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Moving On Up - Maps

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Shadow Elusive
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Moving On Up - Maps

We're moving on up! To the top! Of Lotus Hills at least.

You see, there was a special present in our last video, and that was in the last few seconds. You saw the first pass at Titan City itself. Or at least, the land under it.

The total map for Titan City measures four hundred and seventy five square kilometers. 180 square miles. Sculpted. You’ve seen the maps before, with waterlines and coves, and mountains.

Now, how’d we do it?

Not by hand, I’ll tell you that much. That’d take years to get anything even vaguely plausible.

So… where’d it come from? Well, as it happens, there’s a lot of science funded by the government. And a lot of it is in the public domain. We the People paid for it, We the People get to use it. There’s a number of cities that have been scanned by lasers, by the US Geological Survey. And a number of harbors that have been scanned by sonar, by the same people.

And, as it happens, we got our hands on that data. All legit and aboveboard. It’s measured in height. Unreal, as it happens, can absorb things measured in height - they’re called heightmaps.

Now, I’ll admit, they weren’t in the same format, and we sort of had to write a converter. Which did a number of other things on all that data. Horrible, horrible things. Turning three cities into one, straightening the curves, flattening the hills. (the mountain may get ‘em but the law never will.)

But at the end of the day, it spit out something we could use.

It’s not that simple, though, because even if you use lasers to scan the city at five centimeter resolution… well, it’s a city. There’s things in the way. Buildings. Walls. Airports. Traffic lights. No, really, wires and poles get in the way a surprising amount - we can trace the ‘echo’ they leave. The map has holes in it.

And we have to find those holes and patch them all, till the map is mathematically sound and whole.

Of course, when you’re dealing with 180 square miles, that’s a huge file with a lot of data in it. And we can’t slice it up because then we might have one side of the slice taller than the other - this was a real issue, because the data was given to us in ten KM chunks.

Just stitching those together (they overlapped slightly) was an adventure. Working with it as a whole required some serious RAM upgrades to the workstation we were using. And an additional hard drive, because the thing was getting thrashed to death.

And then? Holes. Thousands of tiny, tiny holes. And a couple REALLY HUGE ONES. But it’s just math, and we can find the holes with math. And then we get to plug them up - the small ones by averaging the areas around them. The larger ones? We have to get creative. Projecting the slope of the nearest solid areas in all directions forwards was one solution - didn’t work so well for riverbeds, though.

And finding the ‘nearest solid area’ isn’t as easy as it look when dealing with graphs.

It’s an ongoing struggle, and we’re not done yet. And then comes the smoothing…

But it’s okay, because Lotus Hills had a fixable amount of holes. So we used it. We’re building a new Minihood on top of it. Why? Because we want one with terrain, and it’s got a good mixture. Everything from a hill, to flat land, to pirate coves, to a nice beach. Because the old one wound up being a bit too small once we got travel powers in. Because we needed something to test our building construction and roadbuilding tools with, and it’s a great mixture to use for that. (All graphics are prototypes and to be replaced.) And because we’ve learned since building the last one.

See, the last Minihood was an experiment in modular building - make some modules, stack them together. It worked pretty darn well. It gave us the clues we need to move towards building things based on rules sets. It’s called ‘procedural building’. We give the tool the rules, it assembles the legos - but we tell it how the legos go together - and if anyone’s played SimCity or Cities: Skylines, you know how much power that can give you.

Problem is, we used something called ‘BSP Trees’ to make the old building walls. They’re fine for testing, but they’re not actually building parts. They’re logic structures. They’re a handy technique and fine for most games, but for us, they have one big problem. They don’t work with collision detection - and that’s a little less than useful if you want people crawling on them. And we used them for everything from the road to the walls.

So, it's got to go.

And in the process, we’re making a new place - that will teach us how to make more things, faster. The tools are in development - some of them purchased, some of them built by hand - but we know what we have to build now, it’s just a matter of digging deep into the toolbox. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring.

And really, that’s how it goes. Rebuild, learn, develop.

And, always, have fun.

From Avelworldcreator, Dr. Tyche, W. Arcabbot, and your friends at Titan Labor Company - we take care of the TLC, you take care of you

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Interior Map Lead and UI Designer