Island design tips
I've compiled here some tips that should help you with your island creations. Feel free to post your own problems and tips that you have found on your own. If you are having problems or need help with the editor, take a look at Scene editor basics.
Time to Play!
Before reading any further, the best way to get your feet wet with the editor is to just try it out! I'd recommend reading through this only after you've had a little while to poke around and get the creative juices flowing.
Now that you've gotten your hands dirty, here're a few ideas to explore.
- Take a look at the islands around the Midnight Ocean. Pick an archipelago with a similar theme to the one you are creating and look at the layout of the commodities, houses, etc. Look at the different island shapes, the texture of the ground and how the vegetation is placed. Remember, these are the islands made by the people who will be choosing which ones they like best! Keep in mind that not all existing islands are ideal or even good island designs, it takes a while to know what exactly is needed and to plan accordingly.
- Take a portion of an existing island and duplicate it! This is especially handy for trouble spots like mountains or fissures which are difficult to make from scratch.
- Start Small! The chances of you liking your first attempt are rather slim, so don't put a huge amount of effort into it. Start small and then expand if you like how it's going.
- Practice makes perfect, and the more you work on the islands the better you will get. Even so, any new island that you attempt will have its own set of problems and difficulties.
- One thing you will soon realize is that you need to pace yourself! Islands are great fun, but you will reach a point when you are sick of looking at them. Work on multiple islands at a time, and in different stages of production.
- Have a naming scheme in mind and stick to it. I've lost completed islands by saving an older version on top of a newer one. Use descriptions to give you an idea what stage you were in when you saved the file.
Thinking ahead as you design your island
- What size island are you making?
- Outpost Islands will be smaller and will only need to hold a fort and a shoppe. This gives you some more freedom as to commodity and vegetation placement, since you don't have to worry about things being paved over!
- Medium Islands need to hold ten buildings in all - all the government buildings and up to five more trade or housing structures.
- Large Islands need to be larger in order to hold all the buildings necessary in a fully developed island. This also means you need to have places where the buildings can go! Think about the building layout as you work, take advantage of commodities, as governors will generally not pave over them.
- Make pathways through the vegetation to give people a chance to explore your island! Try taking a stroll through some heavy foliage on existing islands. No matter how dense, it's almost always possible to walk through it somehow. Keep this in mind when designing your islands.
- Jetty and Dock edges will need water tiles specifically placed around them to get the full rendering, play with it a bit and you'll see what I mean. (See Howto:Make a dock for more complete details.)
- Jetty Corners will need to be placed in as objects. They can be found in Object Layer -> Outdoors -> Structures.
- If you ever notice a big yellow blotch, it means you put two objects on top of each other! In general I try to avoid overlapping, but if you must you can middle click and set the render priority so they don't clash.
(Note: these are my opinions and should not be taken as standards, merely suggestions!)
- Scrub Grass and Slash Pines are excellent filler for just about any type of island you are making. Scrubgrass in particular is found everywhere and is excellent for transition areas.
- Ground Textures are essential to adding realism to your island and in some ways even more important than the vegetation. Think about your vegetation as well as the imaginary contours of your island and how that would effect the ground. Take a look at Lagniappe. It has very few vegetation objects, yet is very rich in texture. On the other side of the spectrum check out Zeta or Cleopatra's Pearls, both are almost entirely white sand with little else except near the vegetation.
- Try to smooth out ground textures; too many squares and jagged edges can look unnatural. You'll probably have noticed by now that different ground tiles act differently depending on what other tiles they border on. Tiles I've found especially useful for smoothing and rounding corners are Sand, Dirt and Rough Dirt.
- Sometimes, especially when dealing with jetty edges, forts and walls, you will come across something which just doesn't look right. Just put a plant in front of it and don't worry about it! If you can't see it, it's not there. Of course, remember that a governor placing a building might take your disguising plant away.
- Before you finish an island, it is a good idea to make sure that it is going to work! Save your work as something else (in case you booch it!) and start colonizing it yourself. Don't spend a lot of time, but you want to ensure that there will be enough room for all the buildings that it will need to hold. Make sure it works both as uncolonized and colonized! Keep in mind not everyone will have asthetics in mind when colonizing your island! And remember that colonists cannot change the ground tiles.
- Not sure if you are done or not? Try to take a step back and look at it objectively. Though having worked on it for so long you're probably going to be unable to do so. Give it a try anyway. Try to think if anything needs to be added or removed to make it look better or make it more functional.
- Ask a friend for a critique. A fresh opinion is often invaluable.
- Island Design - Artemis's original thread