Platform Masters - Will you be the world's next platform master?
Last updated: Feb 2, 2011 (second version)
Level 2 update on Jan 17, 2012 (a few details added, some corrections, and some proofreading)
Level 5 update on Apr 26, 2014 (note regarding outdated overworld design added along with in-depth details on what updates I have in mind)
1 What is an overworld?
An overworld is a scaled down version of the game's world. They are primarily used to navigate between levels or key destinations like towns and villages in RPGs. Platform Masters uses them to navigate between worlds and organize the game's over 300 levels.
2 About the overworld
Platform Masters uses an overworld to navigate between the game's 20 worlds and other special locations making 29 total destinations in all. The overworld in Platform Masters in split in 4 sections. Because the overworld is going to be redone almost from scratch, some of the information may not be accurate any more.
2.1 The map
The top section is the overworld map itself. Flags that mark key destinations come in 3 colors - red, blue, and magenta. Red flags mark worlds, where the platform-hopping action takes place. Blue and magenta flags mark other important locations, but what they are and what they're for is currently classified.
Platform Masters has an interesting unique feature regarding the map - how the flag's location closely corresponds to what you see at the actual destination. Each pixel on the overworld represents slightly less than 801 feet (244.14 meters meters, exactly 8 scaling units). Thus, if a river is 4 pixels away from the scene, the river, when viewing the area selected, will be 32 scaling units away (3203.98 feet, 976.57 meters). If the ocean is 64 pixels away, it'll be 512 scaling units (51,264 feet (9.709 miles), 15.625 km) away and likely quite foggy due to the great distance. If the flag is placed in the water, you'll know it's a destination where water is below, much like Lake Keveran.
The bottom left portion of the overworld has the navigation. The 4 arrow lights indicate directionality. When they are blinking, it is possible to go in that direction and that location is also accessible. They remain fully lit when it's possible to go in the given direction, but the location is not yet accessible. They remain unlit when no destination exists in the given direction. The color of the arrow matches the color of the flag in that direction. By pressing up, the character will move to the destination toward the north, if something is there and is accessible.
2.3 Level selection and records
The bottom middle portion of the overworld has 3 areas. The top part is where the levels are selected. This is also how story events are replayed. The middle portion allows you to access the configuration settings (see section 3 below for details) and cycle through the contents information section shows (see section 2.4 below for details). The bottom portion shows the 3 best scores and 3 best times (best times are based on the total time to clear the level, not the time left on the clock).
2.4 Information center
The bottom right corner shows an assortment of information. By default, the character's stats are shown (HP, power, top speed, etc.). Completion-related information (for the selected level and selected world separately), best individual scores (time, item, etc., with the multiplier affecting it), and various other bits of information explaining the world as a whole.
3 Configuration settings and menus
This is one area that Platform Masters goes into great depth with that nearly every other game doesn't. Unlike most games that use only 5 settings for volume, Platform Masters uses 256 settings. That's just one setting. Instead a fixed speed the cursor moves when holding the up or down buttons, or 5 settings, there are several hundred choices, with an option to use a custom setting and fine-tune it. Don't know what a setting does or don't know what the units being adjusted convert to? The menu help section at the bottom explains everything in plain English to help.
Basically, if something can be adjusted in some way without causing problems, I provide an option to adjust it. There are not 5 or even 10 settings to adjust, but over 40. That's right, over 40! Nearly every option that has a choice list, such as the cursor movement delay example, there will also be a "custom" option that will really let you fine-tune the setting to a degree of precision that approaches or even exceeds human perception. Making the fine adjustments is done through the use of numerical input. Using this is as simple as using left or right to move between digits and up or down to adjust the value then confirm or cancel.
4 The needed overworld updates
With screenshot 15 in the archive (from 2009) being the most recent available for the overworld, a major redo is needed and there are many changes in store. The overall design that screenshot 15 has is still going to be the basic design and layout, but the whole system will be different and for 2 key reasons - the cartoony graphics don't fit in with how PM is now and the overworld is unrealistic, covering far too little for a latitude range. The basic overall design and layout won't change much though.
The current overworld has a resolution where each pixel is 16 SU. This isn't all that bad, but the fact it's only 1024 pixels on the north-south direction means I'm only getting 310.6892 miles (500.0058 kilometers) for the span. This converts to a coverage of only 4 1/2° of latitude. You don't go from the tropics to the arctic in that short of a latitude span. The fix for this is to either increase the span covered per pixel to something from 128 to 256 SU per pixel, way too course, or make the overworld much bigger, especially on the Y axis.
I also want a much closer zoom for the overworld than 16 SU/px. This means the overworld will be even bigger still. If memory is permitting and available, I plan on going with 6 SU per pixel for the resolution. If this is just a bit too much, then it's 8 SU per pixel. In the unlikely event that even this isn't doable, then 9 or even 12 SU per pixel is the next step which should definitely do it. With 6 SU/px being the most likely, where 4096 CU or 4 screen widths is 1 pixel, I'll need the overworld to be very near 32,768 pixels on the Y axis. Even with 3/8 SU/px, textures cannot be resolved, not even the waviest of water, let alone 6 SU/px which is 16 times courser. Thus, textures, outside hills/mountains, cities, farm fields, and gradients will be monotonic. At least this simplifies things. The X axis doesn't matter as much but needs to be at least 4096 pixels wide at the bare minimum. 10,240 is considered the most with 12,288, 8192, then 16,384 being alternatives ordered most likely to least likely.
This may seem like it'll overflow the memory, needing a rather extreme 960 MB. However, I have a way to work around that as I need to get it under 72 MB. The key is that a lot of the overworld is repetitive. Thanks to the ocean dominating things, a simple 1024x512-pixel fill covers about 70% of the overworld. Hills and mountains, despite being varied, are still quite repetitive so they tend to hog up a lot of the repetition as well, another roughly 25%. It's mostly the grassy areas and coasts that need the variety and will use up the most memory.
This setup will cover a span of 3728.27 miles (6000.07 kilometers). This converts to a latitude span of 54.0006°N which is pretty much right on target for what I want. With the lower part of the overworld at 18°N, clearly within the tropics, this makes the northernmost part at 72°N, clearly in the arctic. This is pretty much right on what I'm looking for.