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Traveling Through Hyperspace Ain't Like Dusting Crops


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#1 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 10:00 PM

Research has always been an integral part of our development process. No demand has been more of a challenge in that regard than our need to place each planet at a definite galactic location for strategy mode.

When I began the process in the alpha phase of v1.0, there were maybe four official maps available that held any degree of accuracy; all were clearly related by the reference angle. Beyond that were hundreds of raw sources netting thousands of remarks about regional or relative location. Had that been the end of it, my task would have been nearly impossible.

Fortunately, an adolescent Wookieepedia was available to help cut through much of the clutter. And then I found this fellow called Modi, who had translated the askew maps onto a Cartesian plane, allowing me to derive coordinates that could be fed to the engine. It was the Internet equivalent of striking gold - a starting point. Later, JustinGann expanded on Modi's work to include speculative placements, which afforded me a second opinion. The end result was an independent interpretation of the galaxy unique to Phoenix Rising.

It took the single most important update to the canon to void all that effort - for the better. Midway through v1.2, The Essential Atlas hit bookshelves. Every star system that had ever been mentioned was now bound to a region of space 1/576th the area of the galaxy. A great many were placed with certainty. The unprecedented accuracy of the atlas created a dilemma though, as several campaigns had already been finalized for the release. Rather than scrapping them and starting over, we chose to forge on knowing that v1.2's astrography would be flawed. I am pleased to report that the next version will be anything but.

TEA contains dozens of maps, each with its own scale and set of planets. My first step in replotting the galaxy was to composite them at a scale of 1 pixel = 10 lightyears to create a supermap. The digital Mid Rim sector map served as the foundation, since it had no loss of precision from scanning and little artifacting.

With that done, the actual measuring was trivial. The results were better than I ever could have expected: the first planetary coordinates for Abregado-rae came in identical to those already in use. They were not alone. Although I had corrected our most glaring differences - generally those with no frame of reference or cases where TEA chose to reject Rebellion placements while I did not - when prudent in v1.2, our interpretation really held up to intense scrutiny. Only Spuma, which Children of the Jedi had confused with Protazk, and Orinackra were completely off.

The present and final representation of the galaxy is 20% larger than v1.2 and approximately 92 times the area of vanilla. That should be enough space to prevent planetary overlap in all future cases. Several worlds always have to be manually relocated regardless of scale, but not so much as to be a distraction.

As profound as it is to finally have set astrography, a different facet of TEA had an even greater impact on strategic gameplay. The once-sporadic and eclectic collection of hyperlanes was replaced with a vibrant trade network.

In v1.2, we had two kinds of routes: "the Big Five" and "other". There are now four classifications, the most I could objectively derive from official maps. These can be thought of colloquially as "super", "major", "minor", and "trace" routes. Their benefits are scaled linearly, so while traces provide only meager income, they are much quicker than using a navicomputer to punch though an unstable course, as is the case with non-route connections. Obviously not every system can be linked via hyperlane, so we have tried to balance between using intersections and minimizing campaign planet counts.

These connections are now critical to military operations in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. In the next release, fleets will not be able to travel from a planet unless there is an explicit line - we have eliminated proximity jumps. No longer can an invasion bypass Anaxes on the way to Coruscant, players need not guess where to attack and defend, and the AI has fewer perceptions to crunch when executing plans. This is arguably the single best change that has ever happened to strategy mode.

When FoC was released, I never imagined we would be able to deduce coordinates for every star system. If our trials and errors played even a miniscule part in affecting that change, then it was all worth it.

#2 Kitkun

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 06:43 PM

Yay. Half my losses to the AI were when I didn't realize it could reach a world I left undefended. Now, no more.

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#3 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 10:27 PM

And that's just not acceptable for a strategy game. This is one of the few times where I can say we beat the interface. I can't stress enough how much better it plays because of that.

Incidentally, having fewer places to defend makes for fewer defense fleets, which boosts performance. It's a great example of optimization through gameplay. More on that later.

#4 johnchm.10

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 04:55 PM

i think at one point, my military forces consisted of about 90 or so maxed out Assault Frigates and a whole mess of other ships, just for planetary defense.

#5 johnchm.10

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 05:05 PM

so, just out of curiosity, how much have you completed for 1.3?

#6 evilbobthebob

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 05:06 PM

That kind of thing will be the subject of future news posts, don't worry :)

Phoenix Rising, head of mapping. Thanks to everyone who got us to the position below!
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#7 johnchm.10

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:55 PM

fair enough. im sorry if i seem impatient, im just a little on edge at the moment.
oh, and on a somewhat related note, will Moff Kaine get to use SSD Reaper?

#8 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:51 AM

We have - and are - making great of progress, but some of that's incidental to a release. The main gauge of a version 1.3 will be getting the campaigns back together. This update pretty much destroyed all the careful balancing Ghost had done, since neighboring worlds changed for most and, indeed, quite a few new ones were added. But as evilbob said, you'll have to wait a bit longer for details.

I gave the Reaper to Pellaeon in v1.2.

#9 johnchm.10

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 04:44 AM

im trying to imagine what it would have been like had Thrawn gotten both Reaper and Razor's Kiss.
tell me that wouldnt end badly

#10 Phoenix Rising

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 06:23 AM

Thrawn did have the Reaper - at least on his side, if not under his control. Let's stay on topic though.

By the way, I really wanted to take a screenshot of the new GFFA for this post, but the galactic camera clips objects at too short a distance and I don't have a way to change that, unlike with the tactical cameras. All that was left was the galaxy model and planet text. I figured that was worse than nothing :unsure:.



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