General map "construction" approach

Just out of my curiosity (and possible future use):
How do you start with creating a new map?

Do you draw routes and then inflate hills under them
Do you create a landscape and then put routes in reasonable places

Do you have any general idea from beginning
Do you just start with no specific idea and unleash your imagination to surprise youself

Any other approach?

last edited by Sodoma

Since I'm a fan of immersive trailing/exploration based maps, I design the landscape first (sometimes I also use 3rd-party heightmaps for a more natural base terrain) and then load it raw into the game (no distributions, plants, etc.) so that I can get an idea for scale, then drive around it a bit. This gives me an idea of where trails/paths would go if it was a real-world location (instead of trying to go OVER that huge cliff, a real trail would go AROUND it).
Once I figure out where the trails would fit best, then the imagination comes out as far as visual design, obstacle/mud/water placement, etc. Try to keep the trails interesting, give the player some neat scenery to enjoy while they follow the trail, throw some rocks or mud or something that makes sense in there so they're not just drooling along on autopilot to get to that next watchpoint or garage.
Then I'll load up the map again with trails (still no trees and stuff yet) to look for weird terrain issues, and to get a better visual idea of how the trails "interact" with the terrain. Sharp turn in the trail? Why? Avoiding a huge boulder/tree/ditch? Any spots where a trail doesn't quite follow a valley like you hoped it did? Broad-strokes style troubleshooting.
Once the trails have been inspected and fine tuned, that's when I start on the real details like trees, grass, etc. More from a visual/aesthetic standpoint here vs functionality as addressed previously.
This is where a lot of people can get bogged down and lose sight of "progression vs perfection" and have a hard time saying "it's finished enough for release."
Hope this helps, but by no means am I an authority on the subject! lol

When I first tried mapping on Spintires, I did it willy nilly and it was a right mess.

After watching Nix's tutorials I find it much better (and recommend) you to draw the trails/roads out FIRST. Just drag it around as you like, then do the terrain height etc then distrubutions and plants. Add the mud near watery areas etc etc.

That's how my map is done so I "go with the flow" of the trails and make it up as I go what I want it be like.

Small tip, avoid overlays. They cause more problems than they are worth. Just use the materials instead.

Birds eye view:

last edited by Digital X

That looks good ! Is this map already available? If yes, do you have a link ? 🙂

Not yet sorry, It's about 75% "covered" and Been at it since December, I planned for March but that will not happen, Few months at least, sorry.

When It's ready find it on

I mean you can test if you want, but it has my custom objects so obviously trust is a concern there.

what exactly is a height map? I’ve heard the term but not sure I know what it is. Is that so you can have steeper geometry without it flattening? If so I thought the mod does this?

It's a bit technical regardless, but here goes from memory as it's been a bit since I've done it...
Heightmap image (regardless of origin) needs to be strictly greyscale (black & white and shades of grey).
Create a new blank map in the editor and allow it to create it's file (if you don't know where to find this file for editing, quit now because it gets more complicated lol)
Open in Photoshop and go to the "channels" tab (not layers, but channels; RedGreenBlue)
Copy the contents of the greyscale heightmap image, and paste it into the RED channel only of
Save the file with the "flip vertically" option checked, sorry but I can't remember the specific format other than 32bit floating point...
Load your map in the editor again and rebuild terrain. Either it will work, or you'll get an error. If you get an error it's likely because of the format so you might have to try a few until you figure out which works. If I can find out or remember at some point going forward I will try to remember to let you know...

In a nutshell, the heightmap tells the editor/game how high or low the terrain is. White is high, black is low, greys are in between. A quick Google search should yield plenty of examples to give a better visual representation...

So does it just make heights of the in game map more accurate? Sorry I seem to be missing the point of it. Appreciate the knowledge.

Not really...
There's a blurb about it in the modding guide but it's not terribly specific...
As you use the brush in the editor to raise/lower the terrain, if you could watch the map's (heightmap file, it's essentially just an image/picture) in realtime, every time you raised a section of terrain, you'd see the corresponding area of the image gradually get lighter. If you were lowering the terrain, that area would instead get darker. In that sense, the changes you make to the height of the terrain in the editor changes the heightmap image, importing a heightmap is like doing that except in reverse. Are we all confused now? lol
It's no problem really dude, I actually appreciate being able to help people through the things that others here helped me through at one point so I'm happy to pass that knowledge along! 🙂

last edited by Mexican_420

@mexican_420 So correct me if I'm wrong but if you imported a height map it would create geometry for you? What would be the purpose of that? Just so you don't have to manually do it in the editor?

Sometimes you can get some really sweet geometry that way, then you just have to tweak it instead of starting from flat nothingness. 🙂

Hmm, 3rd party heightmap never crossed my mind.
Importing landscape of some sort that is already done actually makes sense: landscape is usually given, people make their routes in that later wherever it suits them...

Do you have Photoshop and Nvidia DDS plugin? And apparently it's 16bit floating point, not 32bit...

Sorry if you feel I've hijacked your thread, just trying to be helpful. 🙂

Yeah, maybe you've done that a bit, but nevermind, I want to learn something and this is not bad. I have to find&try some heightmap generator 🙂

World Machine if you want generated (fake) terrain that you can manipulate. Plenty of heightmap sites around if you're looking more towards real-world locations...

World Machine is great and what I use to make height maps to get started.

When making maps I usually start with the basic landscape created in World Machine adding roads and tweaking the terrain as I go.

When making the terrain in World Machine I kind of get an idea of what I plan on adding and use it as a base idea. Often times those ideas change a lot when making the map, but for the most part, I know from the beginning what I'm going for.

I know a lot of people don't like to use the road overlays and I don't always use them myself. One trick I use to help make roads when not using the overlays is to use the overlays temporarily. I throw down a road and tweak the terrain to my liking and when I'm happy with the results I'll trace the overlay with a material. Then when the road is completely traced, delete the overlay. It just helps me make sure I'm drawing the road in the correct location easier.