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The case against non-topdown strategy games?

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I was thinking of having a novel perspective for the world map in our upcoming strategy/MMO, with the perspective ending up very close to this:

[sharedmedia=core:attachments:8587]

From prototyping, the tiles would end up twice as wide as they were high. Then I read this article which mentioned Civ 4 opting for a 3D top-down style map because the isometric map of Civ 2 was considered more difficult for the user to determine distances.

I realized the same problem would apply to our game if we stuck to this perspective.

Now question is: how serious is this problem? I expect the current perspective will be more atmospheric, but if it's too hard to understand we should scrap it as soon as possible. Has anyone done a more thorough analysis of this? Perhaps someone could guide me to some other articles?

Is top down the best (and only) choice here?

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I am not sure I understand why having wide squares would be a problem? I don't think there is anything to prevent you from strategy game based on rectangles. it might be because I don't know what kind of game you are making. Is it rts? is the picture related?

If you tiles are twice as wide, simply divide all y-axis movement and range calculation by 2.

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Programmatically it's not an issue. If you read the article, they talk about the conceptual difficulty for players to judge distance on an isometric map. Basically, will the user have difficulty estimating optimal movement/strategy because of the asymmetry between north-south and east-west movement?

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If it's a real time strategy game (or anything not turn based, really) you could sort of cheat by adopting a 3/4s straight on view, like the old Legend of Zelda or Pokemon games. The player moves at the same speed no matter which way they are going, but objects and people are drawn from the side. Not strictly realistic if you really think about, but it looks good and seems like a possible compromise between top down and isometric.

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I think it depends on a few factors:
- How important are distances in your game? If it's more about connectivity of points, then it's less of an issue.
- How quickly and how often do players need to make distance calculations? If they don't need to make them that fast or often, then you can just display the distance on the map.

Personally I like the perspective of an isometric map - the advantage of it is that you can display a greater area (assuming it's 2D or relatively flat) than a top-down view, so although distance might be harder to calculate, the player might have a better strategic understanding of the game. Plus it might save you from having to code a new view, like a zoomed out map view etc.

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I think top down beats all. To figure out what is best for you though, set up a chess board and then move around looking at it and figure out what angle is best. To me, straight over head wins out for clarity of options and minimal hiding of units and important options. Your solutions may vary.

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If it's a real time strategy game (or anything not turn based, really) you could sort of cheat by adopting a 3/4s straight on view, like the old Legend of Zelda or Pokemon games. The player moves at the same speed no matter which way they are going, but objects and people are drawn from the side. Not strictly realistic if you really think about, but it looks good and seems like a possible compromise between top down and isometric.


Actually, when I say top-down, this is the perspective I'm thinking about. A true top-down would make map features hard to make out.

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I think it depends on a few factors:
- How important are distances in your game? If it's more about connectivity of points, then it's less of an issue.
- How quickly and how often do players need to make distance calculations? If they don't need to make them that fast or often, then you can just display the distance on the map.
Personally I like the perspective of an isometric map - the advantage of it is that you can display a greater area (assuming it's 2D or relatively flat) than a top-down view, so although distance might be harder to calculate, the player might have a better strategic understanding of the game. Plus it might save you from having to code a new view, like a zoomed out map view etc.


The game is practically about moving a single unit about the map, so it's definitely something central to the game. It's also essential that a player takes one step at a time, as you only see armies camped in the same location as your own unit. So basically you take one step, then see if there's something there, then the next. I mean, you don't set a route or take multiple steps at a time.

The usual "isometric" with directions in NW/NE/SW/SE feels a little weird when movement's only allowed in the cardinal directions. I strongly prefer north to point up. That said, the isometric perspective is extremely attractive.

The map perspective I initially intended would also be very nice, but has the drawback of asymmetry between N-S and E-W directions.

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