The fabled tutorial thread on ViewingDale
I know I promised this tutorial about a year or two ago but now that we had the Jan 2010 challenge and three extra copies went as prizes out I feel compelled to start one now so that the winners can have a go at doing something with it.
ViewingDale is my app and it can be classed as a map making tool, a VTT and a campaign organizer. It is all three tho there are better map maker applications out there, more popular VTTs and other campaign organizers and yet I still feel that it sits apart from anything else so this tutorial is going to cover all three and why I believe that statement to be true.
The app is for windows 2000, and beyond. It is checked on Win2K, XP, XPx64 and I have seen it running well on Vista and Win7 as well as Ubuntu under VirtualBox. The app makes extensive use of the graphics card so it requires one suited to games. NVidia and ATI both being well suited as well as some higher end Intel chip cards & 3DLabs cards too. The app can run without using the graphics card tho its *very* slow. Theres a test program made which is a free download so that you can tell whether your card is suitable and set up correctly for the app.
Little bit of history. I started writing an app around 1991 on the Amiga and it was a vector based line map program. What I wanted was a way to create hierarchies. You make a tree shape and then put several trees together to make a copse, several of them to make a wood, several of them to make a forest. The idea worked but the Amiga being a bit gutless died trying. The problem with that was you have to make every single little shape. By about 2002 I tried again and used images as the tokens instead with OpenGL on the graphics card cos it can shift images about much faster than the CPU.
Lastly in this anecdotal intro, the app is designed to share maps and campaign notes. The whole point of the app is to bring all of your maps together into one giant set and to bring in lots of other DMs maps and put them into one giant repository like the web is for information. I wanted to go anywhere and have it mapped by someone. So given that all the maps drawn by different people would be at different scales the app does not work at any one fixed scale. You never ever need to know the feet per pixel rating of any map or image set for it. Also, there is no complexity limit for the world being mapped and in fact every map is one layer in an infinite set even if that map is the whole world. So one of the design aims of the program is that it can take bits of mapped areas and allow people to connect in and transfer missing bits on their machine from the one who has them. To do this it uses a very efficient method to store the maps. It turned out to be so efficient that you can make changes to the map and connected clients got real time updates and it became a VTT at the same time.
So assuming that you have a boxed disk in front of you ill start with installation and set up.
Patching it to latest version.
On the website there is a download under the support menu for "Versions and Patches". The download gets you a zip file and within is an installer. You can run the installer out of the zip if you want to. It will install a new directory under the main viewingdale install directory called VersionControl. It will probably have put an icon on the desktop which looks like a band aid sticky plaster.
Ensure the app is closed, run the plaster icon by clicking on it. Or go into the VersionControl dir and run the ViewingDalePatcher.exe.
It will analyze what you have and find suitable patches for it and move your app up versions until it gets to the latest. It stores the old set in a directory so you can revert back if need be. It may add extra applications for you too as and when they get developed.
Once finished you can run up the main app and hit the big Menu button and then "About ViewingDale" and it will tell you what version you are running.
Since version 1.03 there exists an x86 and an x64 version of the app. The x86 is the normal 32 bit standard version. The x64 looks and feels exactly the same but is complied for native 64 bit OS'es like XPx64, Vista64 and Windows7 64bit. My recommendation is if your not sure then use the normal 32 bit app but the 64 bit one on 64 bit machines is slightly better only in the increase in memory capability when saving huge bitmaps. Otherwise its exactly the same.
Just a few more notes before we continue...
On that menu there is the option to load an icon. Thats the 'L' key and just loads an icon from a file selecton of icon files.
There is no save. ViewingDale saves everything all the time. There is an undo for the child edit by pressing 'U' but normally all actions are done and saved instantly.
The refresh is rarely used as this is only useful if you externally edit a file like an icon text file using a text editor and then you can refresh the screen.
The images and icons are stored as files in directories under the main installation dir. If you pick these file up and move them then they will be badly referenced from child icons or icons will call up bad pathed images. So in order to move these files and fix up all the references to them there are two options to move an icon or move an image. You should use these if you really need to or else you could find yourself looking at text file references to fix !
You can change the current icons image with an option here which can be quite useful.
Set the icons size means to do what the Edit Size mode does only with numeric input. So you can specify that this battle map is exactly 100 yds by 200 yds for example.
Adding a child icon we mentioned earlier.
There are the special icons you can add. The main one is text. By pressing T you get an edit box where you can type in some text, select its color and it will appear as a child icon on the current icon. When editing it you will note that it does not have a green handle because text always rotates so that its horizontal. You must remember that all icons in ViewingDale may be used multiply and in different orientations and scales. The extents box for text is thus circular to depict where text might possible lie at any rotation.
Next on the Child Action types is a jump. You can put down the blue and yellow marker with the arrow on it and select another map to jump to. This is useful for going up stairs entering buildings or just having a list of maps to index.
You can add a link to a document too. That can be a text file, a doc, rich text or whatever. You can set the document reader so if all your docs are PDF say then thats ok too.
Theres picture links too of course. By default the app is tied to the ViewingDale Picture Viewer which is a super fast simple image display. Again tho, you have the option of opening with any image viewer that can take a command line parameter for the image to look at.
You can add a sound link as well which can add some atmosphere to your gameplay.
Next is a web link where you can link to any web page like this one !
Finally there is a general file link. Some caution here is that it will launch whatever file is behind the link. That might not be a good idea if you get the map from someone you dont trust. But there is the possibility that you can run your own program or something unusual.
You can check out some of the links in the demo download. In that mini map is a link to text, a picture, and a jump to another map.