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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Maps - The Best of Both Worlds

I had no intention of doing what I did this week, but recognising my own ineptitude at designing areas led me to it: I have finally managed to incorporate a version of SoZ's overland map system that is compatible with my own design! I went down this route because my efforts at city design to date have been awful, and I much prefer the way it is handled in SoZ overland map system where the city is simply a placeable with conversation options. Being able to have a player click on a city and take them to certain spots within the city is both easier for me to work with and quicker for the player to navigate to the areas they want to go to.

However, there was an important hurdle I had to overcome before this mapping system could be used. For my campaign, the following design point was implemented well before SoZ hit the scenes: A Vigour System that is designed to track a PC's fatigue levels based on food, sleep and distance travelled. As this system is linked to movement and travel, I had to design a real-time wrapper to work alongside my current system when the player chooses to explore a region using the overland map rather than simply travel to an area via the use of a world map.

Multi-Map System

With the addition of this mapping system, it now means the player has the choice of travel based upon either: items they have acquired, objects they have activated or how healthy they are to travel. As a game, it means the player can choose the method they prefer to use, or maybe even use a combination of all as they become available. The default/basic map system available will now be the SoZ overland system (subject to how fit the PC is to travel according to their Vigour level). Alternatively, if the PC finds a map and gains locations on the map, then they will be able to choose to use this form of map travel instead (as long as they have enough provisions for the journey). I have even made use of the original NWN2 map system for yet another method of travel, but I won't go into details of that one now - I want to keep some surprises. ;)

Flexible Use & Travel Info

After getting the core system in place, which involved coding for various terrain types (which affect speed of travel), I realised that the system is also flexible enough to allow other modes of transport to increase the speed at which the party could potentially travel. For instance, it is possible to have a special variable check for "flying" or "mounted", which would alter the speed variable and thereby increase the distance covered in a given time. I don't have any immediate plans to do this, but it was good to know that it may be possible.

From the player's perspective, the speed at which their PC crosses the map remains unchanged, which means slower movement for the PC is NOT actually reflected in the player's avatar onscreen. This is useful because it means a player can reach any location on the map in the same time while moving the character across the screen, although the amount of time it takes for the PC in game time is altered according to the terrain type and speed for said terrain. (However, a PC is still slowed if they are encumbered.)

All this information is fed back to the player in real time inside a small GUI designed to show the various aspects of their travel: terrain type, movement speed on the terrain, total distance travelled and total time travelled. For those use to PnP (Pen and Paper D&D), the altered system has a similar feel when used, in that the player says where they want to go (by controlling the PC across the map) and the code behind the scene gives the player feedback as they travel. And the most important point of all (which makes this different o the OC), is that it also calculates the PCs vigour levels and checks for food as they go. (Vigour levels for each PC will be updated in the "Chat" window to keep the GUI clear for other information.) This GUI can be closed if preferred and reopens when using the rest button.

The observant among you may notice I have removed the three menu systems at the bottom of the OC map system that are normally along the bottom in the centre. As far as I could see, there was no need for these in my own use. I have a separate date system GUI (bottom right of screen shot), resting can be controlled by pressing "r", and I could not see any other reason for the player menu. If anybody believes these menus contain anything that may be important, please let me know.

Create Food & Water

For those with the spell ability, there will be a means to acquire a special Arcaene Scroll known as Create Food & Water, which can be used instead of rations while travelling. In this case, as long as the party has someone with the ability to use the scroll, then vigour levels are kept fine without having to acquire further rations.


Starwars said...

Wow, this is looking better and better. Sounds like great stuff.

When will this be released again? :p *cough*

Wyrin said...

re. overland menus - I always quite liked the time of day part of the menu - I know you can see from the lighting, but e.g. knowing how long til dawn/night was a nice touch.

Anonymous said...

I got so excited when I saw flying or mounted travel mentioned. This makes me think of my love for the Heroes of Might and Magic games...

Now, I am a big fan of the overland map but I'm somewhat curious if you're going to handle monster spawns the same as SOZ. Also, does vigour make me a better/worse fighter? Or is it just for travel?

I'm pleased that multiple people are putting overland maps in. It's a pretty cool system.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Starwars,

Thanks for the encouragement. :) Unfortunately, my illness (M.E.) makes it very difficult for me to be able to estimate a time frame, but if I was to guess, and all being well .... there is still a good few months work left yet. If I can get it done within a year, I will be happy. :)

Hi Wyrin,

Actually, I am glad you mentioned this. :) In the use of my maps, I am going to keep the light as "Always Day", because it is meant to be more like a map showing travel. HOWEVER, the new date GUI (which you can see in the bottom right of the screenshot) shows time and Althéa date, as well as moon phases. It currently shows the seventh hour (it will be clear if that is a.m. or p.m. when you play or try to rest) on the 26th of Clardon 1199. The day is "Xerech". This date GUI will also show special dates information and can also be open and closed with a click on the moon phase image. This date GUI updates as you travel or wait. Resting is handled slightly differently in my world and does not actually affect time. This is so individual players can rest their own group of PCs at a time they want to in a MP game without moving on time for everybody else. It is the "Wait" command that actually moves time forward for the party as a whole. If a player does "Rest" (to regain spells and HPs), then they have to wait 8 hours before they can "Rest" again. They can simply choose to Wait (if the party all agree) to pass the time, or continue adventuring. However, passing time requires provisions, and so if they are not properly prepared for the adventure, then waiting/resting becomes something they have to manage carefully. It was designed to help counteract the "use all spells, rest to regain, reuse all spells again". That *is* still possible (if there are no other issues), but I like to use time as a "pace" against the players if possible to help keep a level of "presssure" and "excitement" of getting a job done. I am not sure how easy this wil be to pull off, but at least the tool is now there to try. ;)


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...


Hi Chaos Wielder,

Flying/Mounted should be perfectly possible with this map setup, because you would only need to change the "speed variable" to override the terrain one if the party possessed a mount or for example a magic carpet. Changing the speed variable means they can cover more distance in less time and so become less tired and require less rations. :) As I say, it is not something I have any immediate plans for, but is good to know it may be possible to use in the future. I also played the Might & Magic games ... :)

Monster spawns I am still looking at. i.e. I have not even looked at the OC code for spawning monsters or objects on the map yet. Is there anything specific you would like me to consider? i.e. Is the SoZ system too frequent? Is it something you would rather not have? The more feedback about this sort of thing helps me plan ahead.

VIGOUR - This is a new system I have included to cover things that are in PnP but do not play such a big role in NWN at the moment. It works as a percentage figure (100% being fully fit) and decreases over time and travel. As a PCs vigour decreases so they become more fatigued (as per 3e rules) and so would temporariliy lose strength, dexterity and speed as they lost vigour. It is only a couple of points at most, but enough to remind teh player that they need to consider eating and resting. If they continue to ignore it, then they begin to starve and could (if completely ignored) eventually die. Now, the system is not overly intrusive, but is something that a player must consider especially in the early part of the game. However, if they gain a cleric and acquire the Create Food & Water Arcaene scroll, then this kind of thing is no longer an issue to them. But, at the early levels, then attrition is much an enemy to the adventurer as the first hostile encounter. The idea is to help build a level of achievement if and when a player does find a way to overcome the worries of the everyday peeasant. ;)

Thanks everyone,

I asked a couple of questions in some of those responses and if you are able to respond, please do. :)

Thanks again.