Fans of tabletop RPGs are very familiar with all of the work and passion that goes into crafting a campaign. Characters need to be made with interesting abilities, compelling backstories, and entertaining group chemistry. Threats and challenges worthy of legend (or at least fun watercooler moments) need to be crafted. But for those more tactically-oriented will know the headaches of creating interesting and rewarding world maps. It's a challenge Fantastic Art Studio hopes to address with its newest crowdfunding campaign: Black Box Map Maker.
According to their press release, Black Box Map Maker is an AI-powered map making tool. It promotes immersive, accessible, and easy tools. Simply draw a shape on a grid, and the program will fill that room full of objects and items. These will be generated based on the overall map composition and based on one of several themes such as cyberpunk, Cthulhu, abandoned castle, or giant catacombs.
But while algorithm-generated assets are nice, various GMs enjoy having their own personal touch. Black Box Map Maker also provides here. Any rooms created can have their assets adjusted or changed by the user, including deleting or copying items, growing and shrinking, and even creating your own custom assets which can be shared with the community. In addition to having creation tool sets for PC, Mac, smart devices, and even VR, the tools will allow GMs to add various surprises such as traps, secret doors, fireplaces and even day-to-night cycles. According the developers, this was a major challenge to overcome in terms of optimization. Trying to maintain high-level quality assets and keep it consistent across multiple types of hardware was tricky.
Finally, Black Box Map Maker claims that all of these maps won't just be tied to this particular software. You can import your completed maps to your preferred virtual tabletop (Dungeon Fog, Roll20, etc.), and even mirror the map to a smart TV for a larger, more cinematic view of your group's exploits.
Black Box Map Maker's designers, Fantastic Art Studios do have some experience with tabletop gaming. They have several acclaimed sculptors and artists credited with their work when it comes to making miniatures -- specifically their series "The Fallen Angel." As for software developers, they're no slouches either. To quote Fantastic Art themselves, "The team has been developing successful electronic games as well as mobile games for more than 10 years. We’re huge RPG fans ourselves having over 30 years of experience playing Dungeons and Dragons and other TTRPGs. Our development team is known for IP creation, outsourcing, and video game development on titles such as No Heroes Here (2017), Mônica and Guarda dos Coelhos (2018), Blocks Mania (2019) , Skydome (2019), Dodgeball Academy (2021), and Toy Sports (TBA). Some of our team members have also worked on IPs like Spider-Man, Street Fighter II, Duke Nukem, Lego, Rocky Balboa, Top Gun II, Tennis Clash, among others."
While there are Early Bird backer tiers still available for Black Box Map Maker, some of these tiers can get up there in price. While the most basic $30 tier will get you the essentials package, which is mostly for fantasy RPG fair like taverns, dungeons, and dungeons, are straightforward, the rest become more variable in use. $45 to $100 will net you more esoteric templates like volcanoes, urban fantasy settings i.e. Cthulhu and Cyberpunk, and magical obelisks to use. But then it jumps up to $500 which includes everything listed above, your name in the credits, as well as being able to create your very own unique item in the full game. Finally, there is the $1000 tier which includes everything before as well as a premium box containing miniatures from their "The Fallen Angel" series signed by artist Cicero D'avila and unique custom RPG dice.
Considering the rising popularity of RPGs and the demand for in-depth user-friendly map makers, Black Box Map Maker makes for an ambitious project. Whether or not that ambition can be reached remains to be seen. The Kickstarter campaign for Black Box Map Maker is currently live on Kickstarter and will conclude on December 18.