Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

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Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby Eleazar » February 16th, 2012, 8:26 pm

In a thread mostly complaining about the "new" terrains, slowthinker had what a think was an excellent idea. (see especially the italic.)


SlowThinker wrote:....My primary need is to distinguish the terrains with a different effect without an effort. I like to see nice maps, but only if my primary need is not harmed.

Please perceive that there is something wrong once a player needs the mouseover. I remember I checked several times whether there was a passage through impassable mountains, and I am not very happy with 1.9 I will have to use the mouseover more frequently.

shadowmaster: I can agree the terrain is not important for MP players who played an identical map twenty times. But in most other situation the fogged terrain is important: you plan several turns ahead, and also you think whether an enemy can attack you from the fog. And this is valid for both SP scenarios and MP games.


(Edit: Ideally I would like to be able to switch between
  • a player's visual interface (it could be even simpler than 1.8, the only purpose of the graphics would be to show game information effectively)
  • an eyecandy visual interface
but I know thats a fiction)


While I'm very proud of how the maps look, and a lot of effort goes into making the terrains both attractive and readable, there are inevitably trade-offs. And then there are issues with the various types of color blindness, and the possible difficulty new players have in figuring out what all the combinations mean.

A bare-bones, info-graphic type view that only conveyed the strategic move/def value of the hex could address all those issues. For instance all "flat" terrains would have a single appearance. All impassible terrains would look the same in this view, and so on.

There would be no fancy transitions or variants, just boldly colored hard-edged hexes, so the additional graphics would require minimal effort and take up negligible space.

Technically i think it would be best accomplished, if the hotkey switched the game to displaying everything based on different, and MUCH simpler terrain CFGs.


Sounds interesting?
Technically possible?
Feel free to PM me if you start a new terrain oriented thread. It's easy for me to miss them among all the other art threads.
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Map View

Postby shadowm » February 16th, 2012, 8:42 pm

Eleazar wrote:While I'm very proud of how the maps look, and a lot of effort goes into making the terrains both attractive and readable, there are inevitably trade-offs. And then there are issues with the various types of color blindness, and the possible difficulty new players have in figuring out what all the combinations mean.

That isn’t the only aspect of Wesnoth which isn’t friendly to color-blind people; think team colors. I have normal vision to the best of my knowledge, and even I tend to have trouble telling orange and brown apart (or white and black, or TC white vs. server messages white in MP games); not to mention that they tend to be annoying to get right for pixel artists.

Eleazar wrote:Sounds interesting?
Technically possible?

Alink and Alarantalara know that code better than I, but I believe all possible terrain transitions and the resultant hex surface have to be calculated from WML during display initialization phase before the start of the game loop, in order to provide good rendering performance at the end. So the switch would either take the player back to an annoying load screen, or more intrusive changes would have to be done to allow for an immediate switch. Not to mention that the current system doesn’t allow for choosing between alternate art sets (which could potentially be implemented through WML preprocessor guards instead of extending the [terrain_graphics] tag).
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby fabi » February 16th, 2012, 11:29 pm

The idea is very good, but not solving every aspect of the problem.

Our terrain is a bit complicated and the current interface does not tell the player much about it.
The problems belong to the time where mixed terrain was introduced.

Since then real behavior of the hex field is determined by a boolean sort of equation in which the unit is the variable for each of the
both values.
Movement of THIS terrain for unit x is the worse of FOREST for unit x and FROZEN for unit x for example.
It can be more complicated, you can mix terrains that are already mixed ones.

Thus I suggest to implement something like this to get rid of every aspect:

1) A terrain info box.
The box can be reached by a context menu entry during game play.
Similar to current "Unit description" it's named "Terrain description" and would display how the actual values of movement costs and defense values are calculated for the hex field in question.
It needs to be some sort of treeview with "worse of"/"better of" labeled transitions (color coded?).
Every leave is represented by one of the base terrain images.
So two of those treeviews, one for movement, one for defense, preferable in one dialogue.
Maybe those treeviews can be combined into one because as far as I understood the system they only differ in the transition labels.
Additional values to display would be if the terrain provides healing and recruiting+recalling into/from, amount of income and owner.

2) The simplified map view
Pressing booth boolean equations into a single map is something that can't be done easily.
You can reduce the amount of terrains by a simplified terrain graphic configuration that matches all the terrains that are just variants of a base type,
still the player has to guess how the resulting simplified terrain is going to work and do the math for the unit in question.
This is basically what Eleazar suggests and I think it can be done with a reasonable amount of work.
There is already a mod out there doing something similar, of course without the ingame switching support.

One of the possibilities would be to allow a different terrain/graphic config to be hot switched or to introduce more wml syntax for specifying simplified terrains.

The second method I can think of is too follow the terrain graph to the next parent (maybe recursively?) as long as the terrain is an alias with a single parent.
This is the preferred way to go since it will work with all UMC without any modifications.
We should try to clean our terrain graph in a way that all semantically equivalent terrain roots into the same parent representing the class if it isn't already.

3) Unit specific simplified map view
Everything gets easy when you offer the user two different modes of simplified terrain view when a unit is selected:
movement only versus defense only.

The defense view is most likely the more popular one since you get an idea for the movement costs by the highlighted reachable area of
a selected unit anyway.

The equations will evaluate to a single base terrain value that matters for the unit in question.
This will lead to a unit specific map that is very easy to read with all the math done for the player.


Note that the combination of all 3 items is needed to address everything related to the problem.

1) The terrain description dialog serves the player to learn how a specific terrain is going to work rule wise.
The suggested dialog will be able to transport the meaning of every UMC terrain out there.
Currently the player can only either read the terrain configs or guess what a mixed terrain is going to do.

2) The simplified map view can address red-green blind persons directly.
Nevertheless the mod that makes permanent (not on the fly switchable) changes might be a way to go here as well.

It eases the reading of the map in all situations (not unit specific) but still relies on the player to do the unit specific math with the help
of the information from (1)

3) The interface provides the exact value map, striped of all further complexity and easy to read but on a per unit basis.
Simple, correct and easy to read. Just unit specific.
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby Eleazar » February 17th, 2012, 1:56 am

fabi wrote:...Our terrain is a bit complicated and the current interface does not tell the player much about it.
The problems belong to the time where mixed terrain was introduced.

Since then real behavior of the hex field is determined by a boolean sort of equation in which the unit is the variable for each of the
both values.
Movement of THIS terrain for unit x is the worse of FOREST for unit x and FROZEN for unit x for example.
It can be more complicated, you can mix terrains that are already mixed ones.

Yeah, i'm well aware of that.
But i consider the root problem there one of game mechanic, not interface. Time and thought would better be spent, IMHO figuring out a set of more simple and obvious rules for hybrid terrain that could much more simply be explained, than figuring out a gui that explains how a three or four terrain combo works.

I'm not opposed to the idea of "#1 A terrain info box", but i just wish it was less necessary.

EDIT:

fabi wrote:3) Unit specific simplified map view
Everything gets easy when you offer the user two different modes of simplified terrain view when a unit is selected:
movement only versus defense only.

The defense view is most likely the more popular one since you get an idea for the movement costs by the highlighted reachable area of
a selected unit anyway.

The equations will evaluate to a single base terrain value that matters for the unit in question.
This will lead to a unit specific map that is very easy to read with all the math done for the player.

Don't you think this totally satisfies the need to know how well a unit will do defensively on a particular hex?
defense.jpg
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Feel free to PM me if you start a new terrain oriented thread. It's easy for me to miss them among all the other art threads.
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby Alarantalara » February 17th, 2012, 2:59 am

Actually, a terrain info box appears to be becoming more necessary rather than less.

In 1.8, things were mostly best defense worst movement, with exceptions for forests and villages which behaved differently depending on which base they were on.
In 1.9 everything was reconciled to best defense worst movement (except villages which are best of both unless a sunken village), and then multiplayer balance ended up adding exceptions for bats in villages and mounted units in forests to keep balance from changing significantly. On top of that, the mine rails broke the best defense/worst movement paradigm entirely.

Meanwhile, campaign writers seem to be starting to take advantage of the power present in the existing system to create things like water that can't be flown over (looks the same but has different movement for some units) and railways that allow instantaneous movement along their length without benefit of a new terrain archetype. So even if mainline kept to a simple and obvious method, there would still be a need to have a gui for the more complicated cases already appearing in UMC.

Edit to reply to edit: almost. It doesn't cover the ability to heal in that hex, though, which is arguably part of the defensive capability of the terrain.
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby Crendgrim » February 17th, 2012, 4:33 pm

fabi wrote:1) A terrain info box.
The box can be reached by a context menu entry during game play.

To be honest, I don't like this idea too much. The context menu is already quite bloated (BfW 1.10: 11 items if a unit is standing on the selected hex, and debug mode is disabled, and no UMC menu items are added). This is not too great to play with. If there are even more menu items introduced, the important ones (recruit, recall, end turn) soon won't be easily accessible anymore (for people who mainly play with the mouse, that is. Of course there are the shortcuts, but I know many people who don't use them).
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby Gambit » February 20th, 2012, 2:19 pm

Double click on mini-map -> terrain transitions go away a la editor's "no transitions updates". Minimap also gets some sort of colored border to show there is an active effect. Double click again to turn off.
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Re: Super-Obvious Ugly Strategic Map View

Postby Eleazar » February 27th, 2012, 12:05 am

Gambit wrote:Double click on mini-map -> terrain transitions go away a la editor's "no transitions updates". Minimap also gets some sort of colored border to show there is an active effect. Double click again to turn off.

I don't think removing the transitions would help anything overall but frame rate. Some terrains might be more distinct next to each other, some would be confusing, and others multilayer terrains like a bridge over water would be downright misleading. Since the no-transitions mode only shows 1 image per hex, bridges over water look identical to bridges over chasms.
Feel free to PM me if you start a new terrain oriented thread. It's easy for me to miss them among all the other art threads.
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