Interview with AoE II map creator Chrazini (Part 2)

The amazing tournament, Battle of Africa 2, which conclucded recently, wouldn’t have been so good if it hadn’t been for Chrazini’s created maps. In the second part of the interview with the map wizard, we talk about the time taken for creating maps, part civilizations might play in the process and the ranked map making pool, amongst other things. If you haven’t cheked out part 1 of the interview yet, check it out here:

Part one: Interview with AoE II map creator Chrazini (Part 1)

This interview consists of a lot of good questions from the AoE II community. Thank you to everyone who submitted the questions.

How long does it usually take you to create a map?

I’ve had maps that have taken me about 30 minutes to make, and I’ve had some that have taken me several days. Due to Age of Empires II being an ancient game these days, the toolkit we have as map scripters is somewhat limited. Something that might look incredibly simple and easy to make from a player’s perspective might require hundreds or thousands lines of code from the scripters perspective. This is one of the things that I adore the most about random map scripting – our tools are somewhat limited, but we can use these tools in some incredibly creative ways to achieve amazing things. Due to the tiny, yet amazing, community surrounding map scripting, I’m still learning and discovering new things today. How long does it take me to create a map? It depends. I’d say a couple of hours mostly.

When designing maps, do you take civilizations into
consideration? Like the Celts using their fast wood chopping bonus to chop to
the edge on Desert Slope and deny entry to the outside for the opposing team.

That’s a tough one. I want to say that I’m conscious about
the civilizations and their bonuses. Very early on in my map-making ‘career’, I
decided that I wouldn’t let civilizations dictate my designs in a way that
might limit creativity. This has definitely resulted in some of my maps having
clear favorite civilizations, but I wholeheartedly believe that ignoring the civilizations
to a certain degree will oftentimes allow the creator to come up with something
unique and exciting.

I see it this way; if I’m in a position to create a new, fun and balanced experience with a design that favors one particular civilization out of 35, I see no reason not to do it – it would be a shame to limit yourself because of one imperfect variable. Players or tournament hosts can easily set up rules to disallow certain civilizations if they deem them too powerful on certain maps, and then you’re left with something unique and fantastic for the remaining 34 civilizations to enjoy.

Which map was played a lot differently than intended in BoA 2, if any?

Desert Slope was played somewhat differently than I had originally hoped for. It’s a map with minimal food around the player’s initial town centers, so I had expected the middle to be a much more contested area in general. In hindsight, the elephants or rhinos made it so that the players were able to sort of avoid the middle and merely lure the food to their town centers. While it seems quite apparent that this would happen, I’m willing to admit that this was a small oversight and that the middle was supposed to be a place of chaos and lots of early fighting. It was, to a certain extent, but to a lesser degree than I had expected. This doesn’t mean that this was a bad thing though, as I think we had plenty of chaotic maps in the map pool already, and the games on this map were quite refreshing and enjoyable nevertheless. The rest of the maps was pretty close to what I had envisioned, but the professional players always manage to surprise me with their excellent strategies.

What’s the map you’re the proudest of and why?

I’m going to give you the, properly, most boring answer and say; I don’t know. I’ve made so many maps at this point, and almost every map has some story and memory behind it. Many of them use different techniques to achieve something distinctive. We can get slightly technical and go back a year or two when I was developing maps for the Voobly platform. Features were lacking, and it wasn’t possible to consistently and reliably control the way players spawned around the map – there was simply too much variation in the distance to the middle and the players. This is still the case on my many maps. However; I decided to spend two weeks developing a sort of base-script consisting of 16000 lines of code that allowed players to be spawn in a perfect circle around the map. I could then use this on all my maps to gain more control over how players spawned. This was later implemented on Definitive Edition, and you could achieve the same thing with just one line of code – but it still feels like such an achievement. If I’m ever to develop maps on Voobly again, I will most certainly go back to using that.

What do you reckon is the most interesting resource
balance and placement in an aoe2 map, in terms of gameplay (in one big spot in
the middle or scattered around the map, etc.)?

The most balanced distribution of resources is probably the standard distribution. It takes all civilization bonuses into account, and the entire player base is used to it; however, I will always encourage people to try new and interesting setups. It’s generally a good idea to stay close to the standard distribution, but you can make a few variations here and there without taking huge risks. I personally like to make what I call objective-oriented maps. Maps where the only way to win isn’t simply destroying the enemy base, but rather take control of certain parts of the maps. I absolutely adore maps that have these crucial areas, for example, the gold on Gold Rush, the deer on Steppe or the ponds on Cross. You’ll see the same thing on certain Battle of Africa 2 maps. It adds another layer of complexity that I’m quite fond of.

Do you have any thoughts on making Arabia better? Will King
of the Desert 3 be the same Arabia as always or will there be any changes?

I’ve been refining Arabia ever since I started making maps. It’s one of the maps that I always go back to whenever new features are added, or new discoveries are made. When I design competitive maps, there is one thing I value higher than almost anything else, and that’s consistency. Consistency is one of the most important factors to keep in mind when designing competitive maps. As a player, you should never be unsure about how the map is laid out, and the structural designs of a map should rarely change in a way that could significantly change the way the map is played. There are exceptions to this, such as community maps that are specially made to create uneven playing fields, Mega Random and Nomad.  But even Nomad must have enough consistency in its design to create an enjoyable experience. What I’m trying to say is that I’m always looking to create the fairest experience available without sacrificing some of the random elements that make the game what it is. Expect the upcoming Arabia to have a more equitable distribution of forests and resources for both players, while still leaving enough room for the players to adapt to their maps.

What is your personal favorite map in the ranked pool?
Any thoughts on maps like Mega Random?

I have many thoughts about the official ranked map pool –
thoughts I probably shouldn’t be sharing. There are many things I’d personally
do different both in terms of map designs, but also just what maps I’d pick for
a ranked competitive environment. Forgotten Empires’ design philosophy is very
different from my own when it comes to what is acceptable for competitive maps.

What would your message be to aspiring map makers who
wish to get to your level?

Don’t be fooled; random map scripting is incredibly easy.
I’m not saying this to sound arrogant, but the basics of random map scripting are
very straightforward. Many commands and attributes are incredibly
self-explanatory, and you have thousands of different maps to learn and draw
inspiration from. As I mentioned earlier, the toolkit for making maps are
relatively limited – this means you can create something simple and playable
without much effort. Once you start to understand things better, you can begin
to use these tools in different and more complex ways and sort of manipulate
the game and create some more interesting results.

I personally think the easiest way to get started is to take
an already existing map, open it up in an editor and change some of the
parameters and see the results in-game. We have a great little RMS community,
and there are plenty of resources available for aspiring map makers out there
to use. I tend to go there in case I misremember anything. If you’re interested
in learning more about random map scripting, you can join our Discord here

Remember, when creating maps, you’re a designer, not a programmer!

What other games do you play? And what do you like doing
outside of gaming?

I like to play music, I’ve been playing the electric bass for about fifteen years now. I’m a multimedia student which means that I’ve been doing a little bit of everything when it comes to web design, video production, interface design and so on, but I’m looking to take a more concrete route towards front-end design in the future.

Thank you so much for taking the time Chrazini! Any

I have a tremendous amount of shoutouts, but some of them
probably aren’t as relevant as others. I’ve met so many amazing people over the
years, but I’ll try to keep it map related.

Zetnus – without him, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into
map scripting. He has definitely helped me and many other people ease into map
scripting by providing some fantastic guides. Big credit to him.

LynxAtArms – unfortunately, he rarely plays Age of Empires 2
these days, but he helped me immensely with getting my maps out there. He’s a
great friend and used to stream my maps all the time.

MembTV – this charismatic guy saw some talent in me and took
a leap of faith to help me take a bigger step into the Age of Empires 2
community. He has allowed me and my maps to be seen by others, and I’m very
lucky to know him. Without MembTV, I don’t see my maps having the same
influence as they have today.

HenkDeSuperNerd, TheMadCADer, AlgernonR and many more –
they’re all fantastic map makers part of the small community we have. Check out
their maps if you haven’t already – some of them are nuts.

Anvil – the clan or guild that I’m a member of. While it’s
not super map-related, they have certainly helped me with testing and with
motivation over the years.

There are many other great people that have had a significant influence on my maps, and there are many other fantastic people in the community that deserves mention, but this is an attempt to keep it manageable.

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