Well, there's room for refinement, but I did a quick-and-dirty map generator that creates a ragged coastline around the overworld and then seeds it with a mix of mountains, forests, and lakes, then crosses it with rivers, passes through the mountains, and roads. Each land form has a slightly different process for generation, in order to give better results.
There's room for some refinement, but it hits the high points:
1. You can find the basic four landscapes (water, plains, forest, mountains) anywhere you go, in slightly different proportions.
2. It's navigable. The frequency of obstacles means you have to explore... you can't just hold down a key and make it from sea to shining sea. But it gives you a world that you can find your way around.
The results aren't exactly the most beautiful examples of video game cartography, but they never were going to be. They are in the neighborhood of "good enough by Ultima Trilogy standards", which is really more what I'm going for.
Now, my current model for the world has it that you go up in difficulty level of encounters by going away from the center of the map. If I used the whole of a 1,000 square landmass, this would mean that if I fit 10 levels of content into it you'd be switching levels by going about three screens in any direction. That seems a little abrupt, and it would only get worse if I added more content.
So I'm going to start with five levels of content in the first landmass. After that? New landmasses, either using a "sail off the edge of the map" mechanic or some way of accessing them via portal or tunnel or something. Actually, I'm kind of partial to the idea of borrowing the tower of worlds from the Final Fantasy Legend/SaGa games... put the tower somewhere on the coast of the first world, and then in the center of each subsequent one. Your character could only ascend to the floor equal to your level, and there would be an out door to a new world every 5th floor, starting on 1. (1, 6, 11, etc.)
Or alternately the tower would be the mechanism for getting from world 1 to world 2, and subsequent worlds would have their own schemes.
Because leveling up is item based (collecting Phosphor Essence), I could still keep my plans to release content incrementally... put the tower in at launch even if there are only five levels of content.
Dec 1 2011, 4:49 am