Mapping Starter Guide

This document is not yet complete.


Introduction to Mapping

Making a map within Starcraft is deceptively complex, and in that way, the process of learning the skill of mapmaking reflects the process of learning how to play the game itself - it is easy to grasp fundamentals, but difficult to master in totality. As with anything worth doing, mapmaking at a high level is difficult, and it will take time and purposeful practice to learn to do it well. Good mapmaking also requires a high level understanding of the gameplay loop you intend to facilitate, as without this, your maps will likely prohibit certain strategies or playstyles, and disproportionately reward others in ways you didn't intend.

A great advantage Starcraft mapmaking has over level design in other games is that it is incredibly easy to create a "greybox" - a functional, if visually barren, battleground that can be tested as many times as you like. Experienced mapmakers can produce functional layouts in under an hour, compared to the significantly higher design times of 3D games. The tools available to Starcraft mapmakers provide additional provisions for this purpose, such as X-Y and rotational symmetries, and custom mpq support.

Making maps in Starcraft has quite literally never been easier than the current year, with thousands of examples and lessons in the form of the maps and mapmakers that came before you, as well as the most robust toolkit the game has hitherto seen. It is my aim to provide a concise set of steps to help get you started with making maps, and only then bloviating in far too many words to explain my level design philosophies.


Tools

SCMDraft 2 (prerelease builds)
The de facto map editor for Starcraft, developed and maintained by SuicidalInsanity (aka SI).
Check the prerelease builds page for new features.

The Python Modding Suite ("PyMS") and Firegraft are also useful for referencing data and preparing custom mpq files for SCMDraft.
Refer to the Modding Starter Guide for installation instructions.

This guide assumes you are running SCMDraft 2 with Starcraft version 1.16.1, which can be installed by following the Installation Guide.


Setup

The following documentation is accurate for version 0.9.10 and (presumably) newer.

In this section, I will teach you how to set up SCMDraft to function with custom mpq settings. This information is paramount for modders, and for mappers who want to analyze the work of modders.

After installing SCMDraft 2 and running the program, you'll be greeted with the screen below:

Preserve the default profile if you want. Mine has the Framework mpq in it. We'll make a new profile to show you the process of adding a custom mpq to a fresh profile. Click "New…" on the right, select the "Game Data" tab, and double check the installation path that SCMDraft 2 detects. If your 1.16.1 installation is somewhere other than the displayed location, select "Custom", then "Browse", and find your installation directory. It should be the same folder that your Starcraft.exe is located.

Once you've verified that your installation path is correct, select "Custom MPQ settings (mods etc)" from the "Game Version" dropdown bar. Then in the "Add MPQ" section, select "Browse" and select your stardat.mpq, broodat.mpq, and patch_rt.mpq files. After that, select your custom mpq, and make sure it's sorted to the bottom. You can use the Project: HYDRA mpq if you don't have a custom one handy.

When you are finished with your setup, your "Game Data" section should look like this:


You can further customize the other sections to your liking before pressing "OK". You can verify that your changes took into effect by opening a map and checking to see if new units and structures appear for placement. If new entities are there, you've finished your setup successfully, and can now begin making your maps with new tilesets and other features. If you were unable to launch SCMDraft and you've already retraced your steps through this guide, contact me.

Design Principles

Coming soon.