The maps for Desert Fox proved surprisingly tricky.

The desert that the battle was fought over isn’t renouned for being feature rich. Infact photos from directly around Alamein show nothing but a vast flat plain of sand dotted by small dry bushes and rocks. Even on aerial maps, the most important features, such as Ruweisat Ridage and Kidney ridge are near invisible.

The real desert

El Alamein (Arabic for Two flags) itself consisted of a small railway station at what was then the end of the line, two buildings close by and precious little else. It doesn’t make for the most inspiring map. There was also a requirement to be able to show minefields as an area filling texture – a game mechanic rather than imitation of real life – that meant it had to be relatively free of excessive surface noise that would interfere with it. I couldn’t use the few textural elements, stones and bushes, to add interest.

But after the incredibly short amount of time I was allowed for the four Moscow maps, I wanted to give this one my full attention for a little longer. It needed some thought and experimentation to maintain the CiC look and give the player something good to look at and play on. In the end I had a week though I managed to sneak in a lot of tone and colour tests on the playtest maps – much to the confusion of playtesters who, rather disconcertingly, thought they were final art.

Some early shape, tone and colour tests

This is the main Day time Map. I exagerated the tone and size of the diers and ridges to make them more obvious. Exajerated the tonal shifts of the desert in general and added a lot of subtle texture .

Occaisionally you got to operate at night, for which we needed a night map, below.

Desert Fox night Map sm

Obviously this couldnt be entirely black or even too dark as the terrain and area names needed to be legible without being too offensive. We also couldn’t have night versions of units or on map art as there simply wasn’t the memory.

A short movie showing some of the early iterations and the layers and elements that went into making the final map.