Building toward a strategic layer

No 4x would be complete without a galaxy map right? A full blown strategic map would be overkill for Increstellar, but it's important to have a better feedback on the player progress than just a sector count, for multiple reasons:

  • it's cool - and yes this is the first and most important
  • helps direct the action
  • allows to add more than one enemy, including colonies that revolt and your own empire when you secede
  • allows for enemy variation, maybe one can have a small ship preference or the other can have less ships but more advanced
  • allows for special sector to be scattered over the map

There are some special considerations and drawbacks that are specific to Increstellar, of course: for example as you conquer more territory, the threat level cannot just increase as it does now, as it wouldn't make sense for an enemy to become stronger as it loses territory. For that it's important that there's some wiggle room on the galaxy progression trigger as it's quite unfun to have to conquer every little spec of space to win facing smaller and smaller enemy fleet just to waste player time.

When you talk maps in game development the first thing that comes to mind it's 'Voronoi' - well maybe not to everyone but still. You put 200 random points down, do some math magic and voilà!

A total mess.

Those are 200 sectors, roughly placed from the center outward with decreasing density. The naive attempt produce a busy, unpleasant map that's just unusable. Why 200 sectors? Well, so that threat level can increase while you reach 100 and the travel trigger stays where it's now.

First thought I had was to reduce sector count, back to a total of 100, and to reduce the travel trigger. That makes the map readable, but still unpleasant:

Adding color helped a bit, because ultimately you'll have a handful of faction in each galaxy, but still the end result looks quite artificial, because the sector placement doesn't follow any logic and random things are just alien to our brain:

Enter Lloyd relaxation (all credit for the idea and the basic algorithm implementation to ) - it's a way to massage sectors so that the ones too close wiggle around a little, regularizing spaces and edges around the map:

Quite the difference! Now it looks like a proper sector subdivision - and it can even support more sectors than before thanks to the added clarity!

There still are some rough edges of course - edges and such need to be more marked, but the approach seems at least encouraging:

Now it's just a matter to make factions more than a random color in a memory cell somewhere.

By the way, can you guess the sectors count? 


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