I don't play Starfire any more, haven't in many years. But this was something I took a few steps toward back then, but lacked the knowledge or the resources to build. But 5 days ago, for reasons unknown to me, I decided to take another stab at it.
In the game, you play a race exploring their own solar system. During these explorations, you can discover warp points that lead to other star systems, and those systems probably have more warp points of their own, and so on. There are also a series of books based in the game universe, and in one of them, a mention is made of a 3D plot of known warp points which made choke points easy to spot, and that was what I wanted to make, a system that could do that.
I did this in Excel using a Scatter Chart, and a whole lotta math I found on the Internets, especially the formulas to turn it into a Red-Cyan 3D model.
The different symbols represent different races (without loading in special symbols I was limited to Excel's 4 decent ones). The app does not use the actual Starfire rules for exploration, but as this is mostly intended as just a sample, so randomly adding connections is fine.
Each system exerts a pull on other systems it is connected to, and pushes all systems away (with an inverse gravitational strength - ie: the closer two systems are, the farther they repel each other. This is to prevent them all from just bunching up on top of each other. Also, each system pulls and pushes according to it's "mass" - the more warp points it has, the more it affects it's neighbors, and the less it is affected by them. The goal of this is to put the connection-heavy systems toward the center, with the lighter ones toward the edges. Also, it prevents oscillation - I was often getting two heavy systems that were linked together and alternating between pulling each other extremely close, and then throwing each other way far out, and then back close again, and so on.
The movies are far too large to load on here, so I put them up on YouTube. The quality suffered, since I have absolutely no practical video experience. But it's after midnight, so you'll just have to suffer through the distortion until I have a chance to try it again. So there.
The other occasional problem with the video is when a point gets too close to the camera or goes behind it, it screws the whole thing up for a few frames, but it always straightens back up fairly quickly.
Also, I did not hard-code the chart boundaries, so it jerks around sometimes to best fit the map.
It does constantly rotate the map around, trying to keep the best view of it all, and also because the points in motion seem to be easier to perceive the spatial relationships of the points.
You will need Red-Cyan 3D glasses to properly watch these videos.
System creation and arrangement:
Final map overview:
There are a few quality glitches in the videos, but not as many as before.
(yeah, this is not a tutorial - I'm just showing off something neat I made. I am not sure I could explain it all in a tutorial format. Portions of it got added piecemeal, as I figured out what worked and what didn't, or found something on the internet, and several parts are just kludged together with tape and spit. And while I know enough to use the math involved, I am not sure I actually understand it all, if that makes any sense.)