Interview with John of Gozzy's Maps on making maps and map generators.
Q&A with John of Gozzy's Maps
How did you get into creating map generators?
I had been playing and running RPG's for about fifteen years and map making was my favourite part of preparing adventures. (I still have notebooks full of hand drawn maps!)
After getting into digital map making I really admired the maps that Wizards of the Coast were releasing weekly as digital downloads on their website. They were a world away from the output of the basic map generators that were then available.
So I challenged myself to write a generator that captured some of the spirit of the Wizards maps but could easily turn out a couple of billion variations. Not satisfied with just making dungeons I moved on to caves and then the wilderness generator.
How did Gozzy's happen?
When the internet came along I started making digital maps using software like Dungeon Crafter and Adobe Photoshop. I wanted somewhere to put them so I grabbed some free web hosting and started posting my creations.
At the end of 2004 the free host shifted to paid only, so I started looking for my own space. I started by hosting ready-made maps but once I got into writing generators it seemed natural to keep them all under a single banner.
My host offered me the ability to run code on the server so the generators naturally found a home there.
What bits of Gozzy's are you most proud of creating and why?
Probably the original cave map generator (and its newer cousin that turns out hi-res maps that can be used with a VTT).
Finding a way to make caves, join them together, and make the whole map look right took a lot of trial and error.
It turns out that crinkly edges are way tougher than the clean lines of a dungeon.
Even solving stuff like making tunnels that have no right angles or making sure that every part of the map is connected without ending up with a single cave blob posed a challenge. I wrote the first version of the generator eighteen years ago and I think it still stands up today.
What is the most fun thing about creating map generators?
Solving unexpected problems.
Take the new hi-res dungeon map generator that I am currently working on. The maps were fine, but an awful lot of them had lots of very long, very straight corridors.
Once I spotted the problem I had to find a way to join together the existing rooms while minimising the chance for long (boring) corridors.
Took me hours of thinking to work out how to solve the issue. (Sidenote: Am I the only person who sits on the sofa in the evening with a pad scribbling out 2D grids trying to work out how to solve problems like this? I sincerely hope so!)
It is super nerdy but there is an intense satisfaction that comes with clearing every hurdle knowing that people will appreciate the output even more.
What are the biggest challenges of creating map generators?
Working out how to get something that looks sensible while being able to generate billions of combinations.
This often comes down to getting the right balance between variety and consistency. I have seen other generators that make fine looking maps but you quickly realise they have only limited variety.
Others make widely varying maps but some are outlandish. I strive to make every map generated usable.
I suppose I should give an honourable mention to getting the art right too. I am, at best, a below average artist so it takes me a while to get something that looks serviceable.
How do you use random generators yourself?
Up to now for ideas and inspiration.
I often generate a bunch of maps to get my creative juices flowing when I am writing adventures for my campaign.
Going forward I am working on a set of new generators, of which only the Cave Map Generator is live so far, that will make maps that are high enough resolution to be used in a VTT.
What is the most interesting generator or tool you've seen?
I love the Medieval Fantasy City Generator by Watabou.
I would love to be able to make something like that in the future that can zoom down to block level.
What are the upcoming plans for Gozzy's?
The current plan is to complete a new version of each of my core three generators - Caves, Dungeons, and Wilderness - that produces maps that have squares that are 70x70 pixels so they can be used directly in a VTT such as Roll20 or Foundry.
I will then have a dedicated section of the site for these. Once they are complete (Dungeons coming next, the work on it is about 80% complete), I intend to completely refresh all of my other generators with additional features and enhancements.
The future is bright so I hope anyone who visits enjoys the updates.
Where can people find you on social media?
The best place to find me is on Twitter as @TheRealMrG.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Over thirty five years ago (I am so old!), when I was first introduced to red box D&D I never imagined that the hobby would grow how it has, nor that we would have such a strong and vibrant gaming scene today with people enjoying tabletop RPG's in so many different ways.
It makes me happy to know that the hobby is in excellent health and that new generations of players are growing up playing RPG's as well as us old hands. Hopefully what I do can be a small part of that.