Hexagonal Map Editor

A guide to creating fantasy Worlds

Hexagonal Map Editor

Hexagonal Map Editor

In order to create an interesting adventure, it is not enough to prepare just a set of unrelated locations, cities and caves. Gamemasters create whole worlds for their players to exist in. We have already learnt how to create maps of events and locations using the RPG Map Editor but what will help to create a game world where all these locations are to be found and where dragons live?

We have a suitable application to help you — Hex Map Editor. Using this utility you will be able to create fantasy or futuristic worlds — anything your imagination may lead you to. As with the RPG Map Editor, we adhered to the following principles:

  1. Scalability
    our maps should be able to increase in size without any image quality loss. No blurred pictures are allowed, everything should be clear.
  2. Customization capability
    users should be able to adjust the controls so that it could be easy for them to use the editor.
  3. Icon creation
    it is important for gamemasters to be able to create the missing icons themselves and for the process not to be too complicated. Having learnt how to use the RPG icon editor literally in 40 minutes anyone can create icons to be used not only for RPG maps but anywhere.
  4. Multiple levels
    we have always been fond of HOMM3 maps, so we wanted to add similar underground levels to our map, but we also decided to go further, higher than clouds.
  5. Easy and intuitive interface
    the program should be easy to use and at the same time have a wide range of various functions. We use a universal approach in our interfaces so that everything is standardized.
  6. Different skill levels
    with our product any user can draw a map right away, but having learnt the hex RPG map editor capabilities or the capabilities of other programs from our ecosystem one can create maps on an absolutely different level.
  7. One should feel the height
    we have always wanted to reproduce the effect of height in hex maps somehow and we think we have succeeded in some way.
  8. Hex Map
    we love hexes as it is a very convenient geometrical shape and we want to use it for building mas.

Interface overview

While designing the editor interface we tried to make it as simple as possible. It may be divided into key areas: main window, right panel, subprogram panel, central panel.

    • Other elements
      elements to appear within specific sections. They will be described in the corresponding sections of this manual.

Let’s examine each of the four sections in detail.

Surface editing

To switch to this mode, you need to choose the ‘Surface’ bookmark. Textures are created with the help of the RPG texture creation application. Different solutions have been developed for working with textures to achieve interesting and beautiful results. In some editors due to the water textures positioning one may observe a funny effect of water rising above the surface instead of the surface submerging. It is unacceptable for us.

Double clicking helps to avoid performing actions unintentionally so that you don’t regret it.

After the layer has been selected a palette of available textures will appear in an additional panel.The textures are divided into standard groups — community, subscriptions, user-defined.Additionally, each texture has an icon indicating the texture type: water, ground and sky.

Icon editing

To switch to this mode, you need to choose the ‘Icons’ bookmark. Icons are created in a special RPG icon editor. It is worth mentioning that icons may occupy up to 7 hexes. It provides the opportunity to create large areas covered with urban objects or compound objects, for example, a valley with a secluded pond where a magic swan is swimming.

Icon is applied to the canvas only if there are no other icons in the application area.

Curve editing

This application is based on curve editing system but as opposed to the RPG map editor in this case curves are composite — they may consist of the unlimited number of parts and as a result additional functions may be available.

A set of common controls is available for correction: direct highlighting buttons, a point adding button, a curve removal button, a curve linking button, a name entry field.

  • Curve type changing
    it is presented in the form of 3 buttons, by clicking on which you can choose along which line the curve will be drawn:line, quadratic curve, cubic curve
Please remember that after pressing any button above the changes will come into effect immediately. Unfortunately, the canceling function has not been introduced yet, please be careful.

In the main content area all roads, rivers or lakes present on the map are listed.In the main content area all roads, rivers or lakes present on the map are listed.

When the editing mode of a particular curve is activated an additional panel contains a list of all available color schemes for roads or a list of fluid textures for rivers and lakes divided into groups. The scheme or texture being used for the curve at the moment is also marked.

There are two types of manipulators for the curve:

It is worth mentioning that for convenience a mechanism of reference lines has been created. It produces a special effect of fixation along the horizontal and diagonal lines if manipulators occupy similar coordinates horizontally or vertically.

Text editing

To switch to this mode, you need to click on the ‘Text’ bookmark. This application is based on a special curve ant text management subsystem, so the control elements in this section are unique and do not match the control elements described in the previous three sections.

The first thing you will notice while switching to this mode is that there are only 2 buttons left on the toolbar: for direct highlighting and for text adding.

In the text editing mode, the direct highlighting function will be enabled automatically but you can always click on “Add text” to add a new text. Additionally, you will notice new control elements on the toolbar:

  • Curve type change
    represented by 3 buttons allowing to choose the line for the curve to be drawn along:straight line, quadratic curve, cubic curve
  • Text alignment
    ith the help of 3 buttons you may choose the text alignment type:left, center, right.Please remember that once you flip the curve the text will also flip.
  • Text formatting
    there are 4 text modifiers available:bold, italic, underlined, strike throughAll 4 modifiers may be applied simultaneously.

These are the main things you need to know for managing the map. The next step is to consider the specific features of our layer system and make a detailed list of available objects to use when creating an RPG map.

Layer system

As opposed to the RPG map editor, this application does not have many layers — there are 9 of them. However, it does not mean that the editor has lost its exceptional flexibility. We are especially proud of how the method of representing height is implemented: when you transfer the texture from one layer to another one you specify that some textures should be placed above the rest of the textures. For example, you have drawn a sandy beach on the layer 0 but not far from this beach there is a high platform with a cliff and, needless to say, some crooked characters like to throw the undesirable into the water from this cliff. Now, you just need to draw a texture on the layer 1 and you will get a stylish cliff for shady dealings. It is worth mentioning that the layer 0 is the lowest one, it is a sort of a “sea level”, but do not forget about a special layer for underground maps, “the ceiling” — it is the highest layer for underground worlds.

The icon drawing system has only 2 layers placed above the textures and between these layers there is a layer for drawing curves: roads, rivers and lakes. The last layer above all of the previous layers is the text layer.

As in the RPG dungeon editor, you will be able to get a visual impression of the layer structure below.

Layer 0: sea levelLayer 1: texture level - 1Layer 2: texture level - 2Layer 3: texture level - 3Layer 4: texture level - 4Layer 5: texture level - 5Layer 6: high ground highlightingLayer 7: icons below roadLayer 8: roads, rivers and lakesLayer 9: icons above roads and lakesLayer 10: textLayer 11: hexagonal grid

Higher than clouds and deeper than hell

We wanted to introduce the idea of cloud islands just as we were thinking about developing this editor. What can be cooler? You have created your world where factions fight other factions, players take part in different plots and suspect nothing, then the party wanders into an old lighthouse and — just like in BioShock Infinite — a zeppelin/catapult/portal/air balloon lifts the party up into the sky and they find themselves in the world above the clouds. Who lives there, what secrets these islands or continents keep in the sky? All these questions are yet to be answered by your players!

Another scenario: the party has been sent to explore the lake where some important character recently disappeared. The party bravely sets off to explore the bottom of the lake. Of course, firstly they should drink some proper potions or equip themselves with deep-sea gear. Suddenly, one adventurer and then the whole party are swept by the undertow into some deep-water channels and in several minutes of panic they are thrown onto the shore of an underground lake where the bewildered character they have been tasked to find awaits them. As a result, the scene of the adventure changes to the depths of the underground, just like in Heroes of Might and Magic III. Is there a bunch of smugglers or even an ancient empire of some necromancers waiting for you in the depths or will you find the tunnels of long-dead dwarfs who digged deeper than was needed, as usual?

Underground map
Ground map
Air map

Rivers, lakes and roads

Hexes are good, of course, but if you want to draw a thin creek it is hard to do it with the help of hexes. In some editors roads and rivers are represented as special tiles which may be placed on the map. As we know it, it is not the most convenient option.

To resolve issues associated with rivers, roads and lakes we developed a special approach: rivers seamlessly flow into the seas and outflow from the lakes as long as you use identical textures for rivers, lakes and seas. When adding rivers, you will notice that canals are caved in the ground automatically and rivers smoothly flow into the seas on the shore lines. Lakes follow the same rules but they have a closed contour.

A separate point concerns roads. Do not forget that road styles may be created with the help of the road editor. A special challenge is represented by bridges. We thought that bridges in the form of sprites are not the most suitable solution because we want to make maps quickly. A bridge may often have an intricate curve and no sprites will help you to consider all variants. “Perhaps, I can use an RPG icon editor to draw the required bridge”, — this is also not the most rational option since it is time-consuming and you will have to adjust the icon in accordance with the current map features, make copies of the icon and so on. Taking all of this into account, we have found a simple way out — let the system automatically draw the bridge right under the road and only above water and rivers. Do not ask how we have managed to do it — “It just works” as one classic of the gaming industry used to say.


This is the end of the Hex Map Editor description. We hope you will be able to carry out your plans using our program. Don’t forget that to generate missing textures you may use a special editor; if the text color schemes do not work for you you may create them. Texture transitions may be created in a special transition editor. Of course, do not forget to share your ideas with us in our project Discord!

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