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Terrain Readability Suggestion


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Terrain readability is crucial for assessment of and ease of planning for tactical options. Readable height differences can reveal a slight slope that could shelter your movement or be the cause of your troop’s deaths. Furthermore, the nature of a hills slope, convex or concave can to make or break your defense. Without getting down to ground level for all movements and positions the player is blind. To make the map convey information from the birds eye view several changes are proposed: first and principally, hill shading; secondly togglable contours, and lastly and not too important Hypsometric tints. This will go into what those things are, why it would be needed and why it should be considered for development.

Hill shading. 
Both relief shading as well as shadows rendered. The reason to do this is quite apparent, no gully or ridges missed- I can pull out a pen and start planning operations right away! Now the picture is something I made Blender and if this where to make it into Combat Mission it would look like the examples bellow. Not only can you see generates good looking shading on the fly but the code is also provided. Implementing it in combat mission could be a worth while instatement as it provides great benefit too relatively little cost, code is provided and something similar is down with clouds in the game at the moment.
Example: https://observablehq.com/@awoodruff/diy-hillshade   
Code: https://observablehq.com/@sahilchinoy/a-faster-hillshader
 

Togglable contours.

Have a button that turns on/off a contour overlay. Contours are at regular height interval with thicker index lines at a larger easily referenced variable. For example, every 25 meters and 150 meters for each respectively. This is to more easily show exact terrain shape in a easy and accurate manner. This though harder to implement.

Hypsometric tints.

A shader that tints ground texture to have gradient darker green to light yellow based on their evaluation. Hypsometric tints make subtle grades visible and provide a non-intrusive way to discriminate evaluations of different locations. Is this that ridge taller or shorter than this one?

 

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I suggested something similar once:

On 10/8/2015 at 6:57 PM, Bulletpoint said:
My idea was actually even more simple; the game itself should render the graphics better to give the player an idea of bumps in the terrain.

There's already a shading system in the game, but you only see it at dawn and dusk. Most battles that are fought around noon have flat-looking terrain that's difficult to get an overview of, because the game's artificial sun light source is straight above, so there's a lack of shadows. This happens in real life too, of course, but we can then use our stereoscopic vision to immediately "read" terrain, which is impossible in the game.

So, my idea was to make the game engine itself automatically render lower elevations in a bit darker shade, providing a gentle embossing effect. I think it wouldn't even need to tweak the "sunlight" rendering, it could be done by pixel shader effects, with each pixel's Z value (vertical height) being used as a parameter for the rendering.

Edited by Bulletpoint
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I would totally love contour lines. I doubt that 25 and 150m heights would be a good choice for said contour lines but I am sure good choices can be made. It might even need to be TBD at runtime based on the variation in the terrain.

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Love the idea generally. I lways did. If BFC could pull that off, great! Yet I´d rather go for a baked kind of method, writing some routines taking the map data and create a fixed birds eye view map then to be overlayed on the battlefield after mission start by key press (on or off). Basically like the editors 2D map overlay accessed by "o" key. Would be nice if that one could be configured (different style map symbols or terrain shading and contours) or exported for further user editing. IMO would do the purpose best, resource and game performance wise and the means are already in the game engine more or less.

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It would be great to better see elevation changes, even subtle ones, on higher cameras. The change between camera 2 and 3 is big in how I can read the terrain. I wonder if CM could use the rendering tech of Google Maps on iPad (don't know what it is called). Its 3D mode is excellent.

Also, Command Ops 2 has great LOS and terrain elevation tools.

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10 hours ago, Jjduston said:

Togglable contours.

Have a button that turns on/off a contour overlay. Contours are at regular height interval with thicker index lines at a larger easily referenced variable. For example, every 25 meters and 150 meters for each respectively. This is to more easily show exact terrain shape in a easy and accurate manner. This though harder to implement.  

+1.  Great idea.  Not sure what would be the best interval to use but that could be worked out.  Would be very useful to see something like this in CMx3.      

 

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I remember seeing a Real time contours map render but only now was a able to find it. Here it is:

Example: https://contours.axismaps.com/#12/35.3577/138.7331

Code: https://github.com/axismaps/contours

Any way I glad you guys like it. Though I am not a coder, I do hope putting up coded examples puts this suggestion in the relm of possibly.

As for performance, You could run shading and contours on start then have it as an other layer to be always present or recalled on demand for each view respectively.

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At some point 'fog of war' is going to kick in. You the commander can't be expected to know every single microterrain detail of the ground you'll be fighting over. You reconnoiter,  make note of favorable positions and plan accordingly. Something that may be difficult if you play the game at camera level 3 or 4 all the time. If this is designed to be a realistic tactical sim the fewer 'crutches' the better. If something seems difficult perhaps its because... its difficult!

 

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My problem with camera 4, which I use a lot, is that I frequently misread terrain completely. I underestimate elevation changes and sometimes even think it slopes in another direction than it does. For me a more three dimensional feel for the terrain in higher camera modes is something that would add much to the game. Fancy LOS features/tools and such I agree can provide too much information and ruin "fog of war". But what about the modern titles? Wouldn't a commander have very detailed satelite information about the terrain most of the time?

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2 hours ago, MikeyD said:

At some point 'fog of war' is going to kick in. You the commander can't be expected to know every single microterrain detail of the ground you'll be fighting over. You reconnoiter,  make note of favorable positions and plan accordingly. Something that may be difficult if you play the game at camera level 3 or 4 all the time. If this is designed to be a realistic tactical sim the fewer 'crutches' the better. If something seems difficult perhaps its because... its difficult!

 

Hear hear.

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to add on my birdseye view layer idea mentioned above, I´d go as simple as possible and only show most prominent terrain features. Also that only for battle planning and keeping an overview during game play. I personally like scouting micro terrain and cover during battles myself, but at given force level in CM (Bn or Battle Group) every battle commander usually had any sort of map or sketch at hand. So a battle map sketch layer might be worked out and look like outlined here:

https://550cord.com/land-navigation-training/map-reading-land-navigation-appa.asp

With regard to elevation and terrain shading I could only imagine either a baked sort of version that doesn´t necessiates RT rendering, or alternatively sets of precolored base terrain textures (grass i.e) going from darker (low) to lighter (higher level) colors, like in many hex based 2D wargames. If color changes are more subtle (dark ---> light) realism of 3D terrain outlooks should be preserved, while at least giving players an idea of terrain contours at ground level. I´d tried using yellow grass along contours of my own maps and while it sort of works on fairly open maps, it´s just an expedient.

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12 hours ago, MikeyD said:

At some point 'fog of war' is going to kick in. You the commander can't be expected to know every single microterrain detail of the ground you'll be fighting over. You reconnoiter,  make note of favorable positions and plan accordingly. Something that may be difficult if you play the game at camera level 3 or 4 all the time. If this is designed to be a realistic tactical sim the fewer 'crutches' the better. If something seems difficult perhaps its because... its difficult!

 

When we play this game, we don't just play as the commander - we play on every level down to individual scout teams. So while the commander won't know every detail of the terrain, those with boots on the ground will know it quite well. At least their own little area.

Games are played on a 2D screen. They need to assist the players to orient themselves and interact the game world. CM is no different.

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On 10/2/2019 at 1:45 PM, Jjduston said:

What about fighting on this?

Screen-Shot-2018-06-26-at-11.43.25-PM.pn

Looks like a bump map/normal map layer which was one method used to apply contour shading to terrain. I once use the map overlay feature in the CM2 editor to see what a manually created shading texture would look like on a CM2 map. Ofcourse it could only be viewed in the editor, and there is only one semi opaque setting. It looked like it had potential.

@Jjduston I just checked out those links and its amazing to try the demo application and see the math right there in the open.

Edited by nik mond
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