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Archive for the ‘Architectural Reports’ Category

The Peyton Randolph House

One of the locations that will be an area for exploration and interaction within the game is the Peyton Randolph House. Peyton Randolph (1721-1775) was a key figure in American history, and had he not died in the fall of 1775, it is likely that his signature, not John Hancock’s, would be iconic on the Declaration of Independence.

While much of the floor plan research has been possible through architectural documents from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, I discovered that the Randolph house historical layout was not well documented. Last week I was able to travel to Williamsburg for a quick visit and tour the building. I took a number of photographs and sketched out the floor plan on a pad of graph paper to capture the layout. I’ll post some of the pictures here shortly.

Another piece in place. While the progress is slower than I’d like, the movement is forward!

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The George Wythe House and Map

April 18, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, George Wythe is considered to be the first American law professor having taught Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, and James Monroe (among others) at the College of William and Mary. In fact, the College is in easy walking distance of his home, shown in this photograph (the steeple of the Bruton Parrish Church can be seen in the background):

Wythe House

Wythe’s home (located just a few hundred yards away from the Governor’s Palace) was pivotal in the years leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Key historical figures would often stay at the house as Wythe’s guest, and George Washington even used the house as a field headquarters for a few weeks in September of 1781.

The house itself is two stories with a relatively simple interior architecture. The architectural documents I have been able to research make reference to a basement, but the information is not clear enough, nor are there any diagrams, so I’m leaving the basement out of the navigational map for purposes of the game. The floor plan to be used in the game is below.

The first floor of the home, depicting three points of entrance/exit:

Wythe First Floor

And below is the second floor of the house:

Wythe Second Floor

Conversion of the actual physical layout into the game map format was not difficult, largely due to the lack of architectural complexities. There are ample materials in the research literature to indicate what the interiror of the house was like, and that material will make its way into game descriptions that come up as the player moves from location to location.

Existing Structure Location Maps

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

In the last entry, I discussed the challenges of producing logical text adventure maps based on real geography; in this case, the physical geography of the city of Williamsburg in the late 1700s. The good news is that the streets and main building locations have been preserved, which helps in map development. But the challenges of using a real place that needs to be reproduced in the context of an adventure game map are even more challenging when using exisitng building architecture. The constraints of walls, doors, hallways, rooms, and stairs along with their comparative physical location relationships don’t leave much room for “adventure navigation license.” The biggest challenge is in using the compass rose as a foundation for navigation, where you have 8 directions of movement from any particular point (north, northeast, east, southeast, etc.). Add “up” and “down” for a total of 10 basic commands that can be typed to specify movement. Consider the following diagram:

room-2

The player location can represent anywhere in physical space: a forest clearing, a small cave chamber, a grand ballroom. Adding the “up” and “down” directions provides a good deal of movement options including 3-dimensional flexibility, for a total of 10 choices for player movement from any given location in the game. However, particular real locations can be difficult to reproducing using the compass rose navigational framework without making overly compromising game navigation decisions. For example, suppose we’re dealing with a long hallway with many doors on both sides, like a hotel hallway:

room-3We can see here that a single “location” representing the hallway is not a practical solution to get to the individual hotel rooms; there four north directional choices and four choices for going south. While creative programming can help (“enter room 101,” “enter room 103,” “enter room 105,” etc.), that approach tends to add to the command complexity for what should be one of the easier tasks in Interactive Fiction play: moving from one spot to another. A different approach might be to segment the hallway:

room-4Using this approach, we see that using the compass rose commands are sufficient for us to navigate to any location on the map without any amiguity. But there’s a tradeoff in that getting from Hall Location 1 to the room in the far northeastern corner would take five steps in the game. The can be tediuos for the player, especially if there is not a particularly great amount of game content to be discovered in each of those Hallway locations.

It is this navigation design issue that is driving the development of the building interior set of game maps. Some creativity allows us to “bend” the compass rose directions to suit our needs, for example:

room-5

Here we have a location that could be a hallway, with accesssibility to three doors on the northern face of the hall and three doors on the southern face. We would need to address this layout in the text description of the location, something like, “You are in an east-west running corridor with six doors total on the northern and southern walls. North of you is a single door, and you likewise see doors on the northwest corner as well as the northeast corner of the corridor. The southern wall has the same arrangement of doors.”

As work progresses on developing the Williamsburg buildings’ intererior maps, it is this interpretation of the compass rose that allows us to achieve an acceptable level of architectural fidelity. The Governor’s Palace is easily one of the most complex structures being reproduced within the game, and it is also one of the key narrative locations. There are four floors to the Palace, and the maps are displayed below:

First Floor (source map here):

Governors Palace First Floor

Second Floor (source maps here, here, here, and here):

Governors Palace Second FloorThird Floor (source here):

Governors Palace Third FloorBasement (source here):

Governors Palace Basement

This mapping structure gives a total of 44 separate player locations for the game, but remember that these 44 locations are at the single Governor’s Palace location on the overall physical map. There are still quite a few buildings to map (which means researching all the architectural plans from the Colonial Williamsburg Library.  Lots of fun in the days ahead!

The Rockefeller Library: A Treasure Trove of Information

July 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Today the family and I began our foot-tour of the Colonial Williamsburg area, starting with the Governor’s Palace and grounds. The guided tour (which we’ve been on during several visits over the years) provided a good amount of information regarding the use of the rooms, the tone set by the foyer (a “display of British power” was an important characteristic), and the reasons why the various rooms were decorated as they were. After the tour I had the opportunity to chat with our guide, and I asked him for the best sources of floor plans to the historic buildings. He clued me into the Rockefeller Library.

Later in the day, about mid-afternoon, we were rained out of our Williamsburg walkabout (being stuck in the Courthouse during a storm–but after we participated in an several trial role-play scenarios). That turned out to be a blessing, as I was able to spend some time researching the archives of the Rockefeller Library, and I came upon the Architectural Reports. These reports, apparently dating from the 1930s to the present (I haven’t seen them all, but the earliest one I’ve come across was published in 1931), divide Colonial Williamsburg into geographical blocks and provide amazing amounts of detail on the buildings, grounds, and landscaping as they were in the 18th century. This includes the color schemes, furniture, fabrics, dishware, and so on thought to have been in use by the residents.

This material is just what I wanted to find, and it will provide the foundation for the game navigation. My choice now is to decide how much to include in the first revision of the game!