23 October

DJ #10: Maps, Cartography, and Navigation

By Caspian

In last week’s design journal, Character Rolls & Skill Advancement we talked broadly about the four different character roles, the different skill trees - including the Survival and Bardic trees, and how skill advancement works.

In this week's design journal we're going to delve more deeply into the Explorer role with a look at two of the most compelling and innovative skills found in Chronicles of Elyria. In particular, we're going to talk about Maps, Cartography (the Bardic skill used to make maps), and Navigation (the Survival skill used to, among other things, read maps).

Maps

Maps in Chronicles of Elyria are small, stackable objects which sit in your inventory like any other item. They can be bought, sold, traded, destroyed, stolen, and like most other items in the world - crafted.

Unlike in many other MMOs, if you don't have a map on your person you have no way of pinpointing your precise location. Even with a map it takes a skilled navigator and a high quality map to know your exact location. Of course, if you're moving around in areas you're already familiar with there's no need to look at your map.

The Map View

When looking at your map you'll transition to a first-person perspective and view your map as though through the eyes of your character. Unlike in other MMOs there is no user interface that shows the map and it's rather impractical to look at your map while moving. Not least of which because having your map in your hands means you don't have your weapons. Encounter anything dangerous and you'll have to drop your map or stow it in your backpack before engaging the enemy.

Early in-game shot of a player-drawn world map Figure 1 – Early in-game shot of a player-drawn world map.

Maps and Families

As mentioned back in Design Journal 5 Families & Family Selection, your family is your support system in the world and are responsible for helping you learn your way about. One of the things that helps the most is having information about where you live, dangerous locations near your home, where shops are, where the nearest major towns are, etc...

To help make sure this happens, maps are tightly integrated into the family creation process. Whenever you go through the process of creating children, the parents are required to provide a sort of care package for their offspring. This includes a basic set of clothing, a set of tools for the family's primary occupation (which could very well be a sword), as well as a set of maps. I say 'set', because you'll need to provide more than one.

Map Scale

Chronicles of Elyria provides a few different scales with respect to maps. These scales identify how much land is covered by the map, as well as what objects can appear on the map. Maps in CoE are roughly divided up into 8 scales, which are, in order of increasing size:

  1. Structural
  2. Settlement
  3. Regional
  4. County
  5. Duchy
  6. Kingdom
  7. Continent
  8. World

Structural maps represent the smallest scale and can be used for mapping castles, ruins, dungeons, and underground caverns. Objects on a structural map will typically be the location of different rooms and hallways, where any items or traps are, and the location of any creatures. It's important to note that, in the case of monsters at least, they may roam and aren’t guaranteed to be where you left them.

Settlement maps represent the second smallest scale. Objects on a settlement map will generally be buildings, farms, the location of important crafting resources, etc... In short, it helps you learn your way around a settlement.

Regional maps are typically larger than a settlement map and more detailed than a county map. Examples of objects on a regional map might be the location of an unknown species of tree in a nearby forest, or the spawning grounds for a den of dire wolves. In general, regional maps are used by Explorers and Gatherers to communicate information about resources in the wild.

County maps are scaled to roughly the size of an average county and are used to indicate the relative position of major landmarks. These can be the location of settlements such as hamlets, villages, and towns, geographical landmarks such as rivers, lakes, forests, and trade routes, and can include large resource locations such as an established mine or quarry.

Duchy maps are perhaps the least common map type and show county borders and positions of large geographical structures such as mountains, valleys, massive lakes, beaches, forests, and watersheds. They also show towns, cities, the most important resources gathering areas, and trade routes between the counties, or in and out of the duchy.

Kingdom, continent, and World maps are the most expansive and are designed to show duchy and kingdom boundaries, major cities, and principal trade routes in-between duchies and kingdoms. World maps are largely decorative items, used only to express the scope of the known world. Continent and kingdom maps are primarily used by kings and nobles to track diplomatic boundaries.

Object Permanence

While maps can be edited, they do get stale. Because the world keeps on living after a map is made, it should be understood that a map doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. In specific, a map can be different from reality because:

  • Things now exist that did not exist at the time the map was made
  • Things no longer exist which existed when the map was made
  • The cartographer only illustrated a subset of the total relevant data
  • The cartographer fabricated information for their own self-interest

This means there can be things in the world that don't appear on a map, and things on a map that don’t exist in the world. Buyer beware!

Cartography

As mentioned in the first part of the journal, unlike in other MMOs, maps in Chronicles of Elyria are player-created. While the game will ship with a partial set of maps for different areas of the world, they'll be relatively low quality, fairly inaccurate, and without a lot of detail. It'll be up to players - Explorers and Champions in particular, to go out into the world and bring back maps of different regions and the location of important resources

Creating Maps

The process of creating maps in CoE is a lot like creating maps in real life. When you sit down to create a map you'll be presented with ink, parchment, and a series of tools to help you make the map. The first thing you'll need to decide is what scale of map you're working with. This is important because the types of tools you use will depend upon the scale of the map you want to draw.

For example, if you're looking to draw a structural map, you'll need to pull out the tools for drawing structures. This'll include tools for measuring and drawing rectangular and circular rooms of different sizes, as well as stamps that indicate where things are located in the dungeon.

If you're looking to draw a regional map, then you'll want to pull out the regional tools. These will include stamps for things like mountains and forests, as well as spline tools to help you draw rivers, lakes, and roads. Of course, it's not all about utility. The stamp tools like mountains and forests randomly cycle through sets of stored images. So as you cover you maps in patches of trees, it'll ensure it looks aesthetically pleasing.

Early in-game view of map-making Figure 2 – Early in-game view of map-making.

The Power of Names

When creating a map, the cartographer has the ability to select regions that he/she has identified on the map and give those regions a name. This is true for forests, mountain ranges, villages, mines, etc... If something can be stamped, drawn, or enclosed on the map it can be given a name.

Why is this such a powerful feature? Because the Soulborn Engine keeps track of all the names given to a town, village, watershed, lake, Kingdom, etc... And whichever name appears most frequently on maps for that landmark, that's the name that it will be referred to by NPCs and by recent in-game lore.

This has two powerful implications. First, it means that even after a kingdom has been sacked and the new King has changed its name, the region will continue to be commonly referred to by the old name until the new King has actively attempted to destroy existing maps of the region, and paid a healthy sum to cartographers to create and distribute enough new maps as to officially change the name.

Second, this means it won't be uncommon to come across older maps - settlement, regional, or even structural maps, which refer to places that no longer exist. Long lost civilizations from a thousand years before may still be referenced in hidden archives. It may be worthwhile to the aspiring Explorer or Champion to research books in the library and discovered tombs to try and reconcile the new location of ancient places. Doing so could prove both extremely profitable and decidedly dangerous.

A final note on the naming of landmarks. Writing on the map can be in any language the cartographer is sufficiently skilled in. So in addition to finding maps which reference places that no longer exist, you may find maps with writing on them that you can't read.

Navigation

The final part of this week's design journal brings it all together. While maps tell you what the world looks like, and cartographers are able to create maps, it's a player's Navigation skills that allows them to use maps, and other tools, to find their place in the world.

Whether navigating during the day or night, the first fundamental task of navigation is identifying which way is north. If it's daytime, and you're both lucky and skilled enough to have a compass, you can simply check your compass to identify which way is north. If you're not, you'll need to use the position of the sun.

Once you've done that, you can position your body in such a way that checking a sundial for the time of day (See Figure 3), or reading your map becomes possible. While oriented north, you can identify on your map the object that is closest in front of you, to the right of you, behind you, and to the left of you. Doing so will position your character's cursor on the map. The more accurate the map, and the higher your navigation skill, the more accurate your character position will be.

Putting your map away causes your player marker to vanish and you'll have to go through the process again in order to re-plot your position.

If it is night time all of the above still applies, except you'll need to use astronomy rather than the position of the sun to identify true North. While more challenging, it’s still possible to identify your position, direction, and time of night simply by looking at a clear sky.

Checking your sundial to determine the time of day Figure 3 – Checking your sundial to determine the time of day.

Sensory Maps (formerly known as Mini-maps)

The last topic I wanted to touch on was mini-maps. As a survival game, and one that tries to keep the user interface free of clutter, there remains an ongoing debate about whether or not to include a mini-map and what its true purpose is.

We are currently including a mini-map, however, it doesn’t serve the same purpose as usual. Instead, it serves as a survival tool and is tied to your character's senses. If your character hears (or smells) something in the bushes, regardless of whether you as a player heard or smelled it (maybe you're deaf, maybe you had your sound turned off, maybe you've realized you can't smell things in your game) there will be a visible indicator on your sensory-map. This allows us to leverage both player senses as well as character senses and creates a tighter bond between you and your character.

What's next?

That's all for this week. Next week we put the parchment and plume aside and look at the other stuff your character can carry. In the next design journal we'll take an in-depth look at Inventory and Equipment.

Discuss

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Quintero - 6 days ago

A friend recently exposed me to this game and I dove right in, everything about it looks amazing. Especially fine details like this.

As someone who both makes maps and sails ships for a living, I want to point out a few minor details in the interest of constructive feedback.

1) When navigating on a 2D surface, all you need are 3 "lines of position" (LOP). So if I know which way is north, and I know the "true bearing" to landmark, I know I am somewhere on the line that sees that feature in that direction, but without knowing how far I am I can't say where I am. A bearing to a second feature will give a guess of where I am...but I need a third to turn that X into a triangle. I am in the middle of that triangle. The fun part here is that the size of the triangle is a result of three things: a) My skill! A poorly done "fix" (what we call our plotted position) will be a big sloppy triangle and all I know is I'm somewhere inside there. b) The quality of my equipment. Sharp fine tipped pencils make nice fine lines, dull pencils make lines that can be, depending on chart scale, very wide indeed. How steady and accurate is your compass or your sextant? c) The map. How accurate is the representation of the landmark on the chart relative to reality? What is the scale of the chart such that an error of 1mm = X m on the ground?

2) You can use a "running fix" if you only have one feature. Say you have a lighthouse on an otherwise empty coast. How do you take your position? Well, you know you sailed on a course of 045 degrees at 10 knots for 1 hour. You knew the bearing to that object before, you shoot that bearing again while "advancing" your previous LOP along your trackline 10 nautical miles, and then you repeat that in another hour. You now have 3 LOPs to the same feature, at different angles, and the triangle they form is your position. It won't be super accurate because you can't account for winds and currents tweaking your course over ground.

3) I want to point out a few other Survival skills (in game terms) that may be of note. A map only works like I described above if it has notable features. What do you do if crossing the ocean or, more practical to CoE, crossing Kansas? You have to start in a known location, walk in a known direction, and keep track of how far you walked. This can be done by counting steps and knowing your pace length, or developing a very steady walking / jogging pace and knowing how many minutes/mile you go. A novice would have an unreliable pace, lots of error, but an experienced runner has a very good feel for their pacing and only deviates by seconds on their per mile pace; likewise a good hiker. You are now navigating by "dead reckoning" and your errors will grow over time as that inaccuracy in pacing adds up.

4) Last suggestion. How do you get really accurate maps in this setting? Start at a known point, make really accurate measurements of distance to some points near it that can be made by hand, push this point network further and further out manually until you have some far enough apart that you can start shooting bearings and doing the trig, expand on that network. It forms a triangulation lattice, where the legs of the triangles are very small near the starting point, and then grow as you expand out. Accuracy of the longer shots is partly related to shot distance, but also very linked to how accurately you measured the distances manually.

5) Keep up the amazing work. Everything I see so far looks awesome. I wanted to add to the above not to be critical, but because this is a niche skill that just isn't used that much in the world of GPS (note: you need 4 satellites for a GPS fix because you are taking 3D ranges...), and the framework you presented sounded great while ringing a little off to one who does these things still.

Sullen - 1 month ago

From my understanding (everything is subject to change) the maps are formed by using a series of Stamps representing the different aspects. There will be different stamps based on the different maps you are drawing. I would love to be able to do this in the field, but at last I heard you have to come back to town and draw on your map table (crafting table). For mobile professions it would be nice if you can have a second option for a portable version of the table.

So you don't have to be an artist to be a map maker however some a scale or visual acuity might be helpful.

WorldExplorer - 1 month ago
@Sullen:

Posted By Sullen at 12:17 AM - Thu Jul 13 2017

From my understanding (everything is subject to change) the maps are formed by using a series of Stamps representing the different aspects. There will be different stamps based on the different maps you are drawing. I would love to be able to do this in the field, but at last I heard you have to come back to town and draw on your map table (crafting table). For mobile professions it would be nice if you can have a second option for a portable version of the table.

Maybe there could be a less long-lasting ink, which you can use in the field, and on the map table in town you can then draw with better ink making the maps more long-lasting. That way you could still draw in the field and still have a motivation to head back to the map table. Basically just making a sketch in the field and then a more proper map while at a map table in town.

WorldExplorer - 1 month ago

I agree that this is a another very interesting feature in the game.

I wonder if you can erase things you have marked on a previous map, in order to update it to the current state of that place, or if you have to buy/make completely new maps every so often.

I also wonder if the advantage "sense direction", that the Brudvir got, works as an inner compass or how it works in regards to navigation.

Thoron - 1 month ago

This is so exciting. As a real life cartographer and map maker I look forward to actually using my skills in a game!

Venekor - 7 months ago

Does anyone know if they have said that we will need actual drawing skills or if exploring an area will allow us to put the topography in our notebook for later use? In the crafting games there is the "trace the axe" game which I can do but I am worried I would not be able to accurately draw topography...

Tobiaszs - 8 months ago

Imagine being a isolated nomad who has found a lake brimming with fish, surrounded by trees on all sides. The land is also rather frtile. You have a cabin and you are relatively undisturbed in the wilderness, living off the land. Suddenly one day, you come across an explorer. You realize the threat he poses. You kill him, to make sure nobody unwanted knows of your home, full of resources you want to keep for yourself. Another day, you bribe a new explorer so that he will mark your area as mountains or simply wasteland.

Malais - 8 months ago
@Tobiaszs:

Posted By Tobiaszs at 2:34 PM - Mon Jan 02 2017

Imagine being a isolated nomad who has found a lake brimming with fish, surrounded by trees on all sides. The land is also rather frtile. You have a cabin and you are relatively undisturbed in the wilderness, living off the land. Suddenly one day, you come across an explorer. You realize the threat he poses. You kill him, to make sure nobody unwanted knows of your home, full of resources you want to keep for yourself. Another day, you bribe a new explorer so that he will mark your area as mountains or simply wasteland.

Except the person you killed now has a bounty token and a bunch of mercs track you down and kill you, take your stuff and burn your cabin down. The count of the region now knows what's there and sells the land to a guild of whatever for their use.

You may be able to go off and hide for a time but eventually you will be found.

It is in the counts best interest to have a group of map makers/explorers surveying his/her lands on a regular basis to keep track of resources.

Goro - 8 months ago

that is Great :) im sure you will heard a lot " Good " words during the game :D

SeakerBoss - 9 months ago

As the above post has said up your combat skills before you venture too far from home! - Or Hire a small team to protect you when you go off exploring and making maps?

I massively like the idea of having the ability to make maps, and buy / sell them, in all honesty I can see certain players that get a name as map makers being highly valued by all players and there skills will be massively in demand.

Good Maps might end up as a type of currency?

Antaryon - 10 months ago

Sooo, I have a question, what happens when you are in the wilds with 4 of your friends in a territory unknown to you, you are exploring, and a band of angry Highwayman come at you and steal your maps and just to be "nice" to you, your navigational gear too.

Now you are in the wilderness, far away from roads or towns, how will you find your way back if you are not so good with directions in RL and you don't remember which direction you came from?

Assuming you have high enough navigational skills, would you be able to identify certain landmarks, or guess the direction and distance of known settlements even without navigational gear and a map too?

ThatOnebigguy - 9 months ago
@Antaryon:

From what I have read you will have to use landmarks and the sun during the day and the stars / constellations at night. If you aren't good at this in game then I suggest increasing your combat skills beforehand or one or all of your survival skills before traveling too far away from safety....or you will die.

mightyfish - 1 year ago

If player-created maps are a thing, how intricately tied together are navigation and mapmaking? Could you make maps out in the field, or do you need to explore and then go back home and hope you remember? I'm thinking making a map requires one to go out and figure out where they are and what is actually there.

And being unable to read a map... I'd like to figure out how languages are depicted. Do we see Elvish script (that's an example, not an expectation), and then it turns into our Roman alphabet depending on how well we know the language? Or will it all be the same alphabet and just jumbled up like other MMORPGs?

LorenzW - 10 months ago
@mightyfish:

Posted By mightyfish at 07:00 AM - Wed May 25 2016

If player-created maps are a thing, how intricately tied together are navigation and mapmaking? Could you make maps out in the field, or do you need to explore and then go back home and hope you remember? I'm thinking making a map requires one to go out and figure out where they are and what is actually there.

And being unable to read a map... I'd like to figure out how languages are depicted. Do we see Elvish script (that's an example, not an expectation), and then it turns into our Roman alphabet depending on how well we know the language? Or will it all be the same alphabet and just jumbled up like other MMORPGs?

Making the actual map requires you to be at a cartography desk. In the field you get to take notes in a book that you "translate" back home and your map is based on those notes, and those notes are reliant on your skill in cartography.

Liksamna - 1 year ago

I'm so going to ArcGIS this game...

Sonofamitch - 1 year ago

I don't feel that in a Game like this that having a mini map is the best thing ever. It would break the immersion of many people(myself included). After all irl we do not have mini maps. However having a sixth sense depending on your character abilities and all the variables that create your character would be a cool feature. like a swordsman from the inner city is a lot harder to sneak up on than a rich papered noble or a tailor etc.

CeciliaNightale - 1 year ago

Well, since I have a terrible sence of direction I think my only solution will be to max my survival skill! XD

But I do have to say that this is awesome in so many ways! It is truly a dream come true, can't wait to play this game!!

CommonlyQuixotic - 1 year ago

On the one hand, I am probably going to struggle with traveling since I have a terrible sense of direction and frequently get lost in games like Skyrim even with a map. On the other hand, this sounds so immersive and fun that I'm still excited about it. I especially love the idea that the names players use are the names places will have. That makes so much sense, and will give such a sense of ownership to players.

Scheneighnay - 1 year ago

A few things I would like to touch on here-

First, what's stopping me from spamming maps to rename a village "dickville"?

Another thing: how necessary are navigation skills? It should be reasonably possible to keep track of landmarks, and therefore use ley-lines (lines connecting landmarks) to navigate relatively accurately without a compass.

Endless Shogun - 1 year ago

"maybe you've realized you can't smell things in your game" This always takes me so long to realize in games!!

Kartysan - 1 year ago

Actually, screw my dreams of becoming an ingame blacksmith. Let me become a cartographer and name everything after potatoes xD

May Elyria be known as the land of potatoes, and May I be the worst cartographer in Elyrian history!

Edulahin - 1 year ago

Amazing... natural orientation will come in handy in this new world of yours. Do we have a comonly known northen star to guide us in the night?

Jbas911 - 1 year ago

I love 5he idea that you have to learn how to read maps and create them. This sounds exactly like a real RPG for once!

Gavin_Hart - 1 year ago

May we build maps and resell to other players? It would be interesting to mischievously create an abundance of inaccurate maps, throwing other players off for your own advancement. Lazy players would either get lucky and benefit, or suffer the consequences.

Caspian - 1 year ago
@Gavin_Hart:

Yes you can.

Floodedlake - 1 year ago

The naming of the cities, towns, kingdoms, forests etc., sounds interesting at first, but I can almost guarantee the living in a city called penis land or the likes. Great concept, however I do feel it will be abused way to quickly.

On a side note, I just found out about this MMO and I am already hyped up. PC exclusive or will it be for consoles also?

Madnezz - 1 year ago

This is great idea. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Mideke - 1 year ago

Will there be natural events like hurricanes or volcanic eruptions that could change the landscape? Also if that did happen would they also effect the cities, crops and other essentials needed to live?

Dethmiayr - 1 year ago

Best things ever. An evolving living world for people to actually control.

Muy_Bien - 1 year ago

This, provided everything goes well, will be the greatest game of all time... I'm falling in love very, very quickly. I can't wait for this, like at all haha. Everything I've ever wanted or any idea I've ever wanted implemented in a game of any sort, is now happening. I really hope everything works out. Still so stuck on trying to pre-plan on what my friends and I are going to do. Hype level, It's over 9000!!!

Edathol - 1 year ago

Looking great!! Keep the information coming.

demon - 1 year ago

how i download the game

Maygus - 1 year ago
@demon:

The game is still in development. There is no gameplay aside from the developers themselves as they are creating the game still.

yafes - 1 year ago

I am crazy about maps so this feature is amazing for me. Actual hand crafted maps in a game. I am curious if we will be able to make annotation on crafted maps, put a note on home location, make a treasure map out of ordinary map etc.

Caspian - 1 year ago
@yafes:

Absolutely! What good would maps be if you couldn't point to treasure!?

G34R B0X - 1 year ago

Will there be a craft able atlas, or something g to store all ofor these maps in?

Caspian - 1 year ago
@G34R B0X:

Yep.

Lalea - 1 year ago

That looks so interesting! :D I'm really hyped for this.

WickedOni - 1 year ago

The features look complex. That's good news! No more senseless button-mashing.

Marieke - 1 year ago
@WickedOni:
 True. Sometimes I find minimaps in videogames even annoying; they make everything easier! I want a realistic game, and this is 100% my thing.
TheIrishViking - 1 year ago

gods i want this game to be out... and i just realized something else that could exist in this world(not sure if previously mentioned somewhere) religious groups could very easily become a thing

G34R B0X - 1 year ago
@TheIrishViking:

More GOOD FOR THE GOOD GOD, JOY FOR THE JOY THRONE!

Senu - 1 year ago

BETTER AND BETTER EVERY WEEK

Draugnoss - 1 year ago

My hype grows with every post! Might be the only MMO I am willing to pay for...

Cordain - 1 year ago

Looks good.

polarbear - 1 year ago

the Soulborn Engine keeps track of all the names given to a town, village, watershed, lake, Kingdom, etc... And whichever name appears most frequently on maps for that landmark, that's the name that it will be referred to by NPCs and by recent in-game lore. If you don't find that to be awesome you need to check your pulse to see if your still alive.