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Mercator Projections and other Cartographical Atrocities


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First off, I've been too busy modding CM to get around to playing the demo, so this isn't going to be as thorough or coherent a critique as I would have liked. And if I've said anything really off base, you have my permission to flame me in public, and I'll try to be good-natured about it.

I wasn't comfortable with the way the land masses sat in some of the hexes, and couldn't help but wondering if it would be possible to revisit the terrain analysis a bit.

It's been several weeks (?) since I looked at the demo, but two things are still sticking in my (very porous) brain.

I really wonder about how the hexes were allocated in Italy. I'm not arguing about which ports should or should not be left out, I'm talking about drawing the shapes of the landmasses. The issue is partially one of graphics, partially one of game function.

Bottom line, the top of Italy seemed too wide in the Genoa-Venice dimension, and I'm not sure the issue is one of how much terrain you draw into the coastal hexes.

I'm sure there are other nits I could pick around the map, but this is the one that jumped out at me that I can still remember.

Second Observation: I haven't played many of the other WWII Strategy games, so I can't give you chapter and verse on where xyz-graphics convention comes from. But one of the things I really hated about High Command was that the US was sitting on a mythical island like High Brasyl in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This is unfortunate and probably unnecessary.

Please consider more appropriate visuals (i.e. use the actual shape of the land masses), and would it be all that hard to make the (scrollable) map a little wider and get the distance from Europe and Iceland to the US into correct proportion? After all, it's not like you're limited by the amount of paper and ink the printer will let you use.

It would also mean that you could do away with any abstract rules that would be needed to integrate the differences in scale. You might even throw in a little of northern South America (and a bit more North Africa with impassable deserts, for that matter) so that the German player could park a u-boat off of Venezuela or the coast of New Jersey when that time comes.

Hex based games have a lot of visual draw backs, but for them to be convincing it helps if fewer short cuts are taken. What is surprising is how Mercator-like you can make a hex map look if you really put your mind to it. And sometimes the analysis that leads to enhanced appearance leads to enhanced accuracy in game play (e.g. prevents a flanking maneuver that is only possible because of a geographically non-existant hex). Sometimes the relief over finally finishing a map gets in the way of going over every section where action is likely to occur and asking yourself how many hexes should this front be represented by, or how many different ways should there be to get into this hex, given the current game mechanics. Exhaustion can be a major factor in dictating map design.

Having said all that, the advantage of using hexagons on a large scale is that they are very good for defining abstract relationships. And sometimes you'll want a hex to exist in a certain spot because it helps the event flow even if it has no geographical justification. But the sad truth is that the map designer was not usually thinking much beyond the next hexside when he drew that squiggly line through two hexsides of the Gulf of Alexandretta.

[ June 06, 2002, 05:43 PM: Message edited by: Philippe ]

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Personally, my vote for a map projection would be an Albers Equal Area projection using a false easting and northing-based coordinate reference system.

;) (j/k)

Good point re: the size and placement of N. American though, all kidding aside. The practical limitation of having NA so close to Europe is that German subs tend to get easily sandwiched between the two land masses (and the ships and planes patrolling them) that it can be really tough to sneak subs and ships through the Atlantic. It should be tough, but it seems a little "tight" to me.

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