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Norman Barrows

need a new effect for mapmaking skill in RPG

24 posts in this topic

HI everyone!

 

I'm working on an caveman FPS/RPG/simulator.

 

The game doesn't have classes or levels. Instead it tracks experience in 52 different skills, and applies bonuses to appropriate situations based on relevant skill experience. 

 

In the previous version, the mapmaking skill governed the distance at which unexplored areas of the world were revealed. but this isn't really realistic. Just cause you're good at making maps doesn't mean you can know there's a lake over the next hill without even seeing it.

 

So I'm trying to think of a new effect for the mapmaping skill.

 

The game currently does not have a separate player's version of the map, it only tracks which parts of the world map are explored and should be displayed.

 

A more realistic effect would be to have mapmaking affect the accuracy at which info was copied from the world to player map. But this requires a separate player's map that can record landmarks at arbitrary locations. 

 

At the moment, most landmarks such as caves and volcanoes all appear at the same hard coded coordinates in a 5 mile by 5 mile map square. the map itself is 500x500 map squares.

 

I turned off the mapmaking skill effects months ago, but have yet to think of a clever new effect that doesn't require a separate player map.

 

realism is a selling point in the game, so any effect must make sense from that standpoint.

 

any ideas?

 

 

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So, is there any sort of map at all? Player map, minimap, anything? From what you posted, it sounds like maybe not. If that's the case, and realism is a selling point, and you don't want to include a "map" in any traditional sense of the word, why keep the mapmaking skill?
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From the sounds of things, I would go with taking the world map and use mapmaking to remember areas you have been. Most fog of war type games have regions you have never been to, which show up black, darkened regions you have been to but cannot currently view (as the case with several units and their lines of sight, you can't see a whole map unless you have units across the map), and regions you can see, which are where your unit(s) are and can see. Why not use this for mapmaking? Areas you have explored, the darkened ones slowly fade back to black, and depending on how your mapmaking skill is depends on how long, or how far out your darkened areas remain visible, particularly terrain wise, such as knowing that there is a lake over the hill since you have been there and it is still within "character knowledge" through the mapmaking.

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So, is there any sort of map at all? Player map, minimap, anything? From what you posted, it sounds like maybe not. If that's the case, and realism is a selling point, and you don't want to include a "map" in any traditional sense of the word, why keep the mapmaking skill?

 

 yes there's a world map. there's also player's versions of the world and local maps, but all it does is (at the moment) is track what part of the world or local map should be revealed, sort of like a bitmap mask. the "player's world map" is simply an "explored" field in a map square record (struct) in the world map. when you draw the player map, its the same as drawing the world map, but you either draw a map square, or an "unexplored" texture, based on the "explored" flag.  For local maps, it uses a separate "explored" bitmap mask type map for each map square. a simple 2d array of flags for every 100x100 foot square in a 5x5 mile map square, indicating whether its explored. when the local player's map is drawn, it draws everything in the map square then draws over the unexplored parts with an "unexplored" texture.

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You could reasonably display the entirety of certain "landmarks" even if only a portion of them are visible.  While this would be an abstraction of sorts, you could reasonably argue that a skilled mapmaker could look at some portion of a river, for example, and based of the speed of the water, the breadth of the river and so on, formulate a reasonable idea of how far the river might go and where it might come from.  By the same token someone could see one face of a mountain and be able to draw reasonable conclusions about the opposite face even though they can't see it directly.

 

In game terms, if someone skilled in mapmaking comes across a river, they could instantly see the entirety of that river, whereas someone unskilled in mapmaking would just see the bit in front of them.

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From the sounds of things, I would go with taking the world map and use mapmaking to remember areas you have been. Most fog of war type games have regions you have never been to, which show up black, darkened regions you have been to but cannot currently view (as the case with several units and their lines of sight, you can't see a whole map unless you have units across the map), and regions you can see, which are where your unit(s) are and can see. Why not use this for mapmaking? Areas you have explored, the darkened ones slowly fade back to black, and depending on how your mapmaking skill is depends on how long, or how far out your darkened areas remain visible, particularly terrain wise, such as knowing that there is a lake over the hill since you have been there and it is still within "character knowledge" through the mapmaking.

 

right now it does automap and fog or war type stuff like that. But this is an RPG, not a FPS, so the world map view does not show units. Its more like the world map in oblivion, complete with fasttravel etc. So having persistent terrain features fade over time doesn't make sense, as its still within "character knowledge" as you say. In the old version mapmaking controlled the range at which things get automapped, but this isn't really realistic either. the game is a caveman simulator, paleolithic technology only. So no technologies to help determine whats beyond visual range. therefore, you should only be able to automap what you can see in 1st or 3rd person view, and no amount of mapmaking skills would improve this in the real world. So far i've only come up with 2 options: add a player map that can be inaccurate, or lose the mapmaking skill. I'm hoping for a door #3, but i suspect there may be none.

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You could reasonably display the entirety of certain "landmarks" even if only a portion of them are visible.  While this would be an abstraction of sorts, you could reasonably argue that a skilled mapmaker could look at some portion of a river, for example, and based of the speed of the water, the breadth of the river and so on, formulate a reasonable idea of how far the river might go and where it might come from.  By the same token someone could see one face of a mountain and be able to draw reasonable conclusions about the opposite face even though they can't see it directly.

 

In game terms, if someone skilled in mapmaking comes across a river, they could instantly see the entirety of that river, whereas someone unskilled in mapmaking would just see the bit in front of them.

 

 

OK, now this has possibilities, sort of a hybrid approach. Mapmaking affects automap range, but only for terrain where it makes sense. hmm...

map granularity may be an issue though. but maybe not. if you spot a mountain range, its probably not unreasonable to be able to map its position out to a distance of say 15 to 30 miles (3-6 map squares) or so. rivers perhaps to 5 miles (1 map square). but the entire range of mapmaking skill levels (zero to hero) would have to translate to a small automap range (zero to 6 map squares for impassable mountains, zero to 1 or 2 map squares for a river, etc).    say you have a 1st level mapmaker, they can automap to a range of zero. IE they have to enter the map square for it to get marked as explored. and a level 100 mapmaker (a high level character), can automap impassable mountains to a range of 6, mountains to a range of 4, hills to a range of 2, and flowing water to range of 1.  that would mean that all of a sudden at level 50 (or 100) you can automap flowing water twice as far, but no effect until that level. hence the granularity issue. might be ok though. from a RTS point of view, its perfectly acceptable. if this were an f-22 flight sim? it would probably be "OK", but just OK. A separate player map that can be inaccurate would be better. Of course in a F-22 sim, you'd have onboard maps already downloaded from satellite, with no inaccuracies, and no mapmaking required.

 

So far this looks like the best suggestion, short of biting the bullet and adding a separate player map that can be inaccurate.

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Don't know if this would be possible with your game, but what about the map making skill affecting the *resolution* of the visible map? Ranging from, for example, 1 for 1 pixel granularity down to a really high value where the player is only seeing blobs.

 

Kind've like this...

 

map.gif

 

?

 

Just a thought, and good luck.

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I'l toss out some really really fast ideas.

 

Get granted a bonus for maps that you know of.   IE + experience gain, +damage, +movement speed.

 

Are given world hints.  IE:  This area gives +fire damage.

 

Can Teleport to marked areas.  "I know a really fast way there"

 

Unlock Areas.  I know this terrain, and some of it is not the hinderance that it appears to be(move through brush that others can't).

 

Scry.  I have a map, I have a focus, and a target "I know where your child".

 

Economic item.  In days of Sail pirates would target maps before booty because of their shear value.  The story of the pirate map is an extension of this, essentially successful pirates would have some of the most accurate maps.

 

Quest item.   "lost traveler event", "proof of ways known".

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In Ultima Online there was a cartography skill. To level it up you made local maps, then city maps, then regional. At the same time, monsters had a small chance of dropping treasure maps with a difficulty depending on the monster, maps ranged from level 1-5. To "decipher" at level 5 map you needed 100 cartography, to decipher a level 2 map you needed around 70 skill.

 

When you deciphered it, it would give you a point on a map you had to recognize and find, then if you brought a shovel and were in the right spot you could dig up a treasure chest. There really wasn't any other reason to have the skill other than to make a "treasure hunter" character. You had to pick the lock on the treasure chest once you dug it up. Difficulty based on the level of tmap. It also spawned monsters when you dug it up (monster difficulty based on chest level) and while you removed items from the chest it would randomly spawn monsters.

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If you would rename the skill to map-memory (and possibly link it to a main-memory skill), the suggestion of Dragonsoulj would be completely realistic(i'm talking about slowly forgetting areas you have visited)| with the addition that the game would always be an explorer-game.
 

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Why not include something like that?  The greater your level the more detail is on your map.  You might only be able to record locations of rivers and mountains.  But as you get better you could mark down caves, hunting grounds, place to gather herbs, and other important features.

 

Another good approach, and easy to implement within the current capabilities of the game engine. elevation, water, vegetation, resources, and landmarks are tracked for each map square. Low mapmaking skills could automap just elevation and/or coverage, with the highest experience levels automapping everything.

 

One problem though. this is a BIG world. unless you know via a local player's map where a cave is in a map square, you can wander around all day in real time in first or third person view across 25 square miles of wilderness that all looks pretty much the same, and never find the cave. Its super easy to get lost, just like in reality, especially when you can't get a good bearing from the sun or moon, can't use a sundial stick compass, or don't have a lodestone. I've had to resort to things like building landmarks every 30 feet to find my way from the river to my rockshelter 400 feet away through tall grass (especially at night with no torch). Since the game is basically an open ended  RPG set in a paleolithic environment with an emphasis on realism, there's no compass, no arrows pointing the way, no roads to follow, etc. I'm sort of being kind including a player's map at all. At the least i should require a hide and paint pigments to automap. But the player's map also represents the player's "mental map" of their surroundings. So they should have some sort of player's map. And as i said, with no map its often hard to even find you way home to you own cave. Once i added the local player's map and 100% guaranteed automapping of visible landmarks with 100% accuracy, getting lost all the time was no longer a problem. Imagine trying to walk all the way across the world in oblivion to find a dungeon, with no compass, no arrows, and no landmarks. Even if you knew the general area you could still wander around forever. Try finding the dragon's tongue and red wort flower grove near the loop in the "d" in the word "blackwood" on the world map in oblivion. Its not easy, even when you can set your marker there. 

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>> Try finding the dragon's tongue and red wort flower grove near the loop in the "d" in the word "blackwood" on the world map in oblivion. Its not easy, even when you can set your marker there. 

 

For those of you who don't know, in Oblivion, the first time you are expelled from the Mage's guild, you must bring them 20 dragon's tongue and 20 red wort flowers to be re-instated.  About the only place where they grow in abundance is in the wilderness by a pool of water near the loop in the "d" in the word "Blackwood" on the world map. There you can usually harvest 10 dragon's tongue and 15 red wort all at once instead of buying them or finding them in ones and twos. This makes it possible to be re-instated in a couple game weeks vs the usual many game months it takes to find the flowers.

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Don't know if this would be possible with your game, but what about the map making skill affecting the *resolution* of the visible map? Ranging from, for example, 1 for 1 pixel granularity down to a really high value where the player is only seeing blobs.

 

Interesting idea, have to think about that one, might be a useful effect somehow.

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Unlock Areas.  I know this terrain, and some of it is not the hinderance that it appears to be(move through brush that others can't).

 

in addition to map making, there are also navigation and path finding skills. navigation affects getting lost during fast travel. path finding affects cross country movement rate through rough terrain (rocks, jungle, woods, mountains, swamp, etc).

 

Economic item.  In days of Sail pirates would target maps before booty because of their shear value.  The story of the pirate map is an extension of this, essentially successful pirates would have some of the most accurate maps.

 

Hmm, maps as treasure from dead hostile cavemen, add more info to your world map. sounds like a winner, where's my to do list?!!!

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If you would rename the skill to map-memory (and possibly link it to a main-memory skill), the suggestion of Dragonsoulj would be completely realistic(i'm talking about slowly forgetting areas you have visited)| with the addition that the game would always be an explorer-game.

 

The "Gods change the map" once a day in a realistic manner, mostly based on climate changes. vegetation coverage can change (jungle -> savanna -> scrub). waterholes fill and dry up, as do some creeks. fruit trees and berry bushes come and go. caves and rock shelters can change occupants, get new occupants, or become abandoned. huts come and go. So there's a constant need to re-explore territory. The game also models resource depletion and replenishment, so when you use up all the resources in a map square, your're forced to explore to find more until the map square replenishes (fruit grows back, animals return to hunted out areas, etc).

 

The player can actually control a band of up to 10 cavemen, similar to a household in The SIMs, and tab between them in real time. the player's map represents all geographical knowledge of the entire band. not so sure "group memory" would be that realistic. I'd prefer to lose the map making skill than implement some contrived or unrealistic effect for it.

 

with the world changing all the time, and the possibility of my implementing a separate player's map that can be inaccurate, adding in forgetting areas over time almost seems cruel! maybe i should do it! <g>.

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having map making skill affect automap range for terrain where it makes sense, and affect detail level of whats automapped both sounds pretty good.

That whole getting lost thing is the only problem.

I was figuring, if the player had their own map that could be inaccurate, if they automapped a cave to be 500 feet away from its actual location, they could just wander around til they found it. This would be very realistic. The player would follow the map to the general area, even to the point of being right at "x marks the spot", but no cave! the map's not so good, so some wandering about is required to actually locate the cave.

As the player moves about the world, things constantly get re-automapped at what ever their current map making skill level is. so with a separate player map, it would automatically become more accurate as their map making skill increased and they re-visited areas. if the automap does a "base location + random factor / map making" type thing, and each time it gets automaped, it can only become more accurate, not less, then places visited frequently (like your cave) would soon get zeroed-in on your map, even with a low skill level. that way both familiarity with the area, and map making would affect the accuracy of the player's map.

So should i just bite the bullet and implement this?

The big problem is the size of the world and having to page stuff off disk during play. Right now, the game has no loading of levels or anything like that during game play. just load everything at program start (10 seconds). savegame with automatic backup takes about 3 seconds. local player's map (explored bitmap mask basically) IS loaded and save during gameplay as needed, but its only 264x264 bytes, binary, with no lock on the write, so its not even a blip on the hard drive light. I have yet to even notice it, but the files are there, and the maps show up in the game, so it must be doing it. it uses a cache of 10 local maps with LRU paging.

on the world map, the location of caves etc in a map square is a constant. these would need to be stored as a sparse matrix for each map square, to allow the x,z values to be inaccurate. same thing for each local map. thus the concern with paging. Edited by Norman Barrows
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There are already some great suggestions, but just to throw out a really simple alternative: if you don't have a practical use for the map making skill that you're happy with you could always just remove the skill completely.  If you've still got 51 other skills it's not like players would be short of things to do, and simply removing the skill completely might be a better option than having a skill with no practical use or where the usage seems very contrived and breaks immersion. cool.png

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There are already some great suggestions, but just to throw out a really simple alternative: if you don't have a practical use for the map making skill that you're happy with you could always just remove the skill completely.

 

that's the plan if i can't come up with a good use for it. a few things like that didn't make the cut in Caveman 3.0. This version has a greater emphasis on realism, so things like monoliths (from 2001) went away, skills like hafting were added, and it has over 50 species of extinct mega fauna this time vs 50 made up animals in the original version. unrealistic features will be implemented as gameplay options, like the "Bring on the Dinos!" option, which enables dinosaurs in the game.

 

I may try a test implementation of a player's map that can be inaccurate, yet not thrash the hard drive.

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since the game engine already supports "explored" bitmap masks, i'm trying having the map making skill affect the chance a section of the map will get automapped.  the result is that the map is "patchy" at low level, and automaps the first time almost every time at high level. wait and see how it work in play testing. it may not give the player enough info at first to find their way around.

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In Everquest there was a "sense direction" skill (I think it was called) - It determined how well your in game compass worked - there were no maps, just a compass, that was really unreliable if your "sense direction" was low - and got more reliable as the skill leveled up.

 

Just a thought, it's not quite "map making", but sounds like the idea could work (I didn't read all comments, so sorry if this have already been brought up).

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In Everquest there was a "sense direction" skill (I think it was called) - It determined how well your in game compass worked - there were no maps, just a compass, that was really unreliable if your "sense direction" was low - and got more reliable as the skill leveled up.
 
Just a thought, it's not quite "map making", but sounds like the idea could work (I didn't read all comments, so sorry if this have already been brought up).

 

its a caveman sim, so i'm trying to stay away from compass and radar displays typically used in games. part of the challenge of the game is navigating using paleolithic methods such as sun, moon, and star sighting, sundial compass sticks, and lodestones. since there's no writing, all "map info" is limited to knowledge passed along verbally, perhaps supplemented by a drawing in the dirt, or a sketch on a painted hide. No J-Stars or GPS here!

 

what you describe is similar to the navigation skill in the game. it affects your chance to go off course during fast travel.

 

you can fast travel from anywhere outside to within 2 feet of a point anywhere outside at any time (even with enemies nearby) using both the world and local maps. but until you get good at navigation, you get lost a lot and find yourself heading southwest instead of west, etc. The game automatically drops out of fast travel if you are attacked.

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There are already some great suggestions, but just to throw out a really simple alternative: if you don't have a practical use for the map making skill that you're happy with you could always just remove the skill completely.

 

Well, it looks like this one may be the winner. Playtesting has revealed that a decent automap and playermap is essential for the exploration aspect of the game. and everything you need, you have to explore to find. so all mapmaking skill effects have been turned off for now, and the automap simply uses realistic ranges for determining what gets automapped, and automaps correctly all the time, with no fade of info over time or anything like that. however, the world map changes once a day (forest gives way to savanah, etc), so there's a constant need to re-explore from time to time.

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If you are good at reading maps in real life, you will find shorter routs (translates to: faster fast-travel), be able to remember where those special mushrooms grew (unlock more layers in the world map) and remember more custom locations (array with custom pins). You might also be able to deshiffer content from books and such into map locations (such as special mushroom locations).

 

I also like the "deshiffer treasure map ability". It's binary and nice ;).

 

I disagree with the previous post about resolution. My experience of maps in games is that the resolution/colors of the terrain in the maps are not very useful.

Edited by mipmap
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