A breakdown of how we developed CC3
The origins of CC3 lie a few years back, when Peter Olsson (our main CC2 Pro programmer) created a beta feature which allowed us to add effects to maps. We were also at that time trying find a reliable way of adding bitmaps with transparent areas to our maps. Unfortunately, although we could take it so far, it was not reliable or fast enough on all systems due to limitations in CC2 Pro's display routines.
We needed a rewrite of the CAD engine core. We worked with Mike Riddle, creator of FastCAD to make a new version. This turned out to be much, much more complex than we originally envisaged, requiring three complete rewrites of the backend graphics engine. Towards the end of the alpha phase, we noticed with pleasure the serendiptous creation of art generated as free downloads by the excellent Dundjinni community. We made sure that one of the four resolutions of art we support (for speed reasons) works with Dundjinni. Our development cycle for major new versions of CC has traditionally been slow, giving a great leap forward when we do release a (paid-for) upgrade.
Dave Allsop is the co-creator of the SLA Industries RPG and has co-created the Book of Unremitting Horror for Pelgrane Press. He has a painterly visual style, despite doing much of his work in PhotoShop, usually working from scanned pencils then adding color layers. Dave has created the art for the new version, and for the forthcoming DD3 art upgrade. The moutains and trees took the most time to approve - they are tricky to get right.
In house, we worked with the art in Paint Shop Pro to create the final PNGs. Dave had layered the images, making it easy to create varicolor versions.
It's not just the effects and new art. We added new smart symbol features to CC2 Pro, which we used in Perspectives Pro and Cosmographer Pro, but only with CC3 have we we made full use of this. Master Mapper Linda Kekumu went through them last year, updating them with the new features for CC3. Allyn Bowker and Ralf Schemmann (also Master Mappers) inspired us to create built-in style packs for CC3, giving you different drawing tools for different mapping styles.
The new features will improve your ability to make maps in the existing style better and more varied. We've also tightened up and tweaked existing functionality to make improvements to many commands, particularly symbol management commands, and added an optional simple interface.
To make the job of importing the art into CC3, we added new symbol management features for mass import of png images, both as symbols and textures. New smart features let the symbols and draw tools slot into the correct sheets.
This section is technical. Skip it if you don't like that sort of stuff.
Under the bonnet, CC3 is very different to CC2 Pro. It directed at giving the maximum possible redraw speed, whilst retaining the ability to use huge images. Mike Riddle wrote a custom-written assembly code routine which writes transparent images to the screen at any angle with extreme speed. This was a great deal of work, and the section of code which caused the most problems. Now it is solid.
To speed things up further, Peter wrote two pieces of code to speed up redraws even further. First, we produce four resolutions of every piece of art, Very High, High, Low, and Very Low. The art is stored on disk - not embedded in the maps. By default the draw routine uses the lowest resolution of art it needs to give perfect results on the current display device. We then adapted this so that the user could force various resolutions, giving a choice between increased drawing speed and resolution. This also allowed the symbol thumbnails to open and store very quickly.
Next, we added a very efficient memory caching routine so that all images can be stored in memory. You can increase the cache size to speed things up even further. The combination of these two features allow you to create very detailed maps which will refresh quickly. He also added the routines which support variation in colour amongst the bitmap symbols.
Next up were the effects, really made possible by the new back end. Peter wrote the interface and some effects, and passed the details over to Joe Slayon (Fractal Terrains Pro) who created some excellent new effects routines. The dlls are fairly straightforward to create, and we will publish the code so that external programmers can create effects routines as they are required.
The beta test has helped us pick up and fix a number of bugs, and also decide on certain interface elements - the everday configuration needed to make map-making straightforward. Their contributions have been invaluable.
Finally, we've added new features inside CC3 which will make it possible (and easier) to develop new features in the future. Expect to see information and map links attached to symbols, new effects and new style packs in the future.
This new version is future proof for many years. While supporting display speed options, it does make full use of the memory, graphics potential and CPU speed of modern PCs. This obsession with speed has lead us to one disappointment - we can't do a non-PC version. Maybe one day. Some of the backend features provide for us to hook in information to symbols. It's on our wish list, at least.
See more examples in the gallery!
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