Uncharted Atlas

I discovered a new website that is doing random maps. The highlight is a twitter channel that has a new map every hour. And I must say, they look very nice. Martin O’Leary has even given the source code for his algorithms. I am now going to have to go through them and discover what he is doing.
It has already given me some ideas. In my maps, I use a grid for everything. He is using polygons. I can see advantages of both methods. I’ve been having some doubts about my grid system, but I’m thinking of a combination of the two.
With 3D graphics and video cards these days, I am probably not shackled to the tyranny of the grid anymore.
Martin is doing a good job of generating rivers and I want to look at how he is doing water flow. I’ve been planning a good method, but a brief look over his tutorial, and I find he is dropping the names of some algorithms I should know more about.
My biggest issue with his maps is that he treats sea level as the end result. Look at this:

There is a big lake, but it doesn’t have an outflow to the ocean. He is probably stopping all water flow as soon as it hits sea level. And that helps with quickly generating everything. But in reality there are freshwater lakes that have a depth that puts their bottoms below sea level. Those lakes still have outflows to the ocean, but their surface is well above sea level.

Actually, looking at his maps, there are no lakes at all. This is the closest:

They still feel like they are just another set of sea level lakes.

Two stories, connected

A long time ago, back in my days growing up in Winnipeg, I purchased a game called Pax Imperia. It was a 4X game devoted to taking over the galaxy. What was cool about it was the level of detail in ship design. You could tweak the design of weapons, shields, and engines in very specific ways.
One of my proudest achievements in the game was that I could design weapons that were very good at maximum range and utterly useless at short range. I then put it on ships with very good speed. This was a devastating combination. Enemy ships would try to move to a closer range, and I would do my best to keep just the right distance between us. My weapons would rip them to shreds, while their close-combat weapons would never get the chance.
The fact that the empty spaces between stars were not just something you pass through, but a place you could send ships helped with this. I could choose to approach enemy stars in the form of a phalanx of ships. I was unstoppable.
This strategy collapsed when my ships were in an enemy star system and they suddenly built new ships. These ships appeared within the dead spot of my weapons. I couldn’t move away fast enough and my ships were destroyed. It was still a good strategy.
I’m sorry I never finished the game. There were other problems with it such that it didn’t keep my interest. That, and I had school.

Last Christmas, I was exploring the USS Lexington and saw the scale model of the “Dreadnought”. I did research on this ship afterwards. It was a major innovation in battleships, and all ships afterwards were referred to as Dreadnoughts. It brought a lot of new ideas to ship combat. A key point was the “All-big-gun” idea. Previously, battleships would have a range of weapons for varying distances. This was in keeping with the prevailing theory of naval combat that battles would initially be fought at some distance, but the ships would then approach to close range for the final blows, when the shorter-range, faster-firing guns would prove most useful.
The innovation was to just use big guns, which were easier to target and did more damage. Battleships never seemed to get into close combat, so focus on doing what you are good at.
That sounds familiar.
So, I’m a little proud of myself. I had, independently, figured out the same idea that changed modern warfare forever.

Ghost in the Shell

Last night I saw the movie Ghost in the Shell. I went in with a poor attitude because of all of the reviews I had been hearing.
I thought it was a very good movie. I’ve seen the original, although I’ve forgotten many of the details. And this is Hollywood doing what Hollywood is very good at; they dumbed it down for the North American audience. This is not a bad thing. With many Japanese Anime movies I’ve seen, I’m often left with the question as to what was going on. I still have no idea what happened at the end of Princess Mononoke, and don’t even get me started on Akira. This movie, I could follow what was going on. It made sense.
They had good action scenes, but they also knew when to not show the action, but just the aftermath. It’s a nice touch, especially when you can get zoned out with too much violence.
I have two complaints. First, the villain was too villainous. He did evil things for very shallow reasons. At times it seemed he was doing things just because he was a villain and did not have a practical reason. The second is that they didn’t have to be so faithful to the original; I did not care for the fact that there were huge holographic displays the size of buildings all over the city. They did not add to the story, and I kept thinking about how they were going to cause distracted driving accidents. Especially when a holographic fish the size of a minivan is apparently allowed to swim into traffic. (And don’t say self-driving cars when you see characters holding steering wheels as they are in the vehicles.)
I don’t feel it was whitewashed. Scarlett Johansson was a very good actress, and she was able to do things that made it feel she wasn’t quite human; she looked odd, the way she held herself. And if you are creating an artificial body for someone, wouldn’t you make them look like one of the most beautiful people in the world? Heck, if I was given the option to look like Scarlett Johansson, I’d probably take it.
The one thing I’ve now discovered in Vancouver is that you have to be careful about discussing a movie while in the theatre. You may discover that you are being overheard by someone who actually worked on the film.