Welcome to the first installment in our development diary series for Europa Universalis IV (EU4)! Last week's little prologue doesn't really count
If the world of Europa Universalis IV is your playground, then the map is the sandbox – this is where you shape your plans and turn various traits associated with the territories into mighty empires. If you are familiar with Paradox Development Studio (PDS) games, then you already know that the map is almost everything. The map is where the magic happens. You know it, we know it.
Crusader Kings II (CK2) was a large step forward in terms of visuals for us, but in Europa Universalis IV, we hope to take it one step further and add a few bells and whistles,
because we really want the world to come alive for you. This means making the map more intuitive, more attractive and something you won't mind staring at for hours on end. The feeling and atmosphere created by the map is important and will not make your eyes bleed. We promise.
To understand where we are going, it's important to understand where we've been. In Europa Universalis III (EU3), we built the map with quite low resolution. We increased the resolution in the Divine Wind expansion, which helped a lot with how the map looked but the provinces still felt a little weird – the borders didn't look as natural as we wanted them.
At this point, we haven't yet come to the phase where the borders will be tweaked, but our ultimate goal is to make borders feel smooth and adapted to the real life terrain and historical borders.
We occasionally get comments from our players that our province borders are ahistorical – that they do not accurately reflect the composition of nations or their historical shape.
So I want to clarify that when we make the designs of the provinces But in the long run, historical shapes for provinces are not really relevant.
“What?” I hear you say? “Did I hear that right?”
Yes, and there are good reasons for it.
A game map has to communicate a lot of information quickly, so first of all you need to be sure you can fit all the necessary graphical elements into the province.
Second, you need to have a rather convex shape of a province. If you don΄t do this, you'll end up with all sorts of unintuitive thoughts when it comes to where units should move and how quickly.
Third, you need to bear in mind the number of connections a province has to neighboring territories. The number of neighbors is a crucial factor in military matters, and for game balance purposes.
So, if we valued history over balance or ease of play, an historical province of Warmia would be small, serpentine and surrounded by a concave province. This presents a lot of problems for a province-based game as we mentioned earlier.
The number of provinces you have on a map is limited by the number that one person can reasonably handle. Since provincial development and movement happens in real time, you need to make it relatively easy for players to locate and take action in a given province. We've learned what an optimal amount of provinces is, and in EU4, we aim to have a small increase of about ten percent cimpared to EU3. There will be significant changes, primarily in Eastern Europe, Japan & India, but also in other places on the map.
Here is a quick look of a small version of the underlying map defining which province is which, as it looks right now, before the major province overhaul.
Gameplay, of course, is only one reason to make a map. The play area should be pleasing to the eye so that it makes the world come alive and immerses you more deeply in the history. So in EU4, we have added back in the topology that we removed in the expansion Divine Wind and added trees to the map.
We also took the colored border system from Crusader Kings II (CK2) which makes playing on the terrain mapmode a more attractive option for many players.
As you may have noticed, we have changed map projection to the one we had in Victoria 2; a map that has been received positively by pretty much everyone in the community.
We are also making the map more of an interface tool for players, with cleared on-map interface windows, as you've seen in CK2.
We aim for a "believable world"-feeling on our maps. You will see the seasons changing. You will see when winter is coming and when it melts away to give room for a glorious summer. Mountains will rise and cast shadow over your provinces, you will see reflections in the water, ships with rippling sails and birds flying over the map.
The map will make information accessible and make it easier to get the big picture for when you build your empire.
But remember that eye-catching improvements are not just there to be pretty!
Many will show you very important things that affect how you play on the map. Your actions in Europa Universalis IV are affected by the season changes and the terrain and we want to make that visible for you.
Here is an example of the Nile Delta, with shadows, trees, and all other nice new things.