7/21/2013 - Map Data

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7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by Railboy » Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:09 pm

I can't wait to show off my beard in the next KS update. It has become truly absurd.

Every day is a little stream of victories, especially now that Hannah is on organizational duty full-time. (Apart from her day job.) All distractions from my life have been eliminated. It's get up at first light and chip away until it's dark - and it's working.

The main quest is 1/3 playable. Locations built, characters & events scripted, the whole nine yards. I still want to tweak the hell out of it, and there's plenty of really rough work in there - but it's playable, dammit. Another 2/3 is 'playable' - not as solid, and there are some holes and shortcuts, but it's getting there. You can go from place to place and make story stuff happen in the right order. And the final 1/3 isn't playable but it is fully written, and many of the locations are built. The main quest is broken into three acts so that final 1/3 will probably be left out of the beta - it's a natural stopping point. Stopping there will also make it easier to ensure that beta save files will be usable when the final game is released. (I still have bad memories from the Fallout 2 days when their patches would force me to start from scratch.) The final 1/3 is without a doubt my favorite part of the game and contains some of the biggest surprises so knowing that people will experience it after we've squashed all the bugs during beta playtesting helps me relax a bit.

A few days ago I finally managed to pull all the map data - splats, color overlays, region data, audio data - out of the inaccessible Resources folder and into the fully moddable external Mods/ChunkMaps folder. Hooray, fully modifiable world! I also created a couple of master PSD files that automate the slicing up and naming of map data, which again I'll make available for modders to use. This step has ended up saving me far more time than I had expected. I was editing audio data chunk-by-chunk when needed and it was pretty laborious, but now I can edit whole regions with a single brush stroke and export them as little 64x64 pixel slices.

Biome:
Map-Biome.png


Region:
Map-Region.png


Snowfall:
Map-Snowfall.png


Coastline / Tide:
Map-Coastline.png


Audio Map (Above ground):
Map-Audio.png


Along the way I finally figured out a way to create a usable world map without blowing right past our texture memory limit. FRONTIERS uses color overlays on our terrain and the plan has always been to use those images as map tiles. Actually, let me back up - the plan before discovering my texture memory limitations was to use the hand-drawn map for the world map, but once I realized that wasn't feasible I decided to use the color overlays. They're pretty detailed - 512x512 (1024x1024 in file, just in case I can find a way to free up more room for them) but there are a few problems with them. First, they don't have a coastline, and without a coastline you can't really tell where you are, especially when you're zoomed in.

Map-Overlay.png


My first thought was to create a mask for the overlays to carve out a coastline, but texture memory was a problem here too - for the mask to look remotely acceptable it had to match the resolution of the overlay textures, so 512x512 per chunk. Even if I just used an alpha-only map that takes a big bite. The other problem is that even at 512x512 the overlay textures start to look pretty chunky when you zoom in far enough to navigate through a city or town. A detail overlay helped a bit but it was still pretty ugly. I decided to shelve the problem for a couple of months while I hammered out other things.

Then about a week ago Hannah suggested that I try to make the chunkiness work for me instead of against me. That gave me an idea. There are a couple of well-known techniques for making an image look like a painting - if you've played with Photoshop you've seen them in action - and I knew there are screen-space shaders that can do that sort of thing in real time. With an overlay like that big fat pixels don't matter - they just get rounded off:

Map-Shader.png


Just to be clear, this isn't a one-time filter that gets applied to the texture - it's a camera shader, so the look is preserved no matter how far you zoom in or out. This style also lets me to use the 64x64 coastline textures as a mask, since the smooth rounded edges no longer look incongruent with the sharp overlay image.

Coastline.png


I can't say I'm thrilled with the final look of the map - a hand-drawn version would have looked sooo much cooler - but it also doesn't look like a smeary, unusable mess either. The last thing to work out is the label fading - as you zoom in, labels for larger locations fade out and smaller locations fade in. The code is done but it's going to take a lot of variable tweaking to get the different fade levels feeling right. I'll probably save that for the beta, though.
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by yarnevk » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:27 pm

Shroud of the Avatar also just went with a generated map, rather than an artistic map. There are all kind of artsy filters you can use, even ones that do edge tracing for hand drawn paper on charcoal looks. You can even make up a plot reason for it. This is something Skyrim got wrong, a realistic texture terrain map is actually less useful than a more artsy one, and your solution is actually going back to the Morrowind style terrain map which used the color overlay and not the textures themselves.

SotA main reason is to support dynamic updates, or in your case modding is a real good reason to not do handcrafted maps. The painterly look is even used in player cameras not just map cameras in many MMOs for the very reason of hiding their graphical shortcomings to get around the uncally valley.
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by Zolana » Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:24 pm

Great update Lars, but I'm also keen to see this beard of yours :P!
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by Niriel » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:39 am

Railboy wrote:I can't say I'm thrilled with the final look of the map - a hand-drawn version would have looked sooo much cooler


I think there is also something to be said for a uniform art style. This map is going to be rendered with the same colors, textures and shaders as most of the rest of the game, I think it will blend quite nicely. Less cool maybe, but better flow. Plus we'll never know what we'll be missing anyway.

I'm also thinking about the modders who will create their own worlds but couldn't draw a circle on paper if their life depended on it. They'll be quite happy to have the map auto-generated for them! And by "they" I mean "I".
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by light487 » Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:14 pm

Just to chip in regarding save wiping. I personally have no issue with saves being wiped between beta versions. I've come to expect it as a necessary evil as have many people. The thing is that you kind of want to have a good wipe every now and then because you need to test the early game as much as the late game as well as progression from early to late and so on. If you never wipe, there may be bugs and balancing issues introduced that don't get a look in by the majority.
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by Vance » Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:31 pm

Auto generated map? Hell yeah!
I would actually prefer this over the latter to be more easily compatible with future landmass additions.

As always, one can always do a map retexture and you can have the best of both worlds. :)
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by yarnevk » Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:52 pm

Check out Divinity Original Sin's level map, they ran an abstract painters algorithm on it so even if you zoom in it lacks object detail, and it looks handpainted even though it is a sat view.
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Re: 7/21/2013 - Map Data

PostPosted by Railboy » Thu Aug 21, 2014 7:24 pm

light487 wrote:Just to chip in regarding save wiping. I personally have no issue with saves being wiped between beta versions. I've come to expect it as a necessary evil as have many people. The thing is that you kind of want to have a good wipe every now and then because you need to test the early game as much as the late game as well as progression from early to late and so on. If you never wipe, there may be bugs and balancing issues introduced that don't get a look in by the majority.


That's appreciated. I'm going to try to keep it from happening though. The save system in FRONTIERS is pretty hard to break. You can go in and just delete whole chunks of your savegame while playing and you can still play what's left just fine.
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