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This is a very detailed, strongly graphics editor-oriented tutorial in which exisiting maps are used to create another map and the required config.bmp file is create by hand using a graphics editor.
I do understand that there are programs that allow some of what I’m going to be detailing to be done more automatically and much easier than completing this tutorial (Landscape Designer, SimCity 4 Region and Config Creator, etc). Nonetheless, I offer this tutorial as an alternative way (albeit more manually involved) to create regions and config bit maps.
The people who will enjoy completing this tutorial are typically people who enjoy more control over what they are doing -- that is, making maps and config.bmp files more "manually" than a more automated (and easier) method used by some the applications listed above. It is for those adventurous people (myself included) that I've written this tutorial. I guess I just enjoy getting my “hands dirty” when it comes to creativity.
After doing some experimentation, I’ve found a method of creating small image map files and config bit maps which has been working quite well for me. As an outgrowth of this method, I’ve further found a way to create multiple regions “outside” of SC4 that make use of these small image map files.
Using these smaller regions offer a great deal of flexibility in detailing the regions quite extensively without sacrificing speed and performance (given their small size). Also, the introduction of the SC4 Startup Manager created by JeanLucPicard2 and Andreas Roth has opened up vast new possibilities and scenarios that richly add to the overall ambiance of the region.
Creating Area Strip Maps and Multiple SC4 Regions
This tutorial is divided into four parts as follows:
General Information (the part you are reading now)
Part I: Setting the Strip Map Image File and Config Bit Map Dimensions
Part II: Creating Area Strip Map Images and Config Bit Maps
Part III: Creating Multiple SC4 Regions Using Area Strip Maps
There is a concept I would like to introduce – that of Area Strip Maps.
I define an Area Strip Map as a small area selected from a larger grayscale Region Map image. For example, if a given Region Map image is 1025 x 1025 pixels, selecting a 257 x 577 pixel area from it would result in a selected area that, once saved as a new grayscale image, becomes an Area Strip Map.
Why “strip” maps? I use this term because the area selected is a “strip” out of the original Region Map image. Further, the Strip Map Image file and config bit map created are dimensioned such that they will appear as a longish rectangle or, strip.
The dimensions of the Area Strip Map image file and corresponding config bit map can be whatever is desired, however; I find that using a roughly 1:2 ratio works rather well. That is, if Side A is x in pixels, then Side B should be 2x in pixels. Note that this is a rough estimation.
This concludes the General Information section of the tutorial. More precise dimensioning will be discussed in the next part of the tutorial.
Part I: Setting the Strip Map Image File and Config Bit Map Dimension
The information I offer in this section is nothing excitingly innovative or new. Rather, it reiterates and reviews the basic steps and methods used to calculate the size of a region image map file and corresponding config bit map file.
There are two basic formulas used to calculate dimensions – one for calculating the size of a region in pixels and one for calculating the size of a config bit map in pixels.
These formulas are as follows:
1) config.bmp size is known – calculate the size of the region.
(64W+1) by (64L+1)
where W is the width of the config.bmp and L is the length of the config.bmp.
config.bmp is 4 x 9 pixels
(64 x 4) + 1) = 257
(64 x 9) + 1) = 577
Therefore, the Region dimensions are 257 by 577 pixels.
2) Region size is known – calculate the size of the config.bmp.
((W-1)/64) by ((L-1)/64)
where W is the width of the Region image and L is the length of the Region image.
Region size is 257 by 577 pixels
((257-1) / 64) = 4
((577-1) / 64) = 9
Therefore, the config.bmp dimensions are 4 by 9 pixels.
The Area Strip Maps I most commonly use are the dimensions stated above – Region Image Map (or, what I call an Area Strip Map image) dimensions are 257 by 577 pixels and config.bmp dimensions are 4 by 9 pixels. These dimensions allow the Area Strip Maps to be used in either of the two available configurations resulting in a map narrow and long (width is 257 pixels, length is 577 pixels for the image file and width is 4 pixels, length is 9 pixels for the config.bmp) or long and narrow (width is 577 pixels, length is 257 for the image file and width is 9 pixels, length is 4 pixels for the config.bmp).
Since the dimensions of the image file and config bit map can be whatever is desired, I will be using a special notation in this tutorial when referring to dimensions. That notation is as follows:
When discussing dimensions for the Area Strip Map/Region Map image,
the width dimension is shown using the notation IW for Image Width.
the length dimension is shown using the notation IL for Image Length.
When discussing dimensions for the config.bmp file,
the width dimension is shown using the notation CW for config.bmp Width.
the length dimension is shown using the notation CL for config.bmp Length.
This concludes the Setting the Strip Map Image File and Config Bit Map Dimensions portion of the tutorial.
Part II: Creating Area Strip Map Images and Config Bit Maps
In order to create an Area Strip Map and config.bmp, you will need to use your favorite graphics editor. I use Paint Shop Pro (PSP) for mine, however; the instructions in this part of the tutorial will be as generic as possible in order to avoid PSP specific tools and instructions.
Creating an Area Strip Map Image
Follow the below steps to create an Area Strip Map image:
1) Launch your graphics editor.
2) Open a grayscale Region image file of your choice.
3) Make a copy of the open Region image file and minimize the original image. (Always work with a copy in order to ensure you don’t inadvertently save over the original.)
4) Using your graphics editor’s cropping tool, set a crop box using one of the two following dimensions:
Top: 0, Left: 0, Right: IW, Bottom: IL for narrow and long
Top: 0, Left: 0, Right: IL, Bottom: IW for long and narrow
5) Grab the crop box and move it around the Region image until you find a “strip” that you believe will make a good region.
6) Crop the Region image to that area selected in the crop box.
7) Save the Area Strip Map image as a grayscale .JPG file using whatever descriptive name you desire. I typically create a folder using the name of the original region in which I create sub-folders and store the individual Area Strip Map image files. For example:
is the path I used in which I saved my example. (Note that this assumes you are using the Microsoft Windows operating system.
8 ) If desired, repeat Steps 2) through 7) either on the same Region image or on a different Region image to create and save multiple Area Strip Map images.
Review the below examples (my example is 257 by 577 pixels for the Area Strip Map image. I am using the Wilmington NC ver. 0 map created by screwball on Simtropolis.
Example 01: Wilmington NC ver. 0 Region image with a 257 by 577 pixel crop box set within it.
Example 02: The resultant Area Strip Map image.
Creating a config.bmp
Follow the below steps to create a config.bmp for the Area Strip Map image created above:
1) Using your graphics editor, create a new image using the following parameters:
a. Width: CW pixels
b. Length: LW pixels
For example, if the Area Strip Map image file created above is 257 by 577 pixels, the new image dimensions should be 4 by 9 pixels.
c. Raster Background
d. Color Depth: 256 colors (8 bit)
e. Background Color: White (Red – 0, Green = 0, Blue = 0 or, HTML = #FFFFFF)
2) Using the graphics editor zoom tool, zoom in to the maximum. (For PSP, that would be 5000 %.)
3) Position the zoomed in new image so that you can see all of it and the entire Area Strip Map image.
4) Using the graphics editor selection tool, “build” a series of city tiles as desired to “populate” the zoomed in new image using the appropriate color combinations for each city type.
This is where you can use your creativity in “placing” cities for the created Area Strip Map. This step requires a bit more detailed explanation. I’ll “break down” each part of Step 4 separately below:
First, let’s review the appropriate color combinations for each city type.
Small Cities – Red
Medium Cities – Green
Large Cities – Blue
In order to better differentiate between each city, other colors can be used as long as the primary city color stays at its primary color value. For example, if you wish to place three medium cities side-by-side and would like to differentiate between them, you can use the following color combination:
Medium City #1
Red ® = 0
Green (G) = 255
Blue (B) = 0
HTML = #00FF00
Medium City #2
Red ® = 204
Green (G) = 255
Blue (B) = 0
HTML = #CCFF00
Medium City #3
Red ® = 204
Green (G) = 255
Blue (B) = 204
HTML = #CCFF0CC
The above concept can be used with small and large cities. Just remember to keep the primary city color at its primary color value.
Second, create your desired city mix by “eyeballing” the Area Strip Map image and determining where on the new zoomed in image to select a “city area” using the graphic editor’s selection tool.
For example, using the Area Strip Map created above, I “eyeballed’ where I want to place medium sized cities and, using PSP’s selection tool, selected the following areas for my first primary colored medium cities:
Next, I flood-filled (colored) those cities using my Medium City Primary Color.
Then, I deselected the first set of cities, selected my Medium City Secondary Color, selected my second set of medium cities and flood-filled the selections with my Medium City Secondary Color.
Next, I wanted one more medium city. I selected my Medium City Tertiary Color, selected my final medium city and flood-filled the selection with my Medium City Tertiary Color.
Finally, I created a Small City Primary Color and a Small City Secondary Color, selected the appropriate small cities and flood-filled them.
(Yes, believe it or not, the color orange does qualify for a small city color. It is Red = 255, Green = 204, Blue = 0 or, HTML = #FFCC000.)
5) Step 5) is completely optional and is only done to ensure that the placement of the cities in Step 4) look okay on the Area Strip Map image. This step will overlay the new image with the cities onto the Area Strip Map image in order to be able to view where the cities actually will appear on the Area Strip Map. The following explanation details how this is done:
First, make a duplicate of the zoomed in new image.
Next, resize the duplicate to the same dimensions as the Area Strip Map (IW by IL). In my example, I resized my duplicate image to 577 by 257 pixels. (You may need to uncheck your “Lock aspect ratio” checkbox in order to resize the duplicate to exactly 577 by 257 pixels.)
Then, copy the resized duplicate image to the Clipboard.
Next, highlight the Area Strip Map and paste the contents of the Clipboard as a new layer in the Area Strip Map. You’ll notice that a grayscale image corresponding to the cities placed in the original zoomed in new image now appears on the Area Strip Map as shown below:
Using your graphic editor’s Layer control, turn down the opacity of this grayscale “cities” layer to about 50 %. You should get an image similar to the one shown below:
Notice that you can visually “see” the placement of the cities on the Area Strip Map. If you don’t like the placement, you can delete the zoomed in new image and create a new one as previously explained.
Finally, close the Area Strip Map image but DO NOT save it. (If you save it, you’ll save the “Cities” layer as well.)
6) The duplicate and resized Cities image should now be highlighted.
7) Undo the resizing of this image. This should return the duplicate to its original size of CW by LW pixels.
8 ) Save this image as a Microsoft Windows Bit Map using an appropriately descriptive name. I save my config bit maps using the same naming format as my Area Strip Map images and place a Config_XX at the end of the filename (where XX equals the number of the file).
For example, In this tutorial’s I named my Area Strip Map image WNC_01.jpg. I named my config bit map WNC_Config_01.bmp. Finally, I save the config bit map into the same sub-folder in which I saved the associated Area Strip Map image.
This concludes the Creating Area Strip Map Images and Config Bit Maps section of the tutorial.
Part III: Creating Multiple SC4 Regions Using Area Strip Maps
Now that you’ve created some nice Area Strip Map images and their corresponding config.bmp files, it’s now time to create some SimCity 4 Regions using them. I will introduce the steps in this part of the tutorial by first explaining a fundamental change to creating SC4 Regions (at least, it was fundamental for me when I discovered it) based on the following assumptions:
1) A region image and corresponding config.bmp files have been created BEFORE launching SC4.
2) A new region subfolder is manually created BEFORE launching SC4.
3) The new config.bmp file for the new region file is copied into the new region subfolder BEFORE launching SC4.
4) A Region.ini file is manually created and placed in the new region subfolder BEFORE launching SC4.
The following steps will detail how to create these regions both “outside” the SimCity 4 application and from within the application:
Creating Region Information from Microsoft Windows
NOTE: The following information is written for use with Microsoft Windows using default paths.
NOTE: This section is optional as SC4 will create the region.ini file when the region is first loaded.
1) Using a text editor (I use Windows Notepad), create a generic region.ini file as shown below:
2) Save the text file to a sub-folder of your choice (you’ll need this file later) with the name region.ini.
3) Using some type of file navigation software (I use Windows Explorer) navigate to the following path:
C:\My Documents\SimCity 4\Regions
4) Create a new region sub-folder using you own descriptive naming convention. In my example, In my example, I’ve named the new region sub-folder WNC_01.
5) Copy the region.ini file just created into the newly created region subfolder.
6) Using a text editor, open the region.ini file and change the name to the same name as the new region sub-folder as shown below and save the region.ini file:
As can be seen, I changed the Name = field to WNC_01 which is the same name as my newly created region sub-folder.
7) Navigate to the sub-folder where you have stored the config bit map created earlier in this tutorial and is named the same as the Area Strip Map it is associated with as well as the new region folder created above.
In my example, I navigated to the folder I named WNC_01 and found the config bit map I named WNC_Config_01.bmp.
8 ) Copy the config bit map to the newly created region folder in C:\My Documents\SimCity 4\Regions.
In my example, that would be C:\My Documents\SimCity 4\ Regions\WNC_01 (as shown Below):
9) Now, rename the config bit map just copied to config.bmp (as shown below):
10) Repeat Steps 3) through 9) above for every Area Strip Map/config bit map combination you’ve created. Typically, I’ll create five or six such combinations and then create the appropriate sub-folder structures for them copying over the appropriate files mentioned in this part of the tutorial.
Creating Multiple Regions using SimCity 4
Now, we’re ready to launch SimCity 4 and actually create the SC4 regions using the Area Strip Map images and config bit maps we’ve created.
Follow the below steps to create multiple SC4 regions:
NOTE: This section will not have any screen shots. Consequently, I will be somewhat overly descriptive in my steps.
1) Launch the SimCity 4 application.
2) Once the Main Menu screen appears, Click on the first icon at the top of the screen and load any region OTHER than one of the newly created regions. In other words, open an already established region.
3) Once the already established region appears, click on the first icon at the top of the screen and load one of the NEW regions.
4) What will appear is a plain region configured for the cities you created in the config bit map. Below is the example plain region for my WNC_01 Area Strip Map Region:
5) Press and hold the following key combination – Ctrl-Alt-Shift-R. This will open a dialog box from which you will select an image file.
6) Navigate to where you saved the Area Strip Map image file that is associated with the NEW region you just loaded then highlight the Area Strip Map image file and click OK. In my example, I navigated to the following path:
7) SimCity 4 will now start rendering each city against the imported Area Strip Map image. This will take some amount of time based on the configuration of your computer. On my computer it only takes about five minutes.
8 ) Once SimCity 4 is finished rendering the region, it will display a new region ready for you to do any further terraforming, God Mode or Mayor Mode planting and to start building your cities.
In my example, my WNC_01 region looks like the below picture:
Here are two more examples of regions rendered using Area Strip Map images and config bit maps I created:
I hope that you’ll find this tutorial interesting and helpful. Again if you have any questions concerning the tutorial’s content or need further information, please feel free to contact OmniMaps.