Aww I wrote some stuff and accidentally hit backspace...
Anyways, I had the following idea:
First, the map has to be randomly generated.
You can only see the portion of the map directly/indirectly seen by currently active unit (units should share their view if theyre close enough).
Now, the player can draw freeform maps (either using some kind of pencil, or annotated points, or hexes, whatever). The map is in no way linked to the real world (it wont show where your units are, it shows nothing, everything is added on it manually).
So if the player sends out an exploration team, they get pushed around a bit by wind, end up in a storm, and after 10 years find land, the player has barely any idea where they are.
The player will explore around a bit with this exploration team, drawing a local map (centered around the "landing point" for example).
Now, the player also has a local map for the main base.
Then, the player can create a 3rd map, name it "global map", and drag and drop the two local maps onto this global map as single entities, positioning and rotating them in an attempt to make their relative positions as accurate as possible (perhaps the player knows the approximate direction the exploration team went, and the approximate speed, and hopes they didnt do a 180 turn on the way)
When further information is received, the player can adjust the global map by repositioning the local maps.
There can be as many maps as the player wants, and any map can be included in any other maps as many times as the player wants. So the player could have a map for each continent (filled with local maps), and a global map with the continents glued together.
Now, this mapping process takes time and effort, so it should obviously be central to the gameplay to make it worth implementing.
The maps are needed for efficient long distance navigation, so what can we do to make that really important?:
- Unique resources found in far away places (find a way around the globe to get there faster? Maps should wrap around and be of random size so you never really know if you got around the planet or if you covered 25% of the map or if you circled it 4 times)
- Knowing where an important location is on one local map, but needing to know where it is relative to another to be actually able to get there. Eg Exploration Team finds a map to a treasure. The map is relative to their current location and the player can use landmarks to figure out where the treasure is on that local map. But the Exploration Team lacks the resources to go after it, because of course its on another continent entirely. So, you need to know where the treasure is relative to Main Base in order to send a stronger team for it. In order to do this, you need to have a reasonably accurate global map where both the local map of Exploration Team and the local map of Main Base have been placed. If you have such a map, you will immediately know where to go from Main Base to get to the treasure. If you dont have a map like that, youre not getting there any time soon.
- Knowing where the enemy is relative you in all directions once you find them. Maybe you only explored to the west (Wherever that is...) and find the enemy far away, but if you explored east you might have found them much closer to you. If you have a good global map, you would realize this immediately, but if you dont know the size of the planet, youll have no idea.
- Maybe you need to create maps for traders or allies to properly interact with them. If your maps suck, the traders will never get to you and neither will your allies when youre in trouble. (it could be interesting if you could share your maps with your allies in multiplayer, so they can use them as parts of their global maps, or maybe teams have a combined pool of maps editable by the entire team)
Overall this could be fun, but the games will have to be very long (not a problem if single player. But for multiplayer It might make sense to have big teams where people can come and go, but the maps remain. Thats how maps evolved in real life anyways... Difficult to implement well though)