by simply double clicking it.

2) A new file should appear after a few seconds in the Map Generator folder called map.txt. This file contains the information that we are going to need to import the generated data into the SC2 Editor.

3) Open map.txt in notepad.

4) The number on the first line is the number of columns. The second line is the number of rows. Make a note of these numbers as we will need them in a minute.

5) Open the editor and start a new scenario.

6) The editor will now ask you how many columns and rows your map is to be. Input the numbers we made a note of earlier, rounding to the nearest even number.

MapGen2.gif

7) Press F5 on your keyboard. The editor will now open a file browser window. Open the Extras folder and then the Map Generator subfolder, and double click on map.txt. You should now see a new tile map created from the data in map.txt, as in the example below:

MapGen3.gif

8) Now review the map that has been created. The most important thing to consider is whether or not this map is the right size for the scenario you have in mind. Test this by creating a few countries, placing some resources and units on the map, and then judge by how they look whether or not the map looks pretty close to the size you’re after (please see your game Manual for more information on using the Editor).

9) If the map does appear to be the right size, save the file and exit, then open up the game itself and start a Hotseat game of this scenario, just testing out a little combat and movement so that you can gauge whether or not your initial impressions were sound.

10) If you are happy with the map size after your Hotseat test, exit the game and reopen this scenario in the editor. Now is the time to start adding some more detail to the map, and I would strongly recommend testing and retesting the map size at every stage of the scenario’s development.

11) In developing your scenario, you will need to have an Atlas (or web based equivalents) handy as you clean up the coastlines and any inland bodies of water. This can take a while but everything should be in approximately the right place already, and designing and correcting the map really does help you to focus on what are the essential features that need to be included in the map, and what can be excluded.

Changing the Map contained within the source.bmp

Before making any changes to the source.bmp you are using, I would strongly recommend saving an original copy. That way if you do make a mistake or regret a change you made to it, then you can always start over again.

Resizing the Map

To amend the size of the map, you will need to use a bitmap editing program such as MS Paint, and the map size can be changed just by resizing the source.bmp. Enlarge it to make the campaign map bigger, or reduce it to make it smaller, it’s as simple as that. Now run through the steps listed above once again.

In the example below, I increased the size of the source.bmp by 175% before generating this map. Where the previous one was far too small to create a playable map, this one is significantly closer to being right, and it took only a few minutes to change. If it’s still not quite big enough, experiment some more by resizing the source.bmp and then going through the process above once again.

MapGen4.gif

Generally, the detail contained within the campaign map will be more accurate the larger the size of the map you create (i.e. increasing the source.bmp by 250% will give a more accurate map than the one it creates at the default size).

Changing the Image used

If you don’t want to use the image that is contained within the source map, you can change the image in the source.bmp to a map of whatever area of the world you are interested in.

If you want to use the world map that can be found in the Samples folder, rename the source.bmp to something else (e.g. sourceoriginal.bmp), copy the world map file, paste it into the Map Generator folder, and rename it as source.bmp.

If neither of the sample maps included with the game are of any use, a quick search of the internet will probably come up with a good number of maps that can be used.

Save the image you want to use to your computer, amend it in a graphics program so that all water is changed to pure blue (0x0000FF, or 0,0,255 in the rgb spectrum) and save it as a true color (24 bit) bitmap file with the name source.bmp, and place it in the Extras folder. You are now ready to start creating your own original maps, and hopefully some cracking scenarios too!

Note: This is an amended version of the notes Michael Avraamides wrote for the MapGen.exe, and Michael Avraamides’s notes can be found in the Readme.txt file contained within the Map Generator folder. His notes do contain some more technical information than is found above, so they may prove useful if you do encounter any issues.

Special thanks to Snowstorm for help with proofreading and testing these instructions out! :)

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I’ve always loved video games, ever since I first played them on a friend’s computer in the afternoon after elementary school. There’s something almost magical about the fact that we can move images around and interact with virtual worlds, a living fantasy presented for us to interact with however we please. I’ve also always wanted to make games myself but, until recently, didn’t have the technical knowledge to do so. Now, I’m a second year software engineering student, so if I weren’t able to code a game without too many dramas there’d be something drastically wrong. But what about the common person: the person for whom the term ‘memory leak’ conjures up images of their grandfather, ‘pipeline’ is where the water flows, and ‘blitting’ is unheard of? Well, everyone can get in on the game creation process, and you don’t even need to learn ‘real’ programming to do so.

So where do games start? With an idea. Games, like all fiction, require an idea to be successful. Sure, in the same way you can just sit down and write a story without foresight, you can jump on in and slap a game together. However, unless you get ridiculously lucky, the best works are usually the ones that have been well thought out beforehand.

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Well, I know that to all of you on this website this seems like the dumbest and easiest question to answer...

I just downloaded an SC2 map. I open up Starcraft and go to create custom game. the map i downloaded isn't in that list... How do i get it there?

Thanks,

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Oi! I'm new, so maybe I'm looking in the wring place for this information, but how do you change how a unit looks like? I think I got everything else handled with on the editor.

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Hi Kevwad

In the game's Bitmaps folder there are six files for the unit graphics:

unit_sprites_3d.bmp

unit_sprites_3d_zoom.bmp

unit_sprites_3d_mirrored.bmp

unit_sprites_3d_mirrored_zoom.bmp

unit_sprites_military.bmp

unit_sprites_military_zoom.bmp

Copy these files and place them in a new folder (which you'll need to call Bitmaps) within your new campaign's folder. Then you can amend these without affecting the originals.

Bill

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