Ubisoft showed off Far Cry 2 at a media briefing this week, and while the game itself looks like a spectacular evolution of the franchise it was the map editor that completely blew minds. Get ready for some of the best user-generated maps you have ever seen in a shooter.
The Map Editor as we were shown it was the best promotion for procedural physics and animation I have yet seen. Starting with a blank canvas the user can quickly generate natural mountains, rivers, wildlife, trees, roads, and weather systems through an incredibly simple set of painting tools. While in other editors there is still a demand for careful brushwork to get a quality final product, here you have sets of constraints that tell the brush what to look for in the terrain and how to paint it. An example in the demo was constraining a Savannah mountain effect to only terrain above an incline of 20 degrees, making it easy to paint everywhere and only have the appropriate areas filled in. And everything that had been painted could have the texture changed if you decided you wanted to turn your savannah into a jungle. Trees also painted on in a natural fashion, and this was probably the strongest use of procedurals yet. No worries for the map designer, just paint the type and density of growth you would like and the engine does the rest. Later when adding roads to maps the growth changes to accommodate.
The other killer feature was instant drop in / drop out map testing, so you can quickly iterate your ideas and refine the final design. Management features are also very transparent, so you can always see the memory, asset and performance budgets at the top of the build screen to ensure your map will be playable. This Map Editor is basically the same toolset used by Ubisoft to create the actual game.
What we should expect are maps that look great, but with the grunt work of physical design taken away the map designer can focus on making a map that doesn't just look good but plays well too.
With a share / rate / rank system for enjoying the user generated maps online, this is a stunner of a bonus feature that will add a bucket load of fun to the title even if you're just in it to play the thousands of free maps that will appear within days of release.