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Streamlined Williamsburg Map

In my last blog post (Fun with Maps) I discussed the complexities around map development for Interactive Fiction, especially given the design tension between maintaining historical accuracy and fostering engaging gameplay. During my most recent trip to Williamsburg last September, I found that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation helped address the map dilemma by issuing a simplified version of their visitor map. This is the visitor map that is currently being published (along with the daily events in the colonial city area).

New Map 001

I took this map and eliminated the extraneous information based on the actual game and story requirements. That gave me a very clean map from which to work. You can see that this map provides a layout of the relative positions of buildings, the streets they are on, and distance information.

New Map 002

Using this clean map, I marked the positions of the buildings and other navigation junctures that would be needed in (this version of) the game. Then I connect the locations where I wanted pathways, so that I could visualize the compass headings to use in terms of game commands. (You can see the blue lines connecting the red and green squares.)

Williamsburg Game Map

Finally, I pulled the background out in order to have the unadorned map to use in building navigation functionality within Inform 7.

Williamsburg Game Map

The red boxes represent buildings or structures that have further navigation within, while the green boxes are simply outside locations. Using this map, I was quickly able to create basic navigation in Inform 7, and I am using the map as a location checklist for the location descriptions. (Additionally, I am creating the logic in Inform 7 to handle multiple stops at the same location, and requests for more information regarding locations.

In addition, this map allowed me to visualize some navigational shortcuts to help with the flow of the game. For example, I’ve created a custom command “street” that functions at many of the building locations on the Duke of Gloucester Street (that’s the main street running from the College of William & Mary in the west to the Capitol Building in the east). When a player is at the entrance of one of those buildings, using the “street” command will take the player to one of a number of unmarked positions on the Duke of Gloucester Street, between the two cross streets that apply to the building where the player is. From the unmarked position, the player can see the buildings up and down between the cross streets and choose to navigate directly to any of them. These unmarked positions on the Duke of Gloucester Street are not accessible through standard compass-direction navigation.

Within the next week or two, I’ll have a robust version of the game navigation completed in Inform 7 and available for download to the original Kickstarter backers.

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Fun with Maps

December 29, 2015 3 comments

williamsburgmap

Maps are essential to many Interactive Fiction games, especially those that involve activity in various locations. Interactive Fiction game maps that deal with real locations, however, are challenging to implement, as there is a trade-off to be had between realism and playability. If the design is meant to represent the physical layout with utmost fidelity, the details of the map can potentially slow down and frustrate game play as the player is forced to move from one seemingly meaningless location to another in order to get to the desired destination. It’s similar to the counterpoint between a flight simulator and a flight game–the realism of a true simulator can be very boring, unless it’s the simulation itself that interests you.

Likewise, the conflicting visions of the HWLN: is it a simulation of the physical layout of Williamsburg as it was in the months leading up the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or is it a game about the events taking place during that time? That conflict plays itself out everytime I return to the map and struggle with the appropriate level of detail to include. I’ve been wanting the game to be both, but that may not be the wisest choice for the HWLN as a game.

Part of the challenge was addressed in part by the new daily maps published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for visitors. The new map (show in the picture above) is actually a streamlined version of an earlier visitor map which you can view here. The older map is much more detailed, and perhaps in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s thinking, it was not as user friendly. Whatever the case, the new map gives me a good template for a more streamlined game map, on which I am currently working and will implement at least initially in Inform 7.

So for the sake of playability, I’ll work with a less detailed map. But at some point, as an exercise in modeling an accurate picture of history, I’ll return to the “high resolution” version in order to satisfy my inner purist.

Mac Format Navigation Executable

I you’re interested in testing out the HWLN navigation on a Mac, feel free to download the executable file here. You’ll want to check the navigation against this map. Enjoy!

LiveCode Navigation Sourcefile

For those of you interested in taking a look at the LiveCode source for the HWLN navigation, feel free to download here. This file was developed in LiveCode Community Edition 7.0.0 | Build 10018.

New Navigation QA Version

August 23, 2014 1 comment

Version 2 of the Navigation Test is now available here. Updated with the following:

  • Gives verbose or brief descriptions of each location. Type “verbose” or “brief.”
  • Clear screen by typing “clear.”
  • Goes back to starting position by typing “reset.”

In this version, check for navigation accuracy (compared to the map), and make sure that Location X is consistent with location as identified in status bar.

Navigation QA: Checking the Map

August 22, 2014 3 comments

It’s been a while since the last update, as I’ve had several projects eat into my time both for work and for my dissertation. As it turns out, the dissertation is giving me the excu–uh, reason to reapply some focus on the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative. I’ll need to have a simple version of the game up and running to provide to instructors willing to use the game in the classroom. That means I need to work on it.

I’ve gone back and forth and back again on the development tool to use for the project, from Inform 7 to Adrift to LiveCode, and right now I’m settled on LiveCode for the amount of control I have in building the interface and interaction framework for the game. Currently I’ve developed a simple version of the program that does nothing but navigate through the map, currently 199 separate locations, using abbreviated compass directions: n, ne, e, se, s, sw, w, and nw. The map is below, and you can access a PDF version: Logical Map – Nav Test.

Logical Map - Nav Test

 

Of course, you will need to actual program to run as well, if you’re interested in checking out the navigation. You may obtain that by accessing it by clicking this link. The file is a Windows version program Zip compressed for faster download. If you’re interested in a Mac version, leave a comment and I’ll compile a version for download.

If you intent to perform quality assurance testing and provide feedback, simply leave comments in response to this post. Be sure to list the error you found, how you encountered the error, and what the error does or doesn’t do. Most likely, errors at this stage will be discrepancies between the visual map and the navigational structure within the program. The visual map (above) is correct; the program will need to be corrected if any discrepancies are found.

One final note: anyone finding errors in the program will be listed as QA testers, being listed in the release version credits. So have at it!

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.