Map editor launch date

My goal is to have a publicly accessible beta version of the map editor up by June 20th. By that time, I’ll have finished the sharing functionally which (i’m hoping) will greatly expedite things in the art department. By “sharing” I don’t mean sticking a Facebook Like and Twitter button in every nook and cranny of the game (what ‘sharing’, unfortunately, has come to mean these days), but sharing of custom artwork and maps. Here’s how it will work. 

You register an account at and load up the map editor. Every time you upload a custom art asset, you will be presented with an option to make the asset public. This will put your artwork in a public repository which other players have access to. 

When you have finished creating your map, you can choose to export it which is a way of saving it permanently (outside the browser session). In the export window, you’ll be presented with an option to share your map publicly. If you select that option, the map will go to a public repository on export. I’m putting the option in the export feature to save bandwidth. I need to send all map data and process it on the server-side anyway so it only makes sense that data should make the trip to the server and back only once. 

Here’s what I have planned for the public repository:

  • Sort by asset type: artwork or full map. 
    • Artwork can be sorted by various types (e.g. textures, buildings, trees, bushes, etc) and an author-created tag. Each asset will have an auto-generated thumbnail of the asset, an author (linking to the author’s account), and an option to add the asset to your account. Once the asset is added to your account, you can use it inside the map editor. It will show up in the respective category, marked in some way to indicate it’s a custom asset and will likely have a tiny link to meta info. Clicking the meta info link will bring up various meta data: creation date, author, size, etc.  
    • Maps can be sorted by most recent and most popular (and probably various other sort filters, like size). Each map list item will have an auto-generated thumbnail of the map, an author (linking to the creator’s account), meta info, a download link and a link to open up the map in a separate browser tab. 

I realize that all of this sounds like a lot to accomplish in one month but Drupal, my CMS of choice, will do a lot of the SS heavy-lifting, including: session handling, user login + authentication, and, in general, retreiving, sorting and displaying any content stored in the database. 

Forseeable problems

1. Custom game assets won’t work with pathfinding. I’ve thought about that and have been working on developing a system for users to manually mark walkable/unwalkable areas of their custom game assets. It’s really not rocket science. In 9 time out of 10 scenarios, the walkable area of the image is simply the area with transparency. Then you consider proportion of the object’s width/height and its 3D projection on the plane. It’s something that can be done by eye. An interface with a grid overtop the game asset would work. Users could mark which nodes on the graph are walkable/unwalkable. As it is now, when you upload a custom asset, the system “guesses” as to what areas of the image are walkable and non-walkable. This guess will be the default if the user forgets to mark the image.  

2. Bandwidth. I’m currently trying to figure out a way to cut down on map file sizes. Because my editor performs complex and resource-intensive operations on bitmap objects, there really isn’t an easy way to procedurally regenerate the map by recording user inputs and feeding them back into the engine at high speeds, which is the only way I could possibly get small file sizes of such a data-rich environment. After debating this subject on the html5 game dev forum,I’ve decided to go the server-side route. The basic idea is that I’m cutting out areas of the map which are editing with the brush tool, converting them to string format (base64s), compressing them in some way, sending them (along with other map info) to the server for processing and, finally, receiving a zip file from the server as a response… yeah it’s just as complicated and difficult as it sounds. And it means the map editor isn’t 100% client-side i.e. you need to be online to save maps. I suppose I’ll need to get around this by adding the functionality to save your map to local storage. The data limit for LS is 5MB, so you would only be able to store 2 or 3 maps at a time, unless you manually changed your browser’s limit. I’ll need to explore that later.