Monday, 1 February 2016

Mega-Game Mapping: 1 Map Size

This blog has been pretty dry for the past few months. A new job with long hours and a lot of mega-game mapping. So lets talk shop mega-game mapping.

I've started doing maps for the Pennine Mega-gamers, a group formed last year that intends to run about 5 mega-gamers a year. You can find us here

I've done one map for Sengoku;

Liberated from my friend  Pete Sizer's blog:
I am currently just rounding off the map for a Very British Civil War, and I am working on map for the Jena Campaign and will soon start work on an update to the Urban Nightmare game map. I have also more or less completed the map for a Chosin Reservoir campaign game Pete and I will run later on this year. Starting with this one I'm going to throw together a couple of posts of the things I have learned from doing these maps.

1. Size

Mega-games are mega. The maps have to be pretty big, bigger than I expected in fact. I, despite being a geographer, am not very good seeing size in my minds eye. That Sengoku map in the above image is 1.5m across and about twice that length long. I originally designed it to be 4A0. We then found a printer that would do vinyl banners for slightly cheaper at 1.5m wide so we switched to that. 4A0 is about half the size I thought it was. This turned out to be ok for Sengoku, we only had around 20-25 players and only 7-10 around the map at any time and a 4A0 map can handle around 8 players but it would have been too small for a game with 40 or 50 players. The map for a Very British Civil War will be two maps each the size of Sengoku. I would say that a game centered around one map, with 10-20 players at or around the map should be around 8xA0 in size. I think that is roughly the size of the D-Dodgers and Don't Panic megagame maps. The only downside with this size is that its quite a stretch to reach the middle which is a limiting factor. If you have a double blind game, Jena, Chosin Reservoir it can be smaller because you will have fewer than 10 control players moving units.

The other key thing to consider with map size is the size of the units. In Sengoku the military units were square wooden tokens about 5cm by 5cm. We needed to fit the at least two stacks of these units into the smallest territories. I sized the map with that in mind and the above was the result. For Jena and Very British Civil War the designers requested Hexes and I have sized these hexes to hold the counter sizes they have asked for.

2. Working with Size

Large maps require a lot of computational power to draw. I did Sengoku with 8gb of RAM, a Geforce 680 and an Intel I5-25k. This managed with a 4A0 map but it was a struggle. I have since blugged in another 16bg of Ram to bring me up to 24. This has helped, alot, but it still not exactly smooth, particularly with my current method of doing hex grids. I've also had to learn Inkscape as raster graphics takes way too much memory to handle these sizes at any reasonable resolution. Sengoku was printed at 200dpi, which looks fine for a poster print. To draw a map of that size you have to use vector graphics (google vector vs raster graphics for an explanation). Inkscape is a good bit of freeware software and whilst it handles bigger maps better than GIMP it can still be rather power hungry. In short if you want to design graphically complex large maps you are going to need to learn some good vector software and have a machine that can handle the load. I may talk more about software in a later post, but for now this will do.