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Messages - GSA

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1
Maps Of The Month / Re: 2014/12: Solstice (NES) - Guillaume Saint-Amant
« on: December 02, 2014, 05:32:48 PM »
Wow! Thank you! It warms the cockles of my heart! This really means a lot for me, I feel deeply honoured!

Especially the kind words “one of the most impressive and detailed NES maps that VGMaps.com is proud to host”. That's something! I'm so proud to be here among many talented cartographers I admire. And to get December, the month of the winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere), is a nice little touch that makes me even more happy!

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: October 14, 2012, 01:20:56 PM »
I'm back. It's been more than 3 weeks since my last post and I apologize for the delay but I had to take care of other things.

In this post, I answer Rekrul about...


About copy and paste.
OK, I just tried it again, following your instructions.

I made a square selection, pressed CTRL-C, then CTRL-V. The pointer changed to an anchor, but nothing else happened.
Let me stop you right there. It looks like nothing happened but if you looked at the layers dialog, you would have seen that your selection was copied in a "floating" layer (meaning that the operation was indeed successful). The pointer changing to an anchor means that you will anchor the selection if you click.

I clicked outside the selection and the box went away, but then I had to press CTRL-V again to make the copy appear.
You anchored the first floating selection and you pasted a new one. You could have used the first one instead.

Moved it to where I wanted, clicked outside the box and it pasted it.
When you press CTRL-V it pastes the selection. When you click outside the box, it anchors the selection. (Just to make sure you understand the terminology and what's going on.)

If I wanted to paste additional copies, I had to press CTRL-V again for each one.
If you paste a new copy, the previous one will be anchored automatically (saving some time). Doing multiple CTRL-V shouldn't be noticeably slower than Ultimate Paint "stamping" method assuming that you keep your left hand on CTRL-V and your right hand on the mouse/arrows the whole time.



About GIMP lacking an error message.
Just as an experiment, I tried to remap CTRL-arrow and it told me that it was an invalid shortcut. However when pressing the arrow keys alone, absolutely nothing happens. I wish it would pop up a brief explanation so you're not left wondering. Like "We're sorry, but GIMP doesn't allow remapping that key".
Not including every error message is generally a bad practice and this is a legitimate complaint from your part. However, I'd like you to keep in mind that GIMP is a free software made by a team of volunteers (anyone really). They don't have full time employees dedicated to QA testing and as such, it is expectable that they wouldn't think about every invalid use case.

I am not involved with GIMP development myself, but you could submit a bug report if it matters.



About multiple selections
Can Gimp allow you to make multiple, unconnected selections at the same time?
Yes. Hold [Shift] while making a new selection to add it to the previous selection. Hold [Ctrl] to subtract the new selection from the previous one. And more rarely needed, hold [Shift]+[Ctrl] to intersect the new selection with the previous one (intersecting means to keep only the part that is shared by both selections).

You can use this in inventive ways. For instance, you could select a box then remove a color with [Ctrl] and the color select tool to keep the inside of the box that's not of that color.

I actually needed to do this for a project I did.

I wanted to make a scan of the copy protection codewheel for the C64 game Demon Stalkers, but I didn't want to rip my original codewheel apart to do it. So I drew two pencil lines on the back at the 12 & 9 O'clock positions and placed two pieces of tape on the edges of my scanner. I then aligned the wheel to the first selection and made a scan. Then I turned it to the next one and made another scan. I did this 24 times, which gave me scans of all the words on the back wheel, nine at a time, visible through the windows in the front wheel. I marked the exact center of each scan, then created a blank copy of the back wheel by erasing one of the scans and filling it with the same color. I then loaded each scan and used the multi-select option to outline each of the nine windows and the center mark simultaneously. Once copied, I could switch to my copy of the back wheel, line up the center mark and paste in all nine words at once, which would automatically be in the right positions. I repeated this 24 times and ended up with a filled in copy of the back wheel.
It works. Personally I would have layered all the images in GIMP and then erased the plain part of each one except the last to see underneath. Then I would have aligned them if needed and "merged them down" for export. The advantage of working this way is if something goes wrong, you can go back and adjust the problematic layer independently.



About drawing with an image part.
Also, is there any way to select part of an image, copy it and then just draw with it, at the original size? Using Paste requires you to position the frame and then click outside to make it permanent. Using the copy in the brush panel shrinks the size to a thumbnail, seems to rotate the brush as it moves and blends the edges.

Can I just copy, say a 100x100 area of the image and then draw with it, with no change to the size, no blending and no rotation? Basically I'm looking for something similar to copy & paste, but where the copy becomes your brush, follows the pointer around and you just use the left button to stamp it down, or hold the button and move the mouse to draw with it.
Yes, you can. However, you won't see it follow your cursor like in Ultimate Paint (you'll only see the outline). If you need to precisely see what you are going to stamp, use copy and paste. For drawing, you were in the right direction with the brush panel "clipboard brush". To prevent size change, you must click the small icon next to "size" (in the tool options) called "Reset size to brush's native size".

Use the pencil tool instead of the paintbrush tool to get rid of the blending.

About the rotation, I don't understand. Make sure "Angle" is set to 0 and if you are drawing with a tablet, check the "dynamics" options.

3
Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 21, 2012, 10:47:13 PM »
In this post, I answer Rekrul about arrow keys in GIMP. (Note: I am only able to provide slow drop by drop answers as I'm very busy these days. I'm sorry.)

Plus, why can't you scroll an image with the arrow keys? Virtually every other program with a scrollable display allows the use of the arrow keys, but not GIMP.

Scrolling with arrow keys? Oh, you are so old school! :D

Actually, scrolling is much less efficient with arrows than what GIMP offers. In GIMP, you scroll by holding [either the middle mouse button or spacebar] and moving the mouse!

Really, it's so much faster that I wouldn't go back to old programs where I can't scroll with the mouse.

So I go into the prefs, find the shortcuts section, open the View options, find the ones for scroll left/right/up/down, click one and it says to enter new accelerator. I press the arrow keys and nothing happens. Back to the help file. To define shortcuts, there's a special option you have to check in the prefs. Why??? If I'm going to the shortcuts window, it's a good bet that I want to configure them! So I check the Dynamic shortcuts option, go back to the shortcut prefs, click the option for scrolling, it says to enter new accelerator, I press the arrow keys and it still does nothing! Why do they have an option to change the shortcuts if you're not actually allowed to change the shortcuts???

I don't know *everything* about GIMP, but I think some keys are not configurable because they have multiple functions. For instance, you can't change what "left click" does. Same goes for arrow keys; you can't configure them. (And I don't see why anyone would want to remap arrow keys.)

Speaking of this, the arrow keys are used to move layers around. For instance, right after pasting something, you can move the "floating selection" one pixel at a time with arrows or faster with shift+arrows. It's quite useful to align stuff.

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 20, 2012, 01:53:18 PM »
In this post, I answer TerraEsperZ about his last post. (Nodding at Maxim's last post along the way.)

I've been reading this thread with great interest all evening but I think for now I just need to try and get the hang of how GIMP handles everything.

I'm glad to hear that you still have interest and that you don't want to kill me yet for recommending GIMP! :D

So far, "converting" a recent unfinished project into usable files to then combine in GIMP has been rather difficult and time-consuming,

Oh, I'm not sure you should have done that :o. Converting takes time and is probably inefficient. I think you should have finished your current project with your current tools and learned GIMP later.
But hey, let's see things on the bright side. You are learning!

Apparently (according to me and a few message boards), you can't directly edit the alpha channel but can circumvent this limitation by creating a layer mask which you *can* edit and then applying said layer mask which becomes the alpha channel.

Masks work, but there has to be some confusion here... because I never used masks. If you want to directly edit the alpha channel, you can! Either delete a selection or use the eraser tool.
Did you miss the tutorial image I attached here?

Why they make this so difficult while allowing you to move any layer or canvas around even without anything selected selection (and putting everything in place is really a bitch) is beyond me. I suspect that GIMP is perhaps unwittingly betraying his "by programmers for programmers" origins sometimes. God knows what little paid coding I did ended up with horribly unfathomable UIs.

I'm going to get lynched for saying this, but... If you think GIMP is unintuitive, just try Photoshop! You'd really know what "being lost" is. (By the way, normal people actually need to take a course to be able to use Photoshop...) But hey, Photoshop is recognized as being the best raster image manipulation software.

What you'll learn in GIMP works the same way in Photoshop, but GIMP is much more approachable for it's relative simplicity. Simple enough, actually, to make me believe that you won't need a course to learn GIMP.

So far, anything I can think of doing aside from transparencies and using layers to position sprites takes me less time on Paint and my other tools by several orders of magnitude. I'm not giving up on mastering this ugly beast, but I can tell that some of its quirks will probably never stop annoying me.

You know, transparencies and layers was the essential part of my recommendation of using GIMP. If you want to use MSPaint for the rest because that's what you are most used to, just do so. It may be the best thing to do if using multiple programs doesn't bother you.

Maxim just spoke about "pattern fill". Well, it's in GIMP as well. This is a pretty great feature that you should learn about too. Not only it would save you time when when you work on backgrounds, but it would have helped you greatly for your fancy borders in your Castlevania Legends Map. With pattern fill and grid snapping, it'd have taken about 1 min to generate all the borders of a map.

About Paint Shop Pro, it's good too if you can afford it. However, I don't think that it's better enough to be worth the price tag it has. (It's your call actually, you might want to try a demo.)

I'll report back later on whatever successes and/or failures and/or annoyances I run into.

You're welcome.

5
Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 20, 2012, 12:58:27 AM »
Because there are now too many branching questions and I want to answer each one adequately, I'll make a different post to answer each one, alternating between interlocutors. Don't worry though, I'll get back to all questions eventually.

In this post, I answer Rekrul about the clone tool.

I just tried GIMP's clone tool and unless I didn't know how to work it, it didn't seem at all suitable for the job of erasing a cartoon eagle from in front of a 3-color US flag image.

There are different types of cartoons and I took a guess at what exactly you meant. I could have been wrong. It could be possible that the clone tool is not best suited for the particular image you are speaking of. It actually depends on the amount of high frequency data there is in your image. So, unless I see your image, I can't give you precise advice. (I don't know if there is noise in your image or if it's perfectly clean.)

Nevertheless, as the Wikipedia article on the clone tool states: "A typical use for the tool is in object removal – more colloquially, "airbrushing" or "photoshopping" out an unwanted part of the image." Hence, the clone tool is usually the designated tool for object removal.

The GIMP documentation is vague on how to use it. It says you need to Control-Click the source image, but doesn't tell you how to change the selection from the thumbnail sized circle that it defaults to.

In this case, you should have read the introduction of the tool section in the GIMP documentation as well. Most importantly, the section about the tool options dialog. By default, you will find these options just below the toolbox.

Of course, there is an option for the size of your brush there.

Also when pasting copies of it, it blends the edges with the surrounding image. I guess that's how it's supposed to work, but it's more suited to working with imperfections in photos, rather than limited color images.

In the aforementioned tool options dialog, you can choose your brush type. The default one is a circle with 50% hardness. That mean that the border of that circle is progressively more transparent. Hence the blending.

In your case, you don't want this. So, pick a brush with 100% hardness, either circle or square shaped.
Additionally, if it matters, you might want to check the "hard edge" box in the options. This will "pixel snap" your brush and disable the 1 pixel wide anti-aliasing around it.

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 19, 2012, 06:56:40 PM »
When I started using Windows, I tried using MS Paint and found it incredible frustrating. As a test, I took a simple cartoon image of an eagle in front of a flat US flag and tried to erase the eagle. It should have been a simple matter of copying parts of the flag and pasting over the eagle, but the clunky select, copy, paste, position, stamp process was a royal pain in the butt.

That kind of job calls for the "Clone Tool". (Available in GIMP, Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop. Not available in MSPaint. Can't say for other software as I didn't try them.)

I've also tried GIMP, and I'm sure it's powerful, but it also seems clunky. For example, to copy part of an image, you have to use the selection tool (no arbitrary-polygon tool?), select Copy, switch to a painting tool, then select Select None from the menu to clear the current selection box, then select Paste, select the movement tool, position the box where you want, select Paste again, then move the selected image out of the way to see the modification to the image. Not to mention that after selecting Paste, I can't figure out how to make the floating copy go away. How do you take a large portion of the image and just draw with it? How do you select an irregular portion of the image without resorting to the freehand tool?

Why do so many programs over-complicate things?

Huh? ???

First, there is a polygon select tool in GIMP. It's the lasso. It works as freehand selection if you hold down your click, but if you do single clicks, it defines polygon vertices. Click on the starting point or double click to close the shape.

Secondly, I am dumbfounded by how circumvoluted your method of copying an image part is. Just select what you want. Hit Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V. Then "drag and drop" to move that piece around. Then click anywhere outside to anchor it. (No need to change tools; you can move an image part with any selection tool as the active tool.) Really, it couldn't be any simpler.

All this is my long-winded way of saying I found a program that I think is much easier to use. It may not have all of the features of the fancier programs, but I find it quite intuitive to work with. It's called Ultimate Paint. It's the closest thing to Deluxe Paint that I've found. Cutting out and using a brush is as simple as selecting the brush tool (or pressing "B"), and then selecting the region you want (there are seven different methods). As soon as you release the button, the selection is attached to the pointer (you can switch the handle to the center or four corners via the menus or by pressing "5" on the numeric keypad), then you can stamp down copies, paint, etc. There are separate options for cutting brushes and selecting regions to constrain operations. For all the tools, the left button draws, the right button erases to the current BG color. I'd be curious to hear what everyone here thinks of it.

I don't see in your description anything that Ultimate Paint would do more easily than GIMP. Therefore, I am not enticed to try Ultimate Paint. Sorry.

Feel free to ask more questions about GIMP; I'll do my best to answer them.

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 19, 2012, 12:16:30 AM »
With the screenshot method, you could just have the sprite layer disabled, so when you screenshot, you are actually grabbing multiple layers at a time.

Of course, grabbing multiple layers at a time is preferred when possible. However, in many games, most notably on the SNES, the background doesn't move at the same speed the foreground does (it's called a parallax effect). When this is the case, if you don't capture them separately, you'll end up with pretty bad cases of background misalignment. This is where you need to use layers.

I didn't recommend GIMP only for this reason, but this was the question Terra asked in this thread. (It was about transparency and layers.)

Now, if you wonder why I recommended GIMP to Terra, it was to help improve his efficiency as explained in this post in the Solstice (NES) thread.

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 17, 2012, 11:29:10 PM »
If he doesn't remove the overscan color on each screencap, then it will overlap the main image. It has to be done for each screencap.

What do you mean by "main image"?
  • If you mean the final render with the background, then you missed step #2 from my previous post. (Don't forget that GIMP has a color picking tool allowing to change a whole color in one click.)
  • If you mean the current layer you are assembling (foreground), then, as far as I know, this overlap isn't a problem. (Or if it is, could you provide a set of screenshots where this is the case?)

PS: I attached an image showing what I mean.

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 14, 2012, 10:25:06 PM »
OK, I understand the problem for the screen captures assembly. But then, why don't you do this?

1- Assemble your screen captures while keeping the overscan color there.
2- Erase the overscan color only after everything* is assembled, so you only have to do it once.

*Edit for clarity: When I say "everything", I mean "the whole foreground of a given level".

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 14, 2012, 08:34:54 PM »
But it just seems like a pain to think that I'll need to select and erase the background colour every time I paste a screenshot on a layer. I'd basically be forced to go from a simple keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + V) to that same shortcut *plus* clicking the [Select By Colour] tool, clicking the offending colour and pressing DELETE.

There is something I don't understand.

You said that you save your images with a purple background... But that purple background isn't there by default, right? You need to paint it.
Why can't you replace that step with "deleting the background" instead?

I don't see where there would be additional steps, it's just replacing one step with another.

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Mapping Tips/Guides / Re: GIMP 2.8.2 - Basic questions
« on: September 13, 2012, 08:50:31 PM »
It's not harder, but there's a paradigm shift you need to get used to.

The thing you need to know is: In GIMP, "transparent" is not a color, it's a channel. So, instead of having 3 channels (Red, Green, Blue), you have 4 (Red, Green, Blue, Alpha).
This brings a few advantages.
  • First, you don't need to dedicate a color to "transparent" and you don't need to worry having that color elsewhere in the image becoming transparent by mistake.
  • Second, this allows for 256 levels of semi-transparency independent of the color. So you can have:
    50% opaque white (#FFFFFF-7F),
    50% opaque black (#000000-7F),
    75% opaque blue (#0000FF-BF),
    100% opaque purple (#FF00FF-FF),
    0% opaque purple (#FF00FF-00),
    0% opaque red (#FF0000-00)
    and 4,294,967,290 other combinations.
  • Third, because you can have 100% transparent colors, and because colors aren't lost, you can "anti-erase" back to what something was before being erased. That's pretty cool.

To answer your question, all you need to do is: Instead of saving your images with a purple background (#FF00FF-FF), just save them with a transparent background (#xxxxxx-00)! PNG supports having an alpha channel. (See the sprite I attached for reference.)

Just to make sure I'm clear:
Your "Before" technique: Open an image, select "purple" as your active color, pick the paint bucket tool, click the background, save.
What your "New" technique should be: Open an image, pick the "magic wand" or "color picker" tool, click the background, press "Delete", save.

Then, when you'll paste stuff, it'll work exactly the same way.

Unfortunately however, GIMP won't be that great for your old files with purple background.

I hope this solves your issue. If there is anything else, just say so.

NB: If delete doesn't work (ie: you see no checkered background), that's because your image doesn't have an alpha channel. You need to add one by doing: Layer -> Transparency -> Add Alpha Channel. There is no shortcut by default but I highly recommend setting one up.

12
Map Gab / Re: Solstice (NES) *Abandoned*
« 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. :)

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 ;). 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 :D.)

13
Map Gab / Re: Solstice (NES) *Completed*
« 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 :).

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 :-\. 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.  :(

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? ???!

14
Map Gab / Re: Solstice (NES) *Completed*
« 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 :)). 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.

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