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View Full Version : *** May Super Challenge - Minimalist for Virtual Tabletop - WITH PRIZES!!!



Robbie
05-02-2008, 09:00 AM
Ladies and Gentlemen, Cartographers of all ages, welcome to the first ever sponsored mapping challenge. The month of May brings us a specific challenge proposed and sponsored by RPGTonight (http://www.rpgtonight.com). We will be handling a specific theme aimed towards the Virtual Tabletop (VT) environment.

As the VT concept becomes more popular, there comes a time where minimalist approaches are a bit more necessary in order to conserve bandwidth in the case of slow connection players. With this in mind, the folks over at RPGTonight have proposed that we create a map with as much detail as you wish to cram in, yet keeping it under a certain file size, but over a certain dimension. Here's the details:

Theme: Minimalist maps for online Virtual Tabletops. The challenge is to come up with an attractive online "battlemap" for online virtual tabletop style games.

Rules:

The map must have a resolution of at least 1280 X 1024 pixels
The filesize must be no more than 75kb.
The map must be useful as a "battlemap" on which miniatures (thumbnail size tokens), can be moved around. A scale of around 5 - 10 pixels per foot is a good size.
The map must depict an area on land, which could include building interiors, town areas, dungeons, wilderness areas, etc. It doesn't have to be fantasy themed...modern, western, sci-fi, etc. are fine.


Judging will be done by our usual online voting process. RPGTonight would like to offer first, second, and third place prizes. Cartographers' Guild will offer the usual first place prize of recognition via award and Challenge Winner title.

Winners will be allowed to pick gaming related items from a long list of available prizes. First place prize winner chooses three items, the second place prize winner chooses two items, and the third place prize winner gets one. In the case of a tie at any level when polls close, a separate vote will take place in a separate thread lasting for 24 hours.

Here's a link to the prize list (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1937)

Disclaimer/Release

RPGtonight will be allowed to use winning maps in its onsite collection for use by members in their games.
Cartographers' Guild is not responsible for any disputes or claims by contestants arising out of or in connection with either the selection of winning entries or with prizes.


Remember, ask any questions you want here in this thread...PLEASE follow the thread naming conventions, and be sure to read the usual challenge rules thread.

This is a first for the guild, and we're looking forward to a LOT of entries and participation.

delgondahntelius
05-02-2008, 09:11 AM
Very cool challenge! And I just downloaded Maptool and all that too... what a coincidence .... :)

so that's like... 128' x 102' to 256' x 204' .... right? does it have to have a grid?

Robbie
05-02-2008, 09:17 AM
I would say grid is optional. I've not used VT's yet...so keep in mind thats what its aimed at. Someone with a little more expertise can probably answer that better.

delgondahntelius
05-02-2008, 09:32 AM
Then we're both in the same boat ... I've never used one either tho hoping to in the near future :D

Gamerprinter
05-02-2008, 09:44 AM
Most VTTs have their own placeable grids - size determined by user of application, including the option to place a square or hex grid. So mappers should not include a grid in their map submissions. Nor should they add scale, site numbers, labeling or any other notations.

RPMiller
05-02-2008, 11:39 AM
GP is spot on. Now I haven't used RPG Tonight's VT so I can't vouch for its capabilities, but I would recommend that you at least check it out since they are sponsoring this.

I can speak for MapTool, Battlegrounds and OpenRPG though. They all have the ability to add grids, text, and objects that PCs are likely to move or destroy so keep that in mind as you create the map.

GP, has posted some of his maps at the MapTools forums under User Creations so if you want to see what you are likely up against you might want to check those out. ;)

Sigurd
05-02-2008, 11:50 AM
Graphic grids actually interfere with the use of the map.

A grid that is drawn by the application is an active thing. Place a token in the generated grid and the computer can determine its facing, opponents and help you with distance moved. If there is a second grid as part of the map it clutters the view and confuses people.

For FG at least, dont put a grid on it, or release two versions.


Sigurd

Redrobes
05-02-2008, 12:05 PM
You could get a lot in 75Kb if it were not in a raster image format. You could also do a lot better if you split a raster image into sections and you could do better with a file format that is not very common like jpeg2000. So I disagree that VT's need a minimalist map for low bandwidth its only true if you use a system like that proposed. What if you submitted 75K of source material which when unpacked generated a raster image - like html + images... Anyhoo, I digress.

Its a generous offer by them and looking on past months they ought to get some great maps to use.

My tip is for entrants to swat up on the image file formats and which ones compress well under different circumstances. For example if you have a tiled floor then Jpeg with tiles on 8 pixel boundaries would compress real well. Old school style areas filled in are better than line art like cross hatching etc.


Below is this months Thumbnail page. All entrants get a position on the page but the updates to the images are done using a script and you need to put...

### Latest WIP ###

on every post with a newer image. The last one (should and I know there some errors there...) should be the thumb.





### New Challenge Entry:Ravells,1950
### New Challenge Entry:Gamerprinter,1954
### New Challenge Entry:Sigurd,1961
### New Challenge Entry:rlucci,1962
### New Challenge Entry:delgondahntelius,1963
### New Challenge Entry:Torq,1967
### New Challenge Entry:Malakor,1969
### New Challenge Entry:keithcurtis,1973
### New Challenge Entry:Midgardsormr,1974
### New Challenge Entry:meleeguy,1979
### New Challenge Entry:terrainmonkey,1982
### New Challenge Entry:NeonKnight,1985
### New Challenge Entry:GM's Apprentice,1995
### New Challenge Entry:Redrobes,1998
### New Challenge Entry:mathuwm,2004
### New Challenge Entry:Valarian,2005
### New Challenge Entry:SpamValiant,2006
### New Challenge Entry:rpgmapmaker,2011
### New Challenge Entry:Cisticola,2015
### New Challenge Entry:alucard339,2020
### New Challenge Entry:torstan,2034
### New Challenge Entry:RobA,2038
### New Challenge Entry:dorpond,2054
### New Challenge Entry:aegean,2094
### New Challenge Entry:Vry,2103



May 08 Thumbnails (www.viewing.ltd.uk/Temp/CG/ChallengeTN/Challengers_May08.htm)

delgondahntelius
05-02-2008, 12:35 PM
Great advice from everyone ... this info all comes in handy .. and yes.. I immediately went over and signed up to check it out :D... thought it would be prudent to do so

Gamerprinter
05-02-2008, 12:58 PM
Also avoid creating trees and other overhead objects. You see in a VTT app, the map we're creating is for the ground level. Once loaded the user then places PC/NPC/Monster tokens, specific objects. A layer above this is used to place trees and roofs, etc. Thus the tokens can be found between the overhead tree layer and the ground layer.

If you place a tree in your map, then VTT users will find their PC tokens walking on top of the tree, since it is on the ground plane.

Don't place trees, etc. 8)

RPMiller
05-02-2008, 01:31 PM
Well, that isn't entirely true but most of it is. In MapTool objects are placed on pseudo layers. The Token Layer is on top of all other layers. So even if you place stamps on the object layer the token is still going to be on top of it. There is a plan to make the layers act more like layers but it is a ways off. I'm not sure how the other VTs handle layering.

RobA
05-02-2008, 01:34 PM
You could get a lot in 75Kb if it were not in a raster image format. You could also do a lot better if you split a raster image into sections and you could do better with a file format that is not very common like jpeg2000. So I disagree that VT's need a minimalist map for low bandwidth its only true if you use a system like that proposed. What if you submitted 75K of source material which when unpacked generated a raster image - like html + images... Anyhoo, I digress.

I'm guessing they want an image that can be directly be used by the program. Otherwise you could, for example, submit a gzipped svg file that would provide a ton of detail but still be tiny. But the program couldn't use it.

I would (as suggested by RP) head over to their site and sign up and give it a whirl, to see what types of graphic files it supports.

-Rob A>

ravells
05-02-2008, 02:51 PM
From what I can tell, map images must be either in jpg or png format. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm finding it difficult to load any jpgs on it so far! Or rather, I can load them but can't find a way of viewing them 'in game'.

RPMiller
05-02-2008, 02:54 PM
Are you referring to RPG Tonight?

ravells
05-02-2008, 02:59 PM
Yes, I'm a struggling with the interface!

RPMiller
05-02-2008, 03:08 PM
I've been trying to register for the last hour or so. Once I get in I'll actually take a look around.

The Hound
05-02-2008, 06:25 PM
I'm with RPGtonight. We currently only allow .jpg and .png, but that was temporary due to the way we used to handle certain overlay features; we are going back to allowing .gif and .bmp too (not that you'd want to use .bmp for a low filesize map). But anyway, as I understand it, you have to post maps here to be voted on by members, so your map has to be saved in a format that can be viewed in this forum using a normal browser.

PS: If anyone is having trouble using our site features, please post questions in our forum. We're here to help.

PPS: I will send in a list of prizes over the weekend. These are mostly game handbooks, sourcebooks, and mapmaking software.

RPMiller
05-02-2008, 06:40 PM
I can't get into your forums as I have not yet received the confirmation email to finish registering.

The Hound
05-02-2008, 06:41 PM
From what I can tell, map images must be either in jpg or png format. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm finding it difficult to load any jpgs on it so far! Or rather, I can load them but can't find a way of viewing them 'in game'.

Click the load button; scroll down to the section titled "My uploaded maps and images." Use the browse button to select your .jpg file in your machine, you should get a confimation statement (or an error message if your file is too large or does not end in .jpg, .JPG, .jpeg, or .JPEG); then go back to the "My uploaded maps and images" and it should be on the list. Click the "preview" button next to the name, make sure that the image displays, then select "load" if you want to display it as a map in the map window.

ravells
05-02-2008, 07:17 PM
excellent, I'm glad you're here Hound. I'm sure there'll be lots of questions, it would be really great if you you could field the rpgtonight specific ones!

welcome to the guild!

The Hound
05-02-2008, 08:16 PM
I can't get into your forums as I have not yet received the confirmation email to finish registering.

I just did you a favor and activated your membership by hand. No need to respond to an email.

ravells
05-04-2008, 04:54 PM
Hound...quick question: How do we deal with maps which have multiple levels, like the levels of a building? Should we map each level separately?

Torq
05-04-2008, 05:04 PM
Technically that might be two entries. I dont see the competition parameters as allowing for a single entry containing multiple maps. Then again nobody said you could only enter one map.

Torq

rlucci
05-04-2008, 05:20 PM
The map must have a resolution of at least 1280 X 1024 pixels
The filesize must be no more than 75kb.
The map must be useful as a "battlemap" on which miniatures (thumbnail size tokens), can be moved around. A scale of around 5 - 10 pixels per foot is a good size.
The map must depict an area on land, which could include building interiors, town areas, dungeons, wilderness areas, etc. It doesn't have to be fantasy themed...modern, western, sci-fi, etc. are fine.

I've been having a hard time coming up with something for this month's challenge. It seems too wide open to me. The real challenge will be largely technical. So I decided to give myself an additional rule:

Create more than one versions of the same map - each version in a different genre (fantasy, modern, western, sci-fi, etc.).
I don't know what I'm going to do yet, and I know I'm setting myself up for working outside my comfort zone, but that's the whole point, right? And, maybe RPGTonight will get a couple extra maps, which is also the point.

-RLucci

The Hound
05-04-2008, 06:28 PM
Hound...quick question: How do we deal with maps which have multiple levels, like the levels of a building? Should we map each level separately?

Our program does not handle multiple layers (except for the ones that we add for fog of war overlays). Some others may. The way that I have handled that in the past is to make each floor a separate section within a larger image. That way different PCs can be on different floors at the same time.

I don't know what the rules are here for submitting more than one map (don't recall seeing anything about that), or whether two floors in the same image or two floors on two layers would count as two maps. The admins here will have to call that one.

Robbie
05-04-2008, 06:33 PM
We've allowed multiple file entries in the past but they counted as only one entry...So when it comes time to vote, the multiple entries will be considered as one entry for voting purposes.

And The Hound has sent me the prize list, which I'm pleased to go make into a sticky post now!

aeronox
05-06-2008, 07:57 PM
The map must have a resolution of at least 1280 X 1024 pixels
The filesize must be no more than 75kb.



I'm a web designer... and using JPG or PNG to save an image of that size, and stay beneath 75kb, is going to leave you with a VERY bad BAD quality image.

RobA
05-07-2008, 10:36 AM
I'm a web designer... and using JPG or PNG to save an image of that size, and stay beneath 75kb, is going to leave you with a VERY bad BAD quality image.

Check out the entries so far. Many of them look (IMOO) pretty good and still fall under 75kB

-Rob A>

Robbie
05-07-2008, 11:19 AM
The trick is going to be to either highly compress the image or use colors/patterns that compress well. I really don't think its going to be that difficult to keep your map within parameters.

ravells
05-07-2008, 11:36 AM
Arcana - is there a way of finding out which colours / patterns compress well?

Robbie
05-07-2008, 12:00 PM
specific colors don't matter...its number of color choices and low-detail patterns that compress well.if you have a map with a lot of color in it, its goign to wash out when you compress it...whereas if you map with less colors, it wont' have as much detail to lose.

Midgardsormr
05-07-2008, 01:35 PM
Arcana - is there a way of finding out which colours / patterns compress well?

PNG compresses grid-like patterns quite well. Its algorithm looks at repetition both horizontally and vertically. Angled and curved lines do not compress well, nor do gradients and blurs. GIF behaves much the same way, except it only looks at horizontal patterns, so it's strictly inferior to PNG for compression purposes.

If you duplicate an object, you can maximum savings by only moving the duplicate in an orthogonal direction (on a line perpendicular to the original) and not rotating it.

Here's how the PNG compression works: The algorithm catalogues the entire image, finding patterns that are repeated. Those patterns are entered on a hash table, which associates each pattern with a much shorter "key." The key is then inserted into the image file in place of the original pattern. The hash table is then appended to the compressed file.

delgondahntelius
05-08-2008, 10:11 PM
Ok... how does one go about a secret door? for VTT ... obviously you can't put a big S for secret door...

SpamValiant
05-09-2008, 04:30 PM
Nope, they put a big Q on it instead. That way nobody knows it's a secret door...:D

torstan
05-10-2008, 08:43 AM
GM notes like secret doors are usually done by adding separate images to a map that only the GM can see. So maptool (for example) will have a base map that the DM and the players can see, and then a load of moveable images (tokens) on it that can be set visible or invisible to players. Secret doors are usually indicated with these. I assume the other VTTs have a similar system as you really don't want players seeing a big S on the map.

dorpond
05-12-2008, 09:39 AM
Hello all!

I was looking this over and was thinking about doing the contest but one thing bothers me about the restrictions of the contest. Now I consider myself an expert when it comes to VT gaming, afterall, I am part of the RPTools team and I by nature do all I can to keep assets down as it is.

That 75k file size limit is just silly. I have to set Photoshop to a JPG 3 quality (low quality) compression setting to be able to get the minimal required map size under 75k. Load that up in a VT and tell me how ugly the map looks when zoomed in on the action. Checkered compression boxes everywhere *puke*

Why 75k? I could use a quality compression setting of 8 (high quality) and the map above is now 167k in size. Looks great now when played on - no checkered hell hole.

I think 75k is just too harsh - lighten up a bit and you might get far more map making individuals interested who cry when their awesome maps gets butchered by compression. *raises hand* :P

ravells
05-12-2008, 10:07 AM
Thems are the roolz, dorpond...we don't make em, we just make our maps to 'em! I'm finding the size limitation a real challenge too. I've already binned two maps which just looked too horrible under compression. It seems that the trick (see the assistance on keeping file sizes down in the stickies) is to make a map that works well with compression, but I'm still struggling to find how to do this with the sort of maps that I want to create.

dorpond
05-12-2008, 10:20 AM
I appreciate a good contest, don't get me wrong, I just don't think a contest like this will help VT's out any, especially when people load up those 75k maps and puke on their desktops. :P

75k is just forcing an artist use way too much compression and at that point is it like telling Michaelangelo to sand blast his paintings when he is done with them. :P

Valarian
05-12-2008, 11:05 AM
Ah .. but anyone can make a decent map. Well ... I say anyone. Anyone with some degree of artistic ability. Well ... I say anyone ....

It seems that the challenge for this month comes, not from the map itself, but getting a decent quality of map in to the size.

dorpond
05-12-2008, 11:11 AM
It seems that the challenge for this month comes, not from the map itself, but getting a decent quality of map in to the size.

I'd be happy if "decent" was even remotely possible. :)

torstan
05-12-2008, 11:29 AM
Well I would say that the current entries definitely qualify for the 'decent' tag so it's not impossible. I'll admit that my initial thought that I'd take one of my old VTT maps and compress it turned out precisely the way you mentioned, hence no entry... yet.

The useful part of this competition for me is that I have learnt a lot about compression and file-size. Now I'll never use a 75kb map in a VTT, but I'm sure any map I make after this will be smaller with the things I have learnt. In addition, this competition has raised awareness of VTT needs and styles, which can only be a good thing in a community such as this.

Now if we can get rptools to sponsor a competition over here that showcases maptool's capabilities rather than rpgtonight's rather slender file-size limits then you'll have a ball-game on your hands :)

RobA
05-12-2008, 11:37 AM
I'd be happy if "decent" was even remotely possible. :)

Guess it depends on your perspective :)

I think a number of the entries (all under the size limit btw) are decent.

-Rob A>

jfrazierjr
05-12-2008, 11:43 AM
Well I would say that the current entries definitely qualify for the 'decent' tag so it's not impossible. I'll admit that my initial thought that I'd take one of my old VTT maps and compress it turned out precisely the way you mentioned, hence no entry... yet.

I have to agree 100% Torstan! While some entries are better than others, I for one would have no problem using most of these maps on a VTT, notably

Torq's: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1967

and GamePrinter's: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1954

Which while drastically different styles, both are beautiful maps which I would love to be able to draw no matter the resolution and size (my art skills are meager by comparison). Sorry to single out these two at the expense of all the other contestants, but I just love these two maps!

Joe

dorpond
05-12-2008, 01:42 PM
Thanks for those links guys - I stand corrected, there are many fantastic maps already that are below 75k. Impressive :)

I just didn't think it was possible - go figure.. :P

Redrobes
05-12-2008, 02:10 PM
I think Torstan has it spot on. I would never choose to limit my maps to any particular res but I know a little more about how to take any existing image and make it smaller if that is whats required. Its been a useful exercise already.

Theres been a lot of talk about how much better the maps could be in various other VTTs with a much higher file size limit. I think this is now taken as read and no doubt these maps would look better with a higher file size in RPGTonight also. I don't know why they wanted a minimal style exactly but thats what was called for and its made for an interesting twist on the months challenge.

Last I counted we were up to 17 entries (http://www.viewing.ltd.uk/Temp/CG/ChallengeTN/Challengers_May08.htm) so far and thats the highest turnout of all time. So it cant be all that nuts.

Edit -- make that 18... and counting... theres a few promises and a few notable missing people who usually come in with a corker late in the run.

Robbie
05-12-2008, 11:37 PM
Keep in mind also that RPGTonight and most VTT's are very much capable of higher res/higher filesize images. The challenge subject has nothing to do with our gracious sponsors capabilities. The subject of the challenge is designed to "challenge" you. Sure, anyone can create a map with lots of detail and a huge filesize...but who here can successfully make a map that both looks good AND has a small file size.

Hussar
05-13-2008, 11:51 AM
As a long time user of VTT's, I can say that it has very little to do with RPGTonight's requirements, and a lot to do with the end user. I don't know how RPGTonight works, but, with OpenRPG, you have constant queries passing back and forth between all users to keep the maps synchronized. That's great if everyone's has lots of bandwidth. But, if you have one player on dial-up, another on a fritzy wireless setup and a third with shakey connections, it can be a real nightmare. The smaller the background map is, the easier it is to ping between each user.

I know that in my last group, I could never go above 400 k in any background image without major issues, and, generally, 150k was about the limit. Seeing the entries here, and with only 75 k, makes me a happy, happy camper.

Excellent work.

Sigurd
05-13-2008, 03:50 PM
I have to say I really like the limitation of the contest.

It isn't arbitrary or subjective its functional. Reducing bandwidth is a good goal for online games so I think its a sensible limitation.

Not to pimp my own entry too much :)

http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1961


Personally, I think we all need to be more familiar with compression as an element of useful mapping. For VTTs to be approachable to people with different connection speeds size is an element in a considerate map.

Besides there are much greater demands on images for the printed page. Monitors are more forgiving of imperfections. Since VTT graphics may only be seen on the monitor shrinking it makes sense.


Sigurd

Redrobes
05-13-2008, 03:58 PM
...you have constant queries passing back and forth between all users to keep the maps synchronized.Y'see this is the crux of the problem I think we all don't understand. On the big map image are the bits that don't move and you put the tokens on top which do. Surely, once the map has been sent once, then all the updates are token moves and not full map image resync's. The amount of bandwidth which pertain to the actually changing bits of map ought to be near zero - a few text file updates. Take screen monkey for example which is a pure browser implementation, you would have to resend the HTML page every change to the map but the images for it you would have cached from the last time you looked at them. From the perspective of the MapTool crowd the only time you send a new image is if that image has never been sent before and if an app was extra clever it could low rate background send the images that are likely to come up before you need them so that they are ready when you turn the corner.

I think whats getting a few people a little (unnecessarily if you ask me) hot under the collar is the idea that the 75Kb (or thereabouts) is a general restriction about how things must be in order to use a VTT.

75Kb is an awful lot of data and many old PC games use to use dial up and play multiplayer like Neverwinter Nights for example and these were real time games which is a much harder proposition than what a VTT must provide. I would say quite confidently that it would be possible to run a VTT game on 1Kb bandwidth connection for the map updates.

The 75Kb limit has made for a great challenge this month tho and I have enjoyed the task of getting something technically right as well as artistically. Given that my artistic skills are way behind the guys here I welcome it as a means of leveling the field a bit for me.

Edit --

For VTTs to be approachable to people with different connection speeds size is an element in a considerate map.I disagree entirely.

Perhaps it is worth making the point clear then. I thought that it would just be assumed otherwise.

Valarian
05-13-2008, 04:23 PM
The 75Kb limit has made for a great challenge this month tho and I have enjoyed the task of getting something technically right as well as artistically. Given that my artistic skills are way behind the guys here I welcome it as a means of leveling the field a bit for me.
I'll go with this ... it's why I tend to use Campaign Cartographer. Mapping for the artistically inept, but technically competent. I have a sense of aesthetics but my artistic talent ranks in to the negative. Stick men may have worked for Lowry, but doesn't generally rank very highly for others.

trevor
05-14-2008, 12:33 AM
Y'see this is the crux of the problem I think we all don't understand. On the big map image are the bits that don't move and you put the tokens on top which do. Surely, once the map has been sent once, then all the updates are token moves and not full map image resync's. The amount of bandwidth which pertain to the actually changing bits of map ought to be near zero - a few text file updates. Take screen monkey for example which is a pure browser implementation, you would have to resend the HTML page every change to the map but the images for it you would have cached from the last time you looked at them. From the perspective of the MapTool crowd the only time you send a new image is if that image has never been sent before and if an app was extra clever it could low rate background send the images that are likely to come up before you need them so that they are ready when you turn the corner.

I think whats getting a few people a little (unnecessarily if you ask me) hot under the collar is the idea that the 75Kb (or thereabouts) is a general restriction about how things must be in order to use a VTT.

75Kb is an awful lot of data and many old PC games use to use dial up and play multiplayer like Neverwinter Nights for example and these were real time games which is a much harder proposition than what a VTT must provide. I would say quite confidently that it would be possible to run a VTT game on 1Kb bandwidth connection for the map updates.

The 75Kb limit has made for a great challenge this month tho and I have enjoyed the task of getting something technically right as well as artistically. Given that my artistic skills are way behind the guys here I welcome it as a means of leveling the field a bit for me.

Edit --
I disagree entirely.

Perhaps it is worth making the point clear then. I thought that it would just be assumed otherwise.

As the developer of MapTool, I concur with redrobes 100%, he's spot on.

As for the 75k limit, although artificial it brings a great deal of value. Already it's brought up awareness that images have a size. Many times users try to use images that are 10-15megs and wonder why it's really slow to transfer, or takes up so much memory. They didn't realize that the pretty picture they made in photoshop has a proportionate file size, and those files have to be transfered to all clients in one way or another. So I think it's great that people are becoming educated about file sizes, because they _do_ matter in a VT, even if 75k is a bit overkill.

Additionally having the 75k limit, as noted previously, separates the Masters from the Weekend Warriors, as it were :)

RPMiller
05-14-2008, 10:37 AM
Thanks for the info Trevor! Very valuable. Do you have a recommendation for a reasonable larger file size for most VTs?

trevor
05-14-2008, 11:15 AM
Thanks for the info Trevor! Very valuable. Do you have a recommendation for a reasonable larger file size for most VTs?

Now that the 75k hard limit has opened the door to the fact that images have size, we can look at when that size is important.

There are really two factors of image size: transfer time and memory usage.

These two factors have a different amount of importance depending on the context in which you expect to use the image, of which there are two extremes: face to face, and everybody over the internet (specifically, not LAN play).

Face to Face
In face to face, either projected or everybody is on the LAN, the transfer time is not important and can be ignored. So a 10meg image file is no problem.

As for memory usage, it relies entirely on the capability of the hosting machine, so you can run as much as you know you can handle.

Over the internet
This is where transfer times come into play. Each client needs to download all the images necessary to see the map. Typically this is a one time hit and the image is then cached locally. The actual transfer time and impact to the VT is dependent on how the files are hosted. At worst case the files are served only by the VT, which means that it has to upstream the image to each client, often concurrently. This can cause long wait times.

Memory is also an issue. You may have configured your system to accept larger memory consumption, but your connected players may not have, and so you may inadvertently overload their memory allocation and crash their program (or at the very least, not show the map/images)

Other considerations
Even if you expect to play f2f all the time, you never know when one of your players will be home with a sick kid, and want to play remotely, so your game type can change on a moments notice, so it's a good idea to take a middle ground on file size, even when you expect f2f only play.

This also goes for content providers who write campaigns, they can't anticipate which type will be used. For quality purposes they might lean on the side of larger, higher quality images, but should still keep in mind the above considerations when choosing an overall image size approach.

Another thing to consider is the target VT. Some VTs handle images differently, in that maps can be composed of smaller pieces, which result in larger maps and smaller image sizes. Some handle large images in memory very well while others don't. If you are making something targeted you can be more selective on the image size.

Also keep in mind that the background map is not the only image that has to be considered. Once the main map is transfered you have to transfer all of the token images, any stamps, and all other images related to your map (this often depends on the style of map and the VT). So if you create a 200x200 pixel per cell map, you will be tempted to create all of you tokens at 200x200 so they look good. And this might be OK, again depending on how many tokens you have, and your type of play (f2f vs remote).

So what file size ?
That's up to you and the style of play you expect. That said, I think that given the availability of broadband, I think a good middle of the road size is probably between 500k and 1meg. That can represent a very large, high quality map, and has fairly good transfer times. Often if you need something bigger than that, you can break your map into different encounter files which can be loaded independently. Some VTs will let you stitch those pieces together, while the ones that don't are still supported.

The important thing
The important thing is to be aware of your total image resource footprint, and tailor it to your situation, or to the situation of your target audience.

RPMiller
05-14-2008, 01:12 PM
More really great information! Repped!

Hussar
05-15-2008, 01:01 AM
As I said, I'm not too technical in my knowledge of the programs. I just know what works. Having had a number of players with dial-up, the best I can usually expect, using Photobucket to host my images, is about 300 k as a background image. If I get over 500k, I might as well go make a coffee 'cos it's going to take forever to get everyone's maps synched up.

Yes, the base map might only be loaded once, but, it's still sitting there in the cache, taking up memory. Add 10 minis, then start drawing on the map using the pen tools, maybe labelling the map as well, and it can really start to strain older machines.

To be fair, I totally agree with Trevor in that 75 k is REALLY small. But, then again, smaller is always better, so long as it looks good.

trevor
05-15-2008, 10:02 AM
Keeping in mind the machine capabilities of your players is definitely an important factor.

Out of curiosity Hussar, which VT do you use ?

One more thing that I forgot to mention, the file size is related to, but not directly tied to the in-memory size. That's another important thing to keep in mind. Depending on several factors you could have a 4000x4000 map and a 1024x1024 map have the same file size, so the tempting thing is to convince yourself that since your 4000x4000 map is as small as a 1024x1024 that it takes the same amount of memory to show. That is not correct.

Regardless of file size, your image has to live completely uncompressed, in memory. That means you multiply the width by the height by 32 (the most common pixel depth, 24bit + 8bit alpha) divide by 8 (to get number of bytes) divide by 1024 (to get the number of kbytes) divide by 1024 (yup, that's twice) and that's the number of megs your image will take in memory, again regardless of file size. This is one other thing to keep in mind when creating maps.

Calc in short:w * h * 32 / 8 / 1024 / 1024 = num of megs an image takes in memory

Hussar
05-17-2008, 10:39 AM
I've been using OpenRPG since 1.5. I've been toying with MapTool, but, mostly lethargy and laziness has prevented me from taking the plunge. :)

Cool, never realized that Trevor. That does explain some of the issues I think we've had in the past though.

Robbie
05-27-2008, 07:37 AM
Just a reminder...Get your final entries in!!! Contest closes mid-day today CST.

torstan
05-27-2008, 10:22 AM
It's an amazing selection of entries. Good luck everyone!

rpgmapmaker
05-27-2008, 10:26 AM
It's an amazing selection of entries. Good luck everyone!

I agree!!!
Man... I loved watching the maps in this month’s challenge develop.

Good luck to all

-Chris

The Hound
05-27-2008, 11:25 AM
I must say that I, too, am impressed at the artistic quality that people have managed to pack into 75kb.

dorpond
05-27-2008, 12:01 PM
Yeah, you are all a talented bunch! Thanks for proving to me that quality can be packed into 75k. As many of you know, I swore in the beginning that it just wasn't possible. That alone (seeing it was possible) made this contest worth while for me and very educational.

Good luck to you all!