Your opinion about maps with map-wide assets

1

Recently I discussed what people thought of maps containing map-wide assets. The consensus during that conversation was neutral to negative - they take long to download, can cause the TMM queue to feel stuck (waiting on setting up auto match -> people are still downloading the map) and since this is a game from 2007 it doesn't particularly matter anyhow.

To make sure we're on the same page - we're talking about these maps:

  • Kaali
  • Mauve
  • Two Step Shuffle
  • Auralan - The Core
  • Autumn
  • Adaptive Moon (made by Svenni)
  • Adaptive Skadi (made by Svenni)
  • Adaptive Salt and Pepper (made by Svenni)

My intent is to make more maps, specifically for the 3v3 / 4v4 TMM that is upcoming. However, if the general consensus is that these maps with map-wide assets hurt more than they do good then perhaps I should consider alternatives instead of pushing that direction further.

Therefore I have three questions and I'd like to have some opinions on them:

  • In the case of ladder / TMM, would you mind seeing more of these type of maps?
  • In the case of casual games, would it influence your choice of one map over the other?
  • In general, does it provide more immersion for you when you play on these type of maps?

In both cases be honest and provide rationale if able. I don't mind if your opinion is negative. I'd like to understand whether I'm making these for myself or whether people actually appreciate them.

Note: this is particularly about the fact that maps can use map-wide assets. Not about the map layout (such as extractors) or the design of the map (where ramps are, etc). I am very well aware for example that Mauve was received quite poorly and that is okay - but it is not what I am interested in for this topic.

I got a hint that not everyone knows what map wide assets are and what they can do. Hence, a few screenshots of some of the maps:

preview-3.png
Auralian - The core (194mb)

cliffs.png
Mauve (196mb)

two-step-shuffle.jpg
Two Step Shuffle (192mb)

And an in-depth example of Kaali:

01-without.png
No assets applied

02-ambient-occlusion.png
With lighting applied

03-normals.png
With normals applied

04-albedo.png
With albedo applied

02-with.png
All of the above combined

(note: not all these screenshots are the last version of that map in the vault)

2

I am just going to comment on this from a technical perspective. I think the maps look very nice but can come at a very big technical cost. The main ways this cost manifests itself is in the size of the decal images used.

The large size of these maps and their inclusion in the matchmakers is the main reason I decided not to implement the client feature that would require people to download all the maps before joining a queue. The reason for this is that if someone has a slow internet connection or the download of this map freezes which I have gotten reports of then that would effectively stop these players from being able to use the matchmaker. This was not a tradeoff I was willing to make.

The other technical aspect which is slightly more minor is the instance when users have anti virus that blocks the download of images to the documents folder. Or the user closes their client during the download because they think it is frozen. This often results in the infamous red and black stripes on the map as the decal is not present in the map folder.

Unfortunately in these cases we cannot do anything to fix it server or client side as it is a product of a users antivirus or network connection and patience.

The maps do look nice and push the aesthetic boundary for players but unfortunately they are not accessible to everyone due to these network constraints or graphical processing constraints on their system.

That being said I do applaud the work that has been done on producing these beautiful maps. My main question is if some of this can be optimized to reduce the required memory footprint.

1

Is there a way you could be given a prompt/warning if you click to join a matchmaker queue that allows you to first download all additional files/flags that you haven’t downloaded everything thats in the map pool?

0

Yes it is possible but my sense was that it would just be an annoyance for players when it always fails and so they get the pop up all the time. We have increased the timeout that waits for people to start the game to give more time for people to download the map before the game starts as that already happens automatically.

1

What about a checkbox ‘do not show this warning until the next time the map pool changes’ if thats a concern?

One of the things i found very frustrating when starting out on the matchmaker was it saying a match was found yet it would stay stuck on the loading/waiting screen for ages until i gave up and rejoined the queue. i suspect this was due in some cases to people not having the maps.
It also wouldve helped me in the first 1-2 games i tried to join as i dont think i was aware i should download them in advance and suspect there are other new players who may not be aware. I found failing to get a match very frustrating and the issue happened far more as a newer player (made worse by the lack of feedback indicating what went wrong). Map pool changes will also likely cause issues since people may not realise there are new maps they need to download.

Another benefit of this is that it’d then significantly reduce the downside of larger map sizes (whether by enough to warrant such maps I’ll leave for someone else as I don’t have strong views either way)

0

@sheikah said in Your opinion about maps with map-wide assets:

The large size of these maps and their inclusion in the matchmakers is the main reason I decided not to implement the client feature that would require people to download all the maps before joining a queue. The reason for this is that if someone has a slow internet connection or the download of this map freezes which I have gotten reports of then that would effectively stop these players from being able to use the matchmaker. This was not a tradeoff I was willing to make.

This is essentially the issue for the ladder / TMM aspect. It is a lot to download and that just takes time. Meanwhile people get stuck in the 'Preparing auto match' indicating 'Waiting for people to finish downloading'. This is what @maudlin27 is talking about too. And that is why I feel they can do more harm than good, at least for ladder / TMM.

1

My only real problem with these maps in the map pool is that there is no feedback to whether someone is downloading or if it crashed when a game has been found, and the waiting time can be quite long (seems to be over a minute sometimes in my experience). That could be fixed if people were forced to download all the maps before being able to queue. If people have problems downloading the maps the best we can do is provide a different way than the client to download them. But others shouldn't get dragged down with them just because they have bad internet.
In custom games you have to download maps before joining, or at least there's a message that someone doesn't have the map, so they get kicked.
Ladder shouldn't be excluded from having the best maps we have to offer. I think it would be a shame not to use these maps.

Apart from that it would be good to have an easy way to see how much space your maps and mods are taking up (maybe in the "manage installed maps" window as a small info?), because some of these maps are really pretty big (around 150MB) and I can imagine it piling up over time.

0

I think it's neat to have this style of maps available, but the map's data size is too large for certain aspects of practical use.

For perspective, I recently queued in the matchmaker and missed my match because the client had to download a map that was over 350 MB... I have relatively good internet. The issue was that the map's data size was about 7,000% as high as a normal map's data size might be (ie: ~5 MB).

Personally, I think that it can be neat to play on a map with things like a highly detailed map-wide decal, but if I have to wait 5 minutes to download the map as a result, I am less likely to join or host with that map as a result of it taking longer to download and it being harder to get others to join because they have to wait a while for it to download (and some may think that their client is not working properly, etc).

In regards to ladder/TMM, I think that it would arguably be better to not include maps requiring extra large amounts of data in ladder/TMM, as it results in too many instances of people 'finding a match' but not actually getting to play it. If a feature like a 'download all ladder maps' button is added to the FAF client, it would make including this sort of map substantially less problematic imo. However, some people have such slow connections that even that might be too problematic for them.

However, the aesthetics and immersion of large data size maps can be quite nice. So, having them in the vault to sometimes play on is a nice option to have.

If you can figure out how to do reduce the download times (whether via smaller data size, compression, etc), there might be some technical improvements that could help increase the viability of maps like these.

1

Would this be a solution: As soon as you queue for ladder, it automatically starts downloading all missing ladder maps. As soon as you queue for TMM, , it automatically starts downloading all missing TMM maps. Don't want all of the maps? Don't join the queues.

0

@arma473 @FemtoZetta

The large size of these maps and their inclusion in the matchmakers is the main reason I decided not to implement the client feature that would require people to download all the maps before joining a queue. The reason for this is that if someone has a slow internet connection or the download of this map freezes which I have gotten reports of then that would effectively stop these players from being able to use the matchmaker. This was not a tradeoff I was willing to make.

1

I wouldn't mind a button to download the maps so that both options are available. You could include a warning that on slow internet connections it will not be worth it or something. But I suspect some people would happily leave their client open for a while to grab the maps so that they don't have to wait when they actually want to play.

2

A button is planned eventually just need to figure out best place in the ui. And it isn't super high priority since once can just open up the map list.

0

350mb are a real problem for those of us with datacaps. I wonder how much that could be brought down with some lossy compression without losing too much detail.

0

Most of the size is in the decals which the game only accepts .dds of as far as I am aware so not sure what kinds of compression you could accept there.

1

Can the maps themselves be compressed and then expanded on the client end?

0

What I mean is that everything is zipped isn’t it? So perhaps you can optimize the dds file so that it will compress better when deflated. Something like taking all values that are very close to eachother but not quite the same and turning them all into exactly the same value so that the compression algorithm can do its thing.

1

@furyritchie said in Your opinion about maps with map-wide assets:

Can the maps themselves be compressed and then expanded on the client end?

They already are compressed as zip files

3

If those decals don't matter for gameplay, is it possible for one player to play without the decals while the other does?

In that case, make a normal and high res version of each map where the latter has no or small size decals.

Automatcher only ever downloads normal versions. With a button you can download all high res maps at once.

1

@valki said in Your opinion about maps with map-wide assets:

If those decals don't matter for gameplay, is it possible for one player to play without the decals while the other does?

In that case, make a normal and high res version of each map where the latter has no or small size decals.

Automatcher only ever downloads normal versions. With a button you can download all high res maps at once.

This was a potential solution I was thinking of too. I provide the maps in the vault with low-quality assets and you can manually replace them with high-quality assets. You could even go up to 16K per texture (that is 300mb / texture) and Supreme Commander would bite, looks brilliant.

1

@sheikah Are they compressed, or stored as a zip folder? I recall windows having an 'add to zip' which is essentially just the map in a file, with no compression.

When I use 7zip on Kaali I get these results:

  • unzipped: 258 mb
  • zipped: 158 mb
  • 7z: 130 mb

Regardless, it remains quite big 😞 . I would not know how to optimize the DDS for enflation / deflation. The format itself is quite compressed already. Storing them in another format (say .png) and turning them into a DDS file on the client isn't viable either - that requires memory and may just take longer than the download.