Cave maps

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The other day I was, as I often am, doodling. This time, though, I thought I’d turn my doodle into a map of a cave system.

A problem quickly developed. I wanted vertical tubes connecting small areas. I wanted those tubes to be interesting – have cutbacks and ledges and such. In order to do this on paper, I’d need many, many sublevels… and side-views from a variety of angles.

What are alternatives for mapping this sort of thing? I thought about a 3D program (like Google Sketchup)… but that has a learning curve. I also thought about using wire or (even better) thin metal tubing to create a 3D model in realspace. Any other thoughts?



5 Responses

  1. I’ve used Google Sketchup before, and the learning curve isn’t severe at all – it’s basically MS Paint, except you’re using simple 3D objects instead of simple 2D objects.

    Instead of Sketchup, though, you might be better served with something like a level editor for a game. The Neverwinter Nights level builder is quite good; or if you want something you can ‘fly’ through easily, try a first-person shooter like Unreal Tournament. These will have plenty of tutorials out there to ease the learning curve.

    Wire won’t be very accurate or strong, and even thin metal tubing will get expensive VERY quickly and will still suffer from being easily damaged. I guess the key factor is how you want to use this. Do you want to refer to it in game? Show it off?

  2. @Szilard, you run into the wacky world of map editors. In general, I’ve always find them lacking in some feature or can’t do what you are imaging. Good luck with Grant’s suggestion. Please let us know how things turn out.

    @Grant I agree with szliard, a level editor is brilliant. I’m not sure how useful that would be those that don’t use computers at gaming table. Still, I like to see out of the box thinking, so good going.

  3. My guess is that all you really need (unless you’re mapping an ant farm) is to include a couple of insets showing the cross-section of a particular tube only where it has an interesting feature. Anything more elaborate is probably overkill.

  4. Bah, I should have thought of this earlier. If any FPS’s level design is a match for what you’re after, it’s Descent (Descent III if you can get it.) If you’ve never played it, Descent is one of the few FPS games that’s “fully 3D” – there’s no real ‘down’ inherent in the physics engine, and levels expand in all three dimensions quite nicely from what I’ve seen. (I believe the idea is that you’re a small craft flying through environments like asteroid mines, where there’s no gravity to define how the structure is built.) Confusing to play, but it might work for you.

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