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Why map design is key to making your strategy game feel alive

"It has to make you dream and find beautiful what you find," Amplitude's Romain de Waubert de Genlis told Rock, Paper, Shotgun in a discussion with genre devs about storytelling in strategy games.

Alex Wawro

June 29, 2017

2 Min Read

"It has to make you dream and find beautiful what you find. You need to be able to read it, understand it, and yet it needs to make you dream."

- Amplitude Studios' Romain de Waubert de Genlis, speaking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun about why he believes map design is key to making your strategy game feel alive.

What is it, specifically, about your strategy game that makes players feel like they're reaching into a living, breathing world?

That was the core query Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently put to a posse of strategy game designers from Firaxis Games, Amplitude Studios, and Paradox Interactive. The resulting feature contains some interesting dev insight, especially if you're looking to make your own strategy game.

A key theme touched upon by all three interviewees was the importance of map design. According to Amplitude Studios creative director Romain de Waubert de Genlis, a strategy game needs a readable, accessible map that will "make you dream." 

At the same time, Paradox Development Studio's Johan Andersson suggested that using historical maps in games like Europa Universalis makes the games feel much more real and alive to players who know their history. And at Firaxis, vibrant map design is key to both showing players what's going on and enticing them to care.

"[We] felt like if we came up with a consistent style, if we made everything in the game world animate and move and be lit and have a different state whether there was a citizen working that tile or not working that tile, all of a sudden the graphics were going to bring to life exactly what was happening in our game world," said Civilization VI lead designer Ed Beach. "That was going to be a powerful tool to draw our players in and engage them."

For more comments from the trio of strategy game designers about how they each approach the challenge of creating the illusion of living, breathing worlds in their games, check out the full RPS feature.  

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