View Poll Results: Which would you prefer?

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  • xml

    2 33.33%
  • information sets

    1 16.67%
  • information chunks

    2 33.33%
  • other

    1 16.67%

Thread: game map format preference

  1. #1
    Dump Truck Internet valis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    game map format preference

    The map would include information such as [height, dryness, snowy, growth, density, mountainous, has an object of type, ...].
    Without thinking about the actual context of the map, which of the following do you think you would prefer most for editing a tile based overhead view style map as a straight text file.

    - As xml with each piece of information as a tag or attribute of a tag.
    - As sets of information enclosed somehow ([] for instance) separated by spaces, commas, etc. with optional key=value
    - As individual chunks, for example (a 1x12 map):
    heights: 00134552310-1
    terrain: GGFMMMMGGFFV (M = mountain/rocky, G = grass, etc.)
    - As something not mentioned


  2. #2
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    The method I'd use depends on the level of access I would want to provide to the end-user. For a modifiable game, I'd probably use XML. But then again a mod for a game is normally created with an editor which readily writes binary files in a format the game understands.

    The option I've chosen for most projects is pure binary chunks. They require no parsing, are extremely fast to load, fit very well into C/C++ I/O and thus are easy to work with, and are easily compressed/decompressed.

    My thinking is that my game editor is what I want people to use in order to create new maps, levels, scripts, characters, etc, for my game. It is my feeling that if you provide the correct tools for the end-user the amount of hacking into your game decreases a lot. No one respects or looks up to some moron who can simply use a game editor as opposed to someone hacking into the data and then altering the game. So I figure if I provide the tools then hopefully they will use them as well as create content for the game that will keep it alive and well. It won't eliminate hackers and cheaters all together but I'm really not sure if thats possible in today's world.

    But for terrains and data sets like you are talking about I use pure binary in a format of my choosing and normally use RLE compression on it. You can get fancy and use Huffman, but there is really no need unless you are tight on storage space or requirements.

    Just my two cents. Overall I think XML is ugly.

    Terrain data storage
    In the small terrain engine I've coded I'm using raw binary heights for the heightfield data. I scale them as desired when I create the vertex buffer. Normally I go from 8 bit heights to a scale of 32-bit heights. This usually encompasses nearly every value I need and produces nice smooth terrains.

    Another way to store heights is only store the first value and then every value preceding it is an offset. For instance:

    128 5 1 2.....

    Would really be this:

    128 133 134 132
    The final value is a function of the last value plus the new offset.
    You can use unsigned values and any value over 128 or so you could subtract instead of add. So a value of 128 would actually be 0, and 129 would be -1. This would give you a total range of -127 to +128.

    So to subtract 1 you would see this:

    145 128

    To add 1

    145 1

    The advantage here is that you store a lot of information in a very small space and you can easily do some type of compression on it and yet still maintain a regular grid which is very easy to work with. Other data can also be encoded into the files by using a full 32 bits for other information. The first 8 bits would be the actual height value, followed by terrain types, etc, etc.

    Height | Terrain type | ..... | ..... |

    You can also use this method except the offsets are meant to be subtracted/added from the FIRST value in the file. Note that since terrains are normally smooth and flowing (with some exceptions), a lot of height data can be packed in a file using offset information instead of actual height values.

    There are about a trillion ways to go about storing heights. You can also store the heights in the color map by using alpha as the height value:

    Height | Red | Green | Blue

    Therefore: Height=(DiskValue & 0xFF000000) >> 24

    It's very easy to program your own utility that adds height values to a bitmap file. Note that you can still use D3DX or any BMP loader to load your file because your height values are still read in, just not used by the loader.

    //Setup some vars
    DWORD dwFinalValue=0;
    //Allocate new buffer to contain final data to write to disk
    DWORD *pBuffer=new DWORD[m_dwHeightFieldSize];
    //Bail if pBuffer invalid
    if (!pBuffer) return;
    //Fill buffer with new DWORD composed of color and height
    for (DWORD i=0;i<m_dwHeightFieldSize;i++)
    //Open file
    int handle=_open("SampleData.raw",_O_BINARY,_S_IWRITE);
    //Bail on failure
    (if handle==-1) return;
    //Write buffer to file
    //Close file
    //Free the buffer memory
    delete [] pBuffer;
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 07-01-2006 at 02:52 AM.

  3. #3
    Dump Truck Internet valis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Thanks very much for your suggestions and help. I'm planning on having a compiled form of maps which will be compressed and unreadable. I also don't mind letting people hack away because my project is going to be open source once I get it to the point people will believe I'm actually getting somewhere.
    I'll definitely use your suggestion of offsets for the height because the change will never be more drastic than 3 so I'll be able to fit a height per 2 bits. I'll be storing each set of data as it's own chunk because then with RLE (especially water) I'll cut the size down quite a bit.

    On a personal note, I'm glad someone else agrees that xml is chunky and cumbersome.

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