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Friday, August 10, 2012

Fixing Medieval 2 Total War map

I have a lot of problems with Medieval 2 Total War map. At first it looks quite sensible, with all parts of the map covered by regions:

But that's an illusion, region borders don't matter at all, except maybe for diplomacy - AI gets annoyed when you cross its borders and it can see it - but it gets annoyed by just about anything or totally at random, so it matters little.

What matters is where the cities are. And heatmap of distance to the nearest city reveals something very different:


Now you can see that parts of the map have plenty of cities - and plenty of action - while others are huge gaps where nothing happens.

This map is an approximation - it ignores how difficult terrain is (deserts, mountains), how likely it is that there are already roads there and so on.

Almost the entire Western Europe is fully covered by cities with ton of action. There's also reasonable number of settlements on the entire Northern coast of the Mediterranean - all the way from Cordoba to Marseille to Italy to Greece to Constantinople to Antioch to Jerusalem to Alexandria.

There are a few small gaps like Burgundy, Northern Netherlands, or middle Balkans, but since they have a lot of settlements on all sides, they are an interesting aspect of campaign strategy.

One thing which I feel is somewhat questionable is how natural barriers like Alps which should provide a solid barrier between North Italy and the rest of Europe doesn't - the Alps are very well connected, and the big gap is in Burgundy for some reason. Anyway, I can live with that.

The problem with Medieval 2 map

Outside of Western Europe and Northern Mediterranean the map is filled with huge gaps where nothing ever happens. Every single settlement in Africa is so far from all other settlements it could as well be an island.

You know how Islam ruled the entire African coast, from Morocco to Egypt? That never happens in Medieval 2 since neither Moors nor Egyptians have any way to reach Tripoli or Tunis in reasonable time - or to even reinforce Algiers for that matter. So they become colonized by Italians in every single game I played.

And remote places like Timbuktu, Arguin? It takes so ridiculously long to go there, that you're better off sending just your general and recruiting all infantry on site. They never take part in any action, and neither does Jedda or Dongola which are simply part of a final cleanup after Egyptians have been defeated.

Sparsely settled places like Scandinavia, Black Sea coast, Caucasus, Mesopotamia - all suffer from the same fate of nothing ever happening there. Do you remember having any epic battles over Stockholm, Caffa, Tbilisi, or Algiers in any of your campaign? No way! But I bet most of you can easily recall some great battles over places like Paris, Venice, Antioch, and Jerusalem, or even smaller but well connected places like Bruges, Florence, Zagreb, and Acre see far more action.

This annoys me mostly as a gameplay problem. People often want to extend the map, but one third of it is currently so sparsely settled hardly anything ever happens there. If we connected all these isolated settlements into bigger areas of activity, it would lead to a lot of new fun.

It's also not very historically accurate - places like Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Northern Coast of Africa were fairly densely populated compared to a lot of places like Northern Europe.

Oh, and the thing many mods do - making the map bigger and adding a lot more settlements, but about evenly everywhere - it doesn't actually fix the problem. If Africa is 50% bigger and has 50% more settlements, it still has small islands of safely held settlements and huge gaps where nothing ever happens.

What should be done?

So the simple question to all of you - which historically important settlements would also enhance gameplay by filling the worst gaps? They should all probably start as rebels and pretty small to avoid breaking balance too much.

Would you like to play on such fixed map? Possibly independently from the rest of Concentrated Vanilla, since I can simply disable all other options in the build script.

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