We’ve come across some wild stuff while working on this project, but nothing prepared me for just how challenging some of the maps were going to be to not only recreate (and stay true to the legacy map style), but to actually make them useful for players.
One of our biggest goals with Remapster is to make the absolute best and most accurate community versions of the zone maps that we can while still adhering to a style that pays homage to the reference material. Sure, it would have been easy and even faster to make vectorized, minimalistic, almost futuristic-looking versions of the maps. A lot of you would have probably been happy with that! But it defeated one of the core values of the project: to recreate the existing maps in high-definition and remain true to the character of FFXI.
So, what happens when you have an incredibly complex zone with an inversely simple map?
(ENTER ATTOHWA CHASM.)
I don’t think a zone exists in FFXI that has a starker contrast between its pathable terrain and its in-game map. I mean, look at this:
Let’s start with the most obvious part. You’ve got two large areas with a lot of low, bumpy hills pockmarking the landscape. What do you think as a player when you pop this bad boy open?
To me, at least, it reads like the terrain is bumpy, yet traversable. It’s still an open area, but you’re gonna be running up and down rolling hills most of the time. Is that how it actually is in-game?
Those wide open areas on the map? Yeah, they’re mazes. There are more mazes in this zone than in the Maze of Shakhrami, which has “maze” right in the title!
And how do you get from one side of this map to the other? Why, tunnels of course! But…
Where are the…
As you’ve probably surmised by now, none of the tunnels are visible or drawn. Now, let’s be fair, there are other maps in FFXI that have hidden tunnels; that’s not unique to Attohwa Chasm. But there are, like, a lot of them.
So how do we begin?
Well, thankfully, there are a few tools at our disposal. We are fortunate enough that there are still some websites online after all these years that are hosting some community maps that have tried to make sense of this absolute disaster of an area. Valiant efforts all, but hard to find any that truly capture the accuracy we want for Remapster.
What’s a video game cartographer to do? Why, tear open the video game, of course! Let’s get right at the guts – let’s rip that geometry mesh right out of the game files and really look at it closely.
Er, uh, okay. Um. Okay, this is… workable. At least I can see the tunnels more clearly! But there’s still the problem of those big spaces. How are we going to use this mess to get at our truly pathable terrain…?
The answer requires a bit of map surgery within our 3D suite.
I start by selecting all the polygon faces of the area I want to work on first. Let’s use the east side as our example.
Alright, great. Next, I wanna view this from a side view, and deselect polygons that a player character can walk on. We can get pretty darn close by drawing a selection fairly close to the “ground”.
That gets us roughly to here. Most of the polygons that rise above the ground plane are selected. Actually looks pretty cool…
I think you have probably guessed what’s next.
(presses Delete button)
Hot damn, now we’re getting somewhere! Everything in blue is, to the best of our ability, walkable! We might have missed a few small boulders, but in the end, that’s probably an acceptable level for Remapster purposes.
So we repeat this for the other side, and…
This is looking pretty helpful now! All that’s left to do is pull a screenshot of this into Photoshop and use it as a reference layer that we can trace.
After a few hours of drawing, we reach something like this:
Much more representative of the ground you can walk on, right? Now, it’s not an exact science, so we’re likely going to have a few spots in there that got missed due to terrain elevation and overhangs, etc., but we’re in really good shape!
So, to recap: by cross-referencing community drawn maps and manipulating the zone’s actual mesh geometry, we can get really, really close to polygon-perfect accuracy for zones that have really unhelpful maps.
Pretty neat, huh?
And yeah, we didn’t even come close to talking about the miasma streams that block certain pathways, or the narrow, precarious trail you have to take to the top of Parradamo Tor, but rest assured: Remapster’s got you covered there, too. 😉
Til’ next time!