Service Depot: Red Alert Terrain Editor – Basic Tricks and Tips


1. Map Size and Terrain Type

You may choose from four different sizes when creating a multi-player map: 64 x 64, 96 x 96, 126 x 64, and 64 x 126. These sizes are expressed in cells. A cell is the smallest unit of measurement used for map creation and is a square region large enough to fit one vehicle. When you start the program, the terrain editor defaults to a 96 x 96 map.

To change the map size, click the Options tab at the top of the screen to get to the Game Options menu. From there, select Modify Map Info. Both map size and terrain type (snow or temperate) can then be selected. When
changing the size of an existing map to a smaller size, be aware that the edges may be clipped. The terrain editor ensures that the center of the current map will be centered in the new size you pick.

2. Laying Down Territory

The main editing screen is broken down into two sections: the Side Bar andthe Edit Field. The Edit Field displays the map as the players would see it in the game. This is also the canvas on which you place the terrain tiles to build your map. When you start the program, the terrain is clear and flat.

To add features, move the button over one of the basic land tile buttons (Land, Ore, Gem or Water) or the terrain tile displayed in the Tile View Panel. Once the mouse cursor is over the desired tile, click the left mouse button to pick up the tile and place it on the “brush”. The mouse cursor will turn into a paint brush to denote you are now in paint mode. Then, move the brush over the Edit Field and click the left mouse button again to place the tile.

Until you click the right mouse button or select another tile, the selected tile will stay on the brush. Each time you click the left mouse button, you will place down a tile. This allows you to put down several tiles in short order. If you hold the left mouse button down and move the cursor around, you can effectively paint with the tile. Note that tiles that are larger than 1×1 will smear if painted this way.

3. Different Type of Terrain

In addition to the four basic land tiles, there are additional terrain tiles which have been grouped into six types: Shore, River, Road, Ridges, Trees, and Debris. Left-clicking on one of these terrain selection buttons will bring up that type of tile in the Tile View Panel (you can alternatively use the PgUp and PgDn keys to move between them). Clicking on the scroll buttons (or pressing the left or right arrow key) will allow you to scroll through all the various tiles of this type.

The Sizing Grid, displayed in the Tile View Panel, shows the exact dimensions of the currently selected tile. This represents how many cells the tile will take up and in what type of configuration. The four basic land tiles (Land, Ore, Gems and Water) each take up one cell of grid space.

4. The Page View Screen

Clicking on the Page View button (located on the bottom of the edit menu; second button from the right) activates Page View mode and brings up a full screen version of the Tile View panel. Using this mode, you can choose from multiple tiles on the screen at once. This is very convenient when you are searching for a tile and having difficulty finding it. Clicking on the scroll buttons allows you to move through the different pages of tiles, and selecting one of the terrain type buttons will switch to that type of terrain. Once you have located the tile you are looking for, simply left click on it. This will close the Page View screen and put you in paint mode with the tile you selected.

5. Erasing Tiles

The terrain editor doesn’t really have an erase command. To “erase” tiles, you really need to overwrite them with other tiles. You can do this with the paint mode or using the Select and Fill Mode described below.

6. Passable Terrain

A Passable Filter button has been included to help you determine which cells are passable and which ones aren’t. Due to the irregular shape of some of the tiles, sometimes it’s hard to see whether a clear path exists between them. Clicking on the Passable Filter button will highlight in red any cells which are impassable to ground based units. It is generally advisable to make openings in ridges at least two cells wide. Otherwise, you may find that traffic backs up while units try to maneuver their way through them.

7. Flags

Flags are used to mark the different starting locations for the players when the map is played. Only one of each color flag can be placed. (If you place a flag when one of that color already exists, the old flag will be moved to the new location.) There are eight different color flags, each signifying one of the eight starting positions on the map.

It is important to place all eight flags on the map. If there are not eight starting locations on the map, Red Alert will pick random locations for the missing ones. Players are then randomly distributed among the eight locations. Note that flag colors are used to signify different starting locations, but do not indicate which player will be placed at that location.

8. Money Counter

The money counter, at the top of the screen, keeps track of how much money in Ore and Gems has been placed on the map. It will increase as more Ore and Gems are placed down, and decrease if they are erased. Use this to balance the economics of your map.


1. Radar View

The radar view displays the map at a smaller scale allowing you to see more of it. The zoom box (the red cornered box) shows which part of the map is currently displayed in the Edit Field.

When the mouse cursor moves over the Radar View, the mouse changes to a white box to signify that clicking will change the position you are viewing in the Edit View. Clicking the left mouse button will center the field on the area contained within the white box. Clicking on the right mouse button zooms the radar image in and out.

2. Selecting and Filling Areas

To select an area, first make sure that you are not in paint mode. If you are in “brush” mode, right click to cancel it. Once you are not in “brush” mode, click and hold the left mouse button and “drag” the mouse cursor to encompass the area you want selected. Selected areas are highlighted in a yellow box. To “unselect” the area, click the right mouse button outside the selected region. Right clicking inside the selected region will bring
up the Edit Menu (see below).

When an area is selected, clicking on any of the four basic tile buttons will fill that area with the selected type of tile. This is extremely useful for erasing large portions of the map and quickly laying down Ore, Gems, and Water.

3. The Edit Menu

Right clicking within the selected region will bring up the Edit Menu. The Edit Menu supports four commands: Copy, Paste, Paste Clip and Unselect.

  • Copy
    Selecting the Copy button will copy the selected area to the clipboard. This area may then be pasted down with the Paste or Paste Clip commands.
  • Paste
    Paste places the area in the clipboard (put there with the Copy command) in the selected area. If the selected area is not as large as the area you copied, it will be pasted outside the boundaries of the selected area. The upper left corner is the common anchoring point between the selected area and the area to be pasted.
  • Paste Clip
    Paste Clip works similarly to the Paste command, except that if the selected area is smaller than the area you copied, it will be clipped to fit within the selected area. For example, if a 3×3 area is copied and you attempt to Paste Clip into a 1×1 area, only the upper left corner of the 3×3 area will be pasted.
  • Unselect
    Unselect is an alternative method to unselect the selected region. This is provided in case you accidentally right clicked within the selected region, when you meant to click outside it.


Click the Options tab at the top of the screen to get to the Options Screen. From here your maps can be loaded, saved and deleted. In addition, you can select New Map or Modify Map Info.

New Map

Selecting the New Map command will bring up a pop-up dialog which allows you to choose the size and terrain set you want the new map to use. If you have unsaved changes, you will be warned before you are allowed to create a new map.

Load, Save and Delete Map

These commands work very similarly to the Load, Save and Delete commands used within Red Alert. File names may be up to forty characters in length.

Modify Map Info

Selecting the Modify Map Info button allows you to change the size and terrain type of the map you are currently editing. Changing the terrain type does not affect the map data, it only changes its appearance. When changing the size of an existing map to a smaller size, be aware that the edges will be clipped. The terrain editor ensures that the center of the current map will be centered in the new size you pick.


1. Have a theme in mind when you start your map

Is this going to be a water-heavy map? Land-only? What do you want the players to be doing most of the time? Defending? Scouting? Naval combat? Deciding on the theme of the map that you want to create helps a lot in defining its terrain and the placement of players and ore. Always go into a map with an idea in mind, otherwise your map will lose focus, and you won’t get what you intended – although sometimes that can be the best thing to happen to your map! Many cool maps have arisen from trying something unusual that you didn’t intend in the first place.

2. Always try and leave space for units to move freely.

Bottlenecks are fine, but try and keep your narrowest areas at least 4 or 5 cells wide. Otherwise, large amounts of units won’t be able to get through certain locations, causing them to try and find another way to the target, which usually takes them somewhere you don’t want them to go. Use the Passable/Blocked tab to see where you’ve got bottlenecks and make sure they’re wide enough to accommodate the forces that will be moving through them.

3. Conflict is what it’s all about.

Start the player with a small patch of ore near them, then make them put their ore trucks at risk by moving larger ore patches further and furtherfrom their bases. Remember, one goal is to force the players into conflict over money, and if all the nearby ore is in one place, you can be sure there will be a fight for control of it.

4. Bridges are cool, but don’t rely on them.

Since any bridge can be destroyed, when designing the map make sure that you consider all bridges to be destroyed and thus unusable the minute that the game begins. This way, you won’t rely on them for access to other islands or areas of the map. Be sure there’s always another way to get around, unless the theme of the map intentionally calls for blocked off areas.

5. Use Skirmish as a test-bed.

The AI in skirmish builds rapidly and uses a lot of units. Play against the computer on your map several times, and look for places that you or the computer gets slowed down. Sometimes these slow-downs can be remedied by widening passes, removing trees, or changing the starting flag position.

6. Balance the map.

The coolest maps are those that are balanced, but not symmetrical. The more natural and different each part of the terrain is, the more interesting the map is to play on. Also, consider the placement of the players when making the map. If the player has multiple ways into their base and not a lot of natural defense, give them a bit more money to get started with. If the player is in a position that is easily defensible, make them go farther (thus putting themselves more at risk) for ore and gems.

7. Don’t fill the map with ore.

Unless you’re purposely trying to make a map that’s just all ore, don’t overdo the placement and amount of ore. Remember, you want the game to eventually end! When the money runs out, the only thing left to do is fight with whatever you’ve got left. Limiting money is a good way to bring a game to closure. Use gems to your advantage too. Since they’re worth twice as much, but don’t grow or spread, you can make little treasure areas for players to fight over. Usually, a player will take the risk to go after gems as opposed to ore, simply because they want more money faster.

8. Don’t overuse trees.

Trees can add a lot of character to a map, but don’t clump too many of them together or you could see a performance hit when playing the game. Instead, use cliffs, rocks, and other tiles that block the cell. A basic rule to follow is that if you notice the editor slowing down when you scroll over a densely forested section of the map, you’re going to see the game suffer the same way.

9. Keep the abilities of the sides in mind when creating.

Since you know where the players are going to start, you can get a good idea how each side will use the space you provide them to build on. Try to provide multiple strategies for a certain location that the player can use to defend and attack with. For example, even a small water area by a starting location can provide enough room to allow the Allies to build cruisers to use for defense of their base. Even if they’re land- locked, this allows players more opportunities for strategy.

10. Always have another way in.

Although it’s tactically ideal to have a location with only one way in or out, design flaws into the terrain that allows players multiple ways into each other’s bases. This makes everyone spread their defenses around their weak points, thus allowing more room for sneak attacks and assaults. It also adds a bit more uncertainty to where to place defenses and critical structures – the enemy could attack from any number of directions!

11. Use shore pieces to advantage.

On water-heavy maps, use shore pieces to your advantage – they are the only places that transports can be loaded and unloaded. Keep this in mind when you’re making a map that is primarily islands – players will have to land in certain areas, thus you can design the terrain and place players accordingly.

12. Never block off areas completely.

If you’re making a map of just islands, then you don’t need to worry about this, but if the map is primarily land-based, be sure you leave areas for units to get around natural hazards. Never seal a player into an area that forces them to use one certain tactic to get out of what they’re now trapped in.

13. Be an artist

Although this is more for cosmetic sake, make your cliff lines, shore lines, and rivers actually match up. Pay attention to the shadow lines on the ridge pieces and don’t use a piece that isn’t intended to be used there. When using shore pieces, sometimes switching to cliff line and back again can solve spacing problems that may arise from starting a shoreline from two different ends at the same time. The amount of time you spend making the map look as cool as it plays does come across to other players. It shows an understanding and dedication to making the map as cool as you possibly could.

14. Refine, refine, refine!

Chances are, the first time you’re done with a map, it won’t be perfect. Play with elements of it (ore placement, cliff lines, starting points, etc.) until you get something that will work better. The more time you spend with a map, the more ways for improvement you’ll see for it.

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