Developer Diary 11 – Summer of Systems

In other news, we’ve started working on vehicle models, and they’re already looking sweet…

If we are victorious in one more battle, we shall be utterly ruined — Pyrrhus of Epirus

I’m writing this on the back of three weeks spent entirely on scaling our mod-friendly map system to work with the huge map sizes required. Frustration abounds! While I’m sure the community will appreciate the new modding possibilities (see more below), I’m starting to worry that we’re over-engineering the whole thing.

To this end, we’re doing a Summer of Systems — in short, any low-level system that isn’t in by the end of August, we’ll just have to do without. A lot of what’s left is various 3D magic and similar nice-to-haves, so if we prioritize properly this is perfectly doable and the core of the game won’t be affected at all.

Modding the Map

The default map includes all of European and North African theaters this time around, everything from Iceland to Saudi Arabia. This should keep everyone happy… to paraphrase Bill Gates: 189.484 hexes ought to be enough for anybody. This is also about as far as we could stretch it in view of the distortions introduced by the map projection (we’re using Transverse Mercator).

The map editor currently lets you edit this, rather large, default map. More interestingly, it allows you to create your own maps based on the same underlying data that we’re using. When you create a new map, you get to pick your own scale (e.g. 1km or 60km hexes) and section of the map. The editor then pre-populates the map for you using geographical and other data from a shared database which we’re calling “map db” (yes we’re super creative).

This “map db” database is designed to contain more than just GIS data. For example, many rivers have changed course, or have been dammed, since the 1940s. Cities have changed names, borders have shifted, etc. Our plan is to keep the database up-to-date, and also at some point accept community contributions. I hope it helps with the modding – and I’m looking forward to seeing all sorts of interesting map and unit scale experiments.

Note that, since most of this system already works, it’s not in danger of getting axed during “Summer of Systems” 🙂

Design Implications

Can you guess where this is?

This new map workflow was perhaps a bit over-the-top, but now that it’s here it gives us an interesting opportunity. In some scenarios with very high unit densities (Overlord, Berlin etc.), we tend to “run out of hexes”. Remember the 4-deep lines of Soviet units in late war scenarios of Red Turn?

However, now that we’re able to quickly put together a zoomed-in version of any section of the map, we could actually go and do that for these few situations where we really need it. A small zoom of, say, 30% is not game-breaking I’d say, and the scenarios could end up much more playable. It’s an idea I’m seriously considering.

What do you think?


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