|When you're trying to map the entirety of a coastline, such peninsulas are very unwelcome.|
I have declared several times that I realize mapping every square of a 400 x 640 map is insane, and that there's no way I can possibly complete the entire thing, and yet every time this week that I've opened Fate, I've been compelled to continue my map rather than making more substantial progress in the game. I keep telling myself that I'm killing two birds with one stone: filling in the geography and getting hints from wandering NPCs. But the truth is that wandering NPCs clearly don't have all the hints I need, and I really need to be hitting up the cities instead.
The consequence is that another 15 hours of "gameplay" have gone by, and I'm nowhere that I wasn't at the end of the last post, except a lot more experience (from wandering monsters) and more complete maps. In terms of plot, I'm probably worse than at the end of the last post, because I had to reload an earlier save (from the corruption messages) and I don't think I got all the same hints again.
|The game map is so big I can't view it in a single screen, even at Excel's lowest zoom level. Here's the west side...|
|And here's the east side.|
Because I have nothing else to talk about, let's talk about the map and mapping. The Fate world seems to be about half land, half water. Most of the land is to the west and northwest. A long, irregular coastline runs from the southwest to the northeast. There is a small landmass in the northeast, home to the "Forbidden Zone" and what I assume are the game's final encounters. It is connected to the main continent by a very thin strip of land.
Most of the east/southeast is given to a sea, but islands of all sizes dot the waters.
Mapping land is a little different than mapping sea. For sea, I can use the in-game overhead maps to fill in large areas of water. For land, you have to physically walk on each accessible square. Otherwise, you could miss a treasure, signpost, or special encounter. Fortunately, the game has a habit of putting the latter two in obvious places, but I've learned that treasures can be anywhere. More than once, I've mapped a large area, left, then noticed I'd missed one or two squares. Resisting the temptation to just assign my standard color to those two squares, I've taken pains to return--and found a valuable treasure in one of the squares that I had missed.
|It turned out to be worse than the headgear I already had, but still....|
There are some land areas that turn out to be completely encircled by impassable mountains, water, or trees, making it possible to fill in those areas as a large chunk. Oddly, the in-game maps (summoned by spells or jewels) often shows different terrain in the middle of these areas that no player could ever visit. I'm not so far gone that I've been worrying about accuracy in those areas.
In fact, my map is rather simplistic. I only use six colors: water, mountains, trees, towns, roads, and "otherwise steppable squares." That last category includes a variety of grassland, swamps, packed dirt, and lightly-forested areas, but I haven't been making such distinctions. Early in the game, I didn't make any distinction between mountains and trees, either, which is why the upper-left has solid black in some areas that should be green.
I've come to regret my decision to use solid black for mountains. My wife suggested brown, but I can't distinguish that from the green I've been using for trees. I tried doing a find-and-replace using a dark grey, but for some reason Excel didn't "find" a lot of the black squares, so I just left it alone for now.
As I've covered many times previously and in my FAQ, I use Excel for my mapping. It's easy to draw borders along the edges of cells and use a variety of fill colors to represent terrain. There's no good border style for a door, but that's not an issue in the outdoors. I annotate special encounters with letters, and then I usually put a comment on the associated cell with more information. You can search comments in Excel, so that doesn't create any problems.
|A combination of border and shading options plus commenting makes Excel a decent game mapping package.|
I'm sure the comments will be choked with suggestions for different programs for mapping, but I've been doing this in Excel for 7 years now, and I won't be changing my platform. With Excel, I don't have to worry about the files not opening if some special software gets discontinued. I can store tables of monsters, equipment, hints, and so forth in the same workbook. Windows finds text inside the workbooks if I search years later. Except for the door issue, which isn't exactly crippling, I don't have any reason to switch.
Game developers have a few choices when it comes to the edges of their world maps. One, as we see in Might & Magic and Ultima IV and V, is to wrap the player to the other side, and as we've discussed there's no geometric shape for which this makes sense--at least, not on a square map--unless we assume the cells are of non-uniform size. The second solution, used unsatisfyingly in many open-world games like Skyrim and Fallout IV, is simply to tell the player he can't go any further. You might be able to see what looks like game terrain in the distance, but you can't visit beyond a fixed coordinate.
I can only think of one game, Fallthru, that uses a third option: just keep generating new coordinates indefinitely in all directions. As a text game, it had this luxury. Are there any graphical games that do this? I've heard Daggerfall uses procedurally-generated maps; can you walk indefinitely in any direction?
The fourth method, used by almost every dungeon crawler, Ultima VI, and Fate, is to create a "hard" border around the edges of the map, disallowing further travel because of an impassable wall, mountain, or void. In the case of Fate, the entire map is ringed with mountains. When one of those mountains shows up literally at one of the edge coordinates (0E, 0N, 650E, or 400N), I know there's nothing "behind" it, so I can fill in all of the excess border squares between such points, as in the left half of the shot below. As for the right half, it's not impossible that some further passage could bring me into the area on the other side of those black squares, so I can't fill them in just yet. (Yes, I know I can use the jewels in such occasions, but I've been trying to conserve them. Plus, the scale is so small in the outdoor areas that it's hard to see individual passages in the jewel maps.)
I've been doing this so long that you'd think I'd have a good system, but I don't. Sometimes, I walk one square and then immediately map it. Other times, I try to keep the memory of my last 10 or 12 movements in my head and then map them all at once. Neither seems to result in better accuracy. I use the "Locate" spell every 40-50 moves to make sure I haven't screwed something up, and about one-third of the time I use it, I find that I'm one square off. I probably spend more time diagnosing and undoing errors than anything else.
The developers could have made it a lot easier for mappers by creating smoother edges. If you just have a straight edge (or a long hallway in a dungeon), you just have to take a coordinate at the beginning and one at the end and fill in the walls in between. But in Fate, you rarely get lucky enough to find half a dozen continuous squares in a row. Instead, there are frequently nooks, crannies, dips, juts, small side-passages, and so forth, all of which greatly lengthen the mapping of edges and coasts. This is particularly true of the bottom edge, since it occurs in multiple sections inaccessible from each other except by boat. If having to keep boarding and disembarking from my ship wasn't enough to discourage me from mapping the southern border, I don't know what it's going to take.
|Part of the bottom border. Each square marked in red is an impassable barrier on land, so I have to get back in my ship and set sail to visit the next section.|
Two other notes:
- There are encounters at sea! They happen so infrequently that I had been sailing for many hours before I met any monsters, but they do appear. Krakens, giant squids, and the like. They're not very hard. I'm surprised the game didn't make sea combat more "realistic" by setting a minimum distance to the enemies, but it didn't.
|I don't know precisely how my characters are fighting these creatures from the ship, but combat is unchanged.|
- From commenters, I've learned that I need to dig or search to find treasures on some of the islands. Usually, items are found in copses of trees, but it's been a struggle not to search every step just to make sure.
One of Irene's cousins gave her a set of adult coloring books for Christmas. I've been fairly vocal in how idiotic and pointless I feel that this trend is. (I realize they play an important role in various therapies, and of course I'm not talking about that.) But as I retreated to my mapping at numerous occasions during the Christmas weekend--there's only so much attention you can pay to Miracle on 34th Street when watching it for the 35th time--I realized that what I was doing wasn't much different. Fate had long stopped being an RPG in any meaningful sense--easily-beaten wilderness encounters aside--and more of some kind of paint-by-numbers kit.
Thus, now that I have the entire perimeter and coastline finished (except for some of the Forbidden Zone), I've resolved to actually return to the game next time I play. It's clear that I need to stay within one city at a time to exhaust its Moonwand clues, then go and find the damned pieces. I'll still map when I need to enter new areas in furtherance of the plot, but it's time to get back on track and try to finish this game.
Time so far: 177 hours