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Subject: Tweaking VASSAL Graphics rss

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Chris Roper
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I was playing a few solo games on VASSAL over the weekend, to test some Graphics Tweaks I have been working on, and a simple solution to a problem that has always bugged me about VASSAL presented itself.

The problem is that the person playing the AXIS hand has to play top down, which means that the flanks are reversed. On more than one occasion, usually when the pressure is on, I have glanced at the hand and assumed I have a Left Flank card available only to discover too late that I had forgotten I am playing down the screen not up.

The Solution: on the 8 cards in the Deck that indicate a single Flank, I have included an arrow to indicate at a glance the flank for the AXIS or Top Down player.



A simple solution which at first hardly seems worth it, but after playing a few games with it I found it enhanced play nicely without being confusing for the Allies Player.

Now on to the tweaks themselves.

The first thing I wanted to change was the Toy like Beach obstacles, I know they are from the game graphics but they just looked too far out of whack in VASSAL.



As you can see the new versions look more natural and do not overpower the scene or fill the hex.

The main reason for Tweaking the graphics though, was to bring Memoir'44 presentation up to date. Memoir'44 Online set the standard for playing on the screen. For copyright reasons and out of respect to DoW for allowing VASSAL play to continue despite being competition to M'44 Online I wanted to create original graphics rather than copy M'44 Online. I had already created 3D units for Battle Cry and CC:Napoleonic so I decided to try the same for Memoir.



Unfortunately, because the original module used JPEG files for the unit graphics it was necessarily to also use JPEG for the new base game unit graphics too, to remain compatible with the 100's of scenarios that use them. This means no transparency layer, which results in usable but rather constrained units in order to avoid obliteration of the markers and underlying terrain.

Fortunately as the expansions were added PNG format unit graphics were used giving grater freedom and where possible I have used PNG format.



As can be seen above, with PNG the figures can spread more organically and have shadows cast on the ground or tiles, without obscuring important landmarks or markers.

Unfortunately I was still play testing and tweaking when a New Release of the module (vX v2) came out, so I was too late to submit any of this for possible inclusion. If the maintainer of the Module would like any of the Files I will gladly hand them over for use in the next planned release.

I have restricted the changes purely to graphics, so a graphics enhanced module is able to play against a standard graphics module, no changes need to be made to any of the scenarios or code and the save files are freely interchangeable.

This is a work in progress but if the community is interested I can release a module or provide instructions and graphics for players to update their own. But I would prefer to work through the Maintainer and the Community, let me know if there is any interest or if anyone has suggestions / questions.

Cheers
Chris

EDIT: Spelling / Grammar






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Bart de Groot
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I have tested with 3d unit graphics in the past. Also, I wanted to make it so the figures replaced the figure count badge, which meant more changes to the underlying VASSAL structure. In the end I dropped it because I wasn't happy with the result and it seemed like too much work for too little reward.

Your graphics look nice though I must say. The base units were added as JPEG long before I took over the module and I never recreated those. But they can be changed to PNG. I can update all the scenarios, it's what I've been doing for the last few updates now. Partly the reason the updates take long now.

With your graphics I am not sure replacing the figure count badge with actual figures is a good idea, since a single of your infantry figures would be too small and could disappear into the background.

A potential problem is the area of the unit. By default VASSAL will set the shape according to the transparency, but that will not work well with these I think. Using the current rectangular + fig count shape might be a solution.

Same for the new obstacles. One reason I kept them so cartoonishly large is that when I scaled them down they could disappear behind units, making them invisible to the player. You would have to make sure none of the new unit graphics completely overlap all of your smaller obstacles.

I am not in favor of your new cards. Experienced VASSAL players do not have much difficulty with the upside-down aspect I think, and I prefer not to mess with official game graphics unless there's a really good reason.

With new graphics there will have to be 2 modules. One with the current graphics, and one with new 3D graphics. Some players won't accept the new graphics, or will complain when playing on small laptop screens. The two could be used interchangeably. The 3D module could have the new obstacle graphics.

How will you reproduce the arches to differentiate between regular and special forces units? Sure, special forces units often have badges. But not always. For example the nationality badges. You could have a spanish infantry unit, how would you show it's special forces or not?

With 10.7 I added a number of new unit graphics for unit types, like ski troops. I assume you would produce different graphics for all those types? You seem to have done sniper already. Replacing the different unit type graphics with new ones would be easy if they are different now. A TD for example is just a regular armor with a badge. The original module would have to make a separate TD graphic and update all the scenarios for the 3D graphics module to have a separate TD.

The bottom line is that to keep maintaining 2 modules do-able everything has to be 1:1. There can't be anything different in one module from the other except replacing image files.

You can see if there really is a demand for these changes.

Edit:
Did you test your new graphics with all markers? Units have a ton of attached markers. Battle markers, inflatable raft, battle star, veteran, camouflage, retreat.
 
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Chris Roper
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Hi Bart,

Thanks for your reply, I would have referred to you above or contacted you directly, but for the life of me I couldn't remember your Geek Name hence referring to you as 'The Maintainer' .

bdegroot wrote:
I have tested with 3d unit graphics in the past. Also, I wanted to make it so the figures replaced the figure count badge, which meant more changes to the underlying VASSAL structure. In the end I dropped it because I wasn't happy with the result and it seemed like too much work for too little reward.


I am with you 100% there and that is one of the reasons I have done this the hard way and adapted the Graphics to the Module rather than change the module to suit the graphics. I actually prefer to have the Unit graphic stay at full strength and have the 'Strength' indicator count down, effectively becoming the unit Moral Indicator.

bdegroot wrote:
Your graphics look nice though I must say. The base units were added as JPEG long before I took over the module and I never recreated those. But they can be changed to PNG. I can update all the scenarios, it's what I've been doing for the last few updates now. Partly the reason the updates take long now.


Thanks and yes, I am not blaming you for the JPG graphics, I was one of the original contributors to the Module so I carry more blame than you, rather I applaud you for taking it over and the vast amount of improvements you have made since then.

bdegroot wrote:
With your graphics I am not sure replacing the figure count badge with actual figures is a good idea, since a single of your infantry figures would be too small and could disappear into the background.


Addressed above and I agree.

bdegroot wrote:
A potential problem is the area of the unit. By default VASSAL will set the shape according to the transparency, but that will not work well with these I think. Using the current rectangular + fig count shape might be a solution.


Yes, that is why the JPEG units are constrained and have the smallest possible footprint of grass. For the PNG Units I have created a base footprint larger than a hex but 90% or more of the area is Transparent. It works well and centers correctly without obscuring any of the other layers. I tested it first in Battle Cry and Napoleonic and have tried every scenario in the previous release of your module looking for anomalies.

[EDIT]It works especially well for aircraft as the plane and its shadow can overlap hexes giving a real effect of height. The dragons I made for my Battlelore Module are stunning (but that is another story as the entire Battlelore Module would need a rewrite to accommodate my graphics, so I won't be releasing it to public).

bdegroot wrote:
Same for the new obstacles. One reason I kept them so cartoonishly large is that when I scaled them down they could disappear behind units, making them invisible to the player. You would have to make sure none of the new unit graphics completely overlap all of your smaller obstacles.


Agreed and the reason for 2 hedgehogs per hex and the wire extending full width. non of the existing or new graphics hide them.

bdegroot wrote:
I am not in favor of your new cards. Experienced VASSAL players do not have much difficulty with the upside-down aspect I think, and I prefer not to mess with official game graphics unless there's a really good reason.


Try it, I was in that camp too and have over 10 years experience playing CC games on VASSAL. The reason I did it as a test was becuse I was rusty, having not played in a couple of years. It was going to be a temporary change but it worked so well I decided to publish it. Only 8 cards change and it is a very subtle change. (I will be marking my Physical Cards too, for all my of CC games, just for the times I play solo).

bdegroot wrote:
With new graphics there will have to be 2 modules. One with the current graphics, and one with new 3D graphics. Some players won't accept the new graphics, or will complain when playing on small laptop screens. The two could be used interchangeably. The 3D module could have the new obstacle graphics.


Yes there would be two modules, but with the changes I have made as they stand, the only difference between the two is the graphics. The scenarios and, therefor, the extensions are common to both and a player with the existing module could play against a player with a New Graphics module. Both players can use the format that suits them without worrying about what format the opponent uses.

bdegroot wrote:
How will you reproduce the arches to differentiate between regular and special forces units? Sure, special forces units often have badges. But not always. For example the nationality badges. You could have a spanish infantry unit, how would you show it's special forces or not?


(I will upload some images and edit this post later, but here is the text answer to that in the interim).

special forces units have a distinguishing figure and or different head gear. For SF units I have an officer figure and for Engineer units I have a Mine Sweeper Figure (Apart from the Americans who have a flame thrower in true marine style). The same way as I indicate it in the Physical game with 1:72 figures.

bdegroot wrote:
With 10.7 I added a number of new unit graphics for unit types, like ski troops. I assume you would produce different graphics for all those types? You seem to have done sniper already. Replacing the different unit type graphics with new ones would be easy if they are different now. A TD for example is just a regular armor with a badge. The original module would have to make a separate TD graphic and update all the scenarios for the 3D graphics module to have a separate TD.


Yes I saw you had done that and I have created new unit graphics for (nearly) every one of them (I'm not sure if the Japanese ever had ski troops though ) Any scenario that uses the new unit types dispalays correctly (in the previous module - I have not had time to test the whole of V2. An excellent upgrade BTW - I love the new Filter options and groupings).

bdegroot wrote:
The bottom line is that to keep maintaining 2 modules do-able everything has to be 1:1. There can't be anything different in one module from the other except replacing image files.


Agreed and that is the way it is currently implemented.

bdegroot wrote:
You can see if there really is a demand for these changes.
That is why we are posting

bdegroot wrote:
Edit:
Did you test your new graphics with all markers? Units have a ton of attached markers. Battle markers, inflatable raft, battle star, veteran, camouflage, retreat.


Yes, and that was the hardest part of the project, Every unit is designed specifically to not obscure any markers or be unduly obscured by the same.

Cheers,
Chris

[EDIT] Drop me your email in a GM and I will send you an updated module in a day or two once I am happy that it all works with your v2. That way you can see first hand and decide if you wish to use any of my work. I certainly don't intend to force it on you or compete, you are doing a great job, this is just an optional version for those that want it, if there is any demand, and a fun project for my own satisfaction.
 
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Chris Roper
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Just a quick update for those who are following this.

Bart has kindly agreed to work with me on this project which with his help allows me to take it to a new level.

As it only took half a day to do the Battlecry module I was perhaps a little over optimistic of the time and effort required to do the same for M'44.

To start with there are over 150 different unit types in Memoir as opposed to the 6 in Battlecry and more are being added. The second problem was the the mix of graphics types used and the fact that changing any one file name or graphics file format means updating the scenarios, of which there are several hundred already that Bart is maintaining. I take my hat off to him, it is a large task and responsibility.

But as a result of all of Bart's hard work on that front, he has the tools needed to update the scenarios rather than having to recreate each one from scratch, so he has kindly agreed to let me use PNG format for all the units.

Here then is a taster to show you how I envisage the 3D version looking.



Cheers
Chris
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Jaime D.
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Nice work there! I'm looking forward to playing this module using 3D
 
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Chris Roper
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Near final art for the AXIS units showing how unit types are differentiated.

I am open to suggestions on the choice of Uniforms and vehicles.
The choices were made based on the Scenarios where the units were mainly used, so the Italians are in desert Uniform and the Germans in gray.



The Artillery are:

Infantry Gun
150mm sFH 18L/30
Mobile Artillery (Not sure of the model number may well change)
88mm Flak 43 (Flak88)
Nebelwerfer

The vehicles are:

sdk 250
PzIII G
PzIV H
Tiger 1
Nashorn
kubelwagen
Opel Truck

Bridging Tank
Pz 1A Flamm

The Italian tank is a Carro Commando M/41

Cheers
Chris

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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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Keep up the great work!!!
 
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Jaime D.
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Simply amazing! When can we expect a public release? whistle
 
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Chris Roper
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I replied to your other post Jamie, but for the sake of continuity I will repeat it here:

It will take a while, probably a month or two, mainly because we are waiting for the Equipment Pack and then Bart has to capture those scenarios and update the hundreds of existing scenarios.

The above is of course assuming we find no bugs, but I hope we can get something out soon, even if it is an early beta test with maybe just the base Game scenarios.

Bart can fill in the details, but it will basically be a major release of the module, as he is taking this opportunity to add and alter other technical aspects, under the hood, that we all take for granted but never see.
 
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Jaime D.
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caroper wrote:
I replied to your other post Jamie, but for the sake of continuity I will repeat it here:

It will take a while, probably a month or two, mainly because we are waiting for the Equipment Pack and then Bart has to capture those scenarios and update the hundreds of existing scenarios.

The above is of course assuming we find no bugs, but I hope we can get something out soon, even if it is an early beta test with maybe just the base Game scenarios.

Bart can fill in the details, but it will basically be a major release of the module, as he is taking this opportunity to add and alter other technical aspects, under the hood, that we all take for granted but never see.


Thanks to both of you! Amazing piece of work! Keep up the good work please!
 
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Chris Roper
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Near final art for the British Units showing how unit types are differentiated.

I am open to suggestions on the choice of Uniforms and vehicles.
The choices were made based on the Scenarios where the units were mainly used, so the British are in desert Uniform and the Support Formations in camo or civies.



The Artillery are:

6pdr Field Gun
BL 7.2 inch
M7 Priest
M3 57mm Anti Tank Gun
British had no equivalent to the Nebelwerfer so it is the field Gun with a badge to distinguish it.

The vehicles are:

M3 White Scout Car
Valentine Mk I/II
Matilda II
Cruiser Tank Mk IV
M10 Tank Destroyer
Humber Scout Car
Morris Truck

M3 Scorpion III
Matilda

Cheers
Chris
 
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Dariusz M
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Section cards with Axis movement arrows are great! It is a must be in the Vassal module! I can't wait to the day I'll stop turning my screen upside down...
 
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Chris Roper
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Unit Reference card - Basic Units
Here are the basic units cross referenced to Bart's new Unit Icons.



This is page one, more to follow
 
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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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Wow, that is some great work.

This will make Vassal more enjoyable.
 
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Jaime D.
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I can't wait to play it!
 
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