For the second alternative map, I needed to carefully re-organize the screens to put them into a grid.
There are 21 overworld screens, and so I will use a 5×4 grid, omitting one of the overworld screens, since there can be only 20 screens in a 5×4 grid.
Selecting the right screen to omit is important. The removed screen must not be:
- A subway entrance
- A subway exit
- The phonebooth, bridge, or jail screen
- A bridge piece start screen
One of my goals with this redesign is to keep the layout of the screens reasonably familiar to players of the original game. This is a formidable task, and technically impossible since I am changing the layout, but my goal is to make the changes minimal, and to preserve as much of the critical paths through the map as possible.
But just as important, I want the redesigned map to be balanced and fun to play.
To achieve this, I want the subway entrances and exits to be distributed about the map, and not clustered together too much.
There are 11 unique subway exits, and 5 subway entrances (counting the Daily Planet), so 16 of these screens have something to do with the subway system, and another three are the Jail, the Daily Planet, the Phonebooth, and the Bridge screen. (Both the Daily Planet and the Jail are also subway exit screens, so are already counted among the 16 overworld screens that are related to the subway system, but adding the Phonebooth and Bridge brings the total of “must keep” screens to 18, leaving just 3 redundant screens for possible removal.) I didn’t realize how tight the map design is until I noticed this.
After considering the matter for a bit, I decided that this screen would be the one to go:
But I just as well I could have picked this one:
Or this one:
I note that the three “dispensable” screens all have a similar color scheme to them, green and white, and wonder if there’s something being communicated through a visual language here, or if it’s just a coincidence… there are two other green/light grey screens, the Yellow Subway entrance, and the screen above the Jail, which is one of the bridge piece starting rooms. So… probably just a coincidence, then.
At the edges of the overworld grid, the map will wrap around to the next row or column. As an experiment, I think I’ll also create a variation where the map will wrap around to the same row or column, but I think this variation will only be playable on Easy difficulty — because, when Superman is struck by kryptonite, he will be stuck in the current row of the overworld map, and if Lois Lane isn’t present on that row, he’ll be unable to get revived until she wanders in, or the helicopter brings her, which could take ages, and would be unfair.
I take a picture of the overworld, cut out each room, and put it into an image editor and move them around until I have them arranged in a 4×5 grid that I think will be satisfactory. I end up needing to move things around a good bit to achieve this, but I think I managed to do it while still preserving some of the critical relationships between certain rooms.
Here’s what I ended up with:
Here’s the original map for comparison:
So you can see, there’s a bit of re-shuffling that I had to do in order to balance the map out, and many of the vertical and horizontal connections are different in the new map.
The major changes are:
- The one-way vertical boundaries for the Phone Booth and Bridge screens are two-way.
- One screen is removed from the overworld, to allow for an even grid.
- The Phonebooth and Bridge screens are in the center of the map. (Although, since the edges of the map still wrap, center/edge is all relative.)
The important non-changes are:
- The subway system exits are all to the same screens as before. (But, due to the shuffling of these screens relative to one another on the overworld, this does still mean there’s some significant differences. The key exits to get to the Daily Planet and Jail screens are the same as in the original, though. And several of the subway exits now get you close to the Bridge screen.)
- The bridge pieces are still found on the same screens as they were in the original. I didn’t try to re-locate them. (Sometime, I’d like to introduce randomization into their starting positions, and see how that plays.)
Now that I had the design determined, I had to hack the rom to make the changes for real. To do this, I went through the original code and noted the names of each screen, and figured out from the boundary change code the correct addresses for each room, and mapped them together. This was straightforward, if a bit tedious, but fortunately the map is small.
One thing I noticed as I coded the new map connections was that there’s a peculiarity at the top-right and bottom-left corners of the map, due to the way the rows and columns wrap; if you’re in the top-right screen, going up or right will both take you to the bottom-left screen; and if you’re in the bottom-left screen, going down or left will take you to the top-right screen. This doesn’t make sense, unless you understand the way the overworld wraps. If you get to the end of a row or column, continuing in that direction wraps you around to the next row or column, and at the very end of all the rows and columns, it wraps you around to the opposite corner, and so the top-right and bottom-left screens are connected to each other in two directions.
I have only played through this map once, and mostly just to test that everything was connected properly. I think it’s a viable, and interesting variation, but I wouldn’t call it better than the original. Certainly, due to the re-positioning of the screens, the quick path to the bridge pieces isn’t as short as in the original map, which means speed running potential for this map is reduced. Beyond that, the Phonebooth and Bridge screens are not low-traffic screens any more, meaning that you’ll often find gangsters on these screens, and the helicopter may find bridge pieces that you’ve left at the Bridge site more readily, which will again make it more challenging as the helicopter removes them again.
You can download the entire collection of romhacks here: