Campaign Cartographer 2 / City Designer 2 / Dungeon Designer 2
Author: Simon Rogers, Mark Fulford, Michael Riddle, Peter Olsson, L. Lee Saunders
Company/Publisher: ProFantasy Software
Line: Campaign Cartographer
Cost: $75.95 / 39.95 / 36.95
Page count: n/a
SKU: CC2 / CD2 / DD2
Playtest Review by Michael T. Richter on 10/27/99.
Genre tags: Fantasy Science_fiction Modern_day Historical Horror Far_Future Space Comedy Anime Espionage Conspiracy Post-apocalypse Old_West Vampire Gothic Asian/Far_East Superhero Generic
Campaign Cartographer 2 (CC2) is a Win32-based CAD package oriented toward gamers manufactured by ProFantasy Software. What does this mean? It means that people who want to make stunning campaign and location maps quickly and easily can do soonce they have learned the tool, that is (more on this below). CC2 has the following features:
In short it is a large package of GM goodies.
City Designer 2 (CD2) and Dungeon Designer 2 (DD2) are add-on packages for CC2 which enhance the already-formidable capabilities of the core package. CD2, for example, adds new symbols, fill styles and tools to quickly and easily build entire streets and grids with random housing symbols. The practical application of this to mapping cities is obvious. DD2, a badly misnamed product since it has stuff for mapping far more than just dungeons, includes "geomorph" dungeon tiles, a large variety of symbols and tools to make passage design and wall modification pain-free.
At its core, this suite of software is a CAD package, one sufficiently powerful that it could be used for real-world work like planning out a garden or making floorplans of your home. What this means is that it allows for very precise layout of lines and shapes. Unfortunately what it also means is that it doesn't work like any software most Windows-capable people have used before (as spelled out in The Windows Interface: An Application Design Guidea book most Windows software developers should be forced to read at gunpoint). Sure there are the expected menus and icons and stuff, but they're used in subtly different ways from the kinds of applications that users are likely to be familiar with.
The core of the difference is that CC2 is essentially a command-driven CAD engine with a GUI grafted on. Unlike the usual Windows process where you select what is to be operated upon and then select the operation (like selecting text in a word processor and then selecting the Format -> Font -> Bold menu item, say), in CC2 the user selects the command and then selects the object set it is to be applied to. Because of this major shift in paradigm, new users of CC2 face a steep uphill climb in learning to use the tool. The effort is well-spent, however, because the capabilities of the tool are just without par.
Once the initial learning curve has been passed, CC2 and its add-ons give GMs a rich palette of tools to detail a campaign world. Out of the box these packages come with a near-bewildering (luckily very well-organized) variety of tools, symbols, composite objects, fill styles and templates to get you up and mapping as quickly as possible. As you learn to use the system, you'll find that you can make new symbols, composite objects, fill styles and templates of your own suited to your specific needs. If you're having trouble with a particular feature, between the tutorial manuals (in a stunning reversal of accepted software industry practices, ProFantasy has actually provided useful manuals), the online help and the example maps you should easily be able to figure it out.
Once you have made your maps, CC2 gives you many options for using them. They can be distributed electronically and viewed/printed with a freeware CC2 viewer. They can be printed in a wide range of formats with incredible control over details. They can be hot-linked together to give you hypertext-like map navigation. They can be exported as bitmaps and imported into other tools to be made web-ready.
The inevitable question I'm going to face is "what does CC2, et al provide that I can't get from (CorelDraw/Paintshop Pro/Visio/whatever)? The answer is simple: a whole lot. Paint packages like Paintshop Pro simply don't have the intelligence needed to be able to manipulate often hundreds of objects on the screen at a time. (This doesn't mean they don't have a place, of course. The bitmaps which CC2 exports can be tweaked, resized, etc. in PSP to make them web-accessible, for example.) CorelDraw or Visio (or any other "draw" package) would be better, but they lack the gamer-oriented stuff that makes CC2 so great. None of these come with symbol suites for mapping, for example. They don't come with cool tools to randomly generate entire streets full of houses. They don't have the ability to easily make heraldic devices. They don't have highly precise scaling. CC2 (with its add-ons) comes with all of these and is very precise (CAD precise) with its scaling.
First off, CC2 exploded on me right out of the box. It didn't like my printer configuration (NT, networked printer) and chose to explode on contact instead of printing (or even showing the print dialogue box). Needless to say, this didn't impress me very much. Fortunately, however, this leads to...
The next problem I have with CC2 is that it is very much oriented to fantasy mapping out of the box. While it has some symbols, etc. oriented toward moderns and SF, these are outnumbered by about an order of magnitude by fantasy-oriented support. I see ample room here for a "Starship Designer 2" product and so on.
Another annoyance is major for me (a professional software developer) but nonexistent for most people: I'd like to have an API available to make my own add-ons to CC2. I don't want to have to rely on ProFantasy to support mapping genres they may not have enough of a market to warrant supporting.
The final problem I have with CC2 is that its automation facilities are primitive. The scripting language it supplies is just not very good. Here's a typical script, for example:
I think it would have been far better for ProFantasy to have searched out some of the freely available embeddable scripting languages (Lua, Python, etc.) to get good, powerful scripting capabilities with an elegant language than it was for them to make their own rather ugly and weak language. (Lua would have been an especially good choice.)
The bad points are minor, however, in comparison with the fact that CC2 allows you to do many things which you'd otherwise find very time-consuming (if at all possible) using any other tools.
CC2 is a vital addition to a GM's toolchest. Its add-ons are nice, but not necessary, add-ons which make life easier for two common mapping sub-genres (cities and floorplans). For the price these are bargains. Factor in the fact that nobody else makes tools which come even close to CC2's utility and you have an unbeatable bargain. I strongly recommend these products to anybody who wants good maps in their RPG campaigns, no matter what the genre.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)