This is a guide on what is an acceptable map and what is unacceptable. Only acceptable maps will be put in the official Crossfire map distribution
1) Check that all exits lead where they are supposed to. Unless there is a specific reason an exit leads only one direction (like a trap door or perhaps a teleporter), players should be able to exit back from where they came from right when they enter the map.
One way exits/entrances should only be used on objects in which it is obvious it is one way. A house is not an obvious one way entrance. Remember, players may not have the three hours of time it takes to find the exit after being trapped in a map (a work around for this can be have the trap lead to a safe place with no exit which contains a savebed. Thus, theplayer could save and come back at a later time to find the exit.)
2.1) Try to make sure the maps are multi player accessible. In towns, this means the road should be at least a couple squares wide, buildings should not be trapped in corners in which case one character standing in front blocks access, etc.
2.2) Try to make corridors in dungeons or mazes a few squares wide - especially if there is only a single path. If it is a maze with several different paths, single width corridors are acceptable. The main problem here are big labyrinths in which only one monster attacks at a time, and which there is only 1 or two routes. If two players enter such a map, the one that went in first will be
2.3) Avoid spiral or single path mazes that just have monsters lining the corridor. These are not very good for multiple players, not particularly interesting (map justs consists of killing all the monsters), and tend to be an easy and safe way to gain experience.
3) Don't put:
3.1) extremely valuable treasure right next to the entrance, or nearby. Players should need to work to get treasure. If the treasure is fairly worthless (food, or non magical items), this would be acceptable. But a character should not be able to pop in, pick up a potion, spellbook, or a lot of diamonds, and then pop out again, without ever meeting a monster.
3.2) Don't put monsters of high experience point near to entrance where they are trapped. Low level player could boost ther experience high by using some weapons or spells from distance without danger. For example find out trapped troll and get wand of fireball.
3.3) monsters on top of other monsters. A troll should not be sitting on top of an oriental dragon. The only exception to this would be if a monster could be on top of another monster (making sense) and hiding it at the same time. A troll on top of an oriental dragon does not make sense (could not fit), nor can the troll hide the oriental dragon. Using tricks like these which are only applicable due to display limitations is something that should not be done, nor should the player need to click on every monster he encounters to see if something is below it. (as a side note, doing this will tend to lock the monsters into position, making them unable to move.)
3.4) Large groups of monsters that can be killed quickly with spells. A fairly popular tactic to make high level maps is just to put 30 dragons (or other tough monsters) in a big room. Do not do this. All the player needs to do is cast a dozen icestorms, and quickly gets millions of experience. Likewise, it is unlikely that any more than 2 or 3 large (multisquare) monsters will be able to attack a player or party at once - the remaining 25 will be blocked from doing anything. This then makes it so that having 30 dragons is not any tougher than having 3.
If you want to make a high level map, instead of tossing a lot of monsters on it, take existing monsters and make them tougher. Increase their hit points, level (which then means spells they use do more damage), add immunities or protections, remove vulnerabilities, change attack types, etc. Try not to totally change the characteristics of a known monster - a normal dragon should still be dragon like. Also, remember to adjust experience that the monster gives.
4) Try to keep the treasure in line with the difficulty. 5 potions should not be given out for defeating orcs or gnolls (even if there are a lot of them), but if you need to defeat several dragons to get to the potions, that is fine. Likewise, if it is likely a lot of spells will be needed to defeat the monster, and those spells have a chance of destroying the items, then perhaps a few extra items to take this into consideration is not a bad idea.
5) If use of a specific skill/class/spell is needed to complete the map, that
should be stated near the map entrance. How clearly this is stated depends
on the circumstance. If use of a certain skill is needed, there is probably
no good way other than to state that a skill is needed. If use of a certain
spell is needed, stating that a spell caster of XX level might be
sufficient, with the assumption that a spellcaster of that level would have the spell. It is safe to assume that all characters can fight, but spellcasting (especially certain spells) should not be assumed, and thus should be stated.
Also, don't put in hidden rooms requiring dimension door if they only real way to know about them is pure luck or looking at the map. If you want to do something like that, at least put some clues in.
If a certain skill would make a map easier, but is not required, you don't need to necessary state it. The idea of this is that it can be frustrating to wander into some map, complete most of it, but find out you can't finish the map because you lack some skill or spell.
5.1) A map should be designed so that a character can never be trapped in a room (except via other player interaction.) A character should never be forced to dimension door or word of recall out of a map because some gate closed behind him. For a character without these spells, it would mean death. A simple method around this is put a lever on both sides of the door. If the door is opened by special actions (saying things, dropping things), just put the level on the hard to get side of the gate.
6) If a map require multiple players to simultaneous be on it to solve the map, put a sign or message so players know. Such maps would be those that require manipulation of levers or buttons in certain sequences in order to get through gates.
Don't make ends of maps require multi users. This ruins that map for single players (not able to complete it), and makes a map that requires multiple players for only a small portion.
7) Try not to make the maps too many levels deep. To get to the goal, it should not require a 6 hour continous sitting, as the player works through each map to get to the next. Multi level maps are fine - just don't over do it. One way to do this is have several maps with a key or other special item at the end. The final map could have the various battles, and then a series of gates/altars when uses up these keys.
8.1) Don't put super stores in any towns or villages you create. With the growing number of maps, players can already make a trip to all the different towns to try and find certain items. A one stop find all shop is not interesting. A good maximum size is about the same size of the shops in the starting village.
Also, making six magic shops of that size and putting them in the same town is not any better than one large magic shop. If you want to have specialized shops, then make each shop smaller. If you just want one shop that sells every type of item (magic, armor, weapons, food, etc), then a large shop is permissable.
8.2) Make sure the entire interior the shop is covered with tiles. Likewise, don't put shops that lead to areas without tiles without going over one of the 'magic doormats'. A player should never be able to get an unpaid item out of a shop, whether via exit that does not go over the magic doormat, or through spells.
9) Don't make maps which require high level characters that low level characters can wonder into without warning. Put a warning sign nearby, or gates or doors so the player can see they are in over their head, instead of instantly getting toasted the second they enter the map.
10) The structure of the map should make sense. That is to say, if you enter a house, the house should then not have a tower inside. Or a door to a shop. In other words, if a map has an exit to another map, that exit should make sense (ie, another level, tunnels, dungeons all make sense. However, another building the size of the original does not make sense.
11) Try to keep the difficulty throughout the map(s) about the same. The first monster in the map should not be the most difficult monster, nor should the last monster be orders of magnitude more difficult than anything before it.
It is very frustating to play a map, killing most every monster without much difficulty, only to find that last monster unkillable.
It is reasonable to have the monster increase in difficulty. Also, if the map has no quest or end goal, then having a very difficult monster around is not unreasonable, as long as it does prevent the player from progressing to the next map.
12) Do not put directors with bullet, lightning, fireball, etc. that are a loop or continuous. Example: Do not have two directors, each facing each other, with a bullet wall firing into them at the side.
Having numerous directors is fine. But make sure that eventually, there will be an exit/detonation point for the fired spell. Having loops that go for over typically bring the game to a halt, as the objects just multiply and the game consumes more and more cpu time.
The following are various suggestions for making good or interesting maps. A map that does not need to follow all these hints to be accepted, but following these hints will make for more interesting or playable maps.
1) Try to create only small maps. If you have a large map in mind, try to see if you can possible split it up in several separate sections, and place those sections in different maps. Many small maps use much less memory than one large map, since crossfire doesn't yet support swapping of portions of maps. Also, with small maps, the time to load it from and store it to disc becomes so short that it's impossible to notice. In this context, small means about 32x32, though it's actually the number of objects in the map which count.
What is potentially more critical than the size of the map is the number of objects (memory usage), and live objects (cpu usage, as each would need to be processed.)
Also, remember that if you make very large maps, all generators will be cranking out monsters whenever anyone is on it. This could mean that a lot of monsters have been generated before a player even gets to the area where they are being created.
Related to this: If a map contains multiple levels, make multiple maps. Many times, if the level is small, the mapmaker may think I will just put all the levels on one larger map. This makes the map a little less readable to others. Also, things like magic mapping and dimension door can lead to unexpected results.
2) Make a plot! A map withot a plot becomes just another mindless "Kill'em all". For instance, create a story which explains why there are npc's here and monsters there, fragment the story up and put bits and hints of it in various writables (books) and npc-conversations.
If you are going to make a mindless kill them all map, at least put some reward in the map that can only be accessed after all the monsters have been killed. The only thing worse than a kill them all map is a kill them all map which you get nothing out of.
Avoid maps where all the monsters are lined up, and only one can attack you at a time. This just makes an easy (and relatively safe) way for a character to gain experience and treasure, and is not especially interesting or challenging.
2.1) A good idea for the rewards at the end of quests are specific items (luggage, spellbook of some otherwise not available spell, special weapon, spellcrystal, etc.) It is much more interesting to put a specific item instead of something like a random artifact. Feel free to mutate or otherwise change existing artifacts to create your own.
This has two advantages: one, the player will get to know where certain items are. Having to search endlessly for a specific item gets tedious. Two, it reduces the incentive to keep repeating the quest (repeating quests is not inherently bad) If the reward is a random artifact, a player may very well keep repeating the quest until the item he looks for comes up. By doing specific items, this will not happen.
3) Make puzzles! Use all those different object types: buttons, handles, doors, altars, pedestals, triggers, timed gates, etc... Hide special "keys" needed to get further in special places, and use text-puzzles to describe where they are hidden and how they must be used. The possibilities are endless! Remember, you can also hide buttons under floors, making it more difficult for the character to find the trigger points.
4) But don't make too much big labyrinths. Making of labyrinths is (too) easy with crossedit, just select auto-joining and make zig-zag with mouse. But the results of these are quite tiring. If you make ones, try make some idea into it.
5) Give the npc's information! An npc's knowledge about hidden treasure surely makes it interesting to have a conversation with it.
6) Feel free to add some traps, but be careful to not make them too deadly without adequate warning.
7) Don't mix the monsters too badly. Let there be at least some logic behind why they are grouped in a single room. Undeads together with undeads, for instance, but not together with kobolds... Big dragons usually don't live together with mice... Fire immune creatures generally dislike ice immune creatures.
Also, limit use of monsters that multiply rapidly (mice, slimes). A map that is easily overwhelmed with these creatures quickly becomes useless.
8) Give your maps a meaningfull name (like John's tower, level 1). This way, these can be used instead of the map paths in the highscore file. Also, in terms of the actual file name, try to use numeric level identifiers (ie, maze.1, maze.2, ... instead of maze.first, maze.second, etc.) The former maps the levels sorted a little bit nicer in the directory.
9) Try to make the map so that it links in with the existing world. Most people want to make their own continent, which is then accessed by ship or other fast means. While convenient, this creates many island continents. The problems with this are that any feeling of relation is lost (where is that island continent), and it makes item searching in shops very easy - if you can access half a dozen shops quickly and safely by taking boats, you have a decent chance of finding the item you want.
Also, it seems that when most people start making maps, the first thing they do is create a new town or village. There are already a lot of towns and villages out there. If you are just going to create a few new buildings, instead of going to the effort and time of creating your own island with a town, just create the buildings, and plug them into one of the existing towns or the terrain someplace. Many of the towns right now have many unused buildings.
Technical map hints:
1) If you are creating a new archetype, it only needs to go into the general archetype distribution if it has an image associated with it, or it has general use (a new monster). Something that uses already existing images can be set up in the map file itself (through setting various variables).
2) When modifying an existing archetype into a new one (either new face or new type), use the archetype that has the most variables in common. Thus, if you want to create a monster called a 'bouldar', it is probably best to take a monster of some sort and change its face instead of taking the existing boulder archetype and changing its type, hit points, speed, etc.
3) Changing color is no longer possible in maps - instead, a new face and image must be created, and then put in the standard distribution. The archetype collection script will automatically pull out face information from archetype files.
4) Try to keep maps readable by other people who might edit them. Thus, instead of modifying a woods space so it also acts as an exit, just put an invisible exit under the woods space. This has the same functionality, but it makes it much easier for other players to see what this space does. (Side note - if you want it so that players actually need to apply the space to enter, you will need to change the face of exit for this to work. If you do this, you should also accompany it with a magic mouth.)
5) Make sure you set the difficulty field in the map attributes to somethign meaningful. Crossfire will calculate a default dificulty, but its formula is hardly ideal. The difficulty of a map determines how magical the treasure will be (and some treasure types won't show up unless the map has a certain difficulty level.)
6) Don't be too intimidated about writing new code if there is something you would like to be able to do, but just isn't supported. If you are not the code writing type, make a suggestion. Worst case is it gets ignored. But many times, I have written code because I had some idea which just was not possible at the time (ie, the apartment in the starting town required an expansion/change of the unique item code.)