After getting some experience with the new exploration and encounter model in the current campaign of Strategic Primer, several shortcomings with it have become obvious. Simply put, it’s too random, frequently producing results that don’t make sense given the context.
To (try to) correct this and other faults, I’ve decided to design and implement (yet another) replacement encounter model. In this post, I’ll try to explain some of what this will entail.
To start with, I’m going to change the resolution of the map. The map as a whole will be the same size, but each tile in the new map will be much smaller: a few acres or so at most, instead of the current quarter of a square mile. I don’t yet know how I’ll handle switching over from old to new coordinates.
With a higher-resolution map, I’ll go through and add possible encounters directly to the map. Some will be more or less difficult to find, but instead of a tile containing one being somewhat rare, most tiles will contain several. And I’ll do my best to make events be sensible, given the terrain and events around them. (While I’m going through adding events, I’ll also reroute rivers and change some of the smaller tiles’ terrain type so that the map doesn’t end up even blockier than it already is. (More than half of each current-size tile will remain that terrain type, but in many cases not all will.)
In addition to the problem of too-random (i.e. context-ignoring) results and the abysmally low signal-to-noise ratio, a main problem this redesign is intended to address is that currently only those few “events” that are actually part of the map will usually be “found” again by another explorer coming through the same area. In this new model, because all or nearly all possible encounters will be embedded in the map, this problem will largely go away.
Everything I’ve mentioned until now requires work on my part, adding support for new kinds of data in the map format and adding the detail to the map, but very little new features in the assistive programs. However, once I’ve added some new features, these changes will make several improvements to the model possible. First, I’ll be able to add vision range: a unit can see, or “encounter”, something on a tile it doesn’t pass through—less often than “encountering” things on the tiles in its path, but still fairly often for the more conspicuous “events”. Second, a unit can encounter something like a wandering animal that isn’t “based” in the tile it’s on—which I hope to eventually extend to properly tracking unit movement so I can detect when units see each other pass by, but that’s a long-term idea at best. Third, if I do this right, I can keep track of how large a population of animals or plants, or a mineral deposit, is—so I can model overfishing, or on the other hand how much labor it takes to clear a new field in a heavily forested area. And fourth, representing players’ construction on the map properly (or, to look at it from the other direction, for a player to build something big enough to show up on the map) becomes much easier.