Monday, May 26, 2008

Speech bubbles 3

Another update on my turn-based, text-based rendition of stealth gameplay.

I decided it was finally time to improve the layout of speech bubbles. Here's how things looked:

The text was placed centered above the speaker with no regard to whether it went off-screen, covered other text, or covered one of the enemy guards.

The first thing I did was to constrain the speech to be on-screen. Then I generated all of the possible positions adjacent to the speaker and scored each one based on what it covered. The score penalizes speech bubbles a little bit for covering portions of the map that are either currently visible or previously seen, and it penalizes the bubbles a lot for covering the player or non-player characters. Picking the best-scoring position for each speech bubble produced good results except that the scores didn't take into account overlaps between speech bubbles. The next step was to implement some optimization. Overlaps are penalized and it looks for permutations to the current state that will reduce the overall score. The results look like this:

(I'm also experimenting with different speech bubble styles. Ultimately I will need to add stems back in to indicate where the speech is coming from.)

The optimization turned out to be really slow. It's also kind of fiddly because you have to come up with a numeric score for each kind of thing you're trying to avoid. I'm trying to think of alternatives. One idea is to treat it as a rigid-body physics problem. The speech bubbles would be constrained to be next to their sources, and would push each other away. I don't know if this would give good results or not, but since it's something I'm familiar with I will probably try it out.


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