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kewlpack
02-19-2011, 10:02 PM
I've been wresting with an appropriate style for "near orbit" maps for a couple of years. I've tried countless approaches and software, including Campaign Cartographer, Gimp, Wilbur, and Bryce 7. I finally settled on a few approaches here (thanks Ascension and ZombieNirvana), and use trusty old Photoshop.

The campaign I'm digitizing is 30 years old (a friend drew ~70 maps using a very very simple pencil/line style). That means every map element has "a specific purpose" and has to be accounted for... very challenging. So in building out the maps, almost every approach would work at first... until it came to drawing the mountains. The random clouds/difference clouds approach was always too random and very hard to control. Keep in mind even the ridgelines have tactical purpose. Other tools made the mountains too vague or too cartoonish. I finally found a way to draw the mountains with reasonable success in photoshop, using layer styles.

Anyway, I've been lurking about for a long time here. I figured I'd pop a couple of my maps on here and share what I've learned. One thing to keep in mind with this world... IT'S FLAT and uses an old Ptolemaic paradigm for the universe. That means the rivers aren't always completely "true". The world has a slight slope from high/west to low/east.

I'm using Photoshop CS5, CC3 icons, and a Wacom Bamboo tablet. I've turned off the hex grid for visual clarity. For scale, 1/4" = 3 miles. I have about 66 more maps to draw... whew.

I'd be interested in your feedback. Thanks for your time.

kewlpack
02-19-2011, 10:03 PM
Here's one...

Updated with the new rivers and ridgeline techniques.

kewlpack
02-19-2011, 10:07 PM
Here's another.

Fixed the attachment. I updated the maps after showing them to my friend who drew them so long ago. We settled on thinner, more uniform rivers and aligning the ridgelines to the peaks.

>>>> UPDATED with suggested changes.

Jaxilon
02-20-2011, 12:51 AM
Sometimes the thumbnailer doesn't work quite right. It happens. You can sometimes re-save the file on your PC and re-upload it but if you leave it sometimes it gets fixed. (Not sure if someone does that or if it just updates itself).

I think you might be missing a bridge on that first map, just about dead in the center. I think the ridgelines are pretty good. I don't use PS though so can't really say much.

kewlpack
02-20-2011, 05:56 AM
Thanks - I missed that bridge! I reviewed the maps with my friend. That led to yet another revision with uniform rivers and ridgelines that match the freehand peaks. Looks better. Updated the attachments above (and C4 is working now!).

Steel General
02-20-2011, 09:42 AM
These are quite nice... Though the ridge lines are a bit confusing, my eye keeps wanting to see them as rivers.

Keep up the good work! :)

kewlpack
02-20-2011, 04:07 PM
Yeah, I'm not crazy about the ridgelines at all. However, for the campaign, they serve as specific information for wargaming, etc. That is to say, the ridgelines indicate an impasse or something that would take days to cross. So large maneuvers require strategic traversal across the terrain. Can you say tactical "bottlenecks"?!

Anyway, my friend loves this latest approach and has given me the green light to work the rest of the world... whew.

jbgibson
02-21-2011, 01:45 AM
I bet you could fix the misidentification of ridgelines, by coloring them brown - their present color looks navy-black, hence distinctly riverish. Or maybe dotting them, like border lines sometimes are done - that'd make the obviously symbolic rather than tangible.

What's the significance of the two different blues in river coloring?

If I'm guessing the scale right, your rivers have some seriously implausible dividings and rejoinings. Islands along rivers tend to me modest sized; some of these seem huge. Basically, water chooses the single lowest course in any situation. Why would it ever want to flow down a less-low course, when a more low one is available? Small diversions around what you could think of as a mid-river hill *are* plausible, but that's only the smallest of them. The deeply-incised bevel you've got going with the rivers actually worsens this implausible-river problem -- one does get meanders and threading of rivercourses in dead-flat terrain, like river deltas, but your standard river 'look' has some serious banks going on, like mid-life rivers have. Outright *lakes* have essentially flat surfaces, so they could accumulate a collection of islands, but that's not what you seem to be going for.

Most of your river joins are at about ninety degrees. Without more sharper-angle connections, there aren't many cues as to which way is downstream. I honestly can't tell if the main river network on C4 drains off the south of the sheet by that ruined keep, or off the east edge.

What's your thinking on the ridgelines getting their own shadows? It makes them look like great-walls-of-china instead of lines drawn by the cartographer on paper (or screen). I actually like them as indicators of ridge networks, I just wonder if they'd work better with less emphasis. Those cousins to ridgelines you've got defining canyons do help make the drop-off obvious, but do they also need their own shadow or glow? It again makes them look like 3-d 'things' sitting there.

Is there a reason some ridges don't get ridgelines? Like the SE N-to-S one on B5. It looks just as inhospitable as the S and SW ones there.

Your overall effect is great, and if you've got techniques for generating it without a gazillion hours per sheet, your project will not only prosper but be a really amazing collection of maps!

kewlpack
02-21-2011, 02:21 AM
I bet you could fix the misidentification of ridgelines, by coloring them brown - their present color looks navy-black, hence distinctly riverish. Or maybe dotting them, like border lines sometimes are done - that'd make the obviously symbolic rather than tangible.
Great ideas. I'll try some of those modifications (including not using a bevel).


What's the significance of the two different blues in river coloring?
According to my friend, the dark blue represents deep/fast flowing water. The lighter blue is shallow/slow flowing water.


If I'm guessing the scale right, your rivers have some seriously implausible dividings and rejoinings. Islands along rivers tend to me modest sized; some of these seem huge. Basically, water chooses the single lowest course in any situation. Why would it ever want to flow down a less-low course, when a more low one is available? Small diversions around what you could think of as a mid-river hill *are* plausible, but that's only the smallest of them. The deeply-incised bevel you've got going with the rivers actually worsens this implausible-river problem -- one does get meanders and threading of rivercourses in dead-flat terrain, like river deltas, but your standard river 'look' has some serious banks going on, like mid-life rivers have. Outright *lakes* have essentially flat surfaces, so they could accumulate a collection of islands, but that's not what you seem to be going for.
You are right about several elements here. Keep in mind, these maps were drawn by my friend back when he was in 7th/8th grade in 1978. So, my job is not really to "fix" the maps so much as render a fairly accurate interpretation of them that respects the lore/legacy of the campaign. There are huge amounts of content we're working with; literally boxes upon boxes, and the only guidelines I've been given are to map what's there. I have tried to make as plausible renditions as I can, though. The world being flat as a pancake could explain some of the weird river characteristics, perhaps. ;)


Most of your river joins are at about ninety degrees. Without more sharper-angle connections, there aren't many cues as to which way is downstream. I honestly can't tell if the main river network on C4 drains off the south of the sheet by that ruined keep, or off the east edge.
LOL - Neither can I! I have numerous conversations with my friend about the line drawing maps around this sort of thing. All he really told me about the world is that "it's completely flat" with a "west to east" slope that is fairly constant. I think there is one large "crease" that runs from NE to SW on the western side of the plane that causes the rivers on the western side to flow from east to west. This is definitely fantasy we're talkin'!


What's your thinking on the ridgelines getting their own shadows? It makes them look like great-walls-of-china instead of lines drawn by the cartographer on paper (or screen). I actually like them as indicators of ridge networks, I just wonder if they'd work better with less emphasis. Those cousins to ridgelines you've got defining canyons do help make the drop-off obvious, but do they also need their own shadow or glow? It again makes them look like 3-d 'things' sitting there.
Yeah. I'll turn off the ridge FX and change to a dark brown color. Will see how it works.


Is there a reason some ridges don't get ridgelines? Like the SE N-to-S one on B5. It looks just as inhospitable as the S and SW ones there.
Yes. The ridgelines are only tactical. They indicate where it takes "one day to cross on foot", and "horse/carriage/wagon/wheeled vehicles cannot cross at all". That's kind of why I made them stand out so much. I tried a few versions without them and the first thing my friend said was "where's the ridgelines?". So they're pretty important tactical markers. The ridges where there are no ridgeline markings simply mean that those mountains are passable, even if treacherously so.


Your overall effect is great, and if you've got techniques for generating it without a gazillion hours per sheet, your project will not only prosper but be a really amazing collection of maps!
Thanks so much for the INSIGHTFUL and specific feedback. I've asked several of the same questions of my friend, and he has specific reasons for the way things are the way they are. Who am I to argue with such historic content?! :) I can get a map like this done in about 5 hours or so, give or take. That's still a LOT of work.

Again - thanks very much. I'll try tweaking the river forks and the ridgelines, then posting them here.

kewlpack
02-21-2011, 02:57 AM
Another thing I'll do is straighten some of the meandering of the rivers. It's a bit excessive for such a mountainous area (I think). Will clean up some of the busy-ness in those areas too.

kewlpack
02-21-2011, 04:09 AM
Alrighty - (on C4) fixed the river systems as much as I could. I made sure the mountain-based streams feeding the lower rivers start as dark blue (fast water). I also tweaked the merging and tributary junctions so they provide more obvious direction of the flow. The canyons are tricky, but that's the way the originals were drawn... I also took off all the FX on the ridgelines which helped clean things up too. I attached a new version in the above post and got rid of the first. I also left the ridgelines OFF of this version because... I hate 'em.

Think that the changes will work better? Seems like it to me.

Will rework B5 tomorrow.

jbgibson
02-21-2011, 10:41 PM
Nice! Running the headwaters up into forest, and/or tapering them has improved the look, as did making some of the T-joins Y's instead.

The "some with ridgelines vs. some without" definitely makes sense in a game setting. For that matter, almost anything that could be considered a flaw is completely explained by "the customer wants it that way" :-). Repped, both for sharp execution, and for audacious ambition :-).

kewlpack
02-23-2011, 01:14 AM
Found a style of ridgeline I like that works and looks more like what you'd get with a strategic map (smooth dotted/dashed lines); a deliberate "overlay".

Replaced the previous version of C4 with the new one. I think I'm done evolving the style (for now). :)

Thanks for your help!

kewlpack
02-23-2011, 02:45 AM
Updated B5 with the latest tweaks. Looks a lot better - less busy. Updated the attached map above. Thanks again!