On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by…
It would be tough to argue the importance of fields and roads on a FS17 map, there’s not much point in playing without the fields and roads are come in handy when moving between field and silo. With that in mind I’d like to share a few thoughts on these key elements, bear in mind though, these are the thoughts and experiences of someone on their first map build so it’s very likely there are better ways of getting things done.
For those unfamiliar with the Giants editor paved roads are typically objects selected from the scenegraph and placed on the map, while dirt roads are usually pained on the map using the Terrain Detail Texture Paint mode. The paved road objects are commonly broken into sections and a road is built by linking these sections together. These road sections can be exported from an existing map or downloaded as an asset on sites such as FSUK or modhoster. Typically the available road sections will vary in length, be either strait or curved, and either flat, increase or decrease in elevation.
Unfortunately I haven’t yet seen a road kit where these sections ‘snap’ together* meaning that getting them to align well enough to give the impression of one continuous road can be a time consuming and painstaking undertaking. Gaps between sections are easily seen in game and overlapping sections too much causes a flickering effect, both of which can be immersion killers. The challenge in getting it to look right is even more difficult when the road will change elevation rather than to a road which is perfectly flat.
There are a few more factors that should be considered when choosing road objects for a map as they do play into whether or not the road feels right for the map. These factors are the width of the lane, the texture of the road surface and the markings on the road. There are a number of road kit options that I looked at but none of them felt right for this map. They either felt too narrow in width for a road in North America or the texture made them look freshly paved which doesn’t necessarily typify a rural road. While the blocks that run along the edge of the roads in Gold Crest Valley are not something you’d usually see on an American road, the GCV roads had a width and texture that felt like it would work for this map, and in the end that what I went with.
The GCV roads had a few more things going for them and a few going against them. The road sections in GCV are for the most part fairly long, much longer than the sections in most road kits. The advantage of this is that you need to lay down fewer sections which mean fewer edges to line up (remember earlier on I mentioned what a time consuming process this can be). The disadvantage is the longer sections can be more difficult to place as their axis of rotation is further from the ends of the road section, making individual sections harder to work with. While the individual road sections in the kits are strait, turn left, or turn right, in GCV the strait and curved parts are combined into a single section. The GCV sections also incorporate elevation changes, and most of these elevation changes while suited to a mountainous map like Gold Crest were a bit too severe for a hilly map like Nagce Valley. Fortunately there were two or three sections from GCV that suited my purpose though this forced my hand on another design consideration.
One of the challenges facing the map designer is what to do with the road where it runs off the edge of the map. Some maps get around this by using a ring road that loops back on itself but never leaves the map. This can lead to the map having a toy train set feel to it though a few skilled map makers have pulled it off to good effect. The other option, running the road off the map, leaves the map maker with two problems, how to physically stop the player from driving off the map, and how to visually convey that the road comes to an end in a way that doesn’t put an end to the player’s sense of immersion.
The physical stop can easily be accomplished through the use of an invisible barrier; it will certainly stop you, but hitting an unseen wall doesn't do much for game play. The visual cues require some suspension of disbelief (we are living in a 2km x 2km world afterall) but are generally effective at convincing the player to turn around and go the other way. Here are two great examples.
Talking about roads ran on a bit longer that I had intended, I'll cover fields somewhere down the road.
* there is an alternative in which roads are constructed by laying down a spline, but I haven’t really looked into that option. Perhaps the next time around.