10,000 moves.

mp_5_8

A video of the the above image being draw is available here.

In Battletech, every piece can make at least four basic movements: turn left, turn right, move forward, or move backwards. In a single turn, these are strung together in sequence and constitute a full move (e.g. forward, left, forward forward) In open terrain, even a modestly maneuverable unit — with up to eight movements to make — provides over ten thousand options. This variety is the source of a great expressiveness for skilled players, and consternation for new ones. In this visualization, some things become quickly apparent that may help new players identify general solutions to the movement problem.

The visualization was created by first calculating the list of moves via the this script. Note that the move list is comprehensive, and various redundant combinations ove movements like turning left than right again are abound. There are edge cases where some of these otherwise inefficient moves may be desirable and so were left in for this version. The list was then loaded and drawn in a processing.

The quality of the move is contingent on a number of factors: how much of the available movement the piece used, the final facing of the piece, and the number of spaces traveled (ignoring turns). Other factors include the possible moves in the following turn, the distance to other friendly and enemy pieces, and the potential maneuvers of other pieces who haven’t yet moved.

As a weapons platform, mechs retain some stability when using up to two thirds of their total movement. In these cases they are considered walking. A unit the expends more than this is considered running. Each are signified by a line or an arc respectively. In the case of runs, the radius of the circle corresponds to the number of movements that make up the move.

The final facing of the unit (in one of six directions), is indicated by the direction the line or arc points or faces.

A basic metric for the quality of a move is whether it makes it more difficult to shoot the player’s piece than it is for the player to shoot their enemies. The color of the moves indicates the ratio between these two factors. Green signifies the move makes the piece more difficult to target than it is for it to attack others; Turquoise indicates a balanced trade off; Orange, a tradeoff in favor of an enemy; Red moves are indicate a significant unbalance the enemy’s favor.

  • There are only two walking moves that result in a beneficial ratio. Note that one of these is directly behind the unit, a fact that new players may not consider.
  • There is a ring of placements, roughly three spaces out, that make up the majority of walking moves with both satisfactory ratios and flexible options for facing.
  • There are a variety of satisfactory walking moves behind the piece.
  • It is difficult to maneuver into an adjacent space without suffering a poor trade off.  The moves that do result in a satisfactory ratio require running and result in the piece facing opposite of its initial direction.
  • The vast majority of moves with beneficial ratios are forward advances.
  • Within three spaces, the better options may be walking moves instead of running moves.
  • Beyond three spaces out, a variety of facings become increasingly difficult to achieve.
  • There are a number of beneficial walking moves that seem impossible — unless a combination of forwards and backwards movements is considered.

 UPDATE: New images for fewer movement points:

Read More…

Battletech
Information Design
Software
Teaching

HUDs: Information and its expression

Use of information in most games promotes a simple distinction between public and private; the fog of war, the cards in an opponents hand, the items in the Clue envelope. In some games its as subtle and pervasive as not knowing what the outcome of a die result will be or the intents of another player. In other games, the mental organization of the information is of particular importance. The pervasive HUD in games is an outgrowth of this need to manage information, stressing or removing ambiguities, in order to provide a specific gameplay experience.
Cards games are noteworthy in that they defer to players who understand the relative chances of different hands. Adding a clear and highly designed expression of the chances inherit in a player’s hand and the potential results of different discarding choices would transform it into a new, and likely less compelling game. While reading this information from the cards is ‘part’ of the game, reading the specific information contained on each those card is not. Obscuring the number and suit of a card, potentially confusing the player or forcing them to spend more mental energy deciphering them, would be detrimental to the game. The clear and unambiguous presentation of this information is necessary for the intended play of these games.
All games contain information, and the play of the game is based in part on what information has game meaning and in what way. HUDs in computer games help keep non-gameplay related ambiguities minimal, allowing the player to focus on a particular set of information and thus engage in a particular form of gameplay. It can be easy to say simply that the removal of the HUD (in games like Killzone 2 or King Kong) increases immersion. After all, we don’t need a HUD for a film, right? The information aspect of games though makes the random user guided access of information, typified by the HUD, important. I believe that evaluating the effects of a change in HUD on the qualities of the game experience is not possible without evaluating the specifics of the game being played.
These specifics are often additionally influenced by the people playing the game. While the defined rules of an FPS may stay consistent between two groups of players, the gameplay between each group may be noticeably different. To a group of novices the game is about properly aiming the gun at an opponent, to a group of experts this ‘game’ may have been mastered or ‘solved’, and is limited and boring. As such their game focuses on co-operating to control tactically valuable parts of the battlefield. The first type of play may require the player to possess an enemy tracking system less it be too difficult, whereas in the second example players may eschew such a HUD element (turning it off) in order to focus on gameplay built around situational awareness. An example of this is the distinction between normal and hardcore modes in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. In the hardcore modes, health is reduced and the radar is removed. A player who doesn’t understand the map or how to play defensively will find the mode particularly difficult or frustrating, while an expert will find managing the new ambiguity particularly engaging.
In comparing games to movies in the discussion of HUDs it should be noted that information in film can be presented as needed, when needed. Games also present situationally important information (in the form of feedback) but are typically not sophisticated enough make sweeping assumptions about what the player needs to know when. In these cases having information constantly accessible is safer for game play than having it obscured when needed. Furthermore, the relative meaning and import of various, and very specific, changes in the game state are beyond the sophistication of most games. A game may be able to hi-light a killing blow, but managing the emphasis on the subtle moves that led up to it is a far more difficult feat, one best left to the player. So long as they have the information to understood the sequence in the first place.

Overt use of information in most games consists of a simple distinction between public and private; the fog of war, the cards in an opponents hand, the items in the Clue envelope. In some games it’s as subtle and pervasive as not knowing what the outcome of a die result will be or the intents of another player. In other games, the mental organization of the information is of particular importance. The pervasive HUD in games is an outgrowth of this need to manage information, stressing or removing ambiguities, in order to provide a specific gameplay experience.

Read More…

Software
Terrain