Patch Map Design Discussion

Ok I did some more work on the prototype today. I implemented a new generation algorithm which has two nice properties, none of the connection lines cross (though they come close) and all the patches are certainly connected to the network, which I think are kind of important.

I think the improvements that might be good for this release would be things like:

  • Nicer line drawing, maybe more like a subway map
  • General visual improvements, maybe rounded corner boxes, nice colours, icons etc
  • implementing rules about which patches can be connected to which

things which it’s probably best to leave for a later release

  • different strength connections
  • connections changing over time, forming, being broken etc

Is everyone ok with this being the design we go forward with? I guess this is probably a good time to check in case anyone wants a major redesign. Personally I am reasonably ok with it, I think it’s not quite visually strong enough yet but we can work on that, also I think mechanically it will be fine. Have a think about it and lets see if we’re all happy enough with it.

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@tjwhale Nice work!

Funny that you mentioned that, because I just formulated a proposal for these rules:

Things like saline seas, underwater caves etc. can wait, but there is one problem I think we should solve in this release: Making the transition from deep waters to shallow waters more gradual.

Right now our virtual shores „look“ like this:

With the addition of a bathypelagic biome (or do we just summarize abysso- and bathypelagic as one biome?) this is the smoothest transition I can think of:

Now this is probably way more complicated than necessary. Somewhere in between these two images lies the optimal input/output ratio. The question is: Where exactly?


Yeah interesting.

I like the rules list of which biomes can connect, that’s cool.

I guess in terms of number of steps to move around that’s partly related to the species splitting discussion. If it takes 3 minutes to swim around and get enough compounds to reproduce and you can move to a new patch every 2 editor sessions then to move (vent -> abyss -> meso -> epi -> coastal) might take 24 minutes, which is a reasonable amount of time I guess. I’m not sure we’d want it to take that much longer.

Re ocean floor depths we could do it continuously, so an ocean floor biome can be at any depth from 1m to 4000m if we like, rather than chunking up with titles. It’s an option.

Maybe making those new ocean floor biomes is easier that it seems. We already have an ocean floor background so we’d just have to make 3 more versions of it, each increasingly lighter. Then in the patch map we could include one ocean floor patch for each ocean layer.

By the way, I’ve been reading about shallow sea vents and it turns out they are fairly comon in volcanically active areas, like Iceland or the Azores:

So maybe they could appear in other layers besides the hadal zone, that would make colonizing the surface easier for phototrophs.


Here’s another version which has subway style connections. All feedback welcome, I am not so happy with how it looks so that would be a nice thing to work on. Part of that is the random node colours.


Looks really great! Yeah the main issue is the random colors, but that will be solved once we use icons with a coherent palette. I’ve been wanting to make a patch map gui concept for a while, I’ll see if I have some free time by the end of this week to to finally get to it.

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Here’s some more progress on the map. I moved the connection lines to the sides of the boxes (but it’s not totally successful, I think its more complicated than I thought). I also managed to clean up the line crossings quite a lot so lines don’t go through boxes or other lines so much, though that could still be improved too. It’s suprisingly hard.


I definitely think that having a hierarchical approach will help with keeping things manageable for both developers and players. The main questions I have currently are what essential qualities each patch in a main group will have in common e.g. land or sea-based, general temperature range, etc; also whether we will want only one sub-patch in each group to serve as the link to an adjacent main patch, or if we want to allow more than one link to between two main patches.

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Yeah interesting questions.
I think one of the regions I like the best is the big ladder which is like 6 high and has all the layers of the ocean in it (or a smaller cropper version of it). I think that’s a nice, obvious, thing to group together.

Not sure about other options, maybe having a coastal + estuary + a couple of tide pools in a square would make sense?

I think re moving if only one patch links to the outside that makes everything very linear, it’s nice if there are lots of possible connections I think, but we can experiment with it.

Only having one link between regions would create huge problems. If only the epipelagic regions were connceted to each other species without a resistance against low pressure or high radiation couldn‘t spread from one deep patch to the other. If only the deep regions were connceted photosynthesizers would face similar problems with high pressure and absence of sunlight.


I’ve managed to make a little progress on the patch map prototype, not a huge amount though. It now just draws the lines a bit more nicely.

The main things remaining are to make it a bit more efficient in how it generates the maps, I think I know how to do that. And then to put all the actual patches in so that they only connect in sensible ways, I am not sure how hard that will be.


Awesome! But I’m a bit skeptical about using diagonal lines. How about using right angles instead? You could also make the bends rounded, that way conections will look similar to boxes.

Yeah maybe, there’s some other stuff I want to do first but that’s something worth considering. I can imagine straight lines with rounded corners looking good.

Some decent progress today. I started with the graph colouring problem of trying to assign biomes to each patch. I just did 1x1 patches in each region just to make it easier. This is probably the best one produced so far.

The property this has which none of the previous ones have is that each connection makes sense, as in moving to a neighbouring patch is reasonable.


Ok so I’ve made some decent progress today. The map now generates actual worlds, so they definitely have all possible patches in them and all the connections obey the connection rules. (It’s got writing all over it so looks terrible but then you don’t need a legend to know what is happening)

Something to discuss. I set it so that whenever there is an ocean stack it’s always Epipelagic down to Abyssopelagic. We can change that, add more etc. I think think though maybe it makes sense that if you are in the ocean you can always go up, so if there is mesopelagic there is always epipelagic above that, does that make sense? (The epipelagic might get frozen into an ice shelf but is still there) We could have stacks of different heights, maybe have an ocean floor at the bottom of each stack, not sure really.

Basically what should the rules on stacks be? Can you always go up? Should they always have a different depth floor on the bottom? Should they always be the same size?

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Looking good!

I figure you should have an epipelagic patch above every ocean section, mostly for the purposes of simulating marine snow drifting down when we get to that. Different depth stacks would be interesting.

By the way, here are all the (slightly updated) icons I designed for the patches, I don’t think I’ve posted them here yet:
It seems you’re using the hadopelagic icon for the floor instead of the abyssopelagic floor, perhaps I’d change that

I’ll get to posting the individual icons eventually, I was a bit short on time as of writing this


So I tried a totally different approach, as the one I was doing got quite fiendish (it still might be worth pursuing though I just wanted to try this).

How this works is it has a tile library of 25 tiles with different connectors on (Up, Down, Left, Right) and then it picks tiles at random and connects them together.

Compared with the other approach it feels a bit gamey maybe, like it starts to look a bit like a boardgame. However I like how fast it is and also I like that we could design all the tiles by hand. For example I really like the tile at the very top right at the start of the video, it’s a coastal with 3 tide pools coming off it, I think that’s quite interesting. Another one is the underwater cave connector which is two caves on a single tile in a line. I think they could provide interesting opportunities for life to evolve. Also it would be possible to draw nice designs on each tile and have special rare ones for deep ocean trenches or giant river deltas or something.

I think in general it will be able to generate pretty much anything the other prototype can generate, so I don’t think there’s a loss of complexity in general. The other prototype is essentially this with tiles with only 1 patch on. Also having the map change over time is quite doable as we can just swap tiles out for other ones with the same connectors.

I’d be interested in feedback on it. Do you like this idea at all, do you think hand crafting a tile library would be interesting?

Here is the current tile library I just threw together

That’s a really clever solution. That way we’ll have more control over how patches clump together while having a semi procedural map.
By the way, i think conectors should be much shorter, there’s a lot of empty space on the map because of that. Also, interconected patches should be clumped in a box instead of puting each one in their own square, like you’ve done with the coastal with three tidepools.


Finally, I made this patches classification that, imo, we should take this into account when making new tiles


To me the non tile based solution feels much more fluid. This type of grid layout feels very mechanical, so it doesn’t fit thematically with the microbe stage.


Ok yeah interesting feedback. I tried doing it again with hexes instead of squares to see if that fit the stage better. I also tried to make some of the lines curvy to make it more organic (though it looks a bit scruffy).

What do you think of this? Does it fit better with the hex theme we have been using up to now?

The drawbacks of the first prototype are that it’s much more complicated, so will take longer to implement. It’s also harder to control to make sure you get good patch maps out of it, tiles does simplify things a lot however it’s worth considering whether it over simplifies things.