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Surveying, Cartography, and Other Methods of Measurement


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The mapping system in this game leaves a lot to be desired, at least from my personal perspective. It's a perfectly detailed perfectly rendered full color exact representation of the outside world that is discovered in large swaths while walking around at no cost. This doesn't really track with the history of cartography, which is one defined by poorly scaled and drawn maps that included only the most important and relevant details. As such, I think it would be a good idea to completely revamp this mapping system and instead move over to a system that works based on a cartographic style of map that has a more physical in world presence as opposed to a disconnected menu.

In addition to this, advanced surveying tools would have the benefits of creating a robust in world system of land claiming, making later game ore prospecting much easier through a long range prospecting mechanic, make building much easier with precise measurement and marking of long distances, and even an ability to use the tools of the trade for scouting.


The Cartographic Map, Broadly

A representation of the world which delineates only the elevation, forest cover, and a few important elements of a landscape. A very common type of map for undeveloped woodland areas as it imparts large amounts of information about which paths through terrain to take and what challenges may be present. In this game, it'd restrict the player's ability to know exactly where every visible structure is in world once they get somewhat close to it in addition to requiring a lot greater of a presence of mind to navigate an area. To compensate for this lower detail map, features would be added that would allow the player to draw lines, text, and markers on the map in charcoal, ink, or any other pigment to signify certain ideas. Lines could be drawn to mark where a path is carved through a mountain, a small rectangle can be drawn to represent a mining outpost, text could be drawn on the page to tell about any other specific properties, and many more. This system would gradually build up from a very basic rudimentary early game map to a much more advanced system later on as the player's tech improves.

This greater amount of functionality would be offset by the player's icon and direction no longer appearing on the map and the map not automatically recentering to the player unless such a feature is enabled. Instead, the player would need to orient themselves through landmarks and markings on the map which would be facilitated by the ability to right click on a wooden pole to mark its exact position on the map, allowing for a much simpler experience in landmark navigation.


Additionally, the map would require that the player supply it with some small amount of paper (which would have new recipes) for a certain amount of land traveled as to not make describing vast swaths of land a completely free matter. When available, the map could be set to either automatically mark down new terrain as it is visited or to only mark down terrain when the player explicitly does so. As well as this, the range of map documentation would be reduced or increased depending on many factors, with darkness, storms, and mist reducing range drastically and high elevation, clear skies, and bright sun increasing the range drastically.

The Tools of Cartography

Cartography is a highly precise skill, but early game methods still exist that can be used for a more primitive form of it to engage in basic property marking and measurement. One of the first methods to this end is the marked twine.


A long pole of wood, pressed into the ground with a twine tied to it that has knots at every half meter. Can be used to mark off property by tying it off to another pole to form a connection or can be pulled along behind the player to determine the block distance between two points, reading out both axis of distance for convenience's sake as it is pulled along. Also can be used to mark off the boundaries of a land claim. Can only extend out to a measurement of 32 blocks per roll of twine.

The next step after a suitable surface for mapping is obtained would be a ruler and charcoal stylus.


The charcoal stylus allows the map to be drawn upon in a dark gray color and the ruler allows for straight lines to be drawn on the map in addition to acting as a primitive method of distance measurement if a certain distance is known.

Once metal is obtained, more precise instruments can be produced along with more precise surfaces to use such upon.


The plane table is a portable piece of furniture that can have a map laid down on it and drawn upon with aforementioned tools but also together with some new tools such as the protractor and compass. The protractor would allow for angles to be very precisely marked on the map and straight lines allowed to be drawn along those angles. This feature may not currently seem useful but its use will later become obvious. The use of the compass is obvious, providing the direction of north at all times as well as being able to determine the angle at which a player is looking relative to north.

As a further extension of measurement and land marking, higher tier measuring links and poles would be available later in game when metal is available.


The marked pole is taller and can handle being used with surveyor's chain, which is a long set of chain links that can be used to precisely measure distances just as the marked twine previously could, but out to 128 blocks instead of 32. Can also be used to delineate property and stake land claims.

Finally, the culmination of every component of this system into one incredibly powerful device that requires precision crafting to achieve. The transit.


A far range telescope mounted on a tripod, able to measure angles to the hundredth and see at incredibly long ranges. The primary use of the transit would be in large scale map detailing through trigonometric means. The chart below demonstrates how from a fixed point, two angle measurements, and a single known distance the exact distance of the point away from the observer can be known, allowing for incredibly precise mapping potential.


In game, this would work by marking a specific block with the transit in one position and measuring the angle, measuring the distance to a new horizontal position with a chain or line of twine, and then measuring the angle again at the new position, yielding a valid survey measurement and marking the entire triangle as searched terrain, allowing the player to search vast quantities of land in only minutes. Care must be taken in this process though as small errors or a horizontal distance which is too small relative to the distance of the measurement may result in failure. As well as this, the transit would allow for very easy wide scale claim marking by performing these same calculations while building a claim to take huge amounts of land in one fell swoop. Smaller land claims could be done with twine and chains.


As a supplementary boost to efficiency, a compendium of trigonometric lookup tables can be found lying in the dusty bookshelves of ancient ruins occasionally.


Having these items in your possession will reduce the necessary horizontal distance of transit triangulation, improve the accuracy of any measurements taken with the transit, and simplify other complicated mathematical processes.


Long Range Prospecting

Currently, prospecting is mostly a matter of going to as many places as possible and using the density search mode of the prospecting pick until you get a reading. This is fine in the early game where resources can be easily found on the surface and are reasonably plentiful, but into the iron age and beyond, ore deposits become sparse and rare with some resources such as olivine and bauxite being completely undetectable as far as density search goes. To alleviate this, the transit would provide a late game system of long range prospecting which would work via a method similar to the triangulation above.

The first step of the process would be taking a large ore sample and carefully processing in a long, expensive process to eventually yield an incredibly accurate reading of the nearest ore deposits of certain types within many thousands of blocks of the transit, including areas containing olivine and bauxite. These deposits would not be given as direct coordinates but instead as a series of points that will be revealed to the player if they interact with the transit at a given point. Once these points are, well, pointed at with the transit and their angle is measured, the distance between the two measurement points can then be used to calculate the distance that this deposit of ore is away from one of the transits, allowing for an exact path to be drawn on the map between the starting point and the ore deposit using the ruler and protractor.





Edited by Nootman
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I like the idea and love the work you've put into it.  I am sure there will be many players (probably those insane masochists that like perma-death wilderness survival settings 😉) that appreciate a more realistic approach to cartography (here's the but you've been sensing); but this is a mechanic that may (and probably will be) very unfun for a different segment of the player base.  It seems like you're in the process of developing a mod and encourage you to keep developing it as I think such a mod would be a GREAT addition to the game.

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