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Aide de Camp 2 Hints and Tips

CREATING SYMBOLS

By Patrick Hirtle  
(Patrick is not an employee of HPS Simulations.   His comments do not necessarily reflect the views of HPS Simulations)

Determining piece size: Here’s a quick and easy way to decide the best size for your unit symbols. After deciding the hex size for each zoom level, create the open/clear terrain symbol for your set and save it. Then, open the symbol again, and at each zoom size, draw a square that fits within the borders of the hex:

    ADC Hints Image7.gif (22953 bytes)

    Count the pixels across the top, and you’ve got the optimal size for your unit symbols.

Zoom 1: At Zoom 1, you should avoid cluttering up the map with unnecessary symbols – remember, Zoom 1 is for the big picture, not for movement or combat. You should decide exactly what terrain you want to show at Zoom 1 – in a strategic-scale game, you may want to show nothing more than open terrain, national borders, and perhaps major rivers. For terrain types that won’t be shown at Zoom 1, you should leave the symbol blank at Zoom 1, and click the Transparent box.

    Usually, sets that do not show hexes at Zoom 1 look better than those that do:

    ADC Hints Image4.gif (7025 bytes) ADC Hints Image5.gif (6320 bytes)

    Of course, it depends on the size of your zoom 1 hexes – if Zoom 1 is large enough, you might want to add the hex outlines. It’s a matter of personal taste, and what looks right to you.

Naming your pieces: When you create classes in Make and Play Game mode, ADC will by default assign the new class the same name as the piece that represents that class. You can change the name manually, but it’s faster and easier to use the piece name. That means that when you create the pieces, you should give some thought to how you name them. Another ADC feature is that classes are normally sorted alphabetically. To keep things organized, you might want to add a two or three letter prefix denoting the nationality: Ger Panzer 8-7-8, US Inf 2-3-8, etc. That way, the list of classes will be better organized.

Copying pieces and piece names:
When you make several pieces that are similar – for example, an armour unit that has several steps – you can save a lot of time by copying the piece, and simply changing the numbers on the counter. You can also save a bit of typing by using this simple trick: Say you’re going to create ten different Panzer units, of various strength. Make the first one and call it, say, Ger Panzer 10-8-8. Then hit the Rename button – a small screen will appear with the name of the piece, and a prompt to type in a new name. Instead of typing in a new name, highlight ‘Ger Panzer’, right-click, and select Copy. Then cancel the rename operation. You now have ‘Ger Panzer’ on your clipboard, and when you go to make the rest of the Panzer units, you can simply paste the name instead of typing it nine more times. It’s a simple trick, but I use it almost every time I make a set.

Using scanned images and the ‘Import from Clipboard’ function: Given the beautiful counter graphics in some of today’s games, it’s impossible to recreate them in ADC form without scanning the counter and then importing the image to the Symbol Editor. I’ve found that this is largely a matter of trial and error – the tricky part being to get the size of the image right, and getting it centered on the piece. The way I do that is to open the scanned image in Adobe, or Paint, and then ‘cut out’ the image I want on the counter, copy it and open it as a new file in the graphics program. Then I import it into ADC to get an idea of the size of the image in relation to the piece. Usually it’s necessary to make the image smaller, so I go back to my graphics program and resize the image, then copy it and go back to ADC, and so on.

Once you’ve got the size right, the next problem is getting it in the right place on the piece. The Undo button is very handy here – paste the image onto the piece, and if it’s off-centered, undo the paste, then redo it, changing the position as necessary.

It’s usually best to import an image onto a completely blank piece, then add the piece colours, border and shading, numbers etc. Also, if you want the scanned image at both Zoom 2 and 3, you should use the ‘Scale Copy Level 3 to Level 2’ function under the Edit menu, before adding anything else to the counter (borders and numbers tend to become distorted when copied from Zoom 3 to Zoom 2).

ADC Hints Image6.gif (19315 bytes)

Scanned image from Dark Victory (Command Magazine)

Colour Selection: One way to ruin an otherwise excellent set is to choose loud, garish colours for terrain and units. Again, colour selection is a matter of personal taste; but keep in mind that gamers will be looking at your set for hours when they play. Soft, pastel colours are much easier on the eyes than neon orange or bright green. If you can’t find the right shade, hit the custom button and experiment in making your own.

For sea hexes, I recommend colour 206 – a nice medium blue that’s easy on the eyes. For German units, colour 171 is a nice approximation of feldgrau.

The Text Function: One of the nicest features of the Symbol Editor is the ability to add text or numbers to your counters, using any of the fonts you have in your Windows font file:

Image8.gif (1774 bytes)

German, French and British Replacement counters from 1914: Glory’s End

The most common use of this function is to add the attack-defense-movement factors common to most games. You can choose any size font from 6 to 72; usually, at zoom 3, 8 is the best font size. For clear, easy-to-read numbers, Arial is an ideal font.

Generally, you’ll only want to use numbers on your counters at zoom 3, though depending on the size of your symbols, you may also show the factors at zoom 2.

When Eagles Fight (XTR)

Arnhem (SPI)

The Text function is well laid out and easy to use, and doesn’t require much explanation here. One small tip is that typing all three numbers and the dash between them – e.g., 4-5-8 – may make it difficult to fit all three within the borders of your counter. I often add the numbers one at a time, then add the dashes by hand. This allows you to choose the amount of space between numbers. Another tip – obvious but important – is to remember the size and font you’re using in your set! If you have the leave the set for a few weeks, then go back to finish it, it can be frustrating trying to match the style of counters you’ve already done, if you can’t remember that you were using, say, Bookman Old Style, size 10 bold italic for your zoom 3 numbers.

Roads and Rivers In ADC, there are two ways to depict hexside terrain and lines that run through hexes. The easy way to do this is to add the lines in the Map Editor – this will be dealt with in greater detail in another section. This method, while fast and simple, does have two drawbacks. First, the lines are drawn straight from point to point, giving roads in particular an unnatural look; second, you cannot easily control the order in which these lines are drawn on the map. For example, if you want a secondary terrain feature, such as a bridge, to be drawn over a river hexside symbol, you may run into problems – the Map Editor will draw the river over your bridge:

Image28.gif (3740 bytes)

To get around this problem, and also to depict more natural-looking roads and rivers, you can create secondary river and road terrain in the Symbol Editor. Make sure you click in the box marked ‘X-Image’ so that the background of the symbol will be transparent:

ximage.gif (54533 bytes)

Doing rivers and roads as terrain symbols can be very time-consuming, but it allows you to have naturally curving roads, rivers of uneven width, etc. – in short, a nicer-looking map. It also allows you to set the order in which the symbols are drawn – if you want a bridge to lay on top of a river, simply place the river first, then place the bridge:

Image29.gif (5446 bytes)

Another method you might want to try is to combine the two systems. That is, use the Map Editor hexside lines for the bulk of your river hexsides, but use a river terrain symbol for those hexsides that will have a bridge drawn over them. This can save a lot of time – just make sure that the width of your river symbol is the same, in pixels, as the Map Editor hexside symbol you’re using.

Coast and Forest Lines: There is no trick to making natural-looking forests and coastlines – but it is a lot of work. For example, you can easily end up drawing a hundred or more symbols depicting different forest symbols:

Image30.gif (19290 bytes)

When Eagles Fight (XTR Corp.)

When doing multiple forest or coast symbols, the most difficult part is getting adjacent symbols to line up properly. When they're joined vertically, you can simply count pixels in the Symbol Editor to determine the correct position. When joined diagonally, I find it’s mostly a matter of trial and error. They way I do it is to draw two or three symbols, then go to the Map Editor and place them. If they don’t line up properly, I go back to the Symbol Editor and alter the symbol – bringing the coastline down a couple of pixels, shifting the edge of the forest up a tad, etc. – then go back to the Map Editor to take a look. This is tedious and time-consuming, but the end result is a visually impressive map.

When you’re making 50 or 60 forest symbols, you can save yourself some work by reusing symbols whenever possible, and also by using a dandy feature you’ll find in the Edit Menu – ‘Flip Image Left to Right’ and ‘Flip Image Top to Bottom.’ Often the symbol you need will be a mirror image of one you’ve already made – copy the existing symbol, then use the ‘Flip’ functions to alter it. If you look closely at the illustration above, you’ll see that several of the forest symbols were created this way.


I hope that these tips will be of some help, and if you have any questions, please drop me a line at pyhirtle@try-net.or.jp. There are A LOT of things about creating symbols that I haven’t mentioned – these tips are just a few of the things that I’ve learned in a year and a half of creating sets. I’d like to finish by stressing three points:

Be patient – making a complex set takes a lot of time;

Experiment – ADC2 has some amazing features, and if you use your imagination and creativity, you can do some really cool stuff;

Remember, it’s a hobby. If the tedium of creating coastline symbols is starting to get to you, take a break and do something relaxing – like trimming your 8,000 ASL counters with a pair of nail clippers!


CREATING UNITS USING PAINT SHOP PRO 5

By Pal Woje
 (Pal is not an employee of HPS Simulations.   His comments do not necessarily reflect the views of HPS Simulations)

One of ADC2’s many strong points is the ability to import BMP files in the symbol editor. This means that you can create the graphics using your favorite drawing software and then import it into ADC2’s symbol editor.  The symbol editor is good, but many more functions can be found in many other drawing programs.

I will show you some of the tricks that I use when creating units in Paint Shop Pro 5 (PSP5). You can download an evaluation copy of it from www.jasc.com.

 When creating a set, I usually use the following sizes:

terrain zoom3: 60x60 pixels
            zoom2: 30x30 pixels
            zoom1: 10x10 pixels

units   zoom3: 41x41 pixels
            zoom2: 23x23 pixels
            zoom1: 7x7 pixels

Here are some pictures of a sample unit (zoom level 3 and 2), created in ADC2's symbol editor (Fig.1) and in PSP5 (Fig.2). The units are from the game "Enemy at the Gates" by The Gamers.

Pal1.gif (4558 bytes)

As you can see, the unit created in PSP5 has smoother, more "real" curves on the numbers and symbol than the one created in ADC2. This is due to the "antialias" function in PSP5 which create smooth edges when drawing, placing text etc. ADC2 has a similar function when placing text, but the result isn’t particularly good if the text is in other colors than black.

In order to get the 3D effect (the edges around the unit) PSP5 has a tool called "Buttonize". It’s quick, configurable and gives a good result. In ADC2 you have to manually draw the highlight/lowlight lines.

The zoom level 2 unit created in PSP5 is much more fuzzy and harder to read than the one created using ADC2. This is because I resized the symbol instead of creating it from scratch. The decreased quality is more than made up for by the fact that it took about 3 sec. to do it! In ADC2 I used the "Scale copy level 3 to level 2" function to get the layout correct in level 2 and then edited the details by hand.

 The drop shadow effect on the white "6" was hand drawn in ADC2. That isn’t quite as simple in PSP5, but there is a very easy solution. Just place a black "6" one pixel right and down from where the "6" should be (Fig.3), and then place the white "6" at it’s place (Fig.4).

Fig. 3 Fig. 4

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to write me (paaar@online.no).
Pal Woje