Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tactical Maps v1

Welcome to EVE-online: the wargame.

The tactical map is available to any pilot, and lays out for the player the combined intelligence gathered by her own ship, what she receives from her fleet, and whatever local territorial surveillance networks are willing to share.

This information is presented in two modes: the HUD Situational Awareness window (SitAW), which can be arranged anywhere on the overview and provides a limited-resolution synthetic view on the tactical situation, and the TacMap proper, a full-screen mode similar to the system/stellar map, which offers a much finer-grained selection of data, polled in real-time from the server.
The real-time TacMap is full-screen-only, in part to discourage players from keeping it on all the time, as it could cause excessive server load and client lag, and partly because displaying so much information in anything smaller than 1024*768 would only result in visual clutter.
A third mode of the TacMap is available through in-game Chromium and out of game browser (via New Eden) which will allow strategists not present in the fleet to monitor the tactical situation from the comfort of their ebil overlord lairs outpost basements.

Under the best of circumstances, the TacMap will show you much more information than what is currently available in-game, and which today is typically relayed mostly by voice comms, despite the worthy attempts of fleet broadcasts to be helpful. In order to reduce clutter and make sure your screen shows you what you need to see, SitAW and TacMap can be adjusted to 6 different 'views':
  • Fleet (TacMap Default)
  • Wing
  • Squad
  • World
  • Constellation
  • Solar (SitAW default)
  • Grid (really cool, yet maybe unpractical for technical reasons)
Fleet, Wing and Squad views 'auto zoom' to display a portion of the stellar map or solar system encompassing the locations of respective groups in your fleet that currently feed data available to you (within transmission range limits).
If that area spans beyond a single system, the systems where fleet members or active tactical relays are present will be highlighted and can be selected to switch to Solar mode. Similarly, if the selected view extends across several constellations, it is possible to select a constellation to switch to Constellation mode.
If all members of the selected view are in the same system or grid, the display will automatically switch to Solar or Grid view respectively, and will auto-zoom in to frame the group if possible.

World view shows the entire stellar map, with color-coded highlights on every system where you benefit from Tactical feeds.

Constellation view zooms to frame the entire constellation you're currently in (default), or which you selected from the TacMap.

Solar shows only the solar system you're currently in (or selected from the TacMap), much like the current system map, but will also reflect the status of connecting stargates in neighbor systems (if available).

Grid view shows the grid as seen by your ship sensors (default), or the sensors of any ship or Tactical Relay available to you, showing more or less the same kind of information you'd get from your main overview's brackets if zoomed out, albeit in a stylized fashion.

TacMap (fullscreen) mode:
In TacMap mode, you can zoom in on a Solar system or Constellation by selecting them, or on any arbitrary portion of the stellar map, either by using a 'alt-click'n'drag' rectangular selection, or by shift-clicking several systems and/or constellations to create a selection. Multiple items selection sets (rectangle or shift-click) can be saved and exported for later reuse.

In World, Constellation and multi-system set views,  the TacMap also reflects which systems are within coverage of your alliance's IntelligenceServices network by surrounding them in a greenish halo.

When zoomed out to show more than a single system at once, the TacMap defaults to a 2D view that won't accurately reflect distances between solar systems but makes for potentially better legibility ; it can be switched to 3D mode for player convenience.

Solar and Grid views (or any views that auto-zoom to such scales) are 3D-only and freely rotatable by mouse-drag, and default to a bird's eye perspective close to a top-down 2D view.
  • The finest granularity of TacMap in Solar mode is grid-wide, which means you'll see all items of interest present in the same grid synthesized as a composite object, even when zoomed all the way in. Hovering on the composite grid object will provide you with a sorted breakdown of items in grid, while double clicking the composite object will switch the TacMap to a Grid view of that grid.

  • Ships are not fully rendered in Solar and Grid views, and use simplified 3D icons on a broad per-class basis (all ships of a same class share the same icon, regardless of race or model, using the same distinctions available in overview setting). Drones, fighters/fighter-bombers may not be shown in Solar and Grid views.

  • Similarly, ships and items 3D icons are color-coded according to your overview settings, with hostiles/war targets typically showing in red, fleet members in purple, alliance mates in dark blue, etc. Cloaked ships that you can see by virtue of them sharing their tactical information with you (directly or not) appear translucent, while the 3D icons of ships presently engaged in combat blink.

  • Fully zoomed out, Solar view reverts to a simple 5-colors one-bubble-per-grid display model, similar to the SitAW mode, but with fully detailed information available on hovering/selecting (see SitAW mode below).
Grid view details:
For most purposes, Grid view is an easier to read schematic version of the 3D overview, centered on a select ship/tactical relay instead of your ship PoV.
Grid view is freely rotatable and zoomable down to a 10km-wide cube. When zoomed out beyond the finer-grain resolution, overlapping objects are merged into a single slightly oversized icon that cycles through the list of 3D icons of objects it presently stands for.
Much like the directional scanner, Grid view can be set to either show every visible item, or use your current Overview Settings (independently of the personal settings of the ship/structure whose PoV is used).

[Caveat: To reduce server load and client lag, it is likely that remote Grid view will only be practical for ships and structures that are located in the same solar system as yours. This is due to the requirement for Grid view to display reasonably accurate positional data for each object, while Solar view needs at most to list the visible contents of a grid.

Depending on how the server really handles grid, especially memory-wise, implementing remote grid view may prove to be impossibly complicated or resource-hungry. If that were to be the case, having to drop Grid view should not be a show stopper for Tactical Maps altogether: a suitably detailed Solar view would already go a long way toward making things much more interesting.]

SitAW mode:
The HUD window mode presents a limited subset of useful tactical information in a compact form.
World and Grid modes are not available in SitAW, nor can arbitrary selections of systems be created (but they can be recalled from a saved set). Selecting the Fleet/Wing/Squad mode will bring SitAW to Solar view if all reporting members of the selection are presently in the same system.

SitAW Constellation/saved set view is 2D only, using the same synthetic, scale-inaccurate rendering used in the 2D TacMap mode.

SitAW default view is Solar, and in this mode will only display a single color-coded bubble for each monitored grid-wide 'grain', in one of 5 colors:
  • Red: war targets, (potentially) members of a fleet flagged as hostile by SharedIntel, or -standings
  • Blue: alliance members/assets and +standings
  • Green: fleet members
  • White: neutral/unknown/space stuff.
  • Orange: any mix of the above present in the same grid.
Hovering the mouse on a bubble will provide a simple 1-4 lines breakdown of what it represents, without much details beyond the count of entities (drones are ignored) for each of the main categories (Red, Blue, Green, White).
Solar mode in SitAW is freely rotatable but not zoomable: clicking on a bubble will zoom x8 to display an area centered on the bubble/grid at the time of the click, a second click anywhere in the SitAW display will restore the view to full-size Solar mode.

Browser mode:
Both in-game and out, via either EVE-Chromium or your browser of choice, tactical maps should be able to provide much of the essential information to monitor a battle from a strategist perspective, yet only in 2D, and less real-timey.

The browser version can zoom anywhere from World to Solar, displays detailed data about selected objects via schematic flag panels, and generally speaking feeds from the same sources TacMap and SitAW do, only rendering it in a slightly more 'corporate' style, and at a slower refresh rate of roughly every 30 to 60 secs.

It should prove invaluable to monitor the health and Control/Ownership status of your alliance's stargates, outposts and other Sovereignty Tokens, and could tie-in with community-made tools that provide nicely arranged views of statistical data.

Now that we have shiny maps, what intel exactly can we see on them ?
Well, that would depend on IntelligenceServices (see next post).

No comments:

Post a Comment