Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Cralis on Fri 13 Jun 2014 15:09

I'm pretty sure that's not it. Multi-core processors have been around for a decade and nearly all built now are multi-core, and with hyperthreading the Intel processors have been
treated as multi-core for even longer.

If you want to test it, however, open the task manager while excel is running. Right click on the excel process and click "set affinity". Unselect all but one cpu. Now it is only running on one core. Does it still have the same problems? If so, then there is some other malevolent force at work...
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Caplin on Fri 13 Jun 2014 15:14

Likewise, I'm guessing the problems you're having aren't multiprocessor related. I don't know what they might be, but they don't seem to be happening here.

As an aside, I hope I'll be able to get my first SF play test done tonight. I think I'll run through a QSR scenario to keep things simple. I'm discovering I need to be in the right mood for SF. Will have feedback later. :)
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby dazrand on Sat 14 Jun 2014 14:06

Font size will not matter to the screen readers.

Hope the battle went well Caplin.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Caplin on Thu 19 Jun 2014 11:21

Unfortunately, the test results weren't as seamless as I'd hoped. My problem is mostly of tedium. Counting hexes isn't as easy as I anticipated because of the boundaries taking up cells, and because my program doesn't have ways to navigate to a specific cell on demand, as far as I'm aware.

I wonder if another approach might be called for, or if I'll simply have to get used to this. It makes me wish I had a tactile board, but that's even more impractical.

Sorry for initial disappointment. I'll keep trying, I suppose. I love the idea of both the strategic and tactical game, but maybe my skills will lie more in one or the other.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Albireo on Sat 21 Jun 2014 20:47

Caplin wrote:Unfortunately, . . .


Challenging situations can sometimes be detours to good things. Not always, but stay positive.

Caplin wrote: . . . the test results weren't as seamless as I'd hoped.


Your feedback is helpful and important to continuous improvements.


1.
Caplin wrote:My problem is mostly of tedium.


I was running into similar tedium problems on the visual side.
I wonder what you think about this idea instead ?

In MS Excel, I can create a VBA macro that will toggle show or hide the \ / columns.
Those columns do not perform any function except to look pretty like hexes, especially for printing.

Still I would not be able to hide the _ bottom cells, since hiding those rows will hide the entire map.
Those cells also contain radian and radius information.

I will be developing macros in MS Excel 2010. I hope they will work properly in your MS Excel 2013.
You will have to let me know from more playtests. The differences between VBA 7.0 and 7.1 should be nearly unnoticeable.

This new layout with the \ / columns hidden, will also be something new to get used to. ;)
Hex maps are not organized in a Cartesian manner.


2.
Caplin wrote:Counting hexes isn't as easy as I anticipated . . .


I was considering another idea for counting hex distances. I could make another macro that would show & hide
a distance calculator at the top left corner of the worksheet. The player could enter the two hex numbers, and
the spreadsheet would report the distance.

I have looked at every map from all the Starfire games. They all use the same hex numbering scheme.
The even numbered hex columns are offset half a hex down from the odd numbered hex columns.
This consistent regularity is helpful, so the same hex distance calculation algorithm should always give the same correct answer. I just need to figure out the necessary trigonometry formulas.


3.
Caplin wrote: . . . my program doesn't have ways to navigate to a specific cell on demand, as far as I'm aware.


In Excel, are you hitting CTRL+ F to find your ships on the map ?

I will add instructions for using the Find dialog box. Visual players will need to overcome this same problem.


4.
I have been having many ideas, and capturing them into notes so I do not forget them. Doing a little bit each day.
Because of visibility issues, and these many ideas, rebuilding the map has taken more time than anticipated.
I should not be doing the rebuilds manually.

I decided that I should use MS Excel macros to help with rebuild tasks, because any changes that I want to make
into this map game aid can become easier to implement.
I am very familiar with VBA 6.3, which is now out-of-date. Microsoft is doing things a little bit different in the new VBA 7. Some of the old VBA 6 code has been depricated.

MS Excel macros are not cross-platform compatible, so this would be only a short term temporary solution.
I will eventually correct that problem later. I have been reading the LibreOffice help files towards that goal.
Learning macro programming in LibreOffice has been on my to-do list for a while, and now I get to start. :)
Any design concepts that I implement for the temporary short term, should be concepts that I can eventually migrate into a cross-platform solution.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Cralis on Sun 22 Jun 2014 02:05

Albireo wrote:I am very familiar with VBA 6.3, which is now out-of-date. Microsoft is doing things a little bit different in the new VBA 7. Some of the old VBA 6 code has been depricated.


Oh I can answer this question, since I do this at work. The only meaningful difference between VBA 6 and VBA 7 for Office is that VBA 7 includes 64 bit pointers and assemblies to allow it to work with 64 bit Office. All of the other changes -- in terms of VBA code only -- pretty much don't matter. Even though some of the VBA 6 objects and methods are deprecated, they still work.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Caplin on Sun 22 Jun 2014 11:21

All the notions Albireo mentions above sound like they might help me a lot. The distance calculator in particular could be very useful, if the trig works out. I think the problem I have with doing it by hand is that visually you can scan over many hexes quickly, whereas I have to move over each one individually, and relatively slowly.

This combines with another idea I had. I have several accessible chess boards, with pieces and bases to keep them steady. It occurs to me those could approximate a hex map if I read directions properly. I'd lose the coordinates but gain a lot of precision and an ability to feel positions, which is useful in itself. Is this outlandish? :) I also have a 19x19 Go board I made in woodshop last year. It has holes in a similar manner to the chess board, and obviously a lot more of them.

Just some ideas at this stage. :) Any input would be appreciated.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby dazrand on Sun 29 Jun 2014 18:13

Sorry, life getting the better of me and eating my time, so just getting to this.

Unfortunately, the test results weren't as seamless as I'd hoped. My problem is mostly of tedium. Counting hexes isn't as easy as I anticipated because of the boundaries taking up cells, and because my program doesn't have ways to navigate to a specific cell on demand, as far as I'm aware.


Perhaps we should take a piece out of the old hex maps and give them unique numbers. The original maps had a 4 digit number for each hex, the first two digits were for each "column" then the second two were went down the column. Should make estimating distances more a math exercise.

I wonder if another approach might be called for, or if I'll simply have to get used to this. It makes me wish I had a tactile board, but that's even more impractical.


A tactile board would be so very interesting. I do not know of anyone who does such a thing and a Google did not reveal anything. I would expect a braille number and slightly raised edges to the hex, perhaps a custom 3D printing exercise?

Sorry for initial disappointment. I'll keep trying, I suppose. I love the idea of both the strategic and tactical game, but maybe my skills will lie more in one or the other.


No disappointment at all. You are doing what I cannot even imagine and it amazes me. I just want to help.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Albireo on Mon 30 Jun 2014 06:08

1.A.
Caplin wrote:This combines with another idea I had. I have several accessible chess boards, with pieces and bases to keep them steady. It occurs to me those could approximate a hex map if I read directions properly. I'd lose the coordinates but gain a lot of precision and an ability to feel positions, which is useful in itself. Is this outlandish? :) I also have a 19x19 Go board I made in woodshop last year. It has holes in a similar manner to the chess board, and obviously a lot more of them.


For physical play on physical map, there are some players, including mcb1968, who play with miniatures.
Starfire had miniatures a long time ago.

http://www.starfiredesign.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2117

Miniatures gaming is another branch of hobby gaming, requiring investment in buying many pieces to represent different ship hulls and planets. Hobbyists usually paint them for unique visual appeal.

Miniature players usually have a felt fabric or plastic or rubber map that rolls out flat.
One challenge of playing with miniatures is that it can be difficult to stack multiple units in one hex.
This is OK for small fun games. However some Starfire players also like to play big games.

http://www.starfiredesign.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2294

Stephen V. Cole's Star Fleet Battles also has miniatures. I do not know too much about them.

http://www.starfleetgames.com/Starline%20Miniatures.shtml

There are other space combat games that also make miniatures. I am not familiar with Ad Astra games.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Astra_Games

http://www.adastragames.com/

http://store.genreconnections.com/miniatures/

1.B.
You have been play-testing the initial Excel spreadsheets maps that I sent to you. So you know that if the \ / hex boundary columns are ignored, then each hex only occupies two adjacent spreadsheet cells top and bottom. Adjacent columns of hexes are offset by half a hex, which is one spreadsheet cell.

So then on your 19x19 Go board, each space map hex would occupy two adjacent Go board positions top and bottom, and adjacent columns of hexes would be offset by half a hex, which is one Go board position.

A 19x19 is a large Go board, but could be a small space map for playing, since it could be used to represent only 9 X 19 hexes. This will not represent the proper size and shape proportions of a hex map, only approximately. 3rd edition Starfire tactical battles could typically be 25 X 25 hexes. A smaller map can be played. You just need to shift the map under the battle as the ships chase off one edge. Weapons ranges can sometimes exceed 19 hexes though. 9 hexes on the other edge might not be fun, unless you have another board.

There is also the quick question of whether the miniatures fit positions for your physical board.

The system level map for 3rd ed ISF could be a minimum of 61 X 61 hexes. A binary star system will go off the edge. Zoom out to shift game scales.

2.
I am continuing to work towards the goals of the second play-test version of Excel hex maps.
This set of hex maps will have these features :
A. audible for accessibility,
B. macro to show & hide hex distance calculator,
C. macro to show & hide \ / shared hex boundary columns, to reduce the tedium of Too Much Information,
D. gray font for mundane hex information, to improve visibility of ships and planets for on screen play,
( players could use screen sharing programs to play ! )
E. reduced font size to reveal more important information for printing,
for Admirals Challenge, SOLAR, or any version of Starfire,
F. updated information and instructions, tips and tricks, play tester credits.
G. for me the developer, macro to generate the map,
not manual total regeneration to add new features for each new revision.
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Re: Starfire Accessibility, or the Poor Man's 4X

Postby Caplin on Sat 25 Feb 2017 17:33

So, am I allowed to necro my own post? :)

I was combing through my mail yesterday, in hopes of finding the hex spreadsheet that Albireo originally created. Sadly, he seems to have vanished from this forum.

I'm wondering if anybody else might be up for tackling a similar project? I DID have issues with the spreadsheet, but it's arguably the closest I can come to playing the game as intended.

If I can get an accessible hex map solution, the rest is pretty much on me. I wish Vassal were usable, it seems to be almost ideal.

Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.
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