Blog 489: Cartography Y4

When I battled with camera-lock a few dev diaries ago, I settled on the Middle Way — but had to take the responsibility of sacrificing the minimap to achieve this end. Of course, with no way to demolish and rebuild the entire interface, this left me with an unsightly half-blank space to deal with. Luckily, a solution has presented itself.

There is also the (thematically larger, if not mechanically as important) mapping issue of the company sending a top agent into an area totally blind to its geography. Luckily the solution to that little chestnut is somewhat more obvious.

Radar

It feels a bit daft to be writing about turning the minimap back into the minimap, but that is precisely what I find myself in the position of doing.

The revelation came recently when I was looking into stripping out the minimap buttons; things like hiding creep camps and terrain overlay or changing the ally team colour, that are redundant or inappropriate for Project Y4. I would have liked to find an alternative function for the minimap ping, some kind of distress call or something, but since there are no events exposed to register minimap pings it could never happen.

What I did notice, however, is that minimap pings are not subject to the unpleasant flickering caused by constantly updating the map’s camera bounds. Interest piqued!

So I did a bit more looking around, and it turns out that the minimap ping model is rather easy to replace and generally mess around with, too.

What I’ve come up with is a sort of radar pulse. Rather than attempting to ping every unit on every game loop iteration, I’m pinging them every one second or so and letting the little glows fade gently before refreshing them. The pings stay static on the screen regardless of the shifting camera bounds, so the location pings become out of date very quickly, but with a short turn-around time it still gives the minimap back some kind of function — which is better than relegating it to a blank black plap taking up a bit chunk of screen.

The radar's range isn't great but it's better than nothing.

Holomap

I wistfully mentioned making a holomap to go with the locked camera, but for some reason totally waltzed over the very simple technicalities of actually making it happen.

The holomap is an ability activated from the cargo hold (seemed like the best place to put it), and works with the same full-screen techniques that the computers and keypads use. The camera is free to roam over a flat stylised rendering of the facility and its surroundings, with objectives appearing as necessary (alas, painfully hardcodedly) along with the player’s own location.

I need to make sure the terrain isn't going to change any more before I finish this off.

Accuracy isn’t too much of a concern. As long as the map gives you a rough idea of where your (active) objectives are in relation to where you are, it’s done its job. This isn’t meant to be a substitute for learning the facility’s nooks and crannies, just a piece of extra cruft to feast your eyes on.

Other News

There isn’t much other news, considering I sank most of the last three weeks of my life into Morrowind (and I’ll no doubt be dedicating the next two to Oblivion).

I’ve set myself the (probably untenable) rule that I’m now only allowed to work on main quest content and main systems. I keep going off on flights of fancy (like imagining souped-up “mercenary” units to take the place of experimental calldowns) and twiddling my thumbs on stuff that isn’t important (like this holomap). At this rate, I’ll never be finished (at least not until my early 30s).

There is also the ever more pressing issue of sound. The effects I have in place right now are a crock of shit, so I’ve decided that I need to track down some royalty-free (if not totally free; I may be willing to lay down some cash) sound effects on dem interwebs. If anybody has any recommendations or knowledge in that department, I’d be delighted if you could spare any tips. A single source (for consistency) of explosions, gunshots and general mechanical and destructive sounds would be delicious.

I am also in the middle of attempting to swap segmented terrain structures for singular giant prefabs.

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