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Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
22,322 backers pledged $1,919,275 to help bring this project to life.

Shroud of the Avatar - Dual Scale vs Mono Scale Maps

Today's update is brought to you by Chris Spears, Tech Director for Shroud of the Avatar.

One of the hot topics that has come up in the chats and forums is the choice of dual-scale vs mono-scale maps. Ultima 1-5, Dragon’s Age, most JRPGs use the dual scale system, where you have an overland scale and then a encounter scale. Ultima 6-UO used a mono-scale map. After looking at the pros and cons of both systems we decided to go with a much improved version of the dual scale map.

We are expanding on this as well so that areas you enter are truly more movie scene like that than just a space to fight in. Don’t think of them as a simple instanced dungeon like you might find in WoW or a dungeon from Skyrim but instead a smaller, focused 3-30 minute experience of some sort which is not necessarily just go in here and kill stuff. Many scenes will involve specific story driven moments and puzzles with no combat at all.

In addition to staying true to Richard’s earlier works, the dual scale system allows the following benefits:

More dynamic world: By breaking the 1-to-1 connection between the overland tiles and the content they are attached to and generating the overland map through data instead of baked art, we are free to change up areas of the world far more easily. Things like changing out a section of the map to be infested by a plague or have a mountain turn into a volcano is as easy as pushing new map tile data and connection information. This also allows us to easily roll out new scenes as we complete them to ensure the game stays fresh and interesting on a weekly basis.

Less painful travel: As much fun as it is to be able to occasionally just wander in the wilderness, in the long run, people generally prefer to be able to get around quickly and not have to spend an hour trying to figure out what the best way to get to the other side of the mountain is going to be. That is fun the first three times and a game exiting moment on the 23rd time. Because we’re not doing our quests as “run to this X on your radar”, there will be far more detective and foot work involved and not making that travel element a huge chore was important to not destroying the game flow.

Quicker content creation: I know the average user doesn’t think about this kind of stuff but it is huge in the reality of game development. Budgets are not infinite so speeding up content creation means we get more stuff done in the same amount of time with fewer bugs and more polish. End result is we can give you guys a bigger, smoother game experience with fewer bugs and quicker fixes when we do find things!
Easier content delivery: Breaking up the world into little chunk simplifies content delivery to the end users and also patching.

Lower machine requirements: Giant seamless worlds are a challenge for even the most powerful computers out there. By splitting up the world into focused scenes we greatly lower the machine requirements.

More scaleable multiplayer experience: Most people are shocked to hear that one of the most expensive systems on large scene MMO servers, is mob/character visibility. Not the actual ray testing to see if they can be seen but the logic of figuring out which entities should be updated of others actions. Chopping the world up into smaller, bite size chunks greatly simplifies those calculations.

Allows us to more easily insert single player experiences into the multiplayer version. Because the multiplayer version of the game shares the majority of the single player quest line, there are times when we need to isolate the player from a party situation for storyline reasons. These situations won’t be too common but there are just some things that an avatar must do alone!

Comments

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    1. greaseDonkey on April 5, 2013

      Wow implemented this with Phasing, they didn't need to have dual scale concept.

    2. Balmung on March 15, 2013

      I have played so much jRPG with dual scale and no Problem with that, so its here no problem too for me. It didn't must change anything of the feeling of a big virtual world. So i don't know what i should say about it, single... dual... doesn't matter for me so long its in the end a good game. ;)

    3. Achim Heidelauf on March 15, 2013

      Thanks for the nice explanation and especially thanks for the decision to go dual scale! :)

    4. Andrew Darovich on March 14, 2013

      I am down with the uhs and uhms. I say "sooo" and "uhhh" a lot while trying to talk.

      I also forget to breathe and choke mid-sentence!

      Anyway,

      I am glad the dual scale maps are staying. They are an excellent gameplay style that has almost completely vanished from games today.

      Plus the game feels larger with all the scale changing.

    5. Daerdor on March 14, 2013

      A very clear and informative video, many thanks Chris!

    6. Chris Crabtree on March 14, 2013

      @Chris at Portalarium, awesome.

    7. Portalarium, Inc. Creator on March 14, 2013

      I'll clarify the exploration of all tiles stuff in the next video which we might put up tomorrow afternoon! -Chris

    8. Chris Crabtree on March 14, 2013

      @ Michael Clarke, you're right, (I did not see your previous comments). If this is how the game is designed (as we hoped and as explained by Chris) then there will be plenty of opportunity for exploration and many many surprises. I'm getting more excited about this game daily, a reawakening of the good ol' days.

    9. Chris Crabtree on March 14, 2013

      @Chris from Portalarium. Well that is wonderful news! It sounds to me, like this concept has not been explained well enough to the general audience. I had not previously thought that any tile could be explored at the will of the player as it's own area. I'm sure most of use have thought (as I) that the only time the zoomed-aspect would engage was when encountering something like a town, foes, special areas etc..

      I'm very interested in more detail about this:
      - When a player chooses to enter a tile, how do you determine what the area looks like? (i.e. is it proceduraly generated or are your content creators hand-designing each tile-area?)
      - When entering a tile area, how do you determine what 'things' (outside of core landscape) to populate it with? (i.e. random choice of potential things? Fixed choice? In other words, can continue to go back to that tile for a particular resource or will it get exhausted?)
      - How are the bounds of the area determined? I assume these areas are fixed-size and that entering an area will typically put you in the center.
      - When you travel to the bounds of an area, does it automatically zoom you back to the overland view (like exiting a city or combat in U4-U5) or does it ask you if you want to leave?

      Thanks for the info. I think if you clarified this single aspect to the player base, it would get the bunch of them pumped, and concerns for dual vs. single scale would disappear. I love this idea. Thank you very much!

    10. Michael Clarke on March 14, 2013

      I really like Chris Crabtree's idea - it nicely expands upon what I was thinking for zooming into general wilderness hexes. Careful use of procedural generation for some wilderness areas will make the world more dynamic and potentially make exploration even more interesting. If it's done well of course.

    11. Portalarium, Inc. Creator on March 14, 2013

      @Chris (from Chris!) that is actually how it already works! Even in areas where you don't get encounters, you can search and zoom in to see what is there. A lot of interesting elements will just be scattered through the lands and require that kind of searching to find. Some will also be there at night, on certain days of the month, or during special events or if you have been instructed on what to look for by some one. Also, some special things will come and go.

      This is a big part of why I believe that people will not feel like they losing the ability to explore. Even cooler though is there maybe times when you've been to a tile 99 times before to hunt rabbits for cooking only to find the 100th time it is a special scene!

    12. Lord Gugu on March 14, 2013

      @ Andreas Bertits
      Maybe the notes in Update #5 is helpful to you?

      "The character used for the offline version of the game will not be usable online"

    13. ☆Dame Lori☆ on March 14, 2013

      Ditto - that is a great idea!

    14. KFC on March 14, 2013

      That's very good idea Chris!
      Portalarium please comment on a possibility of this kind of approach .

    15. Chris Crabtree on March 14, 2013

      I like the idea of dual scale. Games like U5 just 'felt' bigger because you knew you were looking at and traveling the land from an elevated perspective. You could see foes, cities and other interesting places from afar and decided to encounter or avoid them. Zooming in during an encounters, seeing the entire party ready for combat with foes in an open location heightened the sense of largeness. However, the one thing I do like about single scale is the the exploration aspect. The details of the land allow for more room to discover interesting nuances at a small scale (thinking of U7) that you do not get at the zoomed out dual-scale level.

      Here is an idea I had to enhance dual-scale by preserving the great visibility of overland travel and also allow for the detailed exploration of mono-scale. From the way I understand how SotA works today, you travel via an overland map, much like the days of U4-U5 until you encounter another entity, such as a town, shrine, moongate, gypsy, enemy etc.. The map is made up of a hex grid, each cell containing a type of land (grasslands, brush, forest, water, hills, mountains etc..) and potentially an entity like the one's just listed. What if you allowed the player to arbitrarily enter (zoom into) any given grid cell on the map for exploration? I know what you're thinking, 'that's waaay to much content', and I agree from a content creator's perspective, but here's the solution. For each grid cell of a given land type, say 'forest' for example, you could proceduraly generate the zoomed in area using assets corresponding to the forest type when the player decides to 'enter' the area. We could suppose, for example, that a given quest involved finding a lost little girl in forests of Yew. Such forest covers a total of 16 hex cells in the map, the girl will found be in one of them, but they must all potentially explored individually from a mono-scale or zoomed in perspective. After exploring the first 3 areas (hex cells, zoomed in to mono-perspective), the player hasn't yet found the girl, but he did discover an old leather bag containing someone's journal, he found a grey fox which he killed for meat and fur to trade, he found a rare white raven which he unsuccessfully tamed, and found an hardwood tree that he harvested wood from to make a bow, oh not to mention the wild garlic (reagents) found growing under the same tree!

      Save the info for a proceduraly generated areas associated with a given grid cell to the player's game (not server side), in case he want/need to re-enter them. The important thing is that proceduraly generated areas have a 'chance' to contain certain items, entities etc.. given their location and land-type. This makes exploring any area of the game possible and exciting, and allows for rather unexciting or unimportant areas (grid cells) of the map to contain interesting things (now or even later, given certain events the player encounters or quests given along the way).

      Anyways, my take.

    16. Keith McDaniel on March 14, 2013

      Suggestion: Overworld option of using a horse/wagon/steam-punk-carriage for overworld travel. Tie into inventory/cargo/trading/economics (Could travel Caravan style, going from one city to the next with supply goods/food/medical supplies/batteries/etc. Have certain 'trigger points' spawn raiders/thieves/rogues/opposing forces. Forests may just spawn rogues, can have their spawn drop drastically by 'going to the trigger point' in the forest and beating their leader. Don't see as many rogues from that area until they reorganize, etc)

    17. Portalarium, Inc. Creator on March 14, 2013

      @Richard, my belief exactly! U7 was awesome with U4 and U6 right behind it but it was the story and interactions, not the monoscale maps that made 6,7 grand. We'll still have tons of discovery moments in the new game and for those online mode, we'll have more discovery every time we roll out new scenes and sneak them into the world for people to discover.

    18. Ghii Zhar on March 14, 2013

      I like Michael Clarke's comment "zoom in on general wilderness areas that aren't tied to a specific objective or scene." It would add to the fun of exploration w/o requiring a great deal of programming a sophisticated scenario.....

    19. Missing avatar

      JediaKyrol on March 14, 2013

      I always felt the Ultima 5 map was much much bigger than the U6 map. Having everything right there out in the open made everything feel cramped. And it's not like you can't have those "wander through the wilderness find cool thing" moments...just place a hidden location marker, or location markers that are only visible when you pick up a certain clue or during a specific event (moongates anyone?)

    20. Missing avatar

      CJ Taylor on March 14, 2013

      I liked the idea of dual scale mapping from the beginning. It is so natural in RPGs overall. You travel from point A to point B, with a possible encounter along the way. The destination is the actual point of interest in which it zooms in for greater detail. In many ways dual scale mapping can also give a feel of a bigger world - especially if new points/locations appear as you progress.

      Thumbs up.

    21. Himpo on March 14, 2013

      I love to wonder around, when I got Ultima 7 I wondered off the road and found a nice place with a rock on top of a rock, for some reason I picked up the top rock and found an invisibility ring under it, I gues it was awesome experience since I still remember it, so have that in the game please!

    22. shibby191 on March 14, 2013

      My only concern coming from a single player perspective is amount of content in a city or instance. For example in Dragon Age you could easily spend 10+ hours at a "location" like the Dwarf city or Denerim with dozens of quests. Just 3-30 minutes or even an hour just isn't enough. Make the cities or major locations true destinations as a quest hub. Not to say you don't have many, many shorter encounters/dungeons across the landscape, but for the epic feel you need these major quest hubs along the way.

    23. bpstrat on March 14, 2013

      I prefer the dual scale maps to the mono scale ones. I feel that they do a better job of making the world feel larger, and when you come upon a town or castle or whatever, you know that there is something new to explore. My favorite Ultima is U5, and its world felt much larger to me than the later Ultimas. I'm probably in the minority, but I felt like something was lost when they transitioned to the mono scale map format. I was really excited when they revealed that Shroud was going to have the dual scale map.

    24. Lord_Darkmoon on March 14, 2013

      I believe and hope that the map view in the final version will be much more detailed as it is right now in the prototype with high-res textures, more plants, many different animals roaming around, rocks, bushes, different trees etc. Cloud shadows from clouds high above as well as small low-hanging clouds drifting by occasionally.
      And I hope that there will be a day/night-cycle with cool lighting effects as well as weather-effects (lightning striking down from the sky etc.).
      Would be great to get a glimpse of something like that, of how the final map view might look like, maybe in some detailed artwork...

    25. Michael Clarke on March 14, 2013

      I like the dual-scale map approach. I understand the technical benefits and feel it also gives it a nice old-school feel. In addition to the older Ultimas, it reminds me of tabletop D&D hex-crawling, where overland wilderness travel takes place on a zoomed-out hex map. With that said - I hope there will be plenty of opportunities to just explore the wilderness without a specific objective. Maybe we could be able to zoom in on general wilderness areas that aren't tied to a specific objective or scene. Perhaps to gather resources, go hunting or discover secrets like old ruins. Ideally these general areas would be quite large. I really enjoy exploration in RPGs so I think something like that would be great.

    26. ☆Mitch the Edelmann☆ ☥Virtuous MGT470☥ on March 14, 2013

      To be perfectly honest Chris, I think you did a great job explaining the difference between the two types of maps. You're a lead tech not the President/Prime-Minister of a 1st world country, you did just fine!

    27. Lord Gugu on March 14, 2013

      Whoops my bad.. Had meant to say "when resource spawn locations became random, my Mule had less incentive to explore the world"..

      Not much need to travel far when rare resources had a fair chance of spawning near one's home :/

    28. Lord_Darkmoon on March 14, 2013

      If you want to have changes to map now and then like you said that you could wake up one morning and a meteorstrike changes a portion of the land, how do i get these changes into my game if I play offline?

    29. Richard Lawhon on March 14, 2013

      I love how so many comments here just take for granted that Ultima VII is the greatest incarnation of the series (it is, btw). I'm sure there are plenty of people who worship IV, VI, even VIII... but it's kind of like asking someone what their favorite Star Wars film is; if someone tells you anything other than Empire Strikes Back, you give them the stink eye.

      Yeah, U7 had the monoscale map, but that isn't a significant part of what made it so great. It is what I prefer, but I understand the reasons behind the choice to change. I'm more than willing to give dual-scale its chance.

      So here's hoping SotA is just Ultima VII part 3, renamed and with multiplayer thrown in (and with a different story, of course). Like everybody else, I played UO for years, but it just simply was not an Ultima. Bring me back to the glory days of rpg brilliance, guys. I have faith in you. I know that many of the old ways just can't work these days, for many reasons. But I'll let you in on a little secret, I know that I, and many others here, would gladly pay $50+ for just another U7-like game–sprites and all. You already have the roadmap... all you have to do is follow it.

    30. Missing avatar

      DebateMe on March 13, 2013

      I'm OldTimerDragon and when I say old, I mean old... older even than Lord British himself. But like a lot of you I spent a lot of my free time during the 80s and early 90s playing Ultima games and the Ultima games are easily my personal all-time favorite computer game series.

      I came across this Kickstarter today and the experience was sort of like what Charlie felt when Willie Wonka reveals himself for the first time. As corny as it sounds, Richard Garriott is sort of my own computer-game-designer Willie Wonka. Garriott is directly responsible for all those times I got in trouble for the numerous indiscretions I committed prioritizing Ultima playing over other things like chores and homework. I was a chronic, repeat offender. Those were the days! That Garriott has decided to make a game in the spirit of the Ultima series is fantastic and unexpected news!

      As it relates to this particular update, while I do prefer a continuous gaming world (i.e. Ultima VII) I do remember having a fantastic time with earlier Ultimas that used the duel-scale map and I remember having a lot of fun. So I'm open minded about this choice and if the game is fun, then it's fun whatever method is used. I look forward to following the development of this game and I have backed it too!

    31. Ghii Zhar on March 13, 2013

      I personally like monoscale maps, and enjoy wandering about, taking my time getting places, exploring, chatting with passersby, etc. Just feels more realistic. After reading the summary, I was ready to lower my pledge from Citizen to Founder.

      Then I decided to watch the video. Even though Chris may not be the orator that RG is, his explanation swayed my opinion. I now fully understand and agree with the dual scale map. One among many reasons, is keeping the game system managable w/o needing a corporations support. I will not belabor that point, I think we all know what happens when the big fish eat the little fish.

      It's starting to sink in to my thick skull how the dual scale architecture will enable a small company to focus on game play, storytelling, and such that is mostly missing from the run-of-the-mill corporate creations.

      Reducing costs to have more funds to put into the game, and not corporate coffers, what a concept. Who'da thunk......

      Once again, Chris, great job explaining this!

    32. Lord Gugu on March 13, 2013

      Having spent many years immersed in the Ultima series and then with UO from its early days, I thoroughly enjoyed the mono-scale map which absolutely met the objective of allowing me to wander, explore and discover the land at my own leisure.

      For my Mule character, when resource spawns were fixed, I had an extra and real reason to venture forth and prospect for ore veins and such. Before there was Trammel and Felucca, each foray out of the safety of civilisation was a pulse-racing affair - risk the PKs and wild beasties for the promise of riches.

      At the time, with rune stones and marking of spots, that was a good solution to speed up travel for those who had an objective and destination in mind.

      To me, the combination of Recalls and random spawns meant I had "real" outlets to experience life as a Mule or Adventurer.

      Once resource spawn points were fixed, my Mule had much less incentive to explore.

      Having said all that, am keen to see how the dual-scale map system plays out. Exploring new frontiers indeed!

    33. Portalarium, Inc. Creator on March 13, 2013

      Absolutely interactions with other players! Nothing keeps players in games like making new friends and partners. We'll get a video up soon clearing up some of the questions on the multi-player stuff.

    34. Inn Between Worlds on March 13, 2013

      Good points - ideally I'd prefer monoscale. With dual-scale I'd hope there's still exploration on the world map, random encounters, fun content, travel mechanics (travel speed options such as mounts, ships, hot air balloons, more enemies at night, etc).

    35. Missing avatar

      Alexander R Baranick on March 13, 2013

      So in the dual map.
      Would there ever be interaction between players? If yes, in what meaningful ways (besides queueing for an instance quest) ?

      I think that using this method would detract heavilly from player interaction and from being engaged in a living world.

    36. Missing avatar

      Evan Eckert on March 13, 2013

      What about the fear of traveling though the unknown? In UO if you went the the wrong area you would get smoked by another player, similar aspects in WoW or DAoC and in EVE, which are all mono scale map games. How can this be managed a dual scale map?

    37. Missing avatar

      Baer on March 13, 2013

      I can see the advantages of each system. I leave it up to the developers to make major decisions and I am excited about this game no matter which scale they use.

    38. Act on March 13, 2013

      Btw. I love dual scale maps. It gives the feeling of navigating a map in one screen. And sink down to the nitty gritty details in the other screen. Fallout 1 and 2 are great memories showcasing that.
      The challenge I see is making a large scale map that feels like a map, or a representation of the "real" world you are supposded to adventure in. It's difficult to explain, but think about Skyrim. The "map" there just feels like a birds eye view of an uglier version of the actual gameworld. It dosent feel like a map to me, but a game object. I think you can make the large scale map in 3d, and still have it feel like a "map". But I do not think Skyrim is the inspiration for that.
      And thus ends my rambling.

    39. Missing avatar

      Taziar on March 13, 2013

      I actually prefer the dual-scale maps. Games like oblivion and Fallout 3 are big, really big, and they are kinda filled it with stuff. Just not good stuff. Lots of re-used dungeons, houses, and other repeated generic content that lacks meaningful story. You wander aimlessly until your arrow points somewhere, and go explore, which really just means go loot the place. There is good content as well, but you have to explore a dozen generic places to find it.

      With the dual-scale, everything can be purposefully built. Content can be naturally spread out, without tedious travel time. The world can be big, without being generic or empty.

    40. Missing avatar

      Lee Buckle on March 13, 2013

      As a family man aged 35 now, i don't have time to wade through 3-4hr raids like Wow offers, my daughter and my family keep me keen, so im pleased to see 3-30mins episodes. Yes there should be more for those with the time, i think its key to aim for both demographics, the casual like me and those who do have more time.

      right... where is my copy of Ultima VII... i need to brush up on my thee's and thou shalt nots... :D

    41. Missing avatar

      Kevin Millar on March 13, 2013

      @Constantine Zuev
      I prefer a 3D map over a hand drawn looking one, but i agree that the player model should be smaller or something. It looks a bit awkward when you are as big as a town.

    42. Act on March 13, 2013

      Wonderfull update. I love reading summaries.

    43. Missing avatar

      Kevin Millar on March 13, 2013

      I'm warming up to the duel scale maps, but i'm still concerned the zones will be too small. I don't want to be able to see all the way to the other side of every zone.
      If there are some zones where you can explore to find a cave or something to get through a mountain pass to a different part of the over world map that could be good.
      I like to explore virtual worlds and get lost in the wilderness, then try to find my way back to towns. Even with fast travel options available, I often like to travel the road manually since the journey is part of the adventure. Bonus points if there is a day/night cycle to encourage camping or finding an inn. That makes the world feel larger and more immersive.

    44. Missing avatar

      Christopher Chambers on March 13, 2013

      WoW! You guys are gonna need at least a couple of full timers just for KS fulfillment! That's a lotta people! (13,000+)

    45. Andrew on March 13, 2013

      On the chat in the SotA website there was mention of a game on the SEGA Genisis called Rings of Power which used a duel scale map but allowed the option to "zoom" into 1:1 scale. When zoomed it was pretty much just an instance which may or may not have had something cool going on like a treasure chest location. Would something like this be an option or would we only be able to go to 1:1 scale at preset locations of interest?

    46. Missing avatar

      Leandro Mena Ugarte on March 13, 2013

      One thing I miss from some RPGs is the sense of wonder that you feel within the game. From most modern RPGs I get that from just exploring the world, discovering the landscape, making my own history. Modern RPG stories tend to me more political, exhausting, and while I really enjoy that I miss that sense of wonder that I get by just exploring the world.

      Then I've remembered Ultima IX and what I feel at the time. I've got that sense of wonder through all the game, the narrative did that, and that was everywhere, no only on the landscape. I trust you can bring back that sense of wonder. I get the trade-offs and I agree with everything you said, it seems to be a good choice. I will most likely prefer to experience this new world on a single map but getting back that feeling will be enough for me and -I hope- most Ultima fans.

    47. John J. Salopek on March 13, 2013

      I hope to see some large content also. i do like that lots of small content will be pushed out but massive world style battles are important to me as well.

    48. Constantine Zuev on March 13, 2013

      Dual scale map? Well, I don't mind the system, but how it is realized matters. Those big character avatars moving through the area (map) with tiny cities... That looks like a game for small children. I would prefer old-school map. Hand drawn, definitely not 3D.

    49. XSir James XCoachx McGill on March 13, 2013

      Yeah, what Zeph Grey said!! Make the game you want and I have missed the dual scale map!

    50. Jalister on March 13, 2013

      Dual scale doesn't fit my definition of a dream RPG world, but I do understand the reasons. As a first responder, I'm staying optimistic though.