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Hexagonal v square tiles

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I have a request for opinions. For a turn-based tactics game, which tiles are the mainstream: hexagonal or square? I suspect that the tile shape affects how easy it is for the average gamer to get into the game, but maybe the bias I have is subjective and uncommon. I hope opinions from the community would help me come to a conclusion. Thanks in advance!

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I think squares are the most common, but I doubt hexes make life more difficult for new players. In fact, it may be more intuitive since it's the closest to free movement.

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just throwing this out there, but is there any real reason you feel you MUST use a tile of any kind? Point to point per pixel movement isn't all that hard really.

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Original post by Talroth
just throwing this out there, but is there any real reason you feel you MUST use a tile of any kind? Point to point per pixel movement isn't all that hard really.


From a tactical point of view, as a player, it's harder to get things right without tiles (for instance, when trying to prevent the enemy from crossing some area).

For tactical games, I'd say hex is mainstream.

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Personally, it doesn't matter much to me. Isometric or hex structures with any kind of height, such as buildings or towers, are usually more attractive than screen-relative square tiles.

There are different types of hex tiles, but one thing you might want to consider is that any hex shapes without edges facing all four major directions (up, down, left, right) are going to cause funky movement patterns relative to the screen. For example, the hex tiles used in the Fallout series didn't have an up or down edge. So when characters moved up or down, they needed to run back and forth to move in a "straight line".

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First, let me say thanks for your posts! Keep them coming!

ToohrVyk hit the nail on the head about pixel movement. I think isometric squares are attractive because of the drawback to hex that Kest mentioned.

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Square is much more common in my experience. Hex tends to be limited to tabletop or PC wargames. For consoles, square eliminates all the problems of mapping a 4-way dpad to a 6-way movement pattern.

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Isometric tiles are what I've always seen; to be honest, I have only played one or two games that used hexagons. I believe older games and table top games (which generally tend to be much older than video games) used hexagonal patterns, but isometric graphics stole the field in just about every genre for a long time. The thing is, like someone pointed out earlier, you really don't need tiles. If you want to form blockades and that sort of thing, give characters "zones of control" that enemies either can't pass at all, or cant pass without a free strike (suddenly I'm reminded of D&D's attacks of opportunity). You could get creative, and use elliptical zones of control, so character facing comes into play, or characters with certain weapons or skills could exude a larger zone.

I always felt that the strategy in non tiled games was a lot better, if only because it was a little more believable. No one stands in perfect grids, and terrain that isn't limited to a tile can look far more impressive. Aesthetics aside, non-tile based movement allows more complex maneuvers and prevents some rather illogical ones (you aren't facing the enemy in a linear fashion, and thus you cannot attack!).

As a side note, if you really want a tile system, I believe Hexagonal graphics allow more complex terrain, but isometric is more familiar. Square graphics that aren't isometric at all tend to create an odd perspective and seriously lack depth... but, that's purely aesthetic.

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Original post by Kest
There are different types of hex tiles, but one thing you might want to consider is that any hex shapes without edges facing all four major directions (up, down, left, right) are going to cause funky movement patterns relative to the screen. For example, the hex tiles used in the Fallout series didn't have an up or down edge. So when characters moved up or down, they needed to run back and forth to move in a "straight line".


Well, that's an issue of presentation. You could animate movement in the same way you'd do it for Talroth's per pixel movement; you'd just restrict the choice of pixels to move to. I wonder if even the oddity of not always being able to move straight left/right or up/down (depending on how you orient the hex grid) could be managed by proper presentation.

Quote:
Original post by Talroth
just throwing this out there, but is there any real reason you feel you MUST use a tile of any kind? Point to point per pixel movement isn't all that hard really.


In addition to the other answers that've been given, I'd like to add "because it's fun". Basically, I think both have proven to be fun and, even though per pixel is more general and more "realistic", that doesn't make tile based games less fun. People still play chess even though we have Warhammer. People still play Risk even though we have Axis and Allies.

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Original post by Way Walker
Quote:
Original post by Kest
There are different types of hex tiles, but one thing you might want to consider is that any hex shapes without edges facing all four major directions (up, down, left, right) are going to cause funky movement patterns relative to the screen. For example, the hex tiles used in the Fallout series didn't have an up or down edge. So when characters moved up or down, they needed to run back and forth to move in a "straight line".


Well, that's an issue of presentation. You could animate movement in the same way you'd do it for Talroth's per pixel movement; you'd just restrict the choice of pixels to move to. I wonder if even the oddity of not always being able to move straight left/right or up/down (depending on how you orient the hex grid) could be managed by proper presentation.

You can help it look better in some situations, but it's still a little hacky. Characters would need to land on an even or odd tile in order to move straight toward their goal. And characters that can only move one tile per turn are going to be zigzagging. It still looks odd from the player's perspective. It could be difficult to guess where such units are trying to move until you see their movement over several turns.

Quote:
Quote:
Original post by Talroth
just throwing this out there, but is there any real reason you feel you MUST use a tile of any kind? Point to point per pixel movement isn't all that hard really.


In addition to the other answers that've been given, I'd like to add "because it's fun". Basically, I think both have proven to be fun and, even though per pixel is more general and more "realistic", that doesn't make tile based games less fun. People still play chess even though we have Warhammer. People still play Risk even though we have Axis and Allies.

I agree. It's far easier to measure time unit spending with tiles. You can humanly estimate (ie: in your head) how many time units a movement will cost without dragging your cursor everywhere.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by Way Walker
Quote:
Original post by Kest
There are different types of hex tiles, but one thing you might want to consider is that any hex shapes without edges facing all four major directions (up, down, left, right) are going to cause funky movement patterns relative to the screen. For example, the hex tiles used in the Fallout series didn't have an up or down edge. So when characters moved up or down, they needed to run back and forth to move in a "straight line".


Well, that's an issue of presentation. You could animate movement in the same way you'd do it for Talroth's per pixel movement; you'd just restrict the choice of pixels to move to. I wonder if even the oddity of not always being able to move straight left/right or up/down (depending on how you orient the hex grid) could be managed by proper presentation.

You can help it look better in some situations, but it's still a little hacky. Characters would need to land on an even or odd tile in order to move straight toward their goal. And characters that can only move one tile per turn are going to be zigzagging. It still looks odd from the player's perspective. It could be difficult to guess where such units are trying to move until you see their movement over several turns.


One possibility (still a bit hacky, though) would be to move units per pixel but indicate which hex they're in (bolding its border, shading it red, etc.) for gameplay purposes. You'd probably stop a unit's movement halfway through their final hex for this turn.

Or the zig-zagging of units that can only move one hex per turn could be counted as a "feature". As you say, it makes their moves less predictable. [smile]

But, really, I think just moving them smoothly from hex to hex, but not necessarily smoothly to their final destination, would be fine. I don't think it would look that odd from the player's perspective because they're thinking about the game in terms of the grid (so being on a grid unit when not moving is the normal state that they'd expect to see) and the motion is already broken up by the turn based nature of the game (which means both that they've already had to get over the stuttering in the time domain and that any zig-zag motion is broken up by the other players' turns).

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Well, keep using the grids, but just don't lock the units to them. Going per pixel isn't about realism, it is about choice of placement.

If all units are a 2cm circle, and MUST have a 2cm wide gap to pass through, then it gives you options like, blocking a 6cm wide gap with just 2 units. If it was all tiles, then doesn't matter how powerful those units are, they lack physical blocking power. But, plugging a hole with 2 units rather than 3 has risks, by just killing 1 unit, you can have the math work out that you open the space of 2 units.

Risk and reward. Is taking a man off that back passage to give more front line firepower worth the risk of letting them flood you because they overwhelmed 1 guy and flooded past the other guy?

It also removes unit size restriction. Why is every unit one tile? Want a larger unit? Do you up it to 4 tiles? What if you want something that is just slightly larger but not overwhelming large?

I'm just saying, if you are doing a tactics game, just because nearly every other one made has used a locked grid of some kind doesn't mean you have to as well.

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Original post by Talroth
Well, keep using the grids, but just don't lock the units to them. Going per pixel isn't about realism, it is about choice of placement.

If all units are a 2cm circle, and MUST have a 2cm wide gap to pass through, then it gives you options like, blocking a 6cm wide gap with just 2 units. If it was all tiles, then doesn't matter how powerful those units are, they lack physical blocking power. But, plugging a hole with 2 units rather than 3 has risks, by just killing 1 unit, you can have the math work out that you open the space of 2 units.


Either units have zones of control or they don't. If they do, then, in either system, you can block a unit without being physically in the way. If they don't, then one unit can block a one hex space just like on 2cm unit can block a 4cm space. If you want to have the ability to have two 2cm units in a 4cm space, you could just as easily allow small units to stack on one hex.

Quote:

Risk and reward. Is taking a man off that back passage to give more front line firepower worth the risk of letting them flood you because they overwhelmed 1 guy and flooded past the other guy?


I don't see how this situation is any different whether you have tiles or not.

Quote:

It also removes unit size restriction. Why is every unit one tile? Want a larger unit? Do you up it to 4 tiles? What if you want something that is just slightly larger but not overwhelming large?


Or move it up to 2 tiles, or 3. Or allow stacking, like I said above. Or allow it to take 1.5 tiles.

Quote:

I'm just saying, if you are doing a tactics game, just because nearly every other one made has used a locked grid of some kind doesn't mean you have to as well.


Or, if you don't like those solutions, just deal with the "limitations" of a turn based game and enjoy its benefits. Really, I think it's a side issue since I think that discrete movement vs. continuous movement is as big a switch as discrete time (turn based) vs. continuous time (real time). It essentially makes it a different sort of game.

And, I haven't really looked, so maybe there aren't any tactical video games that don't use a grid (probably depends somewhat on your definition of "tactical", a lot of people say that RTS are more tactics than strategy), but I know that at least Warhammer is a table top game that doesn't use a grid. It works quite well. Doesn't make it any better than those that use a grid (where Mechwarrior comes to mind).

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I agree with your conclusion that it adds more precision and complexity. But in many tactical situations, especially turn based, that doesn't mean better gameplay. Having unit movement and size restricted to some grid size means not having to worry about how many extra pixels one unit is compared to another, or how many pixels a gap between units is. I always hated having to drive Starcraft siege tanks inch by inch to get them lined up without gaps.

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I think what many people are overlooking here is visual representation. If I'm not mistaken, with 2D per pixel, you're stuck with overhead representation (And I personally like my units to be more than dots, or dots with bits sticking out of them) or fully 3D, which is a lot of effort for a small tactical game.

The only other option I could see would be to draw each sprite from 8 or even 16 different angles (crapload of work), then either restrict movement direction, but not distance, or to use the closest representation, and have them sliding slightly while walking, and the perspective being a bit poor. Another option would be to break the movement into horizontal, vertical and diagonal vectors, and just use 4 directions. But to be quite frank, the techniques outlined in this paragraph are quite rubbish (unless done very professionally, also read "mind-numbingly difficult"), and as far as I'm concerned, not really options.

So the only way I see that you could create a strong per pixel movement system would be having an overhead view of dots with sticky-outy-bits or fully 3D.

Grids on the other hand give you a representational advantage (unless you have a strong preference for dots with pointy bits, or are willing to create a fully 3D game) in that you can create strong 2D characters/units and have their movement within this context seamless.

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Original post by Kest
I always hated having to drive Starcraft siege tanks inch by inch to get them lined up without gaps.


That is very easily remedied with a better AI for movement. Maybe double clicking a unit would bring you close as it did in starcraft, but doing so again within that range would close the gap completely on the FISRT try, instead of doing that twenty times or trying to back him off and then move him back clicking the ground next to him. But thats not a fault of the movement system, its a fault of the AI not putting the unit where you are asking it to.

Also, Firemonk3y, I played a FPS back in '96 that was sprite based (Marathon). The enemies had 8 views based on level ground and no alternate for elevation differences. 20° to either side, 15 ft above or below, it all had the same sprite frame shown. dead enemies had 1 frame, if you walked around it it would turn and face you, same with ammo and weapons. It didnt really bother game play. Take a look at warcraft 2, the ballista show these huge arrow like bolts. They had 8 directions. It wasnt a big bother there either that they seemed to drift sometimes. At 8 directions thats a 45° difference, rarely notices and not a bother, 16 frames even less. And at that point id make 8 frames with shadows and then turn them all 22.5° and have that as the other 8 without redoing shadows, it wouldnt be notices. even better, make hi res sprites via rendered models and just make 64 frame sprite rotations complete with lighting. once you make 3d models you could have as many frames in a rotation as you want.

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Original post by firemonk3y
I think what many people are overlooking here is visual representation. If I'm not mistaken, with 2D per pixel, you're stuck with overhead representation (And I personally like my units to be more than dots, or dots with bits sticking out of them) or fully 3D, which is a lot of effort for a small tactical game.


Why would you be stuck with dots for perpixel motion with 2D sprites? It isn't any different than with grids, you just unlock it's position from the grid. You can still have the grid to quickly measure distance faster, but the unit can be part way between the grids.

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Original post by Talroth
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Original post by firemonk3y
I think what many people are overlooking here is visual representation. If I'm not mistaken, with 2D per pixel, you're stuck with overhead representation (And I personally like my units to be more than dots, or dots with bits sticking out of them) or fully 3D, which is a lot of effort for a small tactical game.


Why would you be stuck with dots for perpixel motion with 2D sprites? It isn't any different than with grids, you just unlock it's position from the grid. You can still have the grid to quickly measure distance faster, but the unit can be part way between the grids.

I think he's talking about orientation. With 2D graphics other than an exact top-down view, the units need to be rendered in every direction they can move. With pixel based movement, there would no longer be a decent reason to limit movement to 4 or 8 directions. In other words, the Fallout characters probably didn't have animations for moving straight-up, so moving them straight up while they're animating to move up-left would have looked strange.

Personally, I don't think it's a big deal to just use 8 graphical directions and just use the one closest to the movement direction. I've seen many games do it, and it looks pretty good.

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yeah, kest that was what I meant. And after thinking about it, you're quite right, 8 directions does the job quite well.

oh, and in regard to creating sprites from 3D models, what would the point of this be, as having a 3D environment at that point may be more complicated in some ways, but would also make it simpler in other ways.

oh, and JasRonq, I think that in '96 those sort of things were completely acceptable. I would however argue that in this day and age we are naturally more demanding of our games, due to the huge progress that has been seen both in work from large professional studios, and indie studios alike. As much as I enjoyed Wolfenstein and Doom, I know I would definitely find parts of those games somewhat cringeworthy now at least, even if it were an indie game.

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