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Caldtem

Cartography: To Draw or Not to Draw

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Cartography is the study and practice of making maps(go go Wiki power).

Now, I have only played one game previous that had Cartography, and that was Ultima Online, which was primarily used for Treasure Hunting. I thought it was a neat aspect to the game as you had a compass that gave a general idea of what your immediate surroundings were, but you could also create maps to see the world beyond that. You could make world maps or localized maps. Okay, lied, two games. Minecraft has maps too. When you create or use it, not sure which, the center location of the map is selected. When you explore the map expands to include where you venture until it reaches the edge of the map.

To the point; Which would you prefer?

A) Mapmaking is a pre-built system where game mechanics determine the content of maps based on player interaction.
B) Players are able to freestyle draw their own maps. A blank map is created for the player to use their mouse or some other input device to actually draw on the map and create a custom map.
C) A mix of the two.
D) None of the above. Please specify an alternative.

I feel that Cartography would work best in a game design that doesn't provide the players with built in maps. Cartographers could be hired to make the maps and people could have a book, even call it an Atlas or something, that you could put all of your maps into.

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Personally I would prefer alternative C. Have at first a blank map, which is filled with basic landscape marks like land, lakes, forest, mountains etc as players discover the areas to give them basic boundaries, but also allow players to draw on the map in order to mark small villages, points of interests, dungeon entrance etc. If they will decide to sell the map, it could be quite a valuable source of information to new players which the default map does not provide.

When making such feature, don't forget that sooner or later everything will end up on Wiki, so you would probably want to question your self how much effort you want to put into the feature, specially when it comes to a MMO. It could be interesting to at first not include any map at all (however, for gods sake, make a compass), and see what players will come up with when it comes to player made maps on internet. It can be rather fun for the community to try and make out heads and tails outta the vast land to explore. After you notice that they made a more or less accurate map, you can release the above mentioned cartography feature.

Other alternative is to go with option B, and allow them to make the player made maps in game to begin with and leave out any kind of computer made ones, given that you make a good enough map making tool to make good looking maps (look up Campaign Cartographer 3, something advanced like that) to avoid having maps to look like they are made in paint. Some players then could probably make a living by making maps and selling them.

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It seems pretty standard now that if a game could have an automap it should have an automap and I'm inclined to think that's the way it should be most of the time. When you're not given a map, it's like you have a puzzle to solve. So the question is, do you want the player to feel puzzled about their environment?

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[quote name='kseh' timestamp='1312744300' post='4845863']
It seems pretty standard now that if a game could have an automap it should have an automap and I'm inclined to think that's the way it should be most of the time. When you're not given a map, it's like you have a puzzle to solve. So the question is, do you want the player to feel puzzled about their environment?
[/quote]

Why not ? Puzzle games exist :)
I'd not go as far as calling that a puzzle, but I would love to see a game where you have to map yourself (and it's enjoyable).

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One of problems I have with the maps in modern games is that they tend mark your destination on the map even if you don't know where it is...

I always liked the way it was done in one of wizardy games. You have a [color=#1C2837][size=2]Cartography skill and essentially for 10 points in it you get more detail on the maps that automatically created as you explore. At the first stage you only get the tile type, at higher level walls, doors, secret passages, and other features are shown. [/size][/color]

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[quote name='TechnoGoth' timestamp='1312764296' post='4845981']
One of problems I have with the maps in modern games is that they tend mark your destination on the map even if you don't know where it is...[/quote]

This is for the modern day lazy player who wants everything handed to him along with the iwin button. Alternatively, it's for those of who were playing games on C64's and often play different games when we (rarely) get the chance to play a game at all, tend to forget where the heck we were up to in any given game. I finally got back into Dragon Age yesterday, I was up to the Landsmeet, but it took me a good hour or so to remember what I was doing, let alone how to play. Thankfully that game is pretty user friendly. I wouldn't mind a hard game that requires me to remember stuff and make notes, but it needs to be marketed as such, so I know what I'm getting in to when I buy it.

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As far as I'm concerned, nothing is more irritating than having a perfect automap ([i]except[/i] if you bought a map in the shop!) and an arrow pointing to where is north ([i]except [/i]if you really have a compass or some navigation skill!) and where I am supposed to go, and a live radar with differently coloured moving dots (players, mobs, friend/foe) in locations where I cannot reasonably expect to know that something is moving, nor what it is.

On the other hand, judging from the favourable reviews that the Rift game got, some of which were basically "It's just like World of Warcraft, except you even have a big red arrow telling you where to click", it appears that a significant amount of people thinks quite differently and indeed prefers the "click here to win" style.

I would very much like the option to buy different quality maps from a NPC, but at the same time being able to create my own (possibly better ones) with a cartographer skill. Of course you should be able to put landmarks (flags) onto either. It would be big win, if there was some kind of "player skill" involved too, such as that you have to guesstimate where on the map you are every now and then, whenever your avatar stops to update his map. That might be a means to remove the grind aspect. Not the person with the longest subscription and the most mouse clicks gets the best maps, but the one who actually cares to try and make an accurate map.

Unluckily, such a thing is extremely hard to implement, and even harder to get right (and, impossible to make resilient to copy-paste from fansites, unless you give everyone an individual world). And, it's likely to turn off 90% of your customers who will simply say it's needlessly complicated, too much work, and bleh.

One way to work around the copy-from-fansite might be if you are simply unable to find things that are unknown to you. For example, you could know that a pirate treasure is buried on a particular spot on this isle. But no matter how long you dig, you will just never find it unless you have the properly made map. It simply does not exist for you. So, looking on a fansite won't help you cheating. On the other hand, stealing the proper map during a quest, getting it as rare drop, or buying one from a player with the appropriate knowledge should render the treasure existent for you.

But again, such a thing is extremely hard to implement in an immersive, believeable way. How can you for example [i]not [/i]find a city after looking for the general whereabouts on the internet and walking there when it's clearly there and so huge that you cannot possibly miss it. This will only work if it's the magical city of the elves who have it hidden with some charm.

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[quote name='samoth' timestamp='1312810723' post='4846160']
As far as I'm concerned, nothing is more irritating than having a perfect automap ([i]except[/i] if you bought a map in the shop!) and an arrow pointing to where is north ([i]except [/i]if you really have a compass or some navigation skill!) and where I am supposed to go, and a live radar with differently coloured moving dots (players, mobs, friend/foe) in locations where I cannot reasonably expect to know that something is moving, nor what it is.

On the other hand, judging from the favourable reviews that the Rift game got, some of which were basically "It's just like World of Warcraft, except you even have a big red arrow telling you where to click", it appears that a significant amount of people thinks quite differently and indeed prefers the "click here to win" style.

I would very much like the option to buy different quality maps from a NPC, but at the same time being able to create my own (possibly better ones) with a cartographer skill. Of course you should be able to put landmarks (flags) onto either. It would be big win, if there was some kind of "player skill" involved too, such as that you have to guesstimate where on the map you are every now and then, whenever your avatar stops to update his map. That might be a means to remove the grind aspect. Not the person with the longest subscription and the most mouse clicks gets the best maps, but the one who actually cares to try and make an accurate map.

Unluckily, such a thing is extremely hard to implement, and even harder to get right (and, impossible to make resilient to copy-paste from fansites, unless you give everyone an individual world). And, it's likely to turn off 90% of your customers who will simply say it's needlessly complicated, too much work, and bleh.

One way to work around the copy-from-fansite might be if you are simply unable to find things that are unknown to you. For example, you could know that a pirate treasure is buried on a particular spot on this isle. But no matter how long you dig, you will just never find it unless you have the properly made map. It simply does not exist for you. So, looking on a fansite won't help you cheating. On the other hand, stealing the proper map during a quest, getting it as rare drop, or buying one from a player with the appropriate knowledge should render the treasure existent for you.

But again, such a thing is extremely hard to implement in an immersive, believeable way. How can you for example [i]not [/i]find a city after looking for the general whereabouts on the internet and walking there when it's clearly there and so huge that you cannot possibly miss it. This will only work if it's the magical city of the elves who have it hidden with some charm.
[/quote]

With an expansive enough world that has some sort of dynamic content to it(mobs that can move from place to place, not standing in a 100x100 grid/player cities/new mob forts/etc) and the proper Cartography system I think that it could provide the players with a challenge IF they want the challenge. Just doing away with the option to challenge your players for the sake of a part of the group that finds it too difficult isn't always the way to go. So what if a map gets developed by players after days/weeks/months of playing and they put it online? Sadly, it is always going to happen unless you make it illegal to post such things online. If people want to take the easy way, they will find a way, but just provide the option to the player to do what THEY want to do.

I believe that providing a compass is as much as the developers have to do, but a map system should exist, cartography or developer made. Maybe maps can only be so large and you have to assemble them like a jigsaw puzzle to complete the world map? Options at least.

In Ultima Online there were Treasure Maps. You couldn't dig up a treasure unless you possessed the decoded map. There were a limited amount of spots so rune libraries were created that marked each location for quick teleporting. That probably took quite a while for the players to establish, but they eventually got it done, in-game. You could have "Secret Entrances" to underground areas/what have you, but I am not really sure that really has to be something that maps have to determine. Some quest givers may give you a map to follow on said quest. In my concept NPCs wouldn't be vendors, the players would have to make the paper for maps then use cartography to create the maps.

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B but maybe so its always centered on your player and oriented right so the maps wont be all messy, like drawin a long road and noticing its 100 km off when the road returns to where it started.

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I think samoth nailed the point.
Looking at old, centuries old maps, one can really tell this skill could eventually be more valuable. Ideally, better maps could be a consistent advantage by some factions.
Unfortunately, the amount of work - deforming stuff in minimap - appears scary and the benefit questionable.

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