Dundjinni Platinum Edition Fluid Entertainment, Inc. http://www.Dundjinni.com Software available on CD or via download; $80 Reviewed by Chibbell Tibbett
Dundjinni is a new mapping product from Fluid Entertainment, the company who brought you E-Tools. I must say that though I have very little regard for E-Tools, I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this software for quite some time now. I was pretty much hooked from the first screen shot and could not wait to get my grubby little mitts on it. Would I be able to finally make decent looking maps without having to do it all by hand in Photoshop? I and several of my more creative friends have been using Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro to make similar maps in the past. Would Fluid be able to deliver on their promise of ease of use? Would the maps really look as good as they do on the website?
First things first, lets see what the people at Fluid Entertainment have to say about their new baby.
"Dundjinni is a full-featured fantasy map creation program. It allows users to create walls and floors, place objects, insert text, and more. It boasts an intuitive interface and an impressive selection of art and textures. It also allows you to author d20 adventures in a simple yet elegant way."
There are three versions of Dundjinni available: Platinum $80, Gold $60, Silver $40.
"Dundjinni Gold includes everything from Dundjinni Silver PLUS the ability to create adventures. It has monster stats from Core Rulebook 3 (MM), Monsternomicon, and the Book of Fiends. It also includes the Token Pack: Reaper Characters with 22 Tokens."
"Dundjinni Platinum includes everything from Dundjinni Gold PLUS the following Art Packs: Castle, Temple, Village, and 11 more Reaper Tokens. It also includes stat blocks from Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed and its supplemental books and Eldritch Might series."
Lucky for us we managed to grab a review copy of the Platinum version. The minimum requirement were stated as follows:
Windows 98 or later 800 MHz Pentium 3 or better 256 MB RAM or more 110 MB hard disk space (approx.)
The test machine we used was:
Windows XP SP2 Athlon XP 1900+ 512 MB RAM Hp photosmart 7660 (for printing the maps)
Installation was a breeze. All I had to do was download the setup files off of the website, input our user name and serial number and off it went. There were already two patches available on the website, so a few moments later I was starting up Dundjinni v1.0.2. Oddly enough the startup screen did not reflect the updated version number, though the Help-About dialogue confirmed the updated product id.
After a cursory examination of the manual I decided to just dive right in. After all the manual tells you to, Forget the rest of this manual and refer back to it only when you are stuck, when you want some shortcuts, or when you want a deeper look at all the features and capabilities. What did I have to loose?
Starting up the program and starting a new document we are presented with two tool dialogues, Tools and Map Items. These tools are quite similar to those used in other graphics programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. One a tool is selected a new tool bar appears at the top with more options for that particular tool.
Right off the bat I was somewhat confused by the lack of input when creating a new document. There is no option to request a specific size for your map. A look back at the manual revealed what I was missing. Dundjinni assumes a single map size that represents two different forms of map. I feel it best to explain this up front because I found it to be the most confusing aspect of the program. One could make the mistake I did and create a detailed map and then spend an hour or two altering it to fit on a couple of pages instead of having it spread across five or six.
First it represents a single 8x10 reference map such as those you might see in a printed module for a DMs use. This map is split up into squares that represent 5ft. The second is an area consisting of sixteen 8x10 battle maps that you would print out and use at full scale on the tabletop. When you go to output the map to a printer you simply choose whether you want the map printed as a reference on a single page for the DM or if you would like to print it out at full battle scale for the players to use. If you are already confused dont worry. Once you get past the map mode aspect of the program it gets better.
This is why the rulers are displayed as 32 wide and 40 tall. This helps you delineate where page breaks will occur. I only wish that they had added an extra visual reference to show you at a glance where pages would be cut off at.
Its a headache at first but after a while you get used to it. If you only want a battle map to take up a single page you need to constrain the area you use to an 8x10 vertical section. To further add to the confusion, you can later select an area of the map and have the program create a new battle map from your selection.
All of this is a unique way of handling the way a map is split and later printed. One could easily argue that for ease of use they should have stuck with the way other windows programs act.
Well now that we are through with that we can get down to the meat of the product. Namely, how do you make maps and is it easy to do. Fortunately the answer is very simple.
The tools you use the most will be the Stamp Item, Rectangle Marquee, Draw Freehand, Eraser and Fill tools. These are well represented by a rubber stamp, a rectangle, a pencil, an eraser and a paint bucket. All very similar to those in other graphic programs. To use them you select which pack you want to use in the Map Items menu, and then the type of item you want it to be. This may be a door, a floor tile, an object or any slew of different item types. Floors and walls you can draw freely using the various tools. Fixed objects like a spider web, a door or a log are placed using the stamp tool.
For now I decided I wanted to make a wizards tower out in the middle of the woods. The idea behind the adventure is that the wizard has mysteriously died and the players are sent to investigate. Pretty standard stuff really.
I began by filling an 8x10 area with grass. This would mark my page boundaries for me as I only wanted to use one page. To make it go by fast I decided to use the Rectangle Marquee tool and had it Auto Fill with my currently selected texture. This was a hand feature than I was very happy they added.
After I was done with that I zoomed in and started adding in a little more detail. First I decided to mix up the grass in the area a bit to make it look a bit more realistic. I found it best to do my grass and dirt before laying down the stone tile for the wizards tower. Otherwise I kept putting grass over the top of the stone. Another thing I did was change the render options to allow for Detail Mode once zoomed in. Turning this off or on lets you see in higher or lower resolution. For larger maps you might want to keep Detail Mode turned off so you dont take the performance hit.
Adding walls was literally a snap. Thankfully they added the ability to snap to vertices or the center of tiles. I only wish there was a shortcut key to change between the two faster as I often found myself going back and forth between center and vertice mode often. Fortunately you can turn snap on and off with a simple press of Ctrl-G. I also appreciated the fact that there are multiple sizes of brushes, each a different size measured in feet.
Adding in all the little details was where the real fun began. This is where the extra Art Packs really come in handy as they are full of objects particular to their theme. The art in this program is very well done. Even a picky designer such as myself was impressed by the quality of work that has gone into making the maps gorgeous.
While the Dungeon and Wild artpacks come with a nice selection of objects, the majority of the really good ones are in Castle, Village and Temple. It is worth noting however that the majority of the floors and walls you use are in Dungeon and Wild.
All in all building a map was very easy. I would definitely say that they hit their mark there. The only time I had a problem was when the program would hang for a moment while reading in new objects as I switched between packs. The larger the map you make the longer it takes to switch between packs. On slower machines this might make the program very frustrating to use.
The program would also pause for a moment when I was drawing ground textures with the pencil tool. I found it best to only use the pencil tool for small areas at a time. Other times I would use the fill or marquee tool for large areas. Otherwise the program would grind to a halt and take a few minutes to come back. Thankfully it never crashed.
Occasionally there would be another little hiccup where little white pixels would appear around what you draw. As I understand it this has been a problem since the first release of the program and it still has not been resolved. Usually with a few frustrated redraws you can get them to go away.
For the most part I found this feature to be a bit gimmicky. I dont know that I would ever use it myself. I suppose it would be helpful for some people. Unfortunately I was not able to review the ability to add monsters based on tokens because they were not included with our review version.
You can right click most any object and give it a name and a description. Traps can be given save, attack, search and disarm information. You can also place a room token inside a room. Once you do so you designate the borders of the room and you can then give it a description. It will also pull in all the descriptions of the objects in the room. You can also differentiate between boxed text, notes, combat encounters, etc.
Output to HTML
Once you are finished you can export all the information out into an HTML document. You can also export the map image and place it on a webpage if you like.
It's fairly handy but it has some problems. It does not put the name of the objects before the descriptions. Instead it just puts in all the descriptions together and is something of a convoluted mess. While easy enough to fix on your own, the program should be smart enough to fix it itself.
I also found exporting the map to be fairly useless. It only allows you to export to JPG, PNG and BMP at 1600x1200. Unfortunately it insists on exporting the entire reference map area. The only way to get it to properly export the battle map is to highlight the area, go up to tools, select Export to Battle Map. Once that is complete you can then export the image at full resolution. A fairly clunky and silly way to do things. Especially considering that the whole point of making the maps is to output them in one way or another.
This is a fairly easy process that took me a little bit to get used to. Overall the printouts were absolutely gorgeous on my HP photosmart 7660. I printed mainly on semi-gloss stock and it was well worth it. It will also print out the adventure synopsis if you have added descriptions to objects. Be careful that you only use regular paper for the first page that the synopsis is on, since it doesnt give you a warning about it.
I also like the fact that you can turn on and off just about any part of the map before you go to print. That way you dont accidentally print where all the monsters or treasure and give it all away to your players.
Unfortunately there were many little quirks about the program that really annoyed me. Again it seems that the output of maps was glossed over when it should have been a primary focus of the application.
Again we return to the reference map or battle map issue. A reference map is a single page with everything on it.
Alternatively you can choose to print out a battle map that can be placed on the table for your players to move their minis about on. This is at full 1:1 scale. You are also given the option of printing at scale.
Oddly enough the battlemap option always tells you that it will print 16 pages, which would include the entire 32x40 area. Fortunately it does not do that. Instead it will only print the areas that you have placed a tile upon. Why they couldnt have a dynamic dialogue that told you exactly how many pages it would be is beyond me.
The reference map is somewhat annoying in that it prints out the entire grid on the page, even on areas with nothing mapped out underneath it.
You can only tell the number of pages by going into the print preview and looking for yourself. It can also get annoying when you have a little piece of a tile just barely pushing you to an extra page. For myself it was a small 3 pixel area that would have made me print an entire 8x10 area covered with grids.
Another problem is that you can not access your printers settings from within Dundjinni itself. For whatever reason they only allow you to choose the printer but not go in to the properties of it. If you want to change from card to glossy stock you usually need to tell your printer this so that it doesnt use the wrong amount of ink. To do so you have to go to the Windows printer setup and change the default setup for the whole computer. Then you go back to Dundjinni and print it out. Very annoying.
An issue for many of our non-American readers would be that you cant choose different paper sizes. It defaults to printing out an 8x10 area on 8x11 paper. There is no option for A4 or legal or any other paper size. They also dont take into consideration that some people such as myself can print all the way to the edge of the paper. That way I wouldnt have to trim off the excess on every page.
There is also no option to print landscape rather than horizontal. Nor is there an option to not print the adventure synopsis. Oh yeah, you also cant simply print page 3 in case your buddy spilled his Mountain Dew all over your old printout.
While the maps themselves are gorgeous there is a severe lack options that are common in nearly any other program. I simply cant understand why you would be so limited when the whole idea behind making the map is putting it out on the table so your players can use it.
In the end I found myself using the interface in the program to select a certain area, make it a separate battle map and then exporting it as a jpeg. I would do this several times across a large map. Then I would take them into Photoshop and use that programs print abilities to do with the map as I saw fit.
From what I can tell, Fluid has devoted a lot of time and energy to this product. They seem to be fairly receptive to new ideas and input by the user community. There is also an impressive amount of work being put out by fans on the forums. Tons of new objects, walls, ceiling and textures come out every day. I was particularly impressed with some of the new modern day textures complete with street lights and signs and telephone poles. Pretty much everyone is very friendly and willing to help you learn the program.
Some Bad News
Something you will want to be aware of is that the EULA states you can not make maps with the provided Object Packs and sell them. This caused quite a bit of a stir back when Fluid announced this. Many people wanted to use the maps they make in their own products. Fluid decided they wanted to retain ownership of their own artwork and did not want it in every PDF and small run book out there. I cant say as I blame them really. Something that is iffy is that if you post an image of your work, then Fluid retains the rights to use it.
I was both very impressed with the program as well as incredibly frustrated by it. Making a map is incredibly easy and they have definitely made it simple for absolutely anyone to create wonderful maps. And by gorgeous maps, I mean absolutely stunning.
Unfortunately the devil is in the details and its absolutely killing the product for me. Once you get used to the way it outputs the maps its not too hard but the lack of options in the print and export interface is a huge issue and severely disappointing. Hopefully this can be fixed in a future version.
I would also have to say that the Gold version is a bit gimmicky and overpriced. Its not really worth the extra money for the ability to create room descriptions within the program in my opinion. You can use any text editor to get the same results. The other art packs are absolutely gorgeous though. As I said above, you dont get many new floor or wall textures with the Castles, Villages or Temples packs but you get a ton of objects that are absolutely essential if you want any versatility in your maps. The Platinum version may be expensive but is definitely worth it. Of course you can always go online to the forums at www.Dundjinni.com and download tons of cool user created objects.
3.5 / 5 Stars
All things said, I know I will continue to use this product in the future and will definitely recommend it to others. Making maps is a breeze and they really are gorgeous. You just got to give it a bit of loving and a lot of patience when you start printing things out. When you do finally get them out on the table, your players will all go Whoa! I know mine did. Hopefully Fluid will take some of these issues to heart and have them fixed soon enough.