When the PUP for the upcoming spring update was live, I enjoyed making several maps in the Essence Editor and found the grid-based map generator to be very interesting and useful.
After spending numerous hours using the map editor, I wanted to offer some feedback:
- Essence Editor Optimization:
Currently, I can play AOE 4, 8 player giant maps on high graphic settings very smoothly. I even tried some mods during the PUP which increased the pop limit to 500, and things still ran smooth. Unfortunately, I found that the Essence Editor is very laggy when navigating maps in the preview screen. Most times when selecting a rock, tree, or another object, it could take anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds before the item would respond and I could move or edit it. If the Essence Editor could be optimized to run as smoothly as the game, or smoother since player units are not active and moving in the editor, that would be a really wonderful quality of life improvement for those who want to make future custom content.
- River Start Points:
After some experimenting, I found there is a way to create a waterfall effect by placing high mountain tiles directly under the start of the River Spline in the grid-based map generation tool. Naturally, this led me to try creating mountains and dense forests in the middle of the map where rivers could originate from. Unfortunately I found that a river has to start and end on the edges of the map. It would be realy great if rivers could begin anywhere on the map, with the river fading into that start point (kind of like the trade routes in AOE 3, they visually fade in at a start point and fade out at the endpoints).
- River End Points:
I was excited to try connecting different bodies of water, streams to lakes, lakes to wide rivers, rivers to oceans, etc. However, I found that rivers are completely separate from other bodies of water and when placing water tiles underneath/around the river spline, the river left land on both sides of it, dividing it from the lake or ocean, causing a very unnatural look. Maybe there is a trick to this I’m missing, but after trying numerous attempts with elevations and water types I came to the conclusion that rivers weren’t designed for this. If the endpoints of rivers could blend into larger bodies of water and river end points could be anywhere on the map, this would create an awesome variety for map design.
- River Connections:
I was glad to see that multiple smaller rivers can be connected to one main river from multiple start points on one edge of the map, and that only one endpoint is required on the other end (the main river). It would be amazing though if multiple smaller streams could intersect and then create the wide river. Currently, the wider river still has to have a start point and endpoint with the same width. This would be another cool and natural-looking option. If the back half of the wide river could be removed and not void all the other rivers, that would be cool.
With these changes implemented, streams could originate from mountain waterfalls or springs anywhere on the map, gradually connecting to wider rivers, lakes, and ending in the ocean.
Along with the cool visual aspect of this, from a gameplay perspective, this could add a lot more in the way of map variations and possibly new random/generated maps.
These changes could provide a ton of variety to the standard Island-based naval aspect of the game, especially if a more northern European faction is added in the future that focuses on river raids to access deep inland settlements/player’s bases. I’m sure current Civs could use some of the new water features in innovative ways as well.
Thanks in advance for hearing me out, and I hope my points offer some interesting and hopefully not too difficult to implement options in the Essence Editor.