Date: 1993-11-24
From: John
Subject: Nitpicking

My Dear Mr. Duk:

I am very impressed with the latest Alex. Spectacular! I also agree that there's no need for further experimentation in gridsize: every 3 units seems like the best compromise. Any more and it would be too hard to read positions.

You said you would be willing to switch over to the "non-destructive" method of gridlines if I insisted. After careful consideration I believe I will insist. When we start drawing piece icons on the map I believe having a uniform block to place them in will be essential. This is probably why the current Conquest game uses the non-destructive method. Also, the effect of destructive gridlines is quite noticable, especially when one red spark in a lower left corner is near another spark in the upper right corner: one is an oblong 18x13, the other, at 17x14, seems almost square in comparison.

I like gray for the gridlines. A (low priority) enhancement request, however, is that you fiddle with the land and sea colors; pure green and pure blue are too bright. I've examined several varitions with Photoshop; unfortunately the numbering system you are using does not seem to correspond to any of Photoshop's numbering systems, so I can't express my preferences as numbers. But perhaps you can just try for a lighter blue and a browner (olive) green.

When I first saw your red sparks I thought they were cities. And then I thought, why not make them cities? We haven't given much thought yet to selecting cities; the simplest method would be to use the initial sparks as cities (we would have to increase the number from 20 to what? 100?). On the other hand, this method would not ensure a proper balance between inland and port cities and between starting positions unless we did some additional fiddling. Just thinking aloud...

The numbering strips are MUCH better. A few minor bug/enhancements:

  • The digits look a litte odd, kind of squished up. What size of Geneva are you using? Some of the two digit numbers overlap slightly. You might try Monaco and/or increasing size to 9 point.
  • The numbers are slightly offset with respect to the grid system. The vertical and horizontal strips both need to be adjusted by a few pixels. That is, the center of each number should be aligned with the center of the corresponding coordinate.
  • As long as we've settled on the 3 unit grid system, I would vote for 99x99 as a map size instead of 100x100. This would be aesthetically more pleasing, would save a smidgen of memory, and limiting coordinates to two digits may come in handy when displaying positions in various (sometimes cramped) displays.
  • Is there any way to speed up the redraw speed as the user scrolls across the map? Or will it get worse with added complexity?
  • A wacky idea I've had for awhile: would it be possible to add the kind of "fast scrolling box" that SimCity uses for their maps? As I recall it appears in the upper right corner of the window and consists of 3 by 3 small squares. When you hold the cursor over the northwestern square the map scrolls up and to the left, etc. This would involve a major change to the design of the window (let's call it the "main battle window"). In order to fit in the fast scrolling box you'd have to create some dead space, perhaps to the right of the map area. The empty space below the fast scrolling box could be used to display the icon of the current piece, movement tools, status indicators, etc.
I have no idea how hard this would be to implement and I'm not at all sure it would be a good idea. Just thought I'd toss it out for your consideration.

When I return from Thanksgiving I'll try to attack the smoothing problem again. I've been considering the random walk approach - it's worth a try. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about bezier curves or splining.

I'll be in Paradise with my grandmother and the whole family but will still be online thanks to my trusty powerbook. And the Newton is WAY cool! More about that on the next tape. And please, DO get that pelago packet in the mail. I need to get issue 30 launched by Dec 15th!

Have a very happy Thanksgiving. Please give my regards to your sister and all the other Walkers.

Yours in haste,

Epicurious J.