Author Topic: Mapping Tools  (Read 23220 times)

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Offline Thraxian

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Mapping Tools
« on: May 01, 2006, 11:43:44 AM »
Seeing as this is a forum for a website whose primary purpose is the creation and hosting of video game maps, I was wondering...



What tools are the contributors using to create maps from their video games?



I know the job can be done (albeit slowly and painfully) using MSPaint, or the Mac equivalent.  Are there other tools that make the mapping process easier and faster?



What emulators are generally used for these mapping projects (my interest is in NES,SNES,GBA)?



What resolution are the maps usually drawn in, and are they scaled down to make the image more managable?



Are there special considerations that need to be accounted for with regard to water cycling, flame flickering, and other "moving" parts?  Generally speaking, how are these issues addressed?



Do mapping projects also include creating guides and charts to accompany the maps?  For instance, the original Dragon Warrior had an overworld map, and dungeon/town maps.  Are monster and item guides also useful and/or recommended for inclusion on this site?

Offline JonLeung

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2006, 11:46:48 AM »
That reminds me, I should make a mapping techniques board.  Once Inty shows me how to back up the site (we still haven't had a chance), whenupon I can be sure we won't lose the forums again, I would encourage the use of that board to create tutorials about mapmaking.



There could be discussion specific like regarding the various emulators, avoiding common pitfalls like improper resizing, and good recommendations like tile-grid alignment.

Offline TerraEsperZ

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2006, 02:08:52 PM »
I'm at work right now so I'll be brief for the moment.



I think the tools used vary from people to people, so I can only answer for myself.



In terms of emulators, I stick with the following:



NES: FCE Ultra, if only because it's the most stable on my computer. It has the nifty option of being able to display simply the sprites or the background.



SNES: ZSnes, if only because it's the one I've always used. I've only ever mapped one game (which is still unfinished) with it so I can't really claim it's the best for mapping.



Genesis: Gens, with the KMod fan module, which adds the ability to turn on and off the various display layers, so I can capture only the sprites or the foreground or whatever else I want separately.



GBA: VisualBoyAdvance, no contest. It has tons of debugging functions which make mapping a lot easier. You can turn off any of the 8 graphic layers, and it has two tools I like very much: the Map Browser which allows me to capture the contain of the graphic buffer for all 4 main map layers, and the OAM viewer I think it's called, which allows me to see (and save) all of the separate sprites currently in memory. Those two tools are invaluable in my Metroid Fusion map project. Also, it's possible to advance one frame at a time which helps in making sure that I always keep animated tiles consistent.



As for the actual assembly, I use MSPaint, and I frankly find it a lot easier and faster to use than anything fancier like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop.



I use Irfanview to cycle through the various screenshots I've made and simply copy/paste each one in MSPaint, removing the background color if I can and assembling them together. Sometimes, I'll assemble both the foreground (actual stage) and background (fancy image in the back) separately and put the first over the second once I'm done.



Sometimes I'll use Paint Shop Pro if I need to do some transparencies because it features layers. I'll paste the segment, add in a layer with the element like water or fog, adjust the opacity, merge them and copy the result in Paint for assembly.



I'll also use Vicman's Photo Editor (rather obscure program) if I need to remove colors to separate a sprite from the background. I know that Paint Shop Pro can do it, but it's a lot harder to use in terms of interface, while Vicman's software is just a matter of clicking on colors.



As for scaling, the general consensus here is that if you're doing screenshot maps, you do *not* shrink or enlarge the maps as it changes the pixels and thus its authenticity.



Some people will add in guides and map keys, but I almost never do. It's mostly because I suck at writing strategies and because I find my page compositing skills atrocious.



Sorry, that's all I have time to write right now.



---

"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." [...] The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. - Captain Jean-Luc Picard



B*tch, meet reality. Reality, meet b*tch. - Me
Current project that are on hold because job burnout :
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)

Offline JonLeung

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2006, 02:32:27 PM »
I heartily recommend CompuPic Pro (http://www.photodex.com) - it's the best browser out there, IMO.



Lots of features, but it's not complicated...it's just a matter of finding out what you want to do with images and there's a good chance you can do it with a click or two if you know where to look.  There are features I'm sure I've never seen or used yet that I'm sure it has.  I've used it for probably a decade (it has upgraded over time, of course).  If I wasn't at work right now I'd go into all the details, but it's pretty much invaluable in managing lots of image files like I often do.  It's not my main editor, but things it has like auto-crop, batch-renaming, and batch conversion are really really simple with it.

Offline Thraxian

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2006, 05:43:13 AM »
That's a great start.  Thanks, Terra.



I've been using ZSnes and VBA for a while, and I used to use Nesticle, but recently got something I like better (I think it's called Jnes).  So for the most part, I'm on the right track.



So you actually pull the maps out of the map browser, and not screenshot the current window?  If you ever do screenshots, do you display at 1x Zoom?  I generally play at 4x, so the screen is readble on my 1280x1024 display (otherwise things get tiny).  



For MSPaint, I assume you're pasting in at 800% zoom to ensure the edges line up properly?  Seems like that could be a huge canvas you're working on at times.  I'll give it a go and see what happens.  I also have IrfanView.



I picked up MS Digital Image Suite the other day.  It has a feature that allows you to take panaromic shots and piece them together into one large image.  Does anyone know if this piecing together will distort the seams of the screenshots when they are merged?



JonLeung, does CompuPic Pro offer anything superior to Microsoft's product?

Offline TerraEsperZ

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2006, 06:13:39 AM »
Sorry, I confused your remark about zoom with the actual size of the pixels. When assembling in MSPaint, I mostly keep it zoomed at 2x. I only go closer when playing with individual pixels.



However to my dismay, I found out yesterday that I might need to switch to Paint Shop Pro more to continue Metroid Fusion because the game's layering system is simply too complex for parts like water and having a file with every layer separately will end up being easier than a separate file for each. I'll probably still assemble things in Paint though, as it's just more convenient. I know all the keyboard keys for the functions I need the most and I'm not prepared to learn a new set.



---

"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." [...] The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. - Captain Jean-Luc Picard



B*tch, meet reality. Reality, meet b*tch. - Me
Current project that are on hold because job burnout :
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)

Offline Thraxian

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2006, 05:34:18 AM »
Terra, is there a way in FCEUltra to disable the water cycling?  If not, how do you choose which of the frames will be used in the map?  Is the choice arbitrary?

Offline TerraEsperZ

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2006, 06:12:21 AM »
No way that I know. I've heard of some mappers using Game Genie codes or memory hacks that stop the animation of moving tiles, but nothing automatic I'm afraid.



As for which frame to use like with water, the choice is up to you. Usually, I find that there's one frame that looks better so I use that one, but it's really your prerogative.



Sometimes it's hard to capture every animated tiles at the right time, so some of us will go back to a finished map to correct mistakes, which is often easy since tiles are almost always a round number of pixels like 8x8, 16x16 or even 32x32. For every map I work on, I always keep a folder with clean sprites files for items, enemies, bosses and animated tiles. That way I can be sure that the water, flowers, lava or anything else like that always looks consistent across all the maps.



---

"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." [...] The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. - Captain Jean-Luc Picard



B*tch, meet reality. Reality, meet b*tch. - Me
Current project that are on hold because job burnout :
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)

Offline TerraEsperZ

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2006, 01:01:38 PM »
Regarding fixing animated tiles, you should ask Revned about his tile slicer program. It can break down a map in all it's various separate tiles with a file compiling which goes where. You can then view all the separate tiles and find any different one much easier (like say, you find 3 different water tiles despite being careful to always capture the same one; you can then make all three identical, and when the program will reassemble the map all the water will be the same).



---

"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." [...] The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. - Captain Jean-Luc Picard



B*tch, meet reality. Reality, meet b*tch. - Me
Current project that are on hold because job burnout :
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)

Offline Revned

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2006, 01:21:57 PM »
No apostrophe in "its," Terra :P



Thraxian, email me if you want the program. I'm going to repost it here some time soon, but I need to clean it up a bit.

Offline TerraEsperZ

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2006, 02:54:58 PM »
I knew, but couldn't edit it. Blame the board ;)



---

"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." [...] The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. - Captain Jean-Luc Picard



B*tch, meet reality. Reality, meet b*tch. - Me
Current project that are on hold because job burnout :
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)

Offline Thraxian

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2006, 06:14:13 AM »
Sounds like a great tool.  Where can I get my very own slicer and dicer?  Does it make julienne fries?

Offline Dan

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2006, 10:41:21 AM »
For NES maps, I use Mednafen which has the handy Frame Advance tool to get the specific frame you need for those animated tiles, and it can disable sprites.  



For SNES I use ZSNES mainly because I like it so much :P  Personal bias aside, it can disable any desired layer and you can enter slow motion to get the desired frame of those pesky animating tiles.  



For the assembly, I generally use Microsoft Photo Editor, despite its general bugginess.  If someone could release a more stable version, I'd be really happy.  If the map exceeds MPE's memory limit, I use The GIMP.  I'll use Microsoft Paint for making borders and silly stuff like that.

Offline DarkWolf

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2006, 10:23:36 AM »
I still use Genecyst for Genesis maps and sprite ripping.  The only reason I use it over Gens + Kmod, is because Gens' method of dumping a screenshot is hideous.  It merely dumps the current window as a 24-bit bitmap.



This makes the layer toggle in Kmod useless with many games where the background and sprites use the same RGB color (usually black).



The tools I use are MS Paint and PSP 4 (no, I didn't make a typo).  I use MSPaint to assemble, and I use PSP4 for batch conversions, making palette alterations, and for turning the final image into a 256 color PNG.

Offline JonLeung

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RE: Mapping Tools
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2006, 02:26:21 PM »
I spent the last couple days using PNGGauntlet on brute force compression on several (but not all) of the NES game maps.  I started with the Mega Man maps, many of which were reduced in size to 45%-55% of their original size.  Then I moved on to all the maps that had palettes of 16.7 million colours, when I was sure they didn't have more than 256 (many NES maps fit in 16 colour palettes).



I haven't done them all, but I've already reduced the size of the NES maps directory from 85.3 MB to 59.9 MB.  That's 25.4 MB of extraneous and useless filesize shaved off!  That'll save on the bandiwdth!