galaxy map information modes/overlays

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pd
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galaxy map information modes/overlays

#1 Post by pd » Wed May 14, 2008 3:32 pm

Have a look at this recent screenshot:

Image

Quite some systems have been explored, some planets have been colonized and it's getting confusing already, even though, that's only a small part of the total <galaxy.
I suggest introducing different modes or overlays that can be easily switched on and off right from the galaxy map, perhaps by using buttons or checkboxes at the bottom, at the top or at the left siide.
An example would be to show the empire borders. This could be done like this:

Image

I'm not sure how hard it is to code this. What I've done is looking at my colonized systems and drawing a line surrounding them by using half the distance to a neighboring star(even taking some in account, that don't have a starlane connected).
Here is how it might look, if there is a shared star system and therefor overlapping borders:

Image

Another thing, that might be useful is switching the system labels, so that unexplored systems are labeled and known systems are not.

Image

I think this allows to easily spot unknown systems(especially inside of the explored regions), which might be overseen otherwise.

More to come.

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Tortanick
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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#2 Post by Tortanick » Wed May 14, 2008 3:53 pm

I really like the empire bubbles. Think empire coloured star-lanes would be a nice compliment to them? (or were those going to be used for supply?)

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#3 Post by pd » Wed May 14, 2008 4:04 pm

I think eleazar has done some nice preliminary work regarding colored starlanes. Whatever they are going to be used for, those borders should work independently from them.

In case anyone is worried about the system name being no longer readable: We should perhaps introduce some kind of drop shadow like this:
Image
That's an improvement in general, not just in this empire border case.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#4 Post by M4lV » Wed May 14, 2008 4:17 pm

the 3 question marks look a bit overboarded on-screen (if they are to appear there for unexplored systems). I'd go for just one question mark directly put over the star and made translucent/transparent.

Otherwise nice effects and the drop shadow probably looks better when softened but I'm definitely all for it!

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#5 Post by pd » Wed May 14, 2008 4:22 pm

You're probably right about the tripple question marks. I was thinking of labeling them "Unknown" first, but then went with the question marks. Anyway, how they are labeled doesn't really matter, it's just about getting some input on the idea for now. Thanks for commenting :)

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#6 Post by M4lV » Wed May 14, 2008 5:06 pm

The underlying question behind all this is if you really always know the type of star (not its planets) before exploring its planetary system (I know, it's simple telescope and the light of stars travels the old-fashioned way towards Earth or any other planet and stars live long enough to be seen from that planet), but to get real deep here: Are "empty" star systems not left out of the game thus wouldn't they constitute a large portion of the stars around there, meaning most stars don't have planets?
So when you declare a system=star unexplored, you should declare hundreds of other empty stars that way too. But how do we magically know (like we do now apparently) which star is not empty hence we shouldn't know it's color and type in advance?
What I'm getting at is that you probably know a lot of stars by telescoping, more than the galaxy map is showing but you have to sort out afterwards those with planets and those without, so in order to close the circle here: What you should not show is the type of star (red, yellow, purple..) but instead one single icon (preferably featuring a question mark somehow in it and a grey fading star icon).

With that agreement, the graphical problem with the question marks is solved elegantly plus we have another feature in-game: unknown star type of unexplored planetary systems. Exploring a star system via a star lane is then more like scanning and flying over to a dozen or more relatively closely near-by star systems and finding the one with planets. Could be two but for the sake of gameplay, we just add them all up into one system display-wise.

I know it's a bit deep into the whole thing but I think it's quite "realistic" considering the vast distances that those star lanes and star systems must represent and the knowledge we currently have about where our next star system (Vega) lies and how far away that is...

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#7 Post by pd » Wed May 14, 2008 5:16 pm

Indeed, not knowing the type of a star, before exploring it would get rid of this issue. I am however guessing that there is a good reason we do it the way it is. Geoff might know more about it...

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#8 Post by M4lV » Wed May 14, 2008 5:34 pm

This: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrasolar_planet might give a hint on whether it's possible to detect planets on telescopes. Still, it could also be useless "Planemos" that they are detecting. Tricky thing. I think arguments for both implementations could be found easily.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#9 Post by Robbie.Price » Wed May 14, 2008 5:46 pm

Goodmorning all,

I suggested earlier a similar thing regarding the use of selectable of overlays, for outlining where a system may be vulnerable to separation due to a blockade.

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1901&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=59

If we're going to have overlays that would be a good one to include, It's the type of information you only need every once and a while, and which gets harder to 'see' instantly, without some form of aid from the GUI.

Other things people might want to be selectable for overlays

"special building density" - don't build too many buildings in one place
"local pop density"
"local Fire Power Density" - visually see in colours the approximate distribution of your ships, and 'what you know' of the deployment of your opponents.
Maybe 'Supply/demand for minerals and food'

Just some additional ideas.

Best wishes everybody

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#10 Post by eleazar » Wed May 14, 2008 7:06 pm

pd wrote:In case anyone is worried about the system name being no longer readable: We should perhaps introduce some kind of drop shadow like this:
Image
That's an improvement in general, not just in this empire border case.
Yes, a drop-shadow (or black outline around the letters) behind the star names, would be a definite improvement.

pd wrote: An example would be to show the empire borders. This could be done like this:
...
I'm not sure how hard it is to code this. What I've done is looking at my colonized systems and drawing a line surrounding them by using half the distance to a neighboring star(even taking some in account, that don't have a starlane connected).
Here is how it might look, if there is a shared star system and therefor overlapping borders:

Image
I fear it won't be easy to code, but it looks good. Remember, however that we may have numerous empires with colonies in the same system, so i think we'll need a more robust way to show multiple ownership. Simply layering those borders over each other would quickly become a muddled mess.
pd wrote:I think eleazar has done some nice preliminary work regarding colored starlanes. Whatever they are going to be used for, those borders should work independently from them.
Not necessarily. The rules for supply i've suggested and the display of the star-lanes go hand-in hand. In part it is an attempt to show the empire "shape" without the need for probably misleading hard-edged borders.

It's really premature to try to decide how to display the galaxy without considering what the game rules are about "borders". There is an "envelope" around your colonized planets where your ships can be resupplied. This is possibly more important than a border surrounding your planets, though IMHO both should be displayable at the same time. I realize this isn't a thorough explanation, but i'm just trying to say we need to look at the how we are doing "borders" in the game first, and then try to express that graphically.

pd wrote:Another thing, that might be useful is switching the system labels, so that unexplored systems are labeled and known systems are not.
I think this allows to easily spot unknown systems(especially inside of the explored regions), which might be overseen otherwise.
The real difficulty is finding useful planets, not un-colonized stars. These planets may be located in systems that you have already partially colonized.

For this sort of thing and other alternate views of the galaxy i think we need a way to show the degree that stars contain a particular thing, i.e. the player will want to know stuff like which planets are well protected, or which produce lots of research or which have high populations. (like some of the things robbie is suggesting)
Here's a crude, quick example:
Intensity.jpg
Intensity.jpg (43.09 KiB) Viewed 5823 times
Whatever quality the player wants to view can be shown by something like the above. If the player set it to show "RP creation" systems which generate lots of research would be indicated by bigger, brighter icons, and the systems which generate little or no RPs would have small, dim icons. What exactly the icons should look like is to be determined. This sort of display would be very useful for showing easily and at a glance whatever quantities we consider important for the player, one at a time.


M4lV wrote:The underlying question behind all this is if you really always know the type of star (not its planets) before exploring its planetary system (I know, it's simple telescope and the light of stars travels the old-fashioned way towards Earth or any other planet and stars live long enough to be seen from that planet), but to get real deep here: Are "empty" star systems not left out of the game thus wouldn't they constitute a large portion of the stars around there, meaning most stars don't have planets?
So when you declare a system=star unexplored, you should declare hundreds of other empty stars that way too. But how do we magically know (like we do now apparently) which star is not empty hence we shouldn't know it's color and type in advance?
What I'm getting at is that you probably know a lot of stars by telescoping, more than the galaxy map is showing but you have to sort out afterwards those with planets and those without, so in order to close the circle here: What you should not show is the type of star (red, yellow, purple..) but instead one single icon (preferably featuring a question mark somehow in it and a grey fading star icon).

With that agreement, the graphical problem with the question marks is solved elegantly plus we have another feature in-game: unknown star type of unexplored planetary systems. Exploring a star system via a star lane is then more like scanning and flying over to a dozen or more relatively closely near-by star systems and finding the one with planets. Could be two but for the sake of gameplay, we just add them all up into one system display-wise.

I know it's a bit deep into the whole thing but I think it's quite "realistic" considering the vast distances that those star lanes and star systems must represent and the knowledge we currently have about where our next star system (Vega) lies and how far away that is...
What you are saying is mostly logical, but makes the false assumption that we are trying to be "realistic". We aren't. Gameplay comes first.

Thus we very unrealistically, but very necessarily limit the size of the galaxy to ~500 stars. Technobabble may be devised that explains only these stars are connectable by starlanes, but that's secondary. The main point is that thousands or billions of stars are too much for a player to reasonably deal with, so we simply don't have that many. Neither has any other successful 4X space game.

Considering each displayed star as a group of stars is really an unnecessary complication. For it to be really realistic each displayed star would have to represent an absurdly large number of stars anyway.

The reason the player "knows" what color a star is has nothing to do with an analysis of the theoretical power of telescopes, but simply because we want to give the player a hint about which systems may have the kind of planets he wants, and because its much easier to find your place in a galaxy where stars look different from each other.


P.S. pd, do you realize that you have all the old-style stars still in your recent screenshot.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#11 Post by pd » Wed May 14, 2008 7:28 pm

Good points eleazar. I agree that this is a bit premature and that we don't know what such a border is in terms or game play. However I felt, that even at this point, where not much information is shown, it get's quite confusing. The empire border is merely a visual tool to help seeing where the player's systems are at this point.
I'll try to figure out what to do with more overlapping, it surely needs more work.

Your mockup makes perfect sense and I agree, that all kind of values can be shown this way. Maybe further distinction with shapes can help to show a couple of different things at the same time.

Thanks for the pointer with the star issue. I did notice that something is mixed up there yesterday, but I haven't really looked a it yet. Seems like I've just copied over the new stars from SVN and the old ones are still used by the game.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#12 Post by tzlaine » Wed May 14, 2008 8:50 pm

Geoff and I have both wanted to do something along these lines for a long time. Graphics team input is much appreciated. BTW, the intensity-discs idea eleazar suggests is the easiest to implement of the ones seen so far. It may also be a more natural representation than an area-representation, if only because everything happens at systems, not on starlanes.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#13 Post by eleazar » Wed May 14, 2008 10:29 pm

I certainly agree we can make the galaxy map easier to use.
pd wrote:I agree, that all kind of values can be shown this way. Maybe further distinction with shapes can help to show a couple of different things at the same time.
At the very least we could add empire color to the icons/discs to help make ownership easier to see.
It has occurred to me that we might use different shapes to help distinguish the different levels, for instance the higher levels might be indicated by a many-pointed star, while lower levels have progressively fewer and less prominent points.

I don't have any ideas how we could use shape to indicate two or more quantities at once, but doubtless there is some way.

tzlaine wrote:BTW, the intensity-discs idea eleazar suggests is the easiest to implement of the ones seen so far. It may also be a more natural representation than an area-representation, if only because everything happens at systems, not on starlanes.
I don't think the disc thing is really a replacement for the kind of thing pd is trying to do with the border lines, but it should work for almost everything else.

I played some sort of simple space conquest game once that varied the size/brightness of the stars to convey this sort of info. I don't think it would work for us exactly like that, but it was very convenient to use.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#14 Post by Geoff the Medio » Wed May 14, 2008 10:40 pm

If we get a decent set or system for empire flags or symbols, we can also put those next to system names on the map, planet names on the sidepanel, and ship and fleet names in the fleet window. A reasonable way to deal wirh more than one empire owning a system, and thus (perhaps?) more than one flag being shown on the map would be needed.

Some sort of background or outline of system names would be good as well; they can be quite hard to read now, depending on what's behind them and what colour they are.

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Re: galaxy map information modes/overlays

#15 Post by eleazar » Wed May 14, 2008 10:52 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:If we get a decent set or system for empire flags or symbols....
by "system" do you mean that code is needed or the concept and/or art work?

I have an old few posts that suggest a conceptual/graphic "system" for the flags.

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