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Star Map?

#1
So with all the recent talk of Universe Simulation, I've been wondering about how the player will actually navigate through all that space?

I mean would it work in a way where you just keep going through gates and there is no actual map to record where you've been? Or would there be some sort of star map that would show you where all the star systems you've been to are? I'm assuming there will be some sort of star map because without one how would you even begin to navigate such a large universe?

Now a second question based on my assumption of there being a star map of sorts, is there any current idea for what it would look like? I'm assuming the look of it will kind of come around as it actually gets developed but in my opinion I think it would be awesome if it was a 3D star map sort of like how EVE Online does it.
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Re: Star Map?

#2
I'm envisioning a 3D star map of linked nodes that you can rotate freely, with filters that color regions based on different criteria.
By region coloring I mean sort of like the Homeworld tactical view where your influence is colored blue in 3d.
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Re: Star Map?

#3
I'm not in favour of a 3D star map because when you add gate connections, it turns into something like this.

I don't mind some z-axis component to the star map but it should be thin enough to be generally displayed on a 2D map.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Star Map?

#4
Either that or allow better transversal of a 3d map so you're not fighting the UI.

I think Privateer had a fairly decent map, and if I recall, it was 3d.
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Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Star Map?

#6
Let's consider the other side of this question.

People who play Limit Theory are being asked to use various input control devices to navigate 3-D space to chase and shoot other ships in real time.

Is it really that much of a stretch to ask them to also navigate a 3-D star map, especially considering that this will come with a lot less "OMG someone's shooting at me!" pressure?

I agree that a lousy control/visual interface can make 3-D map navigation unpleasant. But who says it has to be lousy?
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Re: Star Map?

#7
Flatfingers wrote:People who play Limit Theory are being asked to use various input control devices to navigate 3-D space to chase and shoot other ships in real time.
"Turn your view towards the red target marker(s)" doesn't take great 3D navigation skills. =)
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Star Map?

#8
Gazz wrote:
Flatfingers wrote:People who play Limit Theory are being asked to use various input control devices to navigate 3-D space to chase and shoot other ships in real time.
"Turn your view towards the red target marker(s)" doesn't take great 3D navigation skills. =)
This.

Also, a map is a reference tool and its main requirement is that it should be easy to handle. It's going to be accessed via your computer screen or perhaps as a printout. Both these methods of displaying the map are distinctly 2D, making a strong case for an (essentially) 2D map.

While the universe layout could technically be created in full 3D, this would strike me as one of the cases of creating complexity for it's own sake, to the detriment of usability.
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Re: Star Map?

#9
My feeling is that the difficulty level is being overestimated here. But maybe I'm wrong. So let's talk specifics.

I see three basic control functions a 3D map needs to have:

1. Grab and rotate around current center point.
2. Zoom in, zoom out.
3. Select system/object and perform action on it ("display info" or "travel to").

There are more things you could do, but I think that's a reasonable summary of the things a 3D map interface must do.

This, honestly, does not seem to me to be beyond the capabilities of the typical gamer. And even less so a gamer who's already being asked to click multiple keys/buttons to control the flight, weapons use, and power distribution of a ship in real time while it's being shot at. Be fair -- that's slightly more involved than just turning toward a target marker.

Let's also acknowledge that "turning" in LT's flight mode adds a third dimension -- call it up/down -- to the left/right + forward/back movement control options in most games (and just left/right in platformers). The significant step up in control complexity versus most other games happens there. That's why I believe going from controlling a ship in 3D space to manipulating a 3D map is not a meaningful leap in difficulty for most gamers, and thus not a convincing argument against 3D maps.
Commander McLane wrote:While the universe layout could technically be created in full 3D, this would strike me as one of the cases of creating complexity for it's own sake, to the detriment of usability.
Rather than leaping to object, let me ask: what leads you to this conclusion? I'd genuinely like to understand what's behind your feeling that there's not much value in representing a galaxy of 3D star systems as a 3D structure.

Having addressed usability above, would it help if I (or others) enumerated some perceived benefits of representing a science fictional gameworld in three dimensions? If not, I can save us both some time by not banging on this any further. ;)
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Re: Star Map?

#10
I would actually want the star map in 3D. Only just flat enough to display in 2D without overlaps.
The gate connections would be easy to see without creating a ball of yarn.

A system/sector that is "next to" another could still be too far away in the z axis to reach with a jumpdrive.

Speaking of: gates and jumpdrives could work differently to begin with.
The JD rates distance (and is limited by it) by actual 3D distance on the star map. It can be a major and cheap shortcut if you tunnel through to a "nearby" system while the gate connections go a roundabout path.
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Re: Star Map?

#11
Flatfingers wrote:
Commander McLane wrote:While the universe layout could technically be created in full 3D, this would strike me as one of the cases of creating complexity for it's own sake, to the detriment of usability.
Rather than leaping to object, let me ask: what leads you to this conclusion? I'd genuinely like to understand what's behind your feeling that there's not much value in representing a galaxy of 3D star systems as a 3D structure.
Sure. :)

Each star system will be in 3D, that much is clear. However, is that relevant to how it's mapped? I'm of course only making assumptions here, but I assume that on the map each star system will be represented by a single dot, nothing more. I am further assuming that the map will essentially be some sort of grid of dots and connecting lines, representing the connections between systems via jump gates.

It'll be much easier to orient yourself, estimate distances to distant systems, plot paths, etc. on a 2D grid than in 3D space. That's my whole reasoning.

Edit: fixed typo
Last edited by Commander McLane on Thu May 23, 2013 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Star Map?

#12
I'm going to side with Gazz on this. I want 3D, but I don't want it to be so 'busy' that it becomes a clusterf--k.
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Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Star Map?

#13
Sword of the Stars dose a good job of 3D map generation. One of the map layouts is called "Real Space" and is the closest 350 stars to Sol rendered in full 3D with Sol at the center. Here's a link to the demo download so you can play with the star maps. http://www.fileplanet.com/187865/180000 ... ion---Demo
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Re: Star Map?

#14
I don't think I've seen a 3d map of any kind that wasn't a nigh-unnavigable mess. Conveying depth is hard enough when most of the volume you're looking at is empty, and even harder when it's just a mess of lines and dots. If the map is 2d, I can look at it, and immediately plot a route from a to b, know what systems are connected, and tell how far different systems are away from each other. If the map is 3d, I can't even attempt to do that without rotating it this way and that, I can only see certain bits of information from each angle, and I'll never be certain I've got it right (admittedly, I do not do 3d navigation well). In my experience a 3d map is both harder to use, and worse at conveying information.
Flatfingers wrote:Having addressed usability above, would it help if I (or others) enumerated some perceived benefits of representing a science fictional gameworld in three dimensions? If not, I can save us both some time by not banging on this any further. ;)
I was going to be cheeky and ask this question, but then I noticed you'd already offered to answer it! So I'll just have to take you up on that offer, I guess. Complexity is a resource which you spend on features (both in that it takes development time, and also taxes the player's ability to understand everything). If you're gonna implement a 3d map (or any other feature), it should be because there's a payoff you feel is worth it.
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Re: Star Map?

#15
Fair enough. :)

The "science fictional gameworld" part of my offer was the important bit. If we're just talking abstract game thing, then mechanics pretty much rule, and you might as well just make everything as simple as possible while supporting the core gameplay.

But "science fictional gameplay" implies that it's not just moving pieces on a board, or connecting Platonic shapes, or some other purely abstract play form -- the play takes place in a world.

That instantly means that the shape of the world -- the structure of the setting for the gameplay -- matters. Even if it doesn't have some obvious direct impact on gameplay, it matters because it's what communicates to the player that the things they'll do are consistent with the physical organization of the world, as well as with the social (and economic) organizations of the people in that world.

And even more particularly, Limit Theory isn't just any old game; it's a game of starships and empires set in a futuristic milieu. There are stars, and planets, and nebulae; there are starships and spacedocks and ship systems. All these things combine (and will, I assume, be joined eventually by a lot more lore and artwork and objects that all work together to tell a particular kind of story about the nature of the universe in which the gameplay happens.

Which brings me (finally) to the benefits I see for a 3D map. I'm not just in favor of such a map in any game; it's foolish not to consider context. A 3D navigation and information map improves a game with the features I've described in the following ways:
  • The 3D nature of the map tells players that the universe, like star systems, is a volume, not just a disk. Not every real-world thing needs to be simulated in a game (I've argued elsewhere that "plausibility" is a better standard than "realism"), but people know that space is three-dimensional, and that dimensionality is a defining characteristic of science fiction that involves space travel. A 3D map is a representation of physical space that feels more plausible for a science fiction game than a squashed 2D map.
  • It's a somewhat smaller thing, but a 3D map also sends a message that the creator cares about the "feel" of the game, and that it's not all and only about pure rules-based mechanic-following. Showing that the universe has volume by representing that in the map simply feels more interesting than a map that's flattened for obvious mechanical convenience.
  • A 3D map that's easy to use (which as I've suggested is a thing that can exist) is a useful selling point for a space game. A 2D map can be pretty, but a 3D map that's pretty is simply more impressive. We might not like that eye candy helps sell games, but it does.
  • It's not all about "feel"; a 3D map can do a better job of showing actual distances between systems than a flattened 2D map. If some missions are timed, or certain cargos are perishable, being able to rotate a 3D map to find the shortest path can have good game-mechanical value. (Extra code could be added to a 2D map to highlight shortest routes for you, but where's the fun in that?)
Overall, maybe it's just a feeling on my part, but it comes down to: a 3D map is not that much harder to implement or use, and it's more accurate and more fun to render a 3D space in a science fiction game with a 3D model.

To close, this isn't the most important piece of design for Limit Theory. I could live with a 2D map if it means something more important gets more attention. But if we're talking about our druthers, well, there's mine. :)

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