To Automap or not to Automap?

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To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » July 17th, 2017, 8:35 pm

[This is a carry-over from another thread.]

The original Bard's Tale game did not have an automapper. Mapping was generally performed by hand on graph paper. While this manual mapping task did slow down progress of the game, a number of people found it to be enjoyable and it also offered the opportunity to add certain kinds of dungeon features, such as wraparound maps, subtle teleporters, spinner squares, and sticky squares. All of these features would be instantly revealed by an unsophisticated automapper. Without automapping, these features had the possibility of disorienting or other confusing the human player performing the mapping. To emulate a similar level of disorientation in an automapper involves the introduction of significant complexity to the automapper logic and the user interface for interacting with automatically-generated maps.

The question is: do we ditch these dungeon features from the old games to allow a simple and straightforward automapper to be developed? Or, do we retain these features and either (a) ditch automatic mapping or (b) implement a sophisticated automapper?

(Note: This is not a thread about implementing any of the foregoing map features themselves. It is a thread about automapper implementation.)
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » July 17th, 2017, 8:42 pm

thebruce wrote:
July 17th, 2017, 8:14 pm
I wouldn't use a digital mapping tool in-game, just to do what I'd otherwise effectively do (and much more flexibly) on paper.
As I said, if they have an automapper in-game, of whatever caliber, if they provide an option to play without it, I would use that option, especially if turning it off rewarded with something else (either in-game benefits or an achievement, or what have you)

Achievement incentives could work. I usually don't pay them any mind, (and have used achievement disabler mods in games where I can), but if it means including the option, I'm for it.

I would use in-game mapping tools; and I would hope that the mapper did not pause the game world while in use... As the PC is wandering around distracted—making a map, and should get surprised a few times. The best example for this might be Arx Fatalis' inventory system; it pops up in realtime, but does allow the player to still see their surroundings. Or a pop-up notebook (as we did in the ORRR2 Grimrock mod) could really fit the bill IMO. Stonekeep had one too, but that was full screen/w pause.

:For sake of a quick mock-up, something more or less like this...
Image
Where either it auto fills, or it is manually recorded by the player; depending on choice, or mode set, or spell mana available...etc
Last edited by Gizmo on July 17th, 2017, 9:39 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Woolfe » July 17th, 2017, 9:11 pm

I can go either way. An Automapper would be preferred IF and only IF, it had the capability to retain some of the confusion and messiness caused by teleport traps, disorientation, spinners etc
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Drool » July 17th, 2017, 9:46 pm

I'm thinking something like how BT3 (at least on the C64) did it could be a compromise:

The game mapped when you were there, but when you left, it reset. That way, those of us who hate hand mapping don't have to, but those who like it get the advantage of having a permanent map when they return to an area.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » July 17th, 2017, 10:12 pm

I don't understand the benefit of the reset—if that's part of what you meant... I don't think anyone would want to map the area again. I don't particularly like mapping it the first time, but I like having the map; I just don't like having it given to me automatically; in a way the party (or single PC) could not have done... and so could not have had access to at the time.

In many games, just running blindly at top speed through the halls, nets you a penned map of where you've been; that's nuts. Perhaps (and I mentioned this before), the auto-filling auto-map can fill in the details using time spent in the area, and influenced by PC stat checks; (preferably realtime current ones... so that injured, intoxicated, or otherwise magically affected PCs would have altered stats used for the checks—for better or worse).

Perhaps bits of maps, or even complete ones could be found or purchased in town? If a dungeon exists near a town for centuries, someone has a map of at least part of it.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by ZiN » July 18th, 2017, 2:08 am

Automap!
_noblesse_oblige_ wrote:
July 17th, 2017, 8:35 pm
The question is: do we ditch these dungeon features from the old games to allow a simple and straightforward automapper to be developed? Or, do we retain these features and either (a) ditch automatic mapping or (b) implement a sophisticated automapper?
The later, "B" option:

Make the automap part of the game! Here are my ideas:
  • Good graphics & aesthetics.
  • Well-drawn pictogram marks for interactables. (eg. different icons for stuff like Adventurer's Guild, Roscoe's, spinners, stairs, etc...)
  • Have certain spells and skills enhance the automap, by showing more detailed info!
  • Reveal coordinates, like "White tower, level 4, 5,5".
  • Find maps (or parts thereof) in-game. Rare seeing stones and wizard eyes could reveal even monsters and treasure somewhere, but getting there is the tricky part...
  • An option to travel directly on the automap thus greatly increasing movement speed. By this i don't mean instant "fast-travel" of course. That's what portals & movement spells are for.
  • InXile is planning on making normal (non-hidden) encounters visible in-game, right? Then it is logical to show them on the map as well, no?

Disclaimer: I am currently playing Wizardry 7 with Automap Mod so might be a bit biased.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » July 18th, 2017, 3:10 am

ZiN wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 2:08 am
  • An option to travel directly on the automap thus greatly increasing movement speed. By this i don't mean instant "fast-travel" of course. That's what portals & movement spells are for.
  • InXile is planning on making normal (non-hidden) encounters visible in-game, right? Then it is logical to show them on the map as well, no?
Gold-Box titles allowed that kind of map movement, but didn't have monsters on the map.
(Wasn't easy to use in that game though... It didn't have doors on the map either. :? )

I would like this feature in BT4. Many many times I wished this was possible in Grimrock 1 & 2, but they don't support that at all.

I don't think I'm a fan of real-time monster tracking on the automap*; but I wouldn't mind allowing the player to place monster icons on the map, to indicate where they saw monsters last, or where certain monsters are common, or always respawn. (IE. Here be Zombies...)

*Unless the monsters are visible in the FPP view.

On the subject of sophisticated auto-maps... :twisted: What if during map-view travel, the map did show monsters, traps, and other realtime threats, but did so in a vision cone that only revealed them when they were directly in front of the party?
Image

_
By greater movement speed, is that actually what you mean, or do you mean greater movement efficiency?
I would not want greater speed; but it would be nice to be able to click a previously explored spot on the map, and have the party quickly move to that location. Traps should be of concern though, if there are any. If there are timed traps like ~say fireballs hurtling down a hall, the map view might need to close, and revert to FPP. The alternative (other than to do nothing) is to animate the fireball on the map, but it might be behind them, or otherwise not seen by them... and this would give its location away on the map, even if they hadn't seen it yet; they could know it was around a corner.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » July 18th, 2017, 6:07 am

Yes, if monsters are depicted on the map, it should only be what's visible, from the alternate overhead angle. Unless you've got some form of radar that detects something (like vague trap detection spells).

Again, the very basic automap should be a redepiction of what's already known purely by visuals (or explicit 1st hand discovery/knowledge). Then it could be enhanced by special skills or spells.

The idea of showing more detail with skills is interesting; made me think of a sort of concentration for a 6th sense, where say the more you remain in a spot, the better your detection of the surrounding area, and as your mental sense of what's around you for a certain distance grows above a certain threshold, certain other features will be 'detected' and plotted on the map.
In the classics, SOSI would tell you "A trap is near". The analog would be instant detection of traps to 30' ahead, for example. But imagine you have someone walking around with you concentrating with their fingers clutching their temples, trying to figure out what it is they sense 20' back and to the left beyond that wall... "hold up guys, this could be interesting" so you wait a couple of minutes, or perhaps circle around the area a while, and eventually the fog clears and they detect a magical field protecting a secret chest. The automap could then mark it as something detected. Practically, the character skill (or spell effect) would be a detection bubble as a sort of heat map, and some objects have a certain threshold that has to be passed before it can be detected in such a way.

That would be an interesting mechanic.



Going back to what I said about using the digital automap. I meant I wouldn't use it exclusively. That is to say, I used the BT3 automap - but only insofar as it provided a "2nd opinion" as it were, about the map structure. Which is why I say that automap should never give away [undiscovered] secrets. The question is - is confusion caused by spinners and teleports to be considered a sort of "secret"? If the automap makes them harmless/painless, then they lose any real exploration/discovery value and really do become more of a pure travel frustration (except teleports for quick moving from A to B).
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by ZiN » July 18th, 2017, 6:50 am

Gizmo wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 3:10 am
By greater movement speed, is that actually what you mean, or do you mean greater movement efficiency?
I would not want greater speed; but it would be nice to be able to click a previously explored spot on the map, and have the party quickly move to that location. Traps should be of concern though, if there are any.
Hmm, i guess i meant skipping the 3d animation of the "step" and instantly travel to the square, when key is pressed, and so on.
Gizmo wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 3:10 am
If there are timed traps like ~say fireballs hurtling down a hall, the map view might need to close, and revert to FPP. The alternative (other than to do nothing) is to animate the fireball on the map, but it might be behind them, or otherwise not seen by them... and this would give its location away on the map, even if they hadn't seen it yet; they could know it was around a corner.
The number of real-time fireball puzzles and the like should be kept at minimum, if at all. Now, monster movement is a whole other topic, i wonder how they will handle it.
Gizmo wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 3:10 am
Image
This Line of Sight mechanic isn't a bad idea. Enemies could have similar LoS mechanics, if they move in real-time (we can only guess). Also the team could stealth/go invisible and surprise monsters from the back, effectively switching the front and back rows in tactical, phase-based combat mode.
thebruce wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 6:07 am
Yes, if monsters are depicted on the map, it should only be what's visible, from the alternate overhead angle. Unless you've got some form of radar that detects something (like vague trap detection spells).
Yes, those could include several spells, scouting skills and artifacts (goggles, orbs, etc.)

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » July 18th, 2017, 7:06 am

One sidenote that still irks me about realtime monsters navigating the map I just realized; it makes the map feel "smaller". When monster (groups) could be any size, the non-literal size of the squares was emphasized, and dungeons didn't feel, I dunno, cramped. But imagining seeing individual monsters walking the hallways - now it feels like the dungeon is that much tighter, smaller, unspaceous. Whether it's because abstract combat with 5 groups of many many foes isn't as feasible, or because now you see how much space a creature is taking in the literal space, I really think the feel of the dungeons is going to be much more cramped and claustrophobic.

That in and of itself isn't a 'bad thing', but it'll entirely depend on how they implement the monster/combat mechanic in the game. And I think that may be one of, if not the, most contentious [changed] components of BT4 over the classics. I can't imagine how many iterations of variant combats mechanics they're proposing and molding as they test and playtest in house, just to get something that works and isn't entirely devoid of classic inspiration. And combat needs to work in the same mechanics set up for mapping.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by ZiN » July 18th, 2017, 8:17 am

Also, on top of that, when the player switches to grid-based movement, the monsters also need to switch to that, which works quite differently, from free-movement. Quite tough, i wonder how are they going to do it, and when are they going to show it. Brian wrote in the february update, that hey're excited to do so.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by demeisen » July 18th, 2017, 10:42 am

Woolfe wrote:
July 17th, 2017, 9:11 pm
I can go either way. An Automapper would be preferred IF and only IF, it had the capability to retain some of the confusion and messiness caused by teleport traps, disorientation, spinners etc
Yeah - it seems hard to have that and automapping at the same time. It'd help a little if the automap worked akin to paper maps before GPS: the map does not show your current location or heading. Even then, there's still the problem that a teleporter might pop you into some other location, and you'd see the automap getting filled out in the new location, so you'd know something had happened. It wouldn't depend as much on the player's wits.

The only way I can imagine it working is if the automap could "lie" to you. It would be build as if the party had not detected the spinner or teleporter, and you'd have to do something such as click on the spinner square, which would "fix" the map. But it seems cumbersome at best.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » July 18th, 2017, 11:07 am

demeisen wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 10:42 am
Yeah - it seems hard to have that and automapping at the same time. It'd help a little if the automap worked akin to paper maps before GPS: the map does not show your current location or heading. Even then, there's still the problem that a teleporter might pop you into some other location, and you'd see the automap getting filled out in the new location, so you'd know something had happened. It wouldn't depend as much on the player's wits.

The only way I can imagine it working is if the automap could "lie" to you. It would be build as if the party had not detected the spinner or teleporter, and you'd have to do something such as click on the spinner square, which would "fix" the map. But it seems cumbersome at best.
The discussion that spawned this thread (not linked in the OP) sort began around this comment. You could review some of the (relevant) comments from then on in that thread to see what's been tossed around for ideas about how an automapper might take into account mapping challenges and puzzles, and maybe you'll find some other ideas to bring into this thread too. :)
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » July 18th, 2017, 2:18 pm

demeisen wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 10:42 am
The only way I can imagine it working is if the automap could "lie" to you.
This is a problem; people don't want—or expect it to lie; even if it should. They will want to trust the automap, and feel betrayed if it lies. IMO even NPCs should lie if they they are simply mistaken, and tell what they mistakenly believe... But players don't seem to take well to that. :(

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thebruce wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 7:06 am
One sidenote that still irks me about realtime monsters navigating the map I just realized; it makes the map feel "smaller". When monster (groups) could be any size, the non-literal size of the squares was emphasized, and dungeons didn't feel, I dunno, cramped. But imagining seeing individual monsters walking the hallways - now it feels like the dungeon is that much tighter, smaller, unspaceous.
In Disciples 2, groups of monsters roam the map, but they are depicted by their leader; this is done in more detail than than I would expect of any automap, but for an automap surely the icon could be the head of the main monster in the group, rather than individuals monsters.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » July 18th, 2017, 2:34 pm

Gizmo wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 2:18 pm
demeisen wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 10:42 am
The only way I can imagine it working is if the automap could "lie" to you.
This is a problem; people don't want—or expect it to lie; even if it should. They will want to trust the automap, and feel betrayed if it lies. IMO even NPCs should lie if they they are simply mistaken, and tell what they mistakenly believe... But players don't seem to take well to that. :(
That's why the automap should lie. But depicting what the player has only seen or experienced is not lying. It's about understand what's depicted. If orientation is unknown, then it's a lie IF the automap says North is UP, and it turns out it wasn't. But if the automap says Up orientation is unknown, that's not lying. That's an ambiguity the player needs to determine. So the context matters.

In Disciples 2, groups of monsters roam the map, but they are depicted by their leader; this is done in more detail than than I would expect of any automap, but for an automap surely the icon could be the head of the main monster in the group, rather than individuals monsters.
I was referring to the feel of having monsters visibly roaming a map. BT1-3 never had any visible roaming monsters. The 'space' was always abstract. As soon as they're shown on the map, it'll feel much less abstracted, regardless of the 'size' of any group. (again, not that I'm saying that in and of itself is a Bad Thing - we're already moving that direction, it seems; it's just a movement that I would personally prefer less to see in BT4).
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » July 18th, 2017, 7:15 pm

Woolfe wrote:
July 17th, 2017, 9:11 pm
I can go either way. An Automapper would be preferred IF and only IF, it had the capability to retain some of the confusion and messiness caused by teleport traps, disorientation, spinners etc
This is my preference as well. I think, though, that it is a fairly large ask of inXile and difficult to get right. If I had to choose between having them sink development time into this or improving other parts of the game, I would probably choose other parts of the game.

I also do see a potential issue with hand-mapping in BT4. The grid is not very obvious from what we've seen thus far. Unless there is an option to turn on fine grid lines, hand-mapping to graph paper could actually be quite difficult in the BT4 environments, since there are not a bunch of repeated textures spaced at regular intervals. Free-form sketches would not be accurate but might make better maps without on-screen grid lines as an aid.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » July 18th, 2017, 7:21 pm

demeisen wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 10:42 am
The only way I can imagine it working is if the automap could "lie" to you. It would be build as if the party had not detected the spinner or teleporter, and you'd have to do something such as click on the spinner square, which would "fix" the map. But it seems cumbersome at best.
Right. And these are some of the ideas that we were tossing around in the thread that thebruce linked in an earlier post (and which I should've included in the OP).

Cumbersome is one word. From an implementation perspective, I would call it complex and it could take a lot of work to get right. There is also the matter of providing an intuitive interface for the player to provide corrections to the automap. How best to help the player "fold" a wraparound map when it is discovered to have wraparounds? How best to have a player mark off a subtle teleport once it is discovered? Et cetera, etc....
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » July 18th, 2017, 8:00 pm

Drool wrote:
July 17th, 2017, 9:46 pm
The game mapped when you were there, but when you left, it reset. That way, those of us who hate hand mapping don't have to, but those who like it get the advantage of having a permanent map when they return to an area.
Interesting, but it would still preclude the use of subtle teleports, spinners, etc... as means of messing with the player.

Another somewhat wild thought that might be a compromise of sorts: inXile could either publish a separate BT4 clue book with the maps printed or else provide them in-game for those who enabled a "Cheat: Peek at Map" option. In the latter case, awarding an achievement for playing the entire game without peeking (i.e., making your own maps) would be a possibility. Could also award achievements for playing particularly nasty levels without peeking as well.

An even crazier thought: have two slightly different sets of maps, one for play with an automapper and one for hand-mapping. The set for hand-mapping would have the subtle teleports, spinners, etc... and would also have access to sections that would not be available in the set for automapper play. Thus hand-mapping would be more challenging but also more rewarding. The game could be completed with either set of maps, of course.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Drool » July 18th, 2017, 8:44 pm

_noblesse_oblige_ wrote:
July 18th, 2017, 8:00 pm
Interesting, but it would still preclude the use of subtle teleports, spinners, etc... as means of messing with the player.
Nah. BT3 still had all of that.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » July 18th, 2017, 10:56 pm

A clue book would be a nice touch; considering that the other three had them.

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