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I know that a . is bare ground - as opposed to the green flora " etc... but I also notice that a . comes in many different shades of gray. Those shades of gray don't directly correlate to the "blueness" of the square they're in - and that blue background color definitely represents the tile's ambient light and thus my chance of being spotted. What, then, does the whiteness level of the . mean?

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"that blue background color definitely represents the tile's ambient light and thus my chance of being spotted" - sort of. The tile background is somewhat related to the ambient light, but it's not deterministic. To be certain you need to look at the @ color - blue is super-dark, white (/ light blue) is dark, yellow is light. –  user2640 Dec 15 '12 at 16:35
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It doesn't mean anything, it's just aesthetic.

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