To Automap or not to Automap?

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Alation
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Alation » August 17th, 2017, 12:00 am

What about using a character skill to automap. That way it can easily be "turned off" by not getting that particular skill or "turned on" by getting that skill. There could either be a number of points/skills to determine the quality of the map. That should keep everyone happy whether they want no automap, a simple automap or a complex automap.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » August 17th, 2017, 6:23 am

That idea has also been postulated earlier. I don't see a problem with that and it could be a good game mechanic as well - just as various spells improve the identifying of 'special' squares by distance or description, an automap skill could improve how much information is revealed on the map.

Not improving that skill could have the 'reward' of more quickly improving other skills, but I think I'd rather have it be a game setting towards a more 'classic' mode... *shrug*

It also doesn't address the structural mystery of hand-mapping and adjusting unplaced or mismatched map segments into their proper locations and whatnot, at least without some much more complex programming for the automapping system (all of which has been discussed earlier, which isn't to say the discussion is closed ;)).
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Woolfe » August 18th, 2017, 5:43 am

That would be cool.. have it on a character who then gets killed and you have to find your way back to resurrect without the maps.... :lol: ...
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » August 18th, 2017, 5:57 am

Oh that would be evil and awesome. hah.
That'll teach people to hand-map backups :)
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Lord of Riva » August 18th, 2017, 6:19 am

Not a fan of that idea, Skills should be relevant not mandatory. Its not interesting to have a skill you have to take just because you are either to stupid to navigate samey mazes or because you are unwilling to draw on paper (apart from the fact that there is not a location indicator on your paper.


However there is one thing to consider for me and that is how the maps are designed. The trouble with games like Dungeon Master, Grimrock et all is that the environments are literally indistinguishable from each other (they are using the same textures on nearly all walls)
If the showcase is anything to go by having an Automap may not actually be mandatory (for a lot of us) as the areas are clearly visually different.

We will see.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » August 18th, 2017, 7:53 am

I think the best idea was the one used in Lands of Lore. The King offers the party his magic atlas; they don't have to accept. The game could allow the party to buy a blank conventional book, or a magic book, or no book at all.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Drool » August 18th, 2017, 9:00 pm

Gizmo wrote:
August 18th, 2017, 7:53 am
I think the best idea was the one used in Lands of Lore. The King offers the party his magic atlas; they don't have to accept. The game could allow the party to buy a blank conventional book, or a magic book, or no book at all.
I would be okay with this, as long as there was no penalty (aside from locking out an achievement or something) for not taking it.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Lord of Riva » August 19th, 2017, 5:56 am

yeah with that solution and an benefit in achievement territory thats completely fine i guess.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Ether » August 20th, 2017, 5:10 am

I think it's amazing how many masochists we have here making a mountain out of a molehill.

If you don't want to use the automap, don't.

Now, that said, if you think having an automap takes away from the peril of spinners and teleports, etc, I would say the simple solution is that it shuts off until the party either comes back to a landmark (stairs, magic mouth, etc) or casts Scry Site.

Having said all this, I'd rather see such these special squares play more of a role in combat than exploration. Darkness! could instead mean it's harder to hit (and be hit) unless there is a light spell or an inherent night vision trait. Spinners could expose the rear of the party to melee attack, etc.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » August 20th, 2017, 9:03 am

Ether wrote:
August 20th, 2017, 5:10 am
I think it's amazing how many masochists we have here making a mountain out of a molehill.
Masochists eh? Talk about irony, mountain out of a molehill...

The point it's nost merely about using an automapper or not - the existence of it in the game does very much have an effect on the gameplay and level design. It's a mechanic that can make a really hard aspect of the game really easy, or vice versa. So there's much to consider in its design, and what sort of game elements can and can't be included in the game based on how how it impacts their existence. That's not a mountainous molehill, that's game design.
If you don't want to use the automap, don't.
Many of us won't. Again, it's not about whether we can or must use it or not, but how the game and maps will be designed and/or affected by the fact that it's a very nuanced game mechanic.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » August 20th, 2017, 9:18 am

thebruce wrote:
August 20th, 2017, 9:03 am
The point it's nost merely about using an automapper or not - the existence of it in the game does very much have an effect on the gameplay and level design.
...it's not about whether we can or must use it or not, but how the game and maps will be designed...
Precisely.

Alas this is a flat Earth topic. One can explain it in depth all day long, and be derided for it. It seems that for some the mere concept that it could be true... is on some level offensive; and so it's opposed on principle.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Woolfe » August 20th, 2017, 8:38 pm

Lord of Riva wrote:
August 18th, 2017, 6:19 am
Not a fan of that idea, Skills should be relevant not mandatory. Its not interesting to have a skill you have to take just because you are either to stupid to navigate samey mazes or because you are unwilling to draw on paper (apart from the fact that there is not a location indicator on your paper.
I was being tongue in cheek about it. But I won't deny a certain perverse interest in the consequence :lol:

Lord of Riva wrote:
August 18th, 2017, 6:19 am
However there is one thing to consider for me and that is how the maps are designed. The trouble with games like Dungeon Master, Grimrock et all is that the environments are literally indistinguishable from each other (they are using the same textures on nearly all walls)
If the showcase is anything to go by having an Automap may not actually be mandatory (for a lot of us) as the areas are clearly visually different.

We will see.
Agreed. Interestingly if they can keep the "walls" varied enough, it should actually become harder to remember. I remember all those old games where each wall was one of several, and you would scan it quickly for the point of difference that showed it had a secret switch or something.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » August 21st, 2017, 3:01 am

Woolfe wrote:
August 20th, 2017, 8:38 pm
I remember all those old games where each wall was one of several, and you would scan it quickly for the point of difference that showed it had a secret switch or something.
This almost has to be deliberate. While it it is certainly possible to design realistically hidden (diabolically hard to spot) secret levers & buttons, in practice, it plays better if they are plainly visible, but easily missed unless looked for. It's also best if the more difficult ones are in cramped locations where it makes a lot of sense to look for one; for having little other option. Otherwise... You have a vast expanse (hundreds of identical walls per floor) that would each need to have every brick carefully scrutinized and clicked to check for anomalies. You would need an automap just to mark off the walls you'd examined; and you'd never be certain that you hadn't missed a brick among the dozens of walls that you've already checked.

That kind of monumental task is nothing less than a chore; one with no guarantee that there is anything at all hidden there to be found; and you can't hide anything that secretly, and have it be required for them to find it in order to proceed; so it's a minor thing at best.

Imagine falling into this map, and having only a single secret door that leads out:
(One where the button is a loose stone that looks indistinguishable from any other, until clicked.)
Image

It would be more than difficult enough to find if the button was a 12x12 inch engraved brick in the middle of the wall.

______

Eye of the Beholder had very well hidden stone switch. [Afaik] it's the only secret brick button in the game that is (nearly) impossible to detect by sight; you have to push it, to find it. For years I had no idea what it did; because I'd first found it after springing a trap that it disables. I've never found any other button like it, anywhere in the game—or in either of its sequels.
*This is not in the clue books.
Image

Interestingly... Fallout had one of these too (in the Hub); but you'd never even think to look for it.
Image
It actually had two that I know of; but the second one is in the Cathedral —where it sort of makes sense.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Ether » August 21st, 2017, 4:48 am

Masochists eh? Talk about irony, mountain out of a molehill...
Masochist I suppose may not be the right word. I mean, those thinking an automap would negate a spinner probably have no problem putting on a nospin ring.
It's just amazing that we have a three page discussion on how people want the developers to nerf a [optional] feature that the developers want to put in.
It's a mechanic that can make a really hard aspect of the game really easy, or vice versa. So there's much to consider in its design, and what sort of game elements can and can't be included in the game based on how how it impacts their existence. That's not a mountainous molehill, that's game design.
I dunno, it depends on what the developers want. I don't think the automap made BT3 that much easier; I would credit much smaller dungeon layouts for any conceived reduction in mapping difficulty. And the automap didn't do me a lick of good in Dragon Wars.

Edit - For the record, my likely style would be to manually map the dungeons and just use the automap (or internet ;) ) as a reference if needed. It's how I played the series on my Kindle recently, much to my wife's chagrin.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by thebruce » August 21st, 2017, 6:17 am

Ether wrote:
August 21st, 2017, 4:48 am
It's just amazing that we have a three page discussion on how people want the developers to nerf a [optional] feature that the developers want to put in.
It may be amazing for someone who thinks the automap is a sort of 'given' in today's gaming culture. But this is, after all, the Bard's Tale discussion forum, which is a classic RPG series. And so discussing classic gameplay elements and how they transfer to a "modern" sequel is quite relevant really not "amazing". ;)
Ether wrote:
August 21st, 2017, 4:48 am
I dunno, it depends on what the developers want.
Indeed, and it's hopefully it's balanced a good amoun by what we, the fans, want, having been playing the game for decades. ;)
Ether wrote:
August 21st, 2017, 4:48 am
I don't think the automap made BT3 that much easier; I would credit much smaller dungeon layouts for any conceived reduction in mapping difficulty. And the automap didn't do me a lick of good in Dragon Wars.
Understandable. The automaps there weren't intended to cover everything. And at that point people who mapped had their own styles and would certainly add MUCH more detail than the automaps provided. I used the automaps only for making the visualization of the walls and doors easier. Step a couple blocks, check the map, draw the lines; turn, check the map, draw the lines. It reduced the time of peering into the viewport to see which walls were visible. But that's really all it did. And yeah, with teleports it reduced the difficulty of locating my new position, and if the map indicated direction, it would either spoil the spin mystery, or it acted like MACO after a spin and didn't immediately indicate your new orientation.

All that said, (and also discussed earlier), 'incomplete' automaps provide a bit of a guidance in that they speed up some of the more tedious tasks. But in that form they're vastly insufficient to replace hand mapping. If the automap is designed to be sufficient enough to replace hand mapping, then either the levels will be dramatically reduced in content complexity (so the automap is actually useful providing all discovered knowledge making hand mapping redundant), or have greatly reduced mappability (automappable but impossible to accurately hand-map, as with any modern 3D fps game).

In my opinion, to retain map complexity (both mappability and content complexity) the automap is best provided as toggleable, meaning it's opt-in and will make the game easier if used, and not exhaustive in its content, so it won't have (or will minimize its) impact on map design.

Edit - For the record, my likely style would be to manually map the dungeons and just use the automap (or internet ;) ) as a reference if needed. It's how I played the series on my Kindle recently, much to my wife's chagrin.
Likewise.
It's fun to compare resources to find out how good your own is, and how you can improve by incorporating others' methods. It won't be fun to 'cheat', as it were, but if you're stuck then YMMV; at worst you only cheat yourself by looking for the answer :)
For me the fun is essentially documenting every nook and cranny. It's a mentality of mine that's spilled into other aspects of life, lol :P
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » August 21st, 2017, 9:48 am

Of course... it's my own preference that the map layouts be generated (anew) per every new party created. Such that the user & auto-maps only work for that party. :twisted:

*Unfortunately, I doubt the levels can be that modular in Unreal.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by _noblesse_oblige_ » August 21st, 2017, 5:03 pm

Ether wrote:
August 20th, 2017, 5:10 am
If you don't want to use the automap, don't.
The debate has been a bit more nuanced than that.
Ether wrote:
August 20th, 2017, 5:10 am
Now, that said, if you think having an automap takes away from the peril of spinners and teleports, etc, I would say the simple solution is that it shuts off until the party either comes back to a landmark (stairs, magic mouth, etc) or casts Scry Site.
Shuts off when? When a teleport occurs or a spin happens? Doesn't that give the player a clue to cast SCSI in itself? I don't see how your proposal would improve the situation; it is really equivalent to just automapping from the new location or automapping in the correct direction, except less convenient, because it serves as a prompt for the player to cast a spell, such as MACO or SCSI.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Drool » August 21st, 2017, 5:27 pm

Gizmo wrote:
August 21st, 2017, 9:48 am
Of course... it's my own preference that the map layouts be generated (anew) per every new party created. Such that the user & auto-maps only work for that party.
Roguelikes are next door.
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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Gizmo » August 21st, 2017, 5:56 pm

Drool wrote:
August 21st, 2017, 5:27 pm
Roguelikes are next door.
Rogue-likes have random combat and light—if any story component. Just because the map layouts are different, doesn't imply or necessitate that the story or NPCs need be random too. Even Diablo (albeit slightly rogue-like itself) had partially randomized maps; more specifically randomly rotated maps. :mrgreen:

In Riven... though the maps were always the same, a few of the puzzles were different each time. In Dwarf Fortress... Doesn't the game generate the whole world at install? I would be in favor of the BT4 gameworld being filled with intricately handcrafted rooms seamlessly interconnected with variable paths to reach them, and/or through interim rooms that are no less for being auto-generated. A persistent world that lasts as long as the party lives. Eeh... it could have have an Ironman mode that deletes the world as well as the save game; and I suppose it could have a strawman mode that keeps the world as it is, even when the player makes a new party to adventure with.

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Re: To Automap or not to Automap?

Post by Ether » August 21st, 2017, 6:25 pm

_noblesse_oblige_ wrote:
August 21st, 2017, 5:03 pm

Shuts off when? When a teleport occurs or a spin happens? Doesn't that give the player a clue to cast SCSI in itself? I don't see how your proposal would improve the situation; it is really equivalent to just automapping from the new location or automapping in the correct direction, except less convenient, because it serves as a prompt for the player to cast a spell, such as MACO or SCSI.
Isn't that how it was in the originals? Some clue prompted you to cast SCSI.
It was pretty obvious when you hit the spinners in those; the screen went crazy.
Teleports were a little more subtle in BT1 and BT2. It was an obvious flash in BT3. Only time you couldn't notice is if you teleported in a darkness zone (which, keeps silly because one would think the real life adventurers would notice that they were teleported somewhere)

I'm not seeing how this constitutes a difference.

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