Sign in to follow this  

3D or 2D map system for MM 4x space game

This topic is 2626 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Just rambling a bit here, so bear with me.

If you were to do a massive multiplayer 4x space game (think Master of Orion with thousands of players), can you think of a way to do a 3D map system in a practical manner? It's easy enough to make and use the map, but it will likely be difficult for the players to get an overview. For example, how do you keep track of what you've explored on a 3D map? And while dedicated players might know how to analyze a 3D map, it'll probably be pretty newbie hostile.

Any good ideas on making a 3D map work, or would you advise sticking with a conventional 2D map?

EDIT:
A 3D grid that is properly colour coded and the ability to switch viewing mode easily might go a long way, something along the lines of the map system in Frontier: Elite II. There's still the risk it'd be too confusing for newbies, and the engine would likely require a lot more work.

[Edited by - Catnub on September 25, 2010 5:23:13 PM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A computer screen is a 2-dimensional object. Portraying 3 dimensions involves casting the shadow of the 3D representation onto a 2D plane. The result is a lot of convoluted distraction as the player attempts to recast the 2D projection into an imaginary 3D space.

It's much better to stick with a 2D portrayal of a 2D space. The distances become clear.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
X-COM comes to mind with how it handled battles in 3-D spaces. You divide the 3-D field into multiple 2-D levels to which can be viewed by cycling through a view-level button. The level you are currently viewing incorporates the levels below it.

I would suggest not to include too many levels, as it can get kind of tricky with too many levels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree it's probably not a viable concept for the reasons stated, but I'd like to keep kicking the idea around a little more.

How's this:
1) The map interface is navigated with the arrows keys to move along the x and y axes, PgUp/PgDn to move along the z axis and +/- to zoom in and out by a factor of 2.
2) Instead of scrolling smoothly, you skip from one cube to the next when moving along the axes. There will be overlap between cubes, so each cube is e.g. 8 units on all axes and another 2 units which are seen on adjacent cubes.
3) When zooming in or out, you change the dimensions of the cube by a factor of 2. So if the cube is 10x10x10 by default (including overlap of 2), zooming in would make it 5x5x5 (including overlap of 1). You will only see entities within that cube, meaning that a fleet which is further along the z (depth) axis will not be displayed.
4) The cube is displayed with a slight tilt in order to let players view all 3 axes. It is displayed isometrically, perspective is not displayed. The cube cannot be rotated or flipped.
5) On the map as well as the tables for planets and fleets, allow the player to easily see the distance from one entity (planet or fleet) to another in table form, either through entering a set of coordinates or choosing a planet or fleet.
6) As in Stars!, you will be able to view the trajectory of enemy fleets when within critical range of sufficiently advanced scanners. Clicking the fleet will display the line with notches for each turn change to display location. When choosing the destination for your fleet you may click on a point on such a travel route in an attempt to intercept it. You may also click the enemy fleet if you wish to do a tail chase.
7) The following viewing modes will be available as on/off switches (multiple can be used at once):
a. Scanner range
Will display coloured circles to indicate the range of your scanners
b. Exploration range
Will display the extent of your exploration with coloured circles, and will show whether or not a planet has been explored with a landing party. Exploration is stored as fake circles, meaning that a unit cube is defined as explored or not, making it a simple yes/no storage matter rather than having to store circles forever.
c. Fleets
Will display all known fleets, possibly with options to only show allied/enemy fleets and an option to display trajectories for all visible fleets.

I haven't given much thought to technical implementation, only considering this from a player perspective. Does it sound workable, or still a no-go?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
While there's a bit of a realism factor, and a bit of a coolness factor, I always question the value of 3D in this type of game. The major question should not be "How can the interface be manageable for the player", although this is an important question, but rather "How would this feature affect gameplay?".

Can fleets interdict each other in flight? If so, you'll quickly run into serious defensive problems as it becomes impossible to reliably protect an area much beyond a given planet or star. This can be a great feature if design accomdates for it, but this is setting up a game in which tactical options have to be really robust-- attacking will be much harder, and you could easily end up in an extremely low-combat scenario most games. Which is fine, but know what you're getting into, since you'll need other features to replace combat.

How will you handle ships' supplies? In most 4x space games, ships can only move a certain distance from friendly bases (generally hyperspace jumps or some such). Will you have separate movement system for ships travelling interstellar distances versus local? I can envision something like Sins of a Solar Empire working here, although you still have to address how far/long a ship can move in local space before it is forced to return to friendly planets/stations for resupply.

Do planetary orbits exist along multiple planes, or just one? With a 3D system, it'd be pretty unrealistic to all be on the same plane, but would mulitple planes have any effect on what a player has to do?

Will starbases have any significant defensive value if they can be avoided along three axes?

If your game design truly utilizes three-dimensionality then I say go for it, and the viewing options you listed in your last post seem like a good start (I say start because with anything so complex, you'll need to accomodate specific game features into your interface design and do extensive testing besides). Having toggles for displaying various things on a map as you mention is probably essential, particularly with an MMO. You may also want to have multiple viewers, one of which can be "compressed" to two dimensions for easy reference, even if it's impractical for manipulating the game.

I'd also look at X3, which had a simple pair of viewing axes for sector maps, one perpindicular to the z axis and one perpendicular to the y, toggled by a button with a smooth rotation allowing a player to quickly determine an objects 3D position.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The UI idea presented is a mess, frankly. The user pretty much needs orthogonal views, and possibly turning the view(s). It compounds the problem that you need a strategic view for a 4x and a tight, local, tactical view is not enough. You can take good ideas from professional 3D software.

Khaiy is thinking in the right direction. Catnub, just assume you have a magical, holographic, thought activated UI already done, and concentrate on how you want the game to actually play. *Then* start worrying about whether you can make an UI to accomplish that. What's supposed to be fun in the game? Do you want it to be tactical or strategic, Go or Chess, Civilization or Master of Orion? Do you want the fun to be in establishing a base in the "correct" position, trapping and enveloping enemy forces, harassing enemy supply routes and backwater worlds, establishing trade routes to other players? Once you have established how you want it to feel, we can consider how the 3D space can be used to add to that, or if it will unavoidably detract from it.

Adding some detail - do you really need things to have 'analog' coordinates or could you use cubic volumes of space (I'll call these 'sectors') as the lowest granularity of location? What does it take to intercept other fleets - does the intercepting fleet have to go into the same sector, can you intercept to adjacent sectors, or can you only fight at star systems? Can others move freely in sectors adjacent to a sector you occupy? If you are using coordinates, do you want to allow free movement in space, or only along fixed starlanes? Can fleets stop or change direction once embarking?

On specifics, I disagree with Khaiy. 2D rules in 3D space before adaptation are likely to produce a hyperaggressive game, not a defensive one. Since it's very hard to stop enemy movement, they'll avoid your forces and hit your less defended bases one by one, and the only logical thing for you to do is the same - so after a buildup of sufficient mobile forces to defeat individual defenses, you'll 'base race' to the death. Master of Orion is already much like that and it would turn more so in 3D.

If it's not obvious already, I disagree with AngleWyrm. 3D is hard but it's not 'worse'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Excellent feedback, thanks! To make it clear, this is entirely a thought experiment at this time. I do have a dream to have my own game one day (and will happily throw away money to achieve that, when I have them to spare), but that is years and years away. I hope you won't feel I'm wasting your time with this, I do enjoy a good discussion. And in case someone somewhere should find my ideas interesting, I'd be more than happy to let him run with them.

I agree that gameplay is the main question here. I wanted to discuss the perspective issue first because the FAQ recommends sticking to a single topic at a time, and the perspective will obviously have a major influence on all other aspects.

Here are a few keywords for what I envision for the final product:
1) MMO
2) One turn every 2 hours
3) Ages/rounds (game is reset completely every x months)
4) Team based (up to x players on a team, assets are shared partly or completely depending on team structure)
5) Focus on economy (many resource types, convenient trading system, piracy)
6) Map for each planet, looking like a 12-sided or 20-sided die (undecided)
7) Convenient combat system for space and groud combat (no input required during resolution, but combat may last multiple turns)

I'll address your points in more detail later today, thanks again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Khaiy
While there's a bit of a realism factor, and a bit of a coolness factor, I always question the value of 3D in this type of game. The major question should not be "How can the interface be manageable for the player", although this is an important question, but rather "How would this feature affect gameplay?".

I agree that gameplay is the #1 consideration. I guess the coolness factor is the main argument for 3D (realism doesn't concern me that much). I'll need to explore the idea a little more before I can say with conviction that gameplay will benefit from it as well.
Quote:

Can fleets interdict each other in flight? If so, you'll quickly run into serious defensive problems as it becomes impossible to reliably protect an area much beyond a given planet or star. This can be a great feature if design accomdates for it, but this is setting up a game in which tactical options have to be really robust-- attacking will be much harder, and you could easily end up in an extremely low-combat scenario most games. Which is fine, but know what you're getting into, since you'll need other features to replace combat.

Interdiction will definitely be possible, I'm thinking in a manner similar to what Stars! does. Because of the turn-based structure it's realistic to have fleets move in sufficiently small increments that they can be interdicted before they arrive. There will be an initiative system to solve timing issues (letting high initiative fleets throw off or intercept enemies more easily by moving last). Furthermore, I intend on fleet combat to be handled on proximity basis. Fleets that are a little further away can engage enemies with part of their firepower.
[quote]
How will you handle ships' supplies? In most 4x space games, ships can only move a certain distance from friendly bases (generally hyperspace jumps or some such). Will you have separate movement system for ships travelling interstellar distances versus local? I can envision something like Sins of a Solar Empire working here, although you still have to address how far/long a ship can move in local space before it is forced to return to friendly planets/stations for resupply.
[quote]
I haven't given supply a lot of thought yet. I think a fuel-based system could work. It's more hassle than a range-based one, but you have several players on a team to take care of that.
Quote:

Do planetary orbits exist along multiple planes, or just one? With a 3D system, it'd be pretty unrealistic to all be on the same plane, but would mulitple planes have any effect on what a player has to do?

I'd probably prefer to do away with planetary orbits, possibly even suns and just do planets. Not terribly realistic, but I doubt anyone would complain much.
Quote:

Will starbases have any significant defensive value if they can be avoided along three axes?

I don't think starbases necessarily have to be in the game. But if they are, I can see a few uses for them:
a. Allow for a place to refuel and repair fleets
b. Allow for a safe haven for fleets
c. If the proximity system mentioned above is used, a starbase might be able to help defend multiple planets from incoming fleets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
An option to sections is to have stars formed into distinct clusters. This more hierarchical view would reduce the number of incoming attack vectors. As a newbie you would only have to worry about say 10 stars in your cluster and 10 surrounding clusters instead of 100 stars. This could be combined with a "sun position" mechanic where a fleet is visible a lot later if it has a cluster or star behind it. Thus attacks can come from anywhere but ambushes* are only practical if coming directly from a cluster. Which means that your anti-ambush movement-cancelling hyperspace interdictor probes are only necessary in a couple of strategic places.

It should be possible to see all kinds of lines and vectors on the map, using the proper view. For example, making it easy to click "halfway between star A and B" by clicking on a line between those two stars. Or "between homeworld and enemy fleet". In general I think it's important to reduce the amount of 3D calculations the player have to do. If I want to intercept a fleet the game should provide as much guidance as possible on where I should send my fleet, considering relative speed, etc.

Regarding exploration, wouldn't every single star be visible from the start? We can see a whole lot of em with just Earth tech after all. That way exploration is reduced to greying out unexplored star systems or planets, which is much easier to get get an overview of.

A starbase could hold smaller craft with a long enough range to cover several planets or stars and be a lot cheaper per hangar bay than a carrier.



*) Dunno if you can call interstellar invasions "ambushes"...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Kekko
It should be possible to see all kinds of lines and vectors on the map, using the proper view. For example, making it easy to click "halfway between star A and B" by clicking on a line between those two stars. Or "between homeworld and enemy fleet". In general I think it's important to reduce the amount of 3D calculations the player have to do. If I want to intercept a fleet the game should provide as much guidance as possible on where I should send my fleet, considering relative speed, etc.

Very good ideas, the game should definitely do all it can to provide a good overview.
Quote:

Regarding exploration, wouldn't every single star be visible from the start? We can see a whole lot of em with just Earth tech after all. That way exploration is reduced to greying out unexplored star systems or planets, which is much easier to get get an overview of.

Excellent point, that does indeed make exploration a lot easier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You can have newer players start out on the galactic rim, which would be sparse and flattened into a 2D shape. As the players develop & spread out (towards the center of the galaxy), they would enter the central 'bulge' of the galaxy.

This allows you to modulate the importance of the third dimension in line with the player's experience. It also allows you to introduce new strategic elements after the player gets accustomed to the basics of gameplay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I imagine this to be with periodic resets (think 3-4 months), so I'm not sure how much of an impact that would have. For a persistent game, it'd make good sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't recall any 3D space strategy that looked natural to me. I don't think that even 3D monitors would solve this, it's just that our minds work in 2D. We always face the "front" of enemy, watch over our "back" and have allies on "left" or "right". Expecting an ambush from "above" or from the "ground" is not natural (well, maybe from the above if you are hunting in a jungle, but still unlikely). Even when we pilot airships we are "hanging upside down" when making 180 degree rotation and we always compare our position to "horizon". With solo starship is not so bad (can always use sun as a horizon and you have only yourself to keep track of), but with multiple units... Our primal brains just aren't built for this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic is 2626 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this