Mallet Combat Mapmaker

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heruca
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Mallet Combat Mapmaker

Post by heruca » Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:47 pm

This soon-to-be-released app for making printable battlemaps looks decent, but doesn't allow for mapping using existing PNG assets.

Link to video

Here is a thread about it over at rpg.net.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Necropost!

Post by RockwaterSoftware » Tue Jul 03, 2012 4:47 am

No, it's not dead... it was just restin'!

The Mallet project (after a year-long hiatus to work on other projects) is back from the dead. Now, in 3D. Here's a rough first look.

Either it'll be being used by avid gamers by next year, or I'll be dead from an overdose of coffee and C# coding!

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Post by heruca » Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:07 am

Welcome, RockwaterSoftware.

Wow, that looks pretty darn cool. 8)

My main concern is that if the tool is now limited to using 3D models, won't that limit the usability by restricting customization, such that only users versed in 3D model creation can create new items for use in the program?
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by RockwaterSoftware » Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:50 am

You'll have to trust me that the final product will be incredibly intuitive and make building a 3D map fairly painless. It will be a combination of prefabs, props, and logical structures.

I'm still just beginning the internal logic for map editing, but it'll flow like this:

1. You decide you want to make a dungeon room that is 30' x 50' with a couple doorways & adjoining passages.

2. You start at a base elevation offset of 0' and pick the floor tools. You'll have to pick what floor texture you'd like to use.

3. Draw your 30x50 floor (just a rectangle, really) and then the two passages that attach to it. For this the app will be snapping you to the grid edges.

4. Pick the wall tools, style, texture, etc. Now you're clicking the start, corners, and ends of each wall. So a few clicks later with the app snapping you to vertices you have walls that line the room and corridors.

5. Pick the structures tool. Look for a doorway prefab (it keeps the same texture settings that the walls used) and place them at the passage openings.

6. Find doors you like and place them (they'll attach to the doorframe prefabs, open left or right, and actually be articulated objects that you can drag open or close throughout the range of motion.

7. You decide you want some stairs leading up a level in the corner of the room. Under structures, find the stairs that you like (variations of width, rise/run, with railings or without, etc) apply the floor texture you want, and then place them. However, you decide the room will be tall and you want the stairs to go up 20' vertically along the wall. So you either place some stone block structure under the section that will be higher, or maybe some wood scaffold that is the appropriate height. Again, all prefabs from the structures group.

8. Using the elevation offset control, crank up 10' and place the higher section of stairs.

9. While you're up here, probably want to put in the 10' of walls that are in the 10'-20' range. this will really just be around the room... although you may leave the higher walls off if you like. They will cast shadows, so that's at your discretion.

10. Crank the elevation offset back down to 0' and start decorating your room. For props the physics engine will be enabled. This means that when you place something in the room it will cast a ray down and find the first colliding surface, then use that to place the item. So, place a table, then place a book on the table and it just works. You don't have to worry about the Z offset of the book, it places items using physical collision detection.

11. So you have placed items & props in the room. Add a couple point light sources for mood lighting. Drop a couple decals on the floor with footprints, blood splatters, etc.

12. Tinker with the global ambient lighting and directional lights to get the walls & structures to stand out well.

13. Since props within the room using the physics engine you decide to mess up the room as if there's been a fight. So start clicking on objects and throwing them around. Overturn the chair and table. Scatter books on the floor. Grab the scatter/spray tool and randomly sprinkle a couple dozen gold or silver coins in one corner.

14. Print.

[AND IN THE FUTURE...]

15. Drop into full-screen three-quarter view and place decorations on the walls.

16. Drop into first-person view and create eye-level views of the room.

17. Instead of describing the dungeon room to your players, just hand them a printed first-person view and say, "You see this."

[EVEN FURTHER IN THE FUTURE]

18. Adding in monster models that will be visible in the first-person output.


I'm currently shooting for super-basic mapping functionality by August, and hopefully something of an initial release by the start of September. It will be likely that initially some features that I'm planning won't be present, but that shouldn't be much of a complaint since the pricing model will be:

Mallet : $0 (Free)

It will include a bunch of basic texture and model assets. Enough for basic fantasy dungeons.

Asset packs: $2 to $5, depending upon amount of content.

So, say for a pack of 30-ish fantasy village buildings it might be three or four bucks. For an egyptian themed set of prefabs, items, and textures, perhaps the same. Yes, there will be lots of asset packs, but they'll be very reasonably priced and include a lot of high quality art that properly integrates with Mallet.

Everything will be properly categorized and keyed so that Mallet will do all the work. Buildings will be scaled to the default of 1 square = 5'. (Although it will allow arbitrary overlay of grid size and scaling on print.) Everything will be properly oriented, and will position correctly relative to the current elevation offset (or place to the first intersecting object for props.) Procedural geometry (such as user-define floors and walls and some structures) will employ Allegorithmic's Substance procedural texture shaders, meaning you have nearly infinite control over how a tiled stone section, or grass area, or dirt floor looks.

Yes, this means that only our assets will work with Mallet. That is a requirement because A) a lot of extra metadata has to be defined for textures, models, prefabs, etc to ensure they work properly with the internal engine and B) we'd like to make software for a living, and you can't do that for free. ;)

Oi! That's a huge wall of text I typed up. Hopefully I didn't start boring you part-way through.
Last edited by RockwaterSoftware on Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by RockwaterSoftware » Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:23 am

Oh, I kind of forgot an important point: Mallet is intended to be centered around a community of users where sharing is encouraged, but with the actual possibility that artists can make money (or perhaps even a living) developing content. The plan would be to have the ability of artists to sell their content to us for inclusion in asset packs, or to have enough content created by an artist that we can issue an art/model pack of their content at similar rates to other packs and share a good chunk of the profits with the artist. Depending upon the response of the world-wide table-top roleplaying community, this *might* just allow capable artists to make a living producing content for Mallet.

It would likely be as simple as any artist using Blender and/or GIMP (or similarly capable products.) In fact, I would *love* if our effort to build good software could help more gaming artists earn a living wage. (If any of you know artists, you know exactly what I'm talking about.)

Mallet is, in fact, just the first product in a series of computer-assisted role-playing tools we intend to publish. We firmly believe that gaming still belongs on the dining room or rec room table, but that there are good ways to add computers into the mix without causing problems. (Who else has banned smarthphone use during their games?)

Anyhow, I think that gives you a pretty good picture of what we're shooting for. Should we get the kind of success we're hoping for the cost of assets packs will get cheaper, the variety of tools will increase, the additional features (such a first-person view) will come free of cost, and hopefully everyone will be happy with the result.

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Post by Omnidon » Wed Jul 04, 2012 8:05 am

Will Mallet support contoured landscapes / elevation / 3D terrain outside of prerendered models? I.E a contoured landscaping tool?
Also, how large of maps will it support? One of the principle weaknesses of most mapping applications that I have run across is that they either have hard-coded limitations on map size or make it extremely tedious to create large maps. I like big maps. ;-)

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Post by RockwaterSoftware » Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:56 pm

Currently it's using a (rather arbitrary) 105x105 square grid, which comes to 525'x525' at a default scale of 1 square = 5'. And, given that the intended target is print output for tabletop Pathfinder or D&D minis, that would be about 165 sheets of paper (15 sheets wide by 11 sheets tall) if printed out at full scale. Due to gutter issues with most printers you really can only get away with printing 7"x10" on a standard sheet of paper.

Do note that the intent for Mallet is to produce miniature scale maps. The level of detail it generates is completely pointless for DM maps that are closer to 0.25" per 5' square scale. Plus, when a properly shaded and shadowed scene is scaled down to that representation it gets very hard to make out what is what. It is best to stick with traditional line art for DM maps at that scale.

Also, with a full lighting and physics engine, having truly huge maps would start to be unworkable on anything but the most powerful computers, and even then it would eventually begin to bog down once you've built a complex scene with lots of overdraw and physical objects. Some day, perhaps, the underlying engines will support that kind of complexity, but right now it's still a game of careful balance between detail, complexity, and performance.

Mallet will have the ability to re-base the grid, and the models and artwork will scale with it, but it will still be necessary to be realistic about what a computer can actually calculate in real-time. (If you don't mind the app getting hugely laggy, you can push the limits of course.) Modest maps should work fine on your average Dell desktop or laptop. Those who have a nice GPU in their machine should be able to push the limits much, much further before performance starts to suffer. Turning off shadows while working with the map helps, as the computation of of them essentially multiplies the geometry work as the scene gets more complex. It will be a recommendation to do lighting & shadow tweaking as a last step in the map creation process.

As for height-field or voxel geometry, that will be a feature, although not in the initial release most likely. Again, there will be technicalities to working with height field terrain: things like trees and plants are easy to work with, but buildings require a somewhat flat surface to be placed on, which may require some prefab structures that can be used as bases and extend down into the terrain geometry. Furthermore, water is *really* hard to do well in free-form terrain geometry. Sure, flat ponds and lakes are easy, but streams that travel down slopes are difficult to do well. Waterfalls pretty much have to be prefabs to look good at all. It will be likely that rivers and streams will look best when done on flatter terrain, but that will be ironed out in the future.

Thanks for the questions!

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Post by Omnidon » Wed Jul 04, 2012 8:09 pm

Thanks for the thorough answer. ;-)
RockwaterSoftware wrote:Do note that the intent for Mallet is to produce miniature scale maps
I strongly recommend supporting image export features. They're easy to add and it would be a waste to go to all the trouble of creating a mapping application without catering to the virtual tabletop community (especially since you're posting on a VT website).
Of course, the user could just Print to Image, but that's less convenient and might not allow the user to customize the file format.

I have a fairly powerful computer by the way, being a hardcore gamer and programmer myself, as do many of my friends. If your main objection to using digital versions of Mallet maps is the fact that they look bad at typical monitor resolutions, then that's not really an issue for many people. A handful of people use wall projectors for their VT games, and in my case I really don't mind scrolling a lot of it means having a bigger map. Though I should probably note that I most likely wouldn't use Mallet myself since I have my heart set on tile-based maps anyway. :P

Also, keep in mind that if you're supporting third party artwork, they may not match your artwork's pixels-per-foot, so you'll need some features to adjust the map & object scaling.

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Post by RockwaterSoftware » Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:21 am

Oh, heck yes. Output will be disk image (PNG) or printed. Perhaps PDF if I want to save people the step of installing one of the free PDF converters and I can do so without too much hassle.

And, yes, I understand what you mean about the consistency and scale of art assets. However, pixels-per-foot isn't as meaningful in a high-quality texturing engine, as even lower quality art assets can be given more apparent quality via bump mapping or parallax mapping. For Mallet it will have Allegorithimic's "Bitmap 2 Material" engine built in, which has powerful features for extracting additional detail and depth from a relatively mundane texture.

For more information, see: http://www.allegorithmic.com/products/b2m/overview

You can sort of see why it's necessary for assets to be bundled into asset packs... how textures are applied to various models and prefabs, how they are handled by Bitmap2Material, and keeping the quality level high throughout the mapping process is important. The aim is to enable people to produce great maps very quickly without fighting with making textures or models or geometry fit correctly, or without having to struggle with wall welds or prop positioning.

Anyhow, I'll shut up now and get back to coding!

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