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Author Topic: Solstice (NES) *Abandoned*  (Read 17829 times)
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GSA
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« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2012, 02:20:11 PM »

Hi everyone, I'm the guy who made the new Solstice map. I wish I would have been able to talk here sooner, but I had problems registering on the forums. The system kept telling me that "I was a spam", falsely, and I ultimately had to get Mr. Leung to create an account for me. He did it Tuesday actually, but I've been delayed by external events since then.



So, first, I'd like to say that I'm glad to hear good words from you people. Namely:

TerraEsperZ, I know you are an excellent mapper and you deserve my respect for these Solstice prototypes you posted 2 years ago. In fact, I am impressed by what you managed to do using only a raster graphics editor. I am kind of sorry I obsoleted your work, but I feel better now that you said that you are "far from sad". Also, that I managed to do more than what you hoped to do with your map makes me somewhat proud. Thank you.

Peardian, I saw what you did with Ocarina of Time and Super Mario RPG; your technical prowess is sound. To me, your good comments mean even more because they come from you. So, thank you as well.

and Mr. Leung, you told me by email that it was an "awesome submission". I know you have a lot you can compare with, so I humbly and gladly take your word for it.



Now, I'd like to say a few words about my approach.

Back in March 2005, I wondered why no isometric maps of Solstice existed. So I decided to give it a go and, to be honest, I failed (and understood why no isometric map existed Smiley). I had just too many difficulties, especially with the inconsistent height of the game and rooms above others. Also, fitting it together was a puzzle incredibly too time-consuming. TerraEsperZ knows what I'm talking about because he is stuck like I was back then. (He did make it much further though).

I had mostly forgotten about this project until recently when a series of events led me to trying again. And with new scholarship and new software knowledge I acquired over the years, I knew that a Solstice map might have been possible. Actually, as you just saw by yourselves, I did manage to be successful this time.

What made this map possible is a vector editing software: Inkscape. Everything being "objets" makes the whole thing much easier to manage. My source file contains the equivalent of 1519 layers (because each object works like a layer). By grouping objects by rooms, I had 382 groups of objects (252 rooms + other elements). (I attached a small outline view of the map to show this.) Using an axonometric grid superimposed with a pixel grid and object snapping I was able to quickly iterate on the position of rooms. Also, with the translation tool, I could enter integer pixel values to move groups of rooms in certain directions.

I estimate the total amount of time it took to over 200 hours.
  • ¼ to rip rooms from the game and draw transparency (because not all black should be transparent!).
  • ¼ to arrange rooms in the densest configuration.
  • ¼ for annotations and shadows.
  • and ¼ for the rest (compass rose, item list, legend, area names and credits).

In this regard, if someone thinks it could be useful, I might make a small tutorial for similar maps.

One of the things I like about Solstice is how, after entering a room, you can understand how to solve it just by looking at it. I wanted my map to allow this too, but you lose temporal and gameplay information by taking frozen screenshots. So, I've put a lot of care into annotations so you know what exactly will happen in each room. The presence of such information improves the usefulness of this map a lot.



That's about what I wanted to say for now. I'll say a word about Equinox to conclude since you ask.

As much as Solstice is an excellent game, Equinox ruins everything about it. I hate Equinox as much as I love Solstice. In Equinox, your character moves painfully slow, the camera is too close, there is no in-game minimap, they abused the perspective so that way too many objects are hidden behind others, the perspective is sometimes impossible to understand and that makes jumps pure trial and error, some doors (not secrets, doors that are necessary to progress!) are invisible and you need to hug every wall to hope to find them, conveyor belts don't have a specific graphic so you never know when a block will move you and in which direction (at least Solstice shows an axis), conveyor belts are much faster it's almost unfair, jumps are often near impossible, combat is somewhat fun actually but farming bats in later areas gets really boring, your character moves too slowly to be able to react in boss battles so you have to learn their patterns by trial and error, beside a few tracks the music is generally much less memorable than Solstice (especially the EPIC 3min intro Solstice has), and if you thought Solstice was hard then you should know that Equinox is -frustratingly- hard...

For all the perspective problems, I have no idea how to make a map of Equinox look good. So I won't try at this time. Feel free to do it, but my opinion is that Equinox doesn't deserve to be immortalized with a map.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 02:24:48 PM by GSA » Logged
TerraEsperZ
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« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2012, 03:31:41 PM »

Fascinating. I experimented with Inkscape a few years back trying to convert an old sci-fi design of mine into vector graphics, but I simply didn't have the patience required to get far with it. I must admit that seeing what you've accomplished with it shows just how powerful a tool it can be.

I'm just really impressed with the level of care you put into this map with all the shadows, stats and everything. I can never concentrate long enough on a single game to uncover all these little details. Once I'm done with the layout, bosses and items, I'm just happy to be done. And as for the shadows, I often find myself unable to deviate from the game's original graphics out of some need to preserve the "purity" of the map and yet, you've shown here that you can make even a good looking game appear even better when you dare a little. That, and it makes the whole thing much more legible.

You've also managed to get all the rooms in the same image, something I just wasn't able to do because I tended to compact everything as close as possible which didn't leave me enough space for the rooms with multiple floors. Also, since I was using a raster program (Paint), moving anything around would quickly because a huge pain whenever I changed my mind about room arrangement.

Seeing new mappers come up with such incredible work using more advanced programs and ripping techniques makes me envious because it seems to me that the maps I make often take a long time to finish and the results are almost always "adequate" at best. But I can't be mad or jealous when the community as a whole gets to enjoy superior creations. I just hope you'll stick around for a while and keep dazzling us with more maps and, maybe, help the more old-fashioned mappers like me get with the times Smiley.
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Current project that I really should try to finish:
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)
-Lilly Looking Through (PC)

Pending project:
-A ton of stuff that will never be finished
GSA
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« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2012, 07:43:32 AM »

I just hope you'll stick around for a while and keep dazzling us with more maps and, maybe, help the more old-fashioned mappers like me get with the times Smiley.

Unfortunately, I don't currently have any other map project I'd be willing to undertake. I did Solstice because I absolutely love that game, I thought nobody had done it (my mistake: I didn't know about this thread at first) and I was attracted by the unique technical challenge it would offer.

That being said, I'll gladly stay around in the forum to share what I learned from doing it.

Seeing new mappers come up with such incredible work using more advanced programs and ripping techniques makes me envious because it seems to me that the maps I make often take a long time to finish and the results are almost always "adequate" at best.

Let me tell you, for most games you wouldn't benefit from vector software because stitching screenshots together is still done most efficiently with a raster program. Even then, I know stitching is a very long process. Unfortunately however, I don't know how you could make stitching any more impressive than what you are doing because the standard for it is perfection Undecided. What makes a map stand out is the little extras like the next stage criteria you included in your Little Samson maps. This shows how the finishing touch is very important. I think you understand.

Now, speaking of efficiency, I do have some advice for you. Knowing you only use "Paint", there are two features common in other raster software that would save you time and I recommend learning about them. You'll find them in many raster programs but if you wonder which program to use, I recommend GIMP for the simple reason that it's free.
  • First: layers. In games where the background and foreground don't move at the same rate (parallax), it's best to rip them independently. Then you just have to put them one on top of the other. I bet you already work like this, but with layers if you need to move the background only or if you need to correct something in the foreground, you can do this a lot faster.
  • Second: grids and snapping. Because games often use tiles of 8x8 or 16x16, you can set up a grid of that size and then when you move things around they snap nicely together when you get close to what you want. It saves time because you can align things perfectly without having to zoom in. Also grids are visual guides very useful to align anything else.

With these two things, for instance, if you are mapping Super Mario Bros and you want to add a mushroom over a question mark box to identify the contents, you can take your mushroom sprite from another file, paste it in and then it takes 1 second to align it correctly with grid snapping. Then if items are in their own layer and you realize later that you messed up (lets say a coin goes there instead of a mushroom), you can erase the mushroom without having to "repair" the foreground/background because it's still there behind the item you erased.



Now, back to vector software, to put it simply the only real advantage it provides is the ability to change your mind quickly. (It's like layers but with more layers and the possibility to group them.)

Also, grids are available in there too. Additionally, Inkscape has a nice thing called axonometric grids. It's useless for regular maps but if you check the link you'll understand instantly how it helped me align Solstice rooms. (Trivia: In Inkscape, the default grid angles for x and y is 30° but I had to do a bit of trigonometry and adjust them to "the arctangent of ½" (about 26.565°) because this is the precise angle of "1 unit vertically, 2 units horizontally". This was done to have perfect pixel alignment.)

You've also managed to get all the rooms in the same image, something I just wasn't able to do because I tended to compact everything as close as possible which didn't leave me enough space for the rooms with multiple floors.

I too compacted everything at first (while keeping a minimum of one tile of black around rooms for aesthetics). For instance, when I was doing the main castle and wanted to fit the basement of the NW tower, I had basically two choices. Moving all the rooms of the north side to the north or all rooms of the west side to the west. I tried north, wasn't pretty. I tried west, much better. It made the main castle more square shaped than rectangular (which looks more like the real topology). Trying both took only about 5 minutes. It gives you an idea about the efficiency gain.

Some other things were much harder to do however... the SE tower with both cave shafts gave me headaches! The east area of the caves was pretty intense too! And then fitting the caves with the gardens on each side... Even though individual changes were real quick, I said the whole thing took about 50 hours to arrange. And I am aware that: while looking at the map, few people would suspect this amount of work. Cartography is pretty much a thankless job.  Sad

And thankfully I had a vector program. I believe it would have been impossible with a raster one. Just how long would it have taken? Huh?!
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TerraEsperZ
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« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2012, 05:29:15 PM »

Thanks for the recommendation GSA. I'll give GIMP a try but I really hope that it manages to be as efficient as Paint to use. While it might not do much, I know every keyboard shortcut by heart and that makes me at least twice as fast as I would otherwise be with, say, Paint Shop Pro which I use solely when I need to use transparencies.
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Current project that I really should try to finish:
-Drill Dozer (GBA)
-Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis)
-Naya's Quest (PC)
-Lilly Looking Through (PC)

Pending project:
-A ton of stuff that will never be finished
Peardian
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« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2012, 10:14:26 PM »

I like to use a combination. I put together individual layers in Paint, and then combine them/arrange them in Fireworks.
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GSA
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« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2012, 11:35:36 PM »

Hey TerraEsperZ,

Shortcuts shouldn't be a problem in GIMP because you can configure them. You could change them to match Paint if they doesn't by default.

Now, speaking of efficiency, there is a good chance that you will be a bit lost or overwhelmed at first. Just don't try learning everything at once. The first thing you should do is spotting where the Paint tools are in GIMP and maybe reconfigure shortcuts. That shouldn't be hard. When this is done, I don't see why you wouldn't be as efficient in GIMP as you are in Paint. If you're not, just tell me what's wrong and I'll give you tricks. Smiley

After this point, you'll probably try learning more tools one at a time. Then, you'll incorporate them in your technique and you'll really start gaining speed. And that, I can guarantee.

In regard to what Peardian just said, I use a similar combination as well (GIMP/Inkscape instead of Paint/Fireworks). My point is that I consider GIMP to be a straight upgrade for Paint. However, I don't think Inkscape is an upgrade to Fireworks but I use Inkscape anyway as I'm an "open source" junkie Wink. GIMP does some of the functionality Inkscape/Fireworks does as well, so you can do fine using only GIMP, but you may add Inkscape/Fireworks to the mix in the future.



On another topic, I spotted a few goofs in my Solstice map. (Sorry about that Mr. Leung, I really thought there wasn't.) Namely, a mistranslation in the legend and a few misplaced/missing shadows. So, while I was at it, I figured I'd do some more changes to make a resubmission worthwhile. So I slightly moved a few things to make the map nicer, but more importantly I experimented with an idea TerraEsperZ spoke of much earlier: room numbers.

Something I didn't like with my map is how people needed to describe rooms to talk about them. And some aren't easy to describe... If I want to tell you about the "room with red walls in the main castle with two moving platforms shaped like >" it's somewhat impractical. Really if I could just say "room 0E", that'd be a lot more efficient. So yeah, I wanted to show room numbers somehow but I didn't want them to be distracting, and that is a fine balance. So I tried a few things, and I'm pretty satisfied with what I came up with.

So, I wanted to say, I'm not entirely sure how TerraEsperZ found out that room IDs were stored at $0015 in RAM, but that information was helpful. Thanks.

I'll let my map sleep a bit to be able to get a fresh look on it and I'll thoroughly check it again for mistakes a few more times and I'll resubmit it afterwards. (I guess I was a bit too eager when I submitted it the first time Cheesy.)
« Last Edit: September 12, 2012, 11:41:07 PM by GSA » Logged
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