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Posts Tagged ‘Colonial Williamsburg’

Capitol Building Floorplan

April 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Just a quick update to display the Capitol building floor plan, first and second floors. The mapping continues…

First Floor:

Capitol First FloorSecond Floor:

Capitol Second Floor

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!

Game Environment Cartography

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Developing a map for an Interactive Fiction environment can be challenging especially if the game is based on real-world geography, as is the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative. A large part of the value of this game is the historical accuracy–which not only includes the events of the time but the geography and architecture as well. In designing the game map, I am considering external landscape and building floor plans separately, and here I describe the process by which the external landscape portion of the game map was developed.

I started working from the map provided by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for guests visiting the city. Below is a scanned version of that map, already partially “cleaned up” (that is, much of the extraneous information–modern buildings, bus route lines, restroom symbols, etc.–have already been removed). After working with this map for a brief period of time, I found a few characteristics I didn’t like. Most significantly, there wasn’t a sufficient level of detail regarding building shapes and grounds, and the relative sizes, locations, and distances between buildings wasn’t accurate enough for me to use in creating descriptions.

Colonial Williamsburg Map(1)

At this point I changed my approach. In order to ensure fidelity to the actual physical layout of Williamsburg, I decided to use satellite imagery for the initial layout work. Google Maps provided excellent resolution from the Governor’s Palace in the north to the Public Hospital in the south, and the College of William and Mary in the west to Christiana Campbell’s Tavern in the east. The city’s overall layout was depicted quite clearly.

a-skymap

Once I had an accurate map from which to work, I was able to select the significant buildings, associated grounds, and pathways between that the player would be using. I superimposed this image on top of the map, and this gave me the level of detail I wanted for development.

a-mergemap

Peeling away the city map, this is what the initial pass at the game map looks like. While this map contains all the information needed to create accurate location descriptions (for example, it will be important to note the distance of the College of William and Mary from the city proper), this version of the map is a bit difficult to work from in building the Interactive Fiction navigation scheme. For that task, a logical map is more appropriate.

a-linemap(2)

This logical map was built from the physical line map (above), connecting locations using only the eight compass directions, and not taking into consideration the sizes of buildings or their actual distance from each other. Also, no assumptions can be made between “nodes” in the map below if they are not connected by a direction line. In other words, if a node is to the west of another node, but they are not connected by an east-west line, they may not be precisely east and west of each other. This map simplifies and compresses the physical map information for ease of navigation programming. The yellow nodes represent place locations where the player may go, while the blue nodes represent buildings or structures that have additional rooms or internal locations not depicted here. Those additional locations will be represented in further mapping exercises.

a-logicalmap

By using this logical map along with the visual information obtained from the line map superimposed from the Google satellite image, I will be able to create rich in-game descriptions of the physical Williamsburg environment. For example, an east-west running path on the logical map may actually be a long, curved road on a hilly slope, and that level of detail will be captured in the game for a rich and hopefully satisfying experience.

The High Road and the Low Road

It’s been a while since the last update, but we’ve been making progress on the the interface and parser coding for the “custom” front end. Additionally, we’ve come to the conclusion that a two-pronged approach is what we will be taking for the two main version releases.

Version 1: This is the first piece that will come out, which is purely a navigation-exploration framework for colonial Williamsburg during the setting we’ve selected. This version will be developed in Inform 7, and it will be available to anyone free of charge. All that will be needed is the proper interpreter to run the program file.

Version 2: This is the full game experience with the story placed on top of the location and time setting. Here is where we go off the beaten path with our custom IF interface, and we’ll be using a development environment called LiveCode by RunRev for the development. LiveCode was chosen specifically for its ability to handle text.

Currently we are developing the map within the Inform 7 environment, and we are also working on the custom LiveCode parser. While progress has been fairly slow, it has been significant, and the level of detail of the colonial Williamsburg environment should be quite satisfying when played.

As always, we appreciate the support and encouragement we’ve been receiving. Stay tuned!

Location, Location, Location!

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The map is the thing.

While the colonial Williamsburg environment will be accurately portrayed, some locations will get a more thorough treatment than others. As construction of the game environment moves forward, these are the historic sites that will receive focused attention:

  • The Governor’s Palace
  • The Randolph House
  • The Wythe House and Gardens
  • The Courthouse
  • The Magazine and Guardhouse
  • The Capitol
  • King’s Tavern

Additionally, there will be game activity on the Duke of Gloucester Street, and one other (very large) location that, for now, will remain unnamed–and quite essential to the core storyline.

A Bit of Storyline

August 15, 2012 Leave a comment

On April 21st, 1775, the royal governor of the colony of Williamsburg seized the stored gun powder from the community magazine, which quite angered the colonists and gave rise to a rather angry mob. Some might consider this a tactical error, as the colonists still were split over this issue of British rule versus independence; a heavy-handed action such as this only served to strengthen the hand of independence-minded colonists such as Patrick Henry.

As angry as they were, the colonists were very committed to maintaining a dialog with the governor, convinced that men of reason could come to understanding, and ultimately to agreement on the wisest course of action. And on both sides of the issue, violence was an action that was hoped to be avoided.

But what if, as a result of the gun powder incident, actual violence did occur? Suppose the governor had been assassinated in response by the colonists in favor of independence? That might, in fact, shift the balance of public opinion strongly in favor of the British, in an expression of sympathy as well as an expression of disgust at the “savagery” displayed. History might have turned out much differently.

This is an alternate timeline that will be explored in the game. And it will be the player’s role to prevent the murder from taking place, thereby allowing history to unfold as originally did.

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!

Documenting Williamsburg and a Special Thanks

July 12, 2012 2 comments

Tomorrow my family and I will arrive in Williamsburg, where we will spend the weekend and depart on Monday. The goal will be to gather research materials from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and perform a physical survey of the colonial city, documenting with photographs and audio notes for later transcription. Technically, while this is work, the environment will cover our days with a great measure of enjoyment.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank one of the project backers, who also happens to be a personal friend that lives near my home (in Central Florida). The family and I left on this journey last Thursday. We drove up to the suburban Maryland area to visit my mother and sisters (who have their own families and homes between Washington, DC, and Baltimore). In my haste to get on the road, I actually forgot the camera I most wanted to use for the Williamsburg photography. (I also forgot our Williamsburg passes, but since we are annual members, I wasn’t worried about getting in.)

My wife called Marcy M., our backer/neighbor and asked if she would be able to go to our home, pick up the camera and passes, then ship everything to me in Maryland. Marcy came through, and now I’m happy to have the camera I most wanted to use for the photography!

Time for On-Site Research!

One of the exciting things about the Historical Williamsburg project is that Williamsburg is not only a real place, the historical part is to a large extent restored to the condition it was in back in the late 1700s. Research there can be very entertaining as well as informative. Indeed, the city is a living museum, but ever since my father started taking our family there 40 years ago on summer vacations, I’ve seen it as a fun rather than “educational” place to go. But I picked up a lot about American history despite that fact.

From July 13th-16th, I will be there (along with my family) taking photographs and measurements in order to build the map representation of the historical portions of the city within the game. I will be getting the layouts for the major structures such as the House of Burgesses and the Governor’s Palace, along with the interior information for several other buildings (the Courhouse, the Magazine, some of the taverns, homes of prominent residents, etc.). Hopefully the weather will be favorable! There is a lot of work to do on the game itself, but one of my goals of getting the photography work accomplished (in addition to proving me with reference materials for the in-game descriptions) is so that I’ll be able to put together the project’s coffee table photo book that will be one of the rewards for some of the folks that were Kickstarter backers for the project.

During the fundraising phase, I was asked whether or not I would be publishing the photo book for individual purchase, and honestly, I had not considered that. But it does seem like a good idea, so I think that’s a project element worth adding. I’d like to get the materials together, the layout of the book completed, and all the publishing details worked out by the end of the summer. With all the quality self-publishing options out there, I should be able to have the book available for sale, and we’ll see where that goes!

Kickstarter Funding Success!

Thanks to all 85 backers of the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative, we reached 129% of our $1500 goal, putting us at a final total of $1937. We are quite appreciative of everyone’s most sincere support in the form of hard-earned cash.

Now comes the job of building the game! The first phase of development will be focused on the Williamsburg physical environment, building the map that the game navigation will be based on. That will involve quite a bit of research (already underway), and in a few weeks time, we will be traveling to Williamsburg to obtain photographs, make geographic measurements, and gather materials from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. we will keep you posted every step of the way.

In the meantime, we will take a little time to bask in the warmth of this initial success in the project’s lifecycle. We are certainly off to a very good start.