10 Years Ago...

Ten years ago today, back when dinosaurs roamed the Internet, I made a post to the Traveller Mailing List announcing an online interactive map of the Official Traveller Universe:

I popped by http://jtas.net/travelleratlas/ and thought "cool!" at first, then realized that most of the maps had been generated by hand. Aaaaaaah! That just makes my teeth hurt with sympathy pain. Also, Google Maps had just gone beta, and I found a copy of GURPS Traveller at Half Price Books (which features the Imperium Map in a "console" frame) to I created a conceptual blend of all of the above: 
I've tested in IE6 and Firefox (so it should work with the latest Netscape/Mozilla browsers). Click and drag in the map, zoom in, go wild. You'll need a decent 'net connection. Note that it's generating all of the tile images on the fly, so I hope it can relieve some of the tedium of maintaining projects like the one at jtas.net. 
(If you're curious, it's a tiny C# ASP.NET app with less than 1400 lines of code. There's a "readme" on the site with other details. And yes, I've fired off the requisite mail to Marc.)

At that point I didn't even have a domain registered, but the site was functional enough to invite others to take a look. As I've written before, I was inspired by this mockup in GURPS Traveller:

Of course, it was also inspired by Google Maps, which hit the 'net in February 2005 - a mere two months earlier! I really should have kept photos of the earlier versions of my site... but it turns out that you can still run old versions via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. Here's how it looked circa 2006:

At one point I even made sure the site worked under Netscape 7.2 running on Windows 98 (via a virtual machine):

Nowadays, here's how I like to surf it:

Thanks to all who have contributed in any way, with code, data, suggestions, bug reports, or positive feedback.

Anyway, 10 years. Wooooo! 



Route Rendering

(Disclaimer: not an April Fool's joke)

I made a slight tweak to the way routes are rendered.



Look closely at how the routes intersect the world disc. Previously they came extremely close. So close, in fact, that they actually are drawn first - right to the center of the world! Then the world is rendered by painting over the routes with the background color, then the world itself renders. Now, the routes are rendered with the endpoints offset slightly from the world. Which is closer to how a human would draw the routes, and matches classic work like posters and LBBs.

I made the change to improve the rendering when a background was present, like these cases:



Note how in "old" the routes intersect the world, whereas in "new" the routes don't. This was never a big deal, but I'm experimenting with rendering styles where backgrounds are more important.

I don't normally announce such subtle tweaks in rendering, so why even bring this up? 

There may be places in the data where routes actually go right through other worlds. Here's an example in Deneb:

If you look at Unxava, Sorel, or Ibsen you can see that the route doesn't stop at those worlds. Previously, the painting over with the background color would have meant the route line and the world disc would never touch. You also wouldn't have been able to tell if the X-boat route from Dawn to Zeng was one J-4 or four J-1s. This new way of rendering distinguishes the two cases, although it doesn't look quite as pretty.

(Aside: hand-curated sectors like the Spinward Marches would avoid putting a route across other worlds like this, because a key factor in creating X-boat routes is looking good. The routes exist primarily to add visual interest to the maps, rather than convey important data. The notion of communication routes impacting gameplay by allowing players to "race the news" was a later innovation.)

There may be cases where a route should be broken up. When transcribing routes from print I may have made incorrect assumptions. If you spot any such anomalies, please let me know.