I have been working so far with a 2D map engine (c10t) which has become outdated with 1.7.2. It was already outdated with 1.6.4, I had to install a whole host of complicated programs, compile the source myself etc to get it to work, but I have given up now. The new renderer that I am using is working fine, and I can make new blocks appear on the map (the ones that are currently pink in the new empire map) by simply editing a text file. It also looks much better.
The difference is that the new renderer does not create one single file, but one per chunk. I have to use another program then to re-assemble the file, which works only if the file has an exact known size & dimension, which is a bit of an issue because I have to do trial-and error for each map that I want to make with this tool. If due to some error a chunk is created outside the map (this happens sometimes), the whole system breaks down and I have to trim the map of excessive chunks, and re-generate it. It’s annoying.
So the current 2D map is generated by having a background image (the one map image) and overlay it with the lot squares. What I will do now is to create chunk squares, have background images in them from the new map function and overlay those with the lot squares. I hope I find an elegant way to do this. The good thing will be that there will not anymore be a 3MB file in a single download like for the kingdom but instead several smaller files to download. This will speed things up a bit hopefully, and I can skip the map assembly tool, so there will be less code to maintain. You will know I managed to pull that off once all other maps look like the empire map.