The first game in the series used 237 small images (tiles) representing 13 different terrain types to dynamically create the image for all the maps in the game. The tile images were skillfully designed in order to allow assembling an image for the map that was almost seamless.
Panzer General II changed the approach to using large pre-rendered images as the background of the battlefield. The result was a more realistically-looking terrain but I think this change in the look also had quite an important effect on the gameplay. Pre-rendered images use a lot of memory and back in the days when PG2 was released, PCs only had about 16 or 32 MB of RAM and even fewer video memory. Thus, the maps were limited in size, and I think this made the game designers to reduce the scale of the game from strategic/operational to a more tactical one.
The third installment changed to 3D rendering but the scale was reduced even more, yet again for performance reasons, I'm afraid (they were forced to reduce the number of 3D polygons, hence the number of units).
When we decided to start developing The Panzer Division, we chose to embrace the approach of the original Panzer General. Using tiles for maps has the following advantages:
- tiles have to be designed only once and subsequent map design is much faster
- different set of tiles for each possible ground condition (dry, muddy, frozen) allow dynamically changing the appearance of the battlefield
- less memory is required
|Attempt to render the original Norway map|
- roads were always on plain hexes. That meant that pass through the mountains needed to be modeled as large valleys. Now we can place roads over any type of ground
- rivers were also taking up whole hexes. The approach was a bit weird gameplay-wise, because entering a river hex required a separate move. It was always hard to figure out whether a unit located over a river hex is on one river side or the other. We decided to fix that and place rivers on the hexes side, thus making it clear that they separate the opposing hexes.
- Coastlines were also plain hexes, thus the Norway map was a bit off (impossible to model mountainous shores)