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Arcane Mapper is approaching release, currently scheduled on April 24. The product is being released under Early Access in order to make it available to the community sooner so your feedback can help make this a better and more useful tool. As a side effect, the tool will be limited in some ways on release. The tool will be useful for certain types of maps from day one and has many nice features for building atmospheric maps for your games quickly and easily. However there are types of maps and scenarios – such as exteriors or city maps – where this tool will be less useful. This post is meant to show you how I plan on addressing its limitations quickly.
You can build dungeon style maps with atmospheric lighting and shadowing with simple room drawing and editing controls, forced perspective 3D looking walls – which you can adjust and even reduce entirely to the wall tops, easy drag and drop object placement – with faster methods of placement available, pits and raised areas – with height fog available for the pits, image rendering for Virtual Tabletops, PDF and image export, Steam Workshop support with the ability to import and export packages, very simple methods of adding assets and of course much more.
I plan on making this tool much more useful for different types of maps and to remove the limitations the program currently has. To accomplish this I have already planned out the near term Early Access builds – these builds should come along pretty quickly. Longer term, once the editor is solid, I will move into the Digital/Virtual Tabletop features – not listed here.
These builds are not necessarily listed in order, mostly in the order listed in the internal project documentation. These builds also do not cover bugs you guys find or changing priorities based on community feedback. For example, Virtual Tabletop features may be prioritized before some of these builds depending on community feedback.
- Fog for normal rooms (not just pits).
- Fog lit and shadowed by light sources.
- Fog properly affecting objects with a smooth falloff around them to simulate objects sticking out of the fog.
- “Patchy” fog – allow the fog to be patchy and whispy with settings – to avoid the uniform look.
- Blending between rooms – so a fogged room room can sit next to a clear room and still look plausible.
Basic Editing Improvements
- Floor/wall UI improvements: Scale/Offset/Rotation.
- The ability to quickly place many objects with random rotations and scales (within margins specified).
- Curves for walls.
- Natural walls – draw normal straight walls but be able to turn them into natural looking cave/rock walls of various roughness levels to easily create natural caves and similar environments.
- Rough floors – give height to floors for visual purposes, such as simulating rough cave floors, gentle slopes or exterior terrain.
- Procedural liquids – fill pits with water, lava, slime and other liquids. Control the look, add reflections, muck and other elements.
- Procedural grime, dirt, moss and other elements – fill in the cracks with grime and dirt, have moss grow in corners, add spider webs in less used corners. You will be able to dictate where these details go and control them – but the system will generate the details.
- Create doors that naturally connect to the walls, no matter the height.
- Control the state of the doors, open them up to any point.
- Different types of doors – single, double, jail cell bars, sci-fi.
- Create stairs with the tool that automatically work with the environment.
- Choose different types – straight, curved, spiral, different step heights, etc.
Multi-level / Exterior Support
- Layer maps together and make areas transparent to see into maps below.
- Support exteriors, including lighting (sunlight, skylight), texturing and which level of each building is visible.
- Seamless transition between exterior and interior. Make dungeons that are partially exteriors, build street and city scenes.
Steam Workshop is now officially supported by Arcane Mapper – if you are a Beta Tester, you should be able to go to the Community Hub on Steam and see the Steam Workshop page. Currently I have uploaded a test package that includes the new floors, walls and torches that will be included with Arcane Mapper, which you can see if you select Browse > Items. Obviously, for release, this won’t be necessary so I will replace it with some example maps before release.
Currently I am working on the user interface, which should be done this week, for uploading and installing Workshop items. I am adding a description text area and thumbnail to the package UI and adding a simple interface for uploading your packages to Steam. You will be able to add release notes and update or create new Workshop items.
Of course, if you prefer, you can also distribute the package files yourself – if you want to give maps or assets to friends without having to go through Steam. Packages are also a handy way of backing up your Library or maps, or moving your custom work between installations of Arcane Mapper.
I am hopeful that these features, in addition to the built-in web search for free assets, will allow the community to share assets and build awesome looking maps for their RPG games.
Packages and Search
I have been busy fixing bugs, such as room connection issues that the Beta testers have found. In preparation for the upcoming first Early Access release, scheduled for the end of the month, I have been busy implementing missing features as well. Two of these features are the Asset Web Search and Package Import/Export with built in support for Steam Workshop.
The built in Asset Web Search is used to quickly find free assets to use in your maps – including search options for “free for non-commercial use” and “free for commercial use” options as well as the normal fair-use option (i.e. free for personal use). The search integrates directly in the program and assets you find can be immediately added to your Library. There are several built-in searches that are known to provide good results, so this will make finding assets for your games very simple.
In the screenshot above you can see the Export dialog (still work in progress) – this allows you to export any or all of your maps and assets. If you remove all assets – there will be buttons to quickly do this – than only those assets required to export the maps you have selected will be included. In this way you can distribute your maps and know that someone can open them up in Arcane Mapper while minimizing the amount of data you need to package. Of course you may distribute assets from your Library and not include maps. In addition, you will be able to include documentation with your package, if so desired.
You will also be able to upload your packages to Steam Workshop directly from the tool as well as import any packages that you have access to. During import you can also select which files you want, though they are all selected by default.
With these two features it will be easy for the community to share assets and to quickly find free assets to use when creating your maps. This is important, there will be no paid asset pack DLC for Arcane Mapper – as I have said many times, Arcane Mapper is a tool first and foremost, not a set of Asset Packs or paid DLC.
Searching for the perfect prop or light to add to your map can become quite tedious as your Library grows. Maybe you have sci-fi assets, fantasy assets and even modern day props for different maps. To make searching through all of these objects easier, Arcane Mapper will support a Tag system. A simple text file contains all of the tags you want to use with names, alternate strings, parents and a description. While the UI will allow you to add new tags easily, the simple text file allows these to be added outside of the editor, making sharing the perfect set of tags that much easier.
Any object may have many tags associated with it. For example a cabinet may be furniture and a container. It can even be SciFi (maybe its metallic) or Fantasy. Then the user can select which tags are visible and edit which tags are assigned to each object. In addition, the key words listed in with each tag allow the tool to automatically assign default tags to each object in your Library based on the original file name. For example TreasureChest.png might get assigned the Treasure, Chest and Furniture tags, where Furniture is the broader category that Chest belongs to.
The window containing the tags can grow to some extent, beyond which a scrollbar will be required. However I plan on adding features to make searching for tags easier, such as being able to type in part of the tag name(s).
The initial version of this system should be available to Beta Testers in the next Build.
The Beta phase is going well with a lot of valuable feedback from the testers. Several bugs have been squashed and refinements made to the interface to make using Arcane Mapper more intuitive. Of course there is still a lot of work left to do.
On the large scale, several features are still in progress for the intial EA release – the tiled lighting system to improve performance and allow huge maps, door and stair systems, a system to make finding assets to use in your maps easier and of course Steam Workshop support.
However, in addition to fixes and refinements, several smaller features have been implemented recently.
Adjustable Ambient Color and Background Color – using these features it is possible to change the background color for the map and independently change the ambient color – rather than just the intensity. This gives you more control on the coloration of your maps, very useful for setting the right mood.
Here you can see I adjusted the Background Color, making it a saturated and dark blue color while changing the Ambient Color to help integrate the map.
Of course changing the background color isn’t always enough on its own – which is why you can also set a background image. This image has its own Tint Color, offset and scale.
Here you can see I used a Render of a different map as the background and used the Tint Color to darken it and tint is slightly blue to make sure its clear what is background and what is foreground.
Later you will be able to layer maps and choose only to show the background in certain areas – such as holes in the floor or the bottom of pits, allowing you to simulate a multi-level structure with very little work.
Beta Testing Started
The Closed Beta Testing has started, Steam Keys went out Sunday night. With their help, Arcane Mapper should be ready for it’s first Early Access release in late April.
If you have any ideas of what you expect to see in the first build, or in other EA builds – hop on to the forums and give your feedback.
Working Towards Beta
Arcane Mapper is about a week away from its first Limited Beta release (testers have already been selected). In preparation this small map was prepared, that will be included with the Beta, that shows some of the features of the tool.
The obvious thing that stands out is the lighting. Smooth falloff and shadows are generated automatically by the tool and ambient occlusion from walls and objects helps ground the objects and highlight their shapes.
Next are the different room shapes, some are simple and some more intricate and interesting. Curved and irregular walls are coming – but in the meantime even the basic straight walls can produce interesting rooms.
Raised areas, such as in the throne room and pits are on display, notice the slight blue fog in the smaller pit and the deep black fog in the bottom room.
And finally a feature I haven’t shown yet but that has been present for quite some time, the ability to change the wall height per room – you will notice the tall walls in the top left room and the very short walls in the room below that. No matter what height you choose, you still get full lighting, shadows and Ambient Occlusion with your walls.
Many other features and bug fixes have occurred since the last update – click and drag to scroll the map view around in a precise manner, many UI fixes, PDF export support – including automatically breaking up the map to fit the selected page size (sizes include Letter, Legal, A3, A4, A5, B4, etc.) and margins and a lot of other polish in preparation for the Beta and ultimately release.