Mapping Surveying Guidelines

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Map surveys went way too fucking long without having any sort of understood standard, so we're fixing that shit now. Here's a description from start to finish on how to fucking survey maps.

A brief summary is as follows:

  1. Get map submissions.
  2. Make sure the submitted maps are legal for use.
  3. Run legal maps through Quality Control for feedback.
  4. Run Multimap Survey to narrow the map submissions down to a single map.
  5. Get submissions of alternate versions of the map that won the Multimap Survey.
  6. Run Multiversion Survey to narrow the version submissions down to a single map.
  7. Confirm the map.
  8. Improve the map based on demo feedback (basically another Multiversion Survey).

Map Submission Period

The very first thing to happen is that a submission period opens for maps. The submission period may vary, but it should be at least 2 weeks. Each set of surveys will cover a few locations, but only ones which connect to an already-mapped location (either directly or through another map(s) in the same set).

Maps should be made in RPG Maker XP, because that's what we're using to make our game. You can get a free trial of RMXP, so there's no excuse for not being able to do this. However, we will also allow maps made in other ways (e.g. other map-making programs, Paint), so long as they're made with actual tiles and look exactly how they will look in-game at the end. Drawings of maps are not allowed, not even quite accurate ones. It's tiles or nothing.

When making a map, try not to draw tiles in places where the player will never see. Just leave those areas blank. This only applies to parts around the edge of the map; the centre of an O or a U should still have the centre mapped even if it can't be seen by the player.

A map should be submitted by uploading it to the Dropbox. If you don't have access, feel free to ask. There is a main folder called "1 New Map Submissions", and inside that are folders for each location. Inside those is one folder per submitted map, so you should make a folder for your own map (name it something useful, like your name) and put the relevant files in there.

The things you need to submit are:

  • The map file itself ("MapXXX.rxdata", taken from the Data folder of the RMXP project you made your map in) (if it's an RMXP map).
  • The tileset you used to make that map. (Do NOT use the huge tileset. Make a shorter one with just the tiles you need.)
  • The autotiles you used to make that map. Preferably you will also include an explanation (e.g. text file) of the order of those autotiles.
  • One full map screenshot. There is a handy program that can make such screenshots here.

If you make multiple versions (minor differences only) of your submitted map, be sure to differentiate them appropriately (e.g. make sure it's easy to tell which screenshot goes with each map file).

If you make two different maps for the same location, make separate folders for them within the location's folder, because they're different maps and should be kept separate. Don't just throw everything you make into a single folder.

Getting the tiles and autotiles

All of our tiles are available on the Dropbox, in the "Tiles". In there are all the individual tiles, organised in some fashion, as are the autotiles (which should only be animated tiles, because we're only allowed 7 per map). There are also a number of base tilesets, which you can use to get you started. Just add extra tiles on the end.

You may or may not notice that in the main Dropbox folder is a huge tileset called EXPERIMENTAL. Do not use this tileset! It is simply too long for RMXP and the game to cope with, and is now somewhat out of date anyway.

Please note that the "Tiles" folder is currently being reorganised. Just bear with it.

If you can't find a tile you need, use a placeholder. It will be replaced later. The placeholder can either be a similar tile, a splice of a tile, an image grabbed from the Internet, a quick lump of pixels thrown together in Paint, or anything else you might do to make a placeholder tile. It would be best if you include a note with your map submission about the placeholder(s), if you feel it's not self-explanatory.

Map Legality Check

Main article: Detailed Guide to Map Legality

Once the map submission period ends, each map submission is legality checked. This process makes sure that a map fits all of our canonical and technical needs. This process is done internally by MapChat, although the rules by which a map is deemed legal or not are readily available here.

All maps submitted will be checked to make sure they fulfil the following requirements:

  • Accuracy to the Region Map - Make sure your maps match the Region Map™ as well as they are supposed to. Briefly, this entails the following:
    • Concept - For towns, make sure the map matches the motif/theme given on the Region Map™ for it (e.g. Ossia must be a city on an island). For routes, pay attention to the biome colors on the Region Map™ so you know what type of route it is. If a route has multiple colors, keep in mind the relative proportions of each color (e.g. Route 6 has both grasslands and a bridge, but the bridge portion should be the majority of the map). Also follow any other confirmed details about that location.
    • Spatial - The map must match the size and shape dictated by the Region Map™. If a map is horizontal, don't make a vertical map and vice versa. Maps should not overlap.
  • Fulfils all technical requirements - Including:
    • No black void - The player should never be able to see the black void at the edge of a map. Make sure there are enough "buffer" tiles around the accessible areas (a distance of 6 vertically and 8 horizontally) to prevent the player from ever being able to get close enough to the edge of the map to see it.
    • Custom tileset - Your map must NOT use the giant-ass tileset. Just don't, okay? Make your own out of the tiles we have on the Dropbox (which also has some base tilesets to get you started).
    • Correct connections to other maps - If the map connects to another one, the boundary of that connection must be at the very edge of the map (because maps only connect at their edges).
    • Trainers included (for routes only) - Trainer placement is just as important for map design as obstacles or tall grass. If you are mapping a route, you must include trainers. These trainers are subject to change after the map is confirmed, but they should be included at least temporarily.

If a map fails the legality check, it has 1 week to be fixed and re-submitted. A re-submitted map is not guaranteed any more time to fix problems if it still fails the legality check.

Brand new maps can also be submitted during this 1 week. They will also be legality checked. However, as with re-submitted maps, they are not guaranteed any amount of time to fix any legality problems they may have. They should operate under the assumption that they either pass or fail.

Quality Control Feedback Survey

The maps that pass the legality checks then go into Quality Control. This takes the form of a feedback survey, an official means for people to comment on maps and suggest improvements. This survey lasts for 7 days.

Factors to bear in mind when examining a map (not just in QC but at any other time) include:

  • Readability - This is how easy it is to tell which parts of the map are accessible. The player should be easily able to see where they can and cannot go.
  • Pacing - For a map to have good pacing, there needs to be something to interest the player throughout the map. The mapper must make sure there aren't long stretches of nothing going on. Whether the "silence" is broken up by a battle or a landmark or a change in direction, the player should not go for a long time without something to break the monotony of the map. On the flip side, too much stuff going on can also ruin pacing. An over-abundance of battles (trainers and tall grass) can lead to over-leveling and too many landmarks in a small space can looked cluttered.
  • Decoration - This factor overlaps with the other two. This is about the choice of tiles used for the map. Don't confuse this with the quality of tiles chosen, because tiles can be improved if necessary. Decoration is how the mapper sets the visual atmosphere and theme of the map, and how well this is accomplished.

The QC Feedback Survey will ask about all of the above factors, as well as general thoughts. For the record, the wording of these questions will be:

  1. "How is the readability of this map? Is it clear to the player where they can and cannot go? Is it obvious where the player should move in order to proceed?"
  2. "How is the pacing? How is the spacing/number of trainers, wild grass, obstacles, items and other landmarks? What about the length of the path taken? (Bear in mind the point of the game at which you will first encounter this map.)"
  3. "How is the use of decoration? Does the choice of decoration set an appropriate atmosphere for this map?"
  4. "Other thoughts/suggestions for this map?"

Post-QC Map Revision Period

Once the QC Feedback Survey is complete, mappers will have a period of time (exact length may vary, typically 1 or 2 weeks) to make changes to any maps (if they so desire). They can make their own changes to other people's maps if they so desire - the maps will all be on the Dropbox for easy access.

Revisions should be submitted in the same way as the originals were. These revisions are also subject to legality checks.

Multimap Survey

After the post-QC revision period has ended, all submitted maps will be surveyed in the Multimap Survey. The alternative maps of each location will be pitted against each other, in order to narrow them down to one apiece. If a location only has one map (including versions of that map), then it skips this step. This survey lasts for 7 days.

Some maps may have multiple versions, i.e. they are basically the same but vary in a few small ways (such as the structure of a hedge maze). Such maps will be grouped together and voted on as one (deciding the best version comes later).

Each map will be shown by its full screenshot, as well as at least 3 in-game screenshots (i.e. of the game screen's size). Walk-through webm's may also be included, if they are feasible.

Each map is rated on a love/like/neutral/dislike/hate scale, which have scores of +2/+1/0/-1/-2 respectively. If no maps for a location receive a positive score, then that location is dropped from the current set of surveys and will be redone in a future set of surveys. Each map will also have a comment box for voters to leave feedback on it.

If more than one map for a location receives a positive score, then there will be run-off surveys. Those maps will be ranked against each other, with the highest ranked map winning (unless any maps have at least 0.75x the score of the highest ranked map, in which case the selection will just be narrowed down to just those maps for more run-off surveys; each successive run-off survey will eliminate at least one map until there is a winner).

If the winning map was not made in RMXP, then MapChat will recreate that map as a proper RMXP map during this time. It will be available for everyone to access shortly after the end of the Multimap Survey. The next step will not begin until it is in RMXP format. From here on, maps can only be worked on in proper RMXP format.

Version Submission Period

Once a location has a single winning map (even if it has multiple versions), another map submission period will open to accept more versions of that winning map. This submission period lasts for 1 week.

Anyone can make a version of a map. Changes made should be minimal, to retain the same layout and feel and character of the original. The size and shape of the map must remain the same, and the connections to other maps must remain in the same places. Obviously the kinds of changes that would be allowed are subjective (ultimately decided on by MapChat), so just try to be reasonable and not completely replace too much.

New versions of a map must be made in RMXP. The files for the winner of the Multimap Survey will be available for you to edit into a new version.

New versions should be submitted in the same way as the originals were (i.e. in a new folder of the Dropbox).

Multiversion Survey

If, at the end of the version submission period, a location has multiple versions of its map, they are then surveyed in the Multiversion Survey. The versions are pitted against each other, in order to narrow them down to one apiece. If a location only has one version of its map, then it skips this step. This survey lasts for 7 days.

This survey works the same way as the Multimap Survey, minus its first round asking whether each separate version is liked or not. Versions are ranked immediately.

Fixing Approved Maps

By now, we will have exactly one winning map for each location. These winning maps now have the status of "approved". This means it is the single candidate map for being the official map of that location, which has beaten off all contenders, and all that's left is to confirm it by making sure at least 66% of the voters are happy to have it (see the next step).

Approved maps will then be modified, if necessary, to correct any issues with them. These can include technical issues such as fit with the Region Map™ or other maps (e.g. making sure trees match up seamlessly across maps), and various visual things that need fixing (e.g. tile errors, outdated tiles, replacing placeholder tiles). Odds are that this won't take long and won't change much.

This process is done internally by MapChat.

Map Confirmation Survey

Finally, approved maps need to be "confirmed". A confirmed map means the map is properly official and accepted for use in our game, and will be used. It is closed to changes now, except to fix technical problems. Note that the positions of trainers/NPCs and tall grass can still be changed where deemed appropriate (what this means is TBD).

Map confirmation is straightforward. Voters will be asked whether or not they approve of the map being confirmed. The Confirmation Survey introduction should include an explanation of what it means for a map to be confirmed, as well as a copy of the Region Map™.

A map must gain 66% or more of the vote in order to be confirmed. If the map is not confirmed, the process for that map's location will either return to the Version Submission Period (if the map got over 50%), or begin from scratch (if the map got 50% or lower). If the map returns to the Version Submission Period but then fails to get 66% again in the Confirmation Survey, it begins from scratch.

EXTRA: Post-Demo Changes

This section is not a part of the above process, although it duplicates (part of) it. Please note that the exact details of this haven't been fully worked out yet.

Once a confirmed map appears in a demo, it becomes open to changes inspired by demo feedback. It will be surveyed against any versions featuring such changes (if any).

Mappers will have an opportunity to submit changes to that map, based on any issues or suggestions raised by the demo feedback for that map. The process of assessing these changed maps against the original is the same as the above process, starting from the Multiversion step (i.e. ignoring map legality/QC/Multimap). The changed map submissions count as submissions made in the Version Submission Period.

The original map will automatically be included in this process. It will use the latest versions of its tiles, if any have been updated, to show what the map will look like without any extra changes.

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