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Shijia Valley - Exclusive Dev Interview
Tactical Gamer’s very own AFSoccer has put together a new map for Battlefield 2 Project Reality – Shijia Valley. Shijia Valley is a 4 kilometer map pitting the forces of the United Kingdom against China in a superbly modeled environment of rolling hills and custom generated urban environments, dissected through the center by a large river. Shijia Valley has been highly rated by play testers at Tactical Gamer, garnering many positive comments.
"No BS, no bias, this is the most impressive map I have ever seen. Without doubt this map allows for so many varied rounds it is remarkable." - A.WICKENS, Game Officer and XO Tactical Gamer Project Reality
"This map is all other type of maps in one. There are some places for Infantry close quarters, some for tank battles and some for combined arms and so on. There is something for everyone in this map." - Donrhos, Tactical Gamer Project Reality Administrator
"…graphical environment is stunningly beautiful." - desant_1, Tactical Gamer Supporting Member
"Currently Shijia is the most well made map around. The immersion factor and attention to detail is second to none." -dtacs, Tactical Gamer Supporting Member
"Simply the best map in PR." - Masterjack, Tactical Gamer Supporting Member
"The atmosphere of the whole map is just simply amazing….great map." - AnimalMother, Tactical Gamer Supporting Member
The feedback was unanimous from the play-testers, the best dammed Project Reality map we have seen to date. Players are certainly looking forward to it being in the main rotations on the Project Reality server as soon as possible.
AFSoccer is a veteran here at Tactical Gamer, but more impressively he is a 10 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. AFSoccer served as an air traffic control / airfield operations commander during his time in the military, and took his Tactical Gamer name from playing soccer on several Air Force teams during his service. His ability to serve as commander on the Tactical Gamer Project Reality server has also recently earned him a Level 5 Distinguished Commander Ribbon – the only one in our community to date. His unique insight into the Project Reality commander role has clearly enhanced his ability to make an awesome, realistic, and highly playable Project Reality map. The level of detail is astounding and the visual appeal is unprecedented.
Tactical Gamer Project Reality Administration team is hosting an internal scrimmage competition in the next several weeks, and Shijia Valley was chosen for the event. It will be the first time Shijia Valley is used for a full server populated to 62 players, so expectations are running high at Tactical Gamer. Stay tuned to Tactical Gamer Project Reality forums for dates and sign up information.
The following interview was conducted with AFSoccer on February 20, 2011 to discuss the origins of the new Shijia Valley map and to capture some of his thoughts on map design. AFSoccer was kind enough to share his inspiration for the project and has some advise for any would be map designers out there. Here is a transcript of the interview:
TMAN: So, I looked up Shijia online and I didn’t find much that could explain why you chose that name for your map. It was either a Taiwanese Pineapple, or a city in NE China. Why did you choose the name Shijia Valley? Is there some significance to it, or was it just a good sounding name?
AFSoccer: A pineapple, eh? I didn't know that. But your second guess is correct. Shijia Valley is a real location in central China, on the border between the provinces of Henan and Hubei. The river that runs through the middle is called the Danjiang River.
AFSoccer: Since Project Reality focuses on realism, I thought it would be good to base the map on a real location. I picked this area because I thought the terrain was perfect for a 4km PR map (as it has a bit of everything) and because I felt that the influx of desert maps left the wooded maps under-represented. Obviously I had to modify the area to meet the needs of PR so it would have interesting control points, etc., but as much as possible I tried to stay true to the real Shijia Valley.
TMAN: Shijia Valley is huge. The amount of detail you put into the map is impressive. How long did it take to make the map?
AFSoccer: I had no idea how big a 4km map really was until I had to map one! Also, as you mentioned, this 4km map is different than most because there really aren't any empty areas. Basically, I wanted to make sure that no matter where you were on the map that it felt like a real place and there was something interesting to look at and fight over.
The history of the map actually started way back in April 2009 when |TG-6th|Charity Case posted in the forums that he was thinking about making a larger version of Qwai River and was looking for input. In the [post], I sent him some ideas of map locations. Well, if you look at the second link [in the post], it's Shijia Valley. Charity didn't end up making a map, but during the 2009 Christmas break I decided I'd give it a try... and a year later I finished. That's a little longer than most 4km maps take (they average 8-10 months), but considering it was my first and I spent a lot of time on the details, I think it was worth it. Hopefully you guys will think so too.
TMAN: Using the map editor is not easy. I have tried to figure it out and can't even get anything to work properly. How long did it take for you to learn the map editor, and what is the best tip you can give people that are considering making a map?
AFSoccer: The BF2 Editor is definitely not user friendly. As with BF2, the software is over five years old so it struggles with the size maps and amount of modding that we use it for today. For those of you that use BF2CC (the admin software), it's a lot like that. When you click a button, you hold your breath for a second and hope it doesn't crash. However, once you get used to its quirks and learn to back-up your files often, it's actually a pretty remarkable (and free) modding tool.
When I first started mapping, I spent only 20% of my time actually accomplishing anything and 80% reading the tutorials and trying to figure stuff out. Luckily, there is a pretty extensive list of tutorials in the PR modding section [located at]
and at BFEditor.org
so although it took time, I enjoyed most of the learning process. As for tips, I would say be patient. Take the time to read through the tutorials, and take a break and come back to it if you get frustrated. Most of the problems we see aren't new, so I would also recommend using the search function on both PR and BFEditor.org. Also, I am on x-fire and check the modding forums several times a day, so reach out for support if you hit a brick wall. It also helps to find a partner in crime. When I first started, Disposable and Rudd were both very helpful. Not only did they pass on technical expertise, but they provided encouragement during those times when you want to throw your computer out the window. But it really isn't all gloom... although the initial learning curve is a bit rough, I now find mapping to be very relaxing and a great creative outlet.
TMAN: There are 2 flag locations near to their respective mains - GB Supply Line and Uranium Mine. These are very close to the main bases and will likely affect the map if either team has to fall back to their last non-main base flag. What was your intent placing these where they are and will these always be in play in every flag layout?
AFSoccer: Good question. There are basically two answers:
PR is moving away from having main bases that are actual flags, so you'll rarely see that anymore. This helps discourage spawn camping and other problems. As a result, the last flag is typically near main and critical for the team to defend if it comes into play.
The premise of my map is that the British Armed Forces are trying to secure a uranium mine in central China to prevent the further development of nuclear weapons (in an imaginary future conflict). Thus, the uranium mine is the last objective and all AASv4 routes will lead to it. As for the British, they are in a foreign land and logistics are what feed an army... thus their first control point is their supply line (which is a civilian train depot that they've commandeered). If they don't have that, then they can't mount an offensive.
TMAN: Train Bridge is a unique and prominent feature to Shijia Valley. What made you make such a huge bridge? Was there a type of fight you are hoping to spur on with the bridge, or did you just think it would be really cool to make a huge bridge?
AFSoccer: Well, I have to be honest. When I first thought about building a train bridge I didn't fully realize how long it would have to be to cross the river, but in the end I really liked it. It's a flag that I'm very curious to see how it plays out. As everyone will see, the radius doesn't extend to the banks, so to hold it, it will take a team effort and you'll likely have to secure both sides. But the reason I like it is because that's reality. After all, if an army needs to secure a bridge so it can cross a river, they don't just sit on one side, right?!
TMAN: The map has a ton of very cool features and locations. What is your favorite place on the map and why?
AFSoccer: Oh wow, that's a hard one. I have three that immediately come to mind: 1) the epicenter flag, 2) the orchard, and 3) Old Town. As for why: 1) The forest fire turned out more realistic than I thought it would and to this day it still makes me stop and watch it, which could be really dangerous if someone is shooting at me. LOL 2) The orchard is pretty distinctive... oh, and a bit spooky. Don't go in there alone! 3) Old Town has a lot of narrow alleyways where you could get lost or ambushed (or both). Plus, the canals turned out pretty cool and I think it will be a really fun place for infantry.
TMAN: The river is a large component of the overall map terrain. When building it, what considerations did you think through for crossings and the channeling of forces across the map? Did you specifically make crossings for channeling troops and movement, or did you lay them out evenly to allow for evenly spaced opportunities to cross?
AFSoccer: Well, I can't give up all of the map's secrets, can I? Some of it you'll have to explore to find out. But... I once again tried to base the map's river off the real location, and when I looked up reference photos for the area I found that during the non-flood season the river has many shallow areas. So, I think you guys will be happy with the mix of options. The last thing I wanted was the river to create a stalemate or "turtle'ing" of the teams with one on each side... and I don't think you'll see that.
TMAN: In designing the vehicle layout, what were your primary considerations? Had you at any point considered using jets on this map, as it is large enough to support that.
AFSoccer: At the very beginning, I tried to incorporate jets into the map, but that was mostly because I didn't want to close off any options at that stage of the map's design. After much thought and feedback from other players and mappers, I decided not to have jets. That also fit into my mindset of making an infantry-focused 4km map, which are few and far between.
As of right now, the standard layer has attack helos, transport helos, AA vehicles, tanks, APCs, 4x4 vehicles, and trucks. The alternate layer has transport helos, APCs, more 4x4 vehicles, and more trucks. And finally, there is a skirmish16 layer that is just infantry in the city. Oh, and the 64 and 32 layers have two RIBs per team that spawn on the river. If I did my job right, it should make for a fun time for everyone; even the infantry.
TMAN: This map features China vs. Great Britain. What made you choose these sides? Had you considered other factions that would be good for this fight?
AFSoccer: Obviously the PLA were an easy choice since the mission takes place in China... but for the attacking forces I went back and forth. In the end it came down to the British because they were lacking maps and I thought would be a good fit.
TMAN: How much assistance did you get from the Project Reality forums and community? In taking on a project of this magnitude, did you need to coordinate closely with them in the development?
AFSoccer: The PR modding forums are a great resource, for sure. Not only are there lots of tutorials, but if you take the time to search you can find almost any answer you're looking for when it comes to mapping. As I mentioned earlier, you can also reach out to the R-DEVs and R-CONs that way and get feedback, which is really important. I rely on Rhino a lot and as I mentioned earlier, Rudd was a huge help to me when I was first learning. Also, I have taken a few of the newer mappers under my wing and I know the other DEVs and R-CONs do the same... so yeah, try to find a connection with one of the more experienced mappers. It can make all the difference.
TMAN: Is this map going to be part of any future release of PR or BF3?
AFSoccer: Yes. Shijia Valley is scheduled to be released with the next version of PR.
TMAN: Shijia Valley is going to be used for the upcoming internal TG scrim. How do you feel about that, and are you excited that your work is going to be used by the TG community for a high profile event?
AFSoccer: It's funny you ask this because during the development of Shijia Valley there were two or three times where I sent the map files to some TG-6th buddies and had them load into the map with me (to get feedback, etc.). During these test sessions, I kept telling them how weird it was to have them in Shijia Valley. I know this will sound weird, but when you spend so much time "in a map" and you're the only one there, it's really exciting to have someone there with you. Maybe the seeder guys will be able to relate with this. (LOL) So yeah, having the map used for a scrim with 62 people on it will be a lot of fun!
TMAN: Are you planning to make any more maps? If so, can you share your thoughts on other good maps that would be fun to make?
AFSoccer: Sure. I've already started my second map, which will be 2km. Since I liked how the forest fire / earthquake area turned out on Shijia Valley (and since I read some forum posts about how people wanted more destroyed areas on maps), I decided the premise of my new map would be a flood in China. There have also been lots of news stories lately about floods there, so I thought it would be interesting. It will be a bit of a challenge to make it look realistic, so wish me luck.
In closing I want to take a minute to thank the DEVs, R-CONs and community mappers for all of the exceptional work that they do. I appreciate, now more than ever, how much work goes into making PR and I'm just so glad to finally be able to give back. Thanks guys!
That concludes the interview with AFSoccer on his new Project Reality map - Shijia Valley.
I also want to thank him for taking the time to share this insight with the Tactical Gamer community on his lengthy project and awesome outcome. Moreover, I would like to thank him on behalf of the Tactical Gamer community and Project Reality community worldwide for his hard work and dedication on this awesome map. The weeks and months of work that went into this map are given without any compensation to the community – a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. AFSoccer has really contributed a great deal to everyone's gaming experience and I think we all owe him a great deal of thanks.
Thanks again AFSoccer, and we all really look forward to the upcoming scrim and the eventual release of Shijia Valley in the next release of Project Reality!
|TG-189th|_TMANPosting comments is disabled.
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