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Let's talk about minimap support


MirceaKitsune
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A few days ago in the thread discussing the flash arrow I implemented, someone uttered the word "minimap". Since that day my thread has been off-topic discussing the pros and cons of such a thing, as I struggle to find anyone willing to test and offer feedback on the mod in cause. Though this isn't a feature I normally intended to bring up, I'm opening this to move the discussion and get mine back to its original subject... and admittedly because the debate got even me intrigued in the idea. You wanted minimap, let's talk minimap :)

Let us begin with the possible implementations as I see it. There's an easy way which is less than ideal, and a hard way that would be far better.

The easy way is having the mapper draw the minimap image for their map, only enabling it if the FM includes this asset. That would require the least development effort, but moves the burden of minimap support to the FM creator who already has a lot of work to do. A small plus is the author has full control over the style of their minimap... this would however result in inconsistent styles, while the mapper needs to carefully trace every wall and building so it lines up with the brushes in the map which would be tedious to say the least. The biggest downside yet is none of the existing FM's would support it: It would only be a feature for future maps or updates to old ones, IF and WHEN the author chooses to use it... this makes it intermittent and even in the future only some missions are likely to benefit. All in all this solution feels pretty meh, though better than having no support at all?

Then there's the harder way: Automatically generate the minimap image. The engine learns to scan for walls and sketch them from a top-bottom perspective, including both worldspawn brushes as well as every static entity that never moves (everything func_static at a minimum). This would be harder to code but takes the responsibility off the shoulders of mappers. Best of all it automatically works in every FM, no need to update old maps to include minimap images! The style would also be consistent across missions, the player able to customize the colors and appearance for all missions to their liking (via cvars). Another bonus is we can generate multiple minimaps for different locations and switch between them as the player enters / exits certain areas, possibly based on zones separated by info_location delimiters, which helps avoid overlap and confusion for different heights and floors; You see the minimap of the city when outside, then switch to a minimap of the building when entering a home. The ideal solution would be dmap generating the minimap image(s), but one problem then is dmap would need to be reran for all existing FM's. If precompiled the minimap image(s) should probably be stored in a "minimap" subdirectory in tga or dds format (eg: "darkmod/fms/myfm/minimap/info_location_1.tga"). As trivia I can point out this is what the game Xonotic does, with its own map compiler q3map2 generating a minimap.tga file from brushes.

With either approach the minimap should be a menu option the player can disable and at least adjust the size of. I'm also thinking of making it item dependent: It should be possible to make it show up only if the player owns the compass item, or possesses a map readable meant to represent the map for that area... on this I'm kinda neutral and would go with the compass option for ease and consistency. Guards and important items could show as markers on the map depending on circumstance: It's debatable what and when should have a marker for AI or items / objectives, as marking something indicates the player has knowledge of that item and its location.

As I said on the other thread where this discussion was thrown, I don't consider minimap support an emergency especially if no developer has the time or energy to put into it, but would find it an interesting and modernizing feature if it happened. Since some people seemed eager about the idea, share your thoughts on it here please! An image was shared in one of the posts... I take it an edited screenshot rather than an addon someone made for a real FM, but will end this post with it to give a basic feel of what we're looking at.

zxqjfGm.png

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I prefer also minimap, but not in that style. (To me,  that style is not immersive) 

More a map, that the player holds in his hands.
Like holding a treasure map, in sea of thieves.
Holding the compass like that way, would also be nice.

Example:

 

Edited by freyk
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But you need to edit the players handmovements for it.
If you know somebody who can do this, that would be nice.

How it now works, showing a map, works fine.
Maybe a bit of tweaking some things for more immersion, like

  • Display the map smaller and not use almost the whole screen.
  • and display the image of the map, not as a static image (like the inventory),
    but display / use the map like a readable object. Because it moves with the player.
    (demo: in a mission read a book/paper and move around)




 

Edited by freyk

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I think objective markers/hand-holding trails are a tier-above minimaps and GPS-systems. GPS I don't have an issue with, if it's just for knowing my location. Thief 2 used the highlighted maps, which was fine. When playing labyrinthine games like Marathon or System Shock, I never lamented knowing where I am, nor did it kill the immersion. And you had to explore to uncover the maps anyway.

That said, a minimap is just visual noise that I don't need or want, and it wouldn't feel thematically good to have in a game like Thief or TDM.

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There's no place for minimaps in an immersive game like The Dark Mod. Half of the missions don't even have maps to begin with, or have incomplete maps, and they are intended to be played like that. 

The Thief formula is all about immersion and exploration, and so a minimap would be a significant stab against this principle, even more so if guard markers are added.

I recommend the video below. I shared it starting at the part where they talk about maps and minimaps (that section is a couple of minutes long only). 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

A thought on what's been said so far: Once a system to generate / render / rotate such maps is in place, it will be no problem to render it at any size or position. You can make it a minimap, a main map item only (larger version), even both of the two if we wanted to offer that possibility.

Minimap is the mainstream system, a small circle in a corner of the screen; To be fair even I don't think that would be fitting to us, given how minimal our HUD is and how out of place this large circle might be. I'd also be more in favor of a system like the one in those videos, where you hold a map in front of you and can see your position on it.

Which makes me wonder: What if instead we could think of an alternative to the existing image maps? Most FM's contain a map already, but they're a rough sketch created by the author which obviously don't show your position in realtime. We could have a generic map item with the same paper background, except the sketch is generated by dmap, with the player and potentially some AI showing up as arrows. This would make maps a lot more useful: I can usually never orient myself in them from the sketched image.

Edited by MirceaKitsune
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Reading and using a map is a skill we all needed to learn, when we played/playing these games. (And i.r.l a very usefull skill too)

Personaly, i dont want/need a realtime marker on a map, or overlaying navigational screen items in this game. That is for other games.

Edited by freyk

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The absolute minimum any TDM level needs is a map where it highlights where the PC is located at - such as in Thief 2.

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16 hours ago, darksilence said:

There's no place for minimaps in an immersive game like The Dark Mod. Half of the missions don't even have maps to begin with, or have incomplete maps, and they are intended to be played like that. 

The Thief formula is all about immersion and exploration, and so a minimap would be a significant stab against this principle, even more so if guard markers are added.

I recommend the video below. I shared it starting at the part where they talk about maps and minimaps (that section is a couple of minutes long only). 

 

 

God, those interviews with the Devs still piss me off. They clearly did NOT like or enjoy stealth sims. Every chance they got they showed their disdain for the original works.
Thief 4 should NOT have been a Thief game, it should have been a new IP with headshots and XP system. Basically it could have been a Deus Ex Human Revolution level of quality, just more stealth focused and it would have been a pretty great game.

Instead they tried to force the Thief universe onto this shooter template that was NEVER going to work, and the project suffered greatly for it.

I STILL haven't finished Thief 4, though I've gone back to continue it 5 or 6 times now.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Gin said:

A real time map would also potentially take control away from FM makers who would want to purposely obfuscate things either by having an inaccurate map or no map at all.

With this approach existing FM's shouldn't be affected; Image maps would remain as they are and new FM's can continue making those if they prefer. Procedural maps would be best as a new item that can be placed on the map. Whether or not the player or certain AI show as an arrow can be a spawnarg of that item (gui_parm#).

Extra idea: This would definitely be implemented as a GUI in any form. We could also allow placing such maps in world, letting the player only see them on a wall if the FM prefers that approach better. This way you can go to certain locations to see where you are.

Edited by MirceaKitsune
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Just now, duzenko said:

We can probably draw the player circle on a map GUI

Anyone up for experimenting in that direction?

If any dev wants to pick this up and my help were of aid, I could try making the GUI / HUD component as I played with guis and scripts. The part I can't do is what goes beyond the possibilities of scripting... namely code to sketch a transparent image from brushes and generate a dds / tga, this needs new engine code.

If it was to use an image made by the mapper, I could likely implement this on my own: It would only require a script moving and rotating the map on a GUI based on the player's angle and position. But imagine trying to sketch an image that perfectly lines up with world brushes, every single wall... not creating that for my FM's lol.

Then again, DarkRadiant sketches 2D viewports for its functionality. What if we allowed it to export the top-down view to a transparent png and use that in the FM? @stgatilov @OrbWeaver what are your thoughts on DR exporting a map sketch using the existing system to render 2D views?

Note that I'll be going on a trip soon. I'll be online from an old laptop which would probably catch on fire if I even tried running TDM on it 😄

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Obsttorte made a script some time ago, which emulates the older Thief version of highlighting the room the player is currently in and marking the ones already visited. I cannot really search the forums right now, as I am only on my phone, but it should not be too difficult to find. If I remenber correctly this script uses the location system to achieve the effect and has to be set up by the map author.

Personally, I agree with people that a mini-map doed not fit TDM. In general, the decision should definitely lie with the map author, so a map generated from the map geometry would be too much and could give too much information. Displaying the ingame map in the corner would be fine, but is also not really necessary in my opinion.

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16 minutes ago, Destined said:

Displaying the ingame map in the corner would be fine, but is also not really necessary in my opinion.

Yes, there's also a more fitting middle option: We could display the map image on its inventory icon, including the arrow showing the player's location. Pressing the use_item key then opens the full map so you can see it properly. Would be similar to how the compass works. This is a solution I'd wholeheartedly support :)

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18 minutes ago, STiFU said:

What you need for decent navigation are a map, a compass and landmarks that let you correlate 3d geometry with the 2d map and that's it. The Dark Mod has always been strictly against the hand-holding game mechanics of AAA-titles.

I'd also like to add that navigation is a part of the game itself. In a way, getting lost is a kind of temporary fail state for being unable to navigate properly (either due to the player's ability or the FM creator's map design) similar to failing stealth. If you fail stealth, you can potentially get back on your feet, and getting lost works the same way.

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Not sure how detrimental such a change would be?

 

Missions like "The Painter's Wife" and "Behind Closed Doors" have an auto-map so what is the distinction about this approach that makes it "better"?

Conversely, if the capability is added to core TDM for either "mini-map" or "auto-map" ( or both ) with the option for mappers to offer this with a clean

implementation does it really harm the overall project?

 

Won't the community reaction to authors use of these features determine whether they see wide adoption?

In fear of "too much hand-holding" can we not just ensure that there is a cvar to disable this feature completely regardless of it's inclusion in a mission?

 

I guess my point of view is "If having an optional feature makes a number of mission authors happy and that encourages them to create more content, then it may be worth it regardless of any negative feedback from hardcore fans. The hardcore are smart enough to use settings to disable such features."

 

Of course, I would be 100% against the ability for players to add this to existing missions via a menu setting.

If it were ever implemented it's availability should depend both on the mission author preference and player setting together.

 

 

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30 minutes ago, STiFU said:

I wholeheartedly dis-support all that has been sugested here, sorry! What you need for decent navigation are a map, a compass and landmarks that let you correlate 3d geometry with the 2d map and that's it. The Dark Mod has always been strictly against the hand-holding game mechanics of AAA-titles. We consider our players to be intelligent human beings that don't require hand-holding and I don't understand why we should change that now, after all these years of success.

If anything was going to be changed in the core mod in this regard, we'd first have to have an internal discussion about this and I almost guarantee, that a feature like this would not come through. (Of course, anyone is free to release custom mods of TDM.) @duzenko please hold back on any commits to core-svn regarding map changes until we've had such an internal discussion.

On this aspect I actually agree with what you said. One of the things I simply can't stand in AAA games (albeit I don't play them but watch videos) is how they treat the player like the last idiot: Take one step, a big popup informs you that you need to press left-click to fire... another step and blam comes a tutorial for the skill system. Back in my day (coming from a 32 year old) games had dedicated tutorial levels which you only loaded if you needed to, you weren't covered in popups for every tiny thing.

Whether a more interactive map counts as too much hand-holding is debatable. I for one find fun in the challenge of looking at a drawn map and figuring out the area I'm in, which is also more realistic since the ink of a map drawn on paper doesn't morph to produce an interactive arrow (if this was a scifi game it would make sense with electronic maps). At the same time I could see myself enjoying the added detail of a map that makes it clearer where you are, especially when you're playing a level for the first time who's layout you don't entirely grasp and you get lost figuring out what you need to do next (this does happen rather often in TDM).

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5 minutes ago, nbohr1more said:

Of course, I would be 100% against the ability for players to add this to existing missions via a menu setting.

If it were ever implemented it's availability should depend both on the mission author preference and player setting together.

Agreed. There seems to be consensus (including my own stance now that I think about it) that if anything this should be a feature the FM author enables on their level if they want to. For a minimap it would make sense to have an universal implementation, that would be a HUD component that shouldn't be intermittent between maps... for a map item however, definitely should be the mapper's choice and item dependent. This makes more sense as an alternative for authors who don't want to hand-draw the map for their mission, on top of which stuff like interactive markers can also be allowed if the author wants their map to have them.

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42 minutes ago, nbohr1more said:

Not sure how detrimental such a change would be?

Missions like "The Painter's Wife" and "Behind Closed Doors" have an auto-map so what is the distinction about this approach that makes it "better"?

Conversely, if the capability is added to core TDM for either "mini-map" or "auto-map" ( or both ) with the option for mappers to offer this with a clean

implementation does it really harm the overall project?

Talking strictly about the automap, I don't get it either. I checked the thread for The Painter's Wife, and didn't find a single comment from anybody complaining that it has an automap. I very much doubt the mission would be any different without it, although the authors can freely correct me.

If TDM players are "intelligent human beings", what are the mappers then? Morons who will do poor work if given the chance? Thief 2 has this feature, it's completely up to the mapper to use it, and it has the best fan missions around.

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17 minutes ago, roygato said:

 I very much doubt the mission would be any different without it, although the authors can freely correct me.

I think navigation would be a bit more difficult, but that's it. Thief style auto maps would be like an easier difficulty setting on navigation without going too far with telling the player where they are, and has the flexibility to still be vague if the mapper wants it to be. (An example would be the burrick caves in The Bonehoard level in Thief 1, where they're only marked as "Where am I?")

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