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Kasim
03-10-2008, 02:43 PM
Hello everyone,

I'm new here but have been an avid gamer for quite some time. Since I've traditionally been stuck as the GM of games, I've been compiling a massive amount of maps and campaign information, all on paper though.

Well, due to graduating college and moving to an entirely new local I'm going to take the time and document the campaign world. I imagine it'll take some time to either find a gaming group or form my own, this will be a good use of my energy.

I've been researching various programs for the past week that will enable me to easily create my maps. Criteria that I'm expecting, in no certain order:

-Low cost, no $599 programs. I'd be willing to fork over about $50 for a program that makes my life easier. Time=Money right? But it is afterall only a hobby.
-Easy to work with, although I have CAD experience I don't want to make this a project that's 99% learning and 1% never finishing..
-Pleasing to the eye, no it doesn't have to be photorealistic but it must be easy enough for an amateur to use that people will know what they are looking at without me spending hours tweaking graphics.
-Robust enough to allow me to not be forced to resuse images out of lack of options. Nothing bugs me worse then a map made of repetative objects.
-Zoomable and scalable so that I can use one map for the entire world without seams such as my paper maps.

I've been looking at ViewingDale as it seems to meet these criteria better than most. So this leads me to ask a few questions since the forums there are giving me an error and some unbiased opinions will be nice. (Yeah you can chime in too RedRobes) :P

I have downloaded the trial version and played with it for a few minutes. I've watched the videos and checked out all the screenshots. I've also tried registering on the forums there, but have an error atm.

-Is there a full blown tutorial and good documentation with ViewingDale?
-It says that this is infinately zoomable, in practice does this lend to a great way to build a entire campaign map in one chunk instead of seams with maps pasted side by side? Do objects dissapear at certain zoom levels and if not, does this lag computers badly once maps get too complex? (We're talking a campaign world with dozens of cities, and probably millions of objects, roads, buildings, notes, ect.)
-How do you make the landforms? Although the sample islands look very impressive, I already know the shape and terrain of my map. I could refit my campaign to an existing map, but for several reasons, I'd rather not. I see how to place objects but how do you create the land and mountains itself? Will this be viewable in DragonFlight or will that require an entire rebuild of the map once GeoTerSys is launched? This isn't really needed but would be nice to show players the topography.
-How hard is it to go back and edit the landforms? For example if 2 years from now I decide that a region needs to be reshaped for campaign purposes, will it be a major pain?

I do plan on making things as realistic as possible, continental drift, mountains in the right place, vocanoes where they should be, places of frequent earthquakes, weather and climate, ecology, the works.

I really like the ability to use one program for all my mapping, including the interiors and dungeons like I'm seeing in ViewingDale. I do plan on posting my documentation to a website for my players or to give other GMs some ideas. Hopefully, I can come up with something of quality. Thanks in advance for the help.

Edit: Oh, and am I off base? Is there a better program that would fit my needs?

Arcana
03-10-2008, 04:03 PM
Turns out the developer of Viewingdale is a regular here, I'm sure he'll be along shortly to give ya all ya need.

Redrobes
03-10-2008, 04:36 PM
Hello Kasim - I guess I had better chime in a bit... BTW I have just attended to the forum login issue.


Is there a full blown tutorial and good documentation with ViewingDale?There is a full help system which comes with the program which explains a lot more about how it works and fits together, but the tutorials are on the web. There are a few key concepts to digest and then it all becomes quite routine. Theres a short steep learning curve and then it flattens very quickly as there are just a few things to get used to and then its lots of the same kind of thing from there on.


It says that this is infinately zoomable, in practice does this lend to a great way to build a entire campaign map in one chunk instead of seams with maps pasted side by side?It's near infinite of course. About 0.1mm to something much larger than planetary. Maps are built in a hierarchy of levels at different details as you have them where smaller maps are always correctly composited in the scene. Because everything is of no fixed scale all maps whether scanned, digital or made with icons can be put together.


Do objects dissapear at certain zoom levels and if not, does this lag computers badly once maps get too complex?Yes - its commonly known as level of detail. There is a slider to control how much fades out. You can go from about a pixel to about half the screen. The maps are all based on a hierarchy with bounds. All the children of an icon should be within the bounds of the parent. The app does a tree search and clips and fades out anything too small or off the sides. The pathological case is when all of the icons are the same size and large enough to be displayed. In that instance it will render about 100,000 for a frame per second. When distributed more evenly it will render an infinite number of icons based on hard drive capacity and not map complexity. Its designed to render universes down to the blade of grass and still maintain full frame rate.


How do you make the landforms?The app runs on icons which have bitmaps associated with them. The images can be up to 2K pix square or you can tile them for any sized bitmap. So you can scan and load in a large paper based map. Or you can use lots of smaller bits of terrain placed in hap-hazard fashion to create a terrain, or you can use a large computer generated terrain like what GTS is designed to make.


...how do you create the land and mountains itself? Will this be viewable in DragonFlight...ViewingDale is a 2D app only. (Well at least for now...) If you want to see a terrain in 3D using DF you need a height bitmap. The free Instant Islands will give you one for the specific color map is produces. Otherwise you have to make or obtain one. The idea eventually is to have GTS create a DVD of a base terrain with the height info so that VDale can use that in 2D or maybe launch DF to give the 3D view of it at a hotlink position. Theres some possibility that there would be height map data for some of the large icons like bits of castle etc which could be added to the base terrain for rendering in 3D in DF.


How hard is it to go back and edit the landforms? For example if 2 years from now I decide that a region needs to be reshaped for campaign purposes, will it be a major pain?That depends on how you build it. It could be if you make it out of lots of small splats.

One more thing I would like to add at this convenient point. I was going to wait another week or so but iCon2008 is about to start on March 21st to March 28th. Its an online convention for digital mapping and playing over the net using VTT's.

Like last year, theres going to be a more complete demo released for that which includes enough networking to connect live for demos + more demo icons etc. I was also going to do a special heavily reduced price for the app over iCon to the end of March. So for any CG member signed up before and including this day its going to be 12 or about $25 & that includes postage.

delgondahntelius
03-10-2008, 06:30 PM
but I have to sign up for iCon to get the discount, right?

Redrobes
03-10-2008, 06:51 PM
Nope - if your already signed up here on or before today then ill discount it over the iCon period - to end of March. I was going to do this next week but I'll have to try to do this ASAP I guess. I'll post a link if your interested.

So little time >:) Apologies if any of my posts are a bit terse - I have to grab 5 mins here and there to keep up.

Edit -- But sign up for iCon anyway !

Kasim
03-10-2008, 07:41 PM
Thank you for your quick response.

The more I look at your program, the more I'm loving the possibilities. At first I was merely looking for a mapping program but it appears this opens up new doors.

I also had no idea iCon existed, I'll definately be checking it out more this week and seeing about signing up for some of the events.


Like last year, theres going to be a more complete demo released for that which includes enough networking to connect live for demos + more demo icons etc. I was also going to do a special heavily reduced price for the app over iCon to the end of March. So for any CG member signed up before and including this day its going to be 12 or about $25 & that includes postage.

I'm pretty confident that I'll be taking part in your iCon promotion. If you can post any specifics about the demos or a link to find the detailed information, that would be great. It would be incredibly helpful to see things in action.

Redrobes
03-10-2008, 08:47 PM
I have changed the web page to add a new link right at the bottom of the purchase tab which links to a protected page where you can now order it with the discount. I'll PM you, Del and any member here who wants the code to get at the button if you so desire.

I am running the same iCon demo as last year but I would like to double check that its still all good to go. By the end of the week I should have it ready and available.

It was good fun last year. We had almost all of the big guns turn out. Kepli of Dunjinni, Heruca of Battlegrounds, Trevor & Dorpond of RPTools, Emryys of GRiP to name a few plus others who make digital adventures and other digital aids. There were loads of games played via different VTTs, a few contests, a few freebies and give aways and then there is the round table discussion where there is a big conference / debate about RPG's and VTTs etc and what WotC might be doing with 4E and this year will probably revolve around the new 3D networked app they have due in May. And its all free and you don't even have to get off the couch to attend. All you need is broadband and a mic headset.

Time is marching. I had better get more prepared for it :)

Edit -- Just reviewing the calendar, there seems to be quite a lot of modern and sci-fi this year. Who was it getting excited about playing Traveller ? Ravells ? Theres games for that in both GRiP and FGII + Babylon5 game running too.

Kasim
03-11-2008, 08:56 PM
I have changed the web page to add a new link right at the bottom of the purchase tab which links to a protected page where you can now order it with the discount. I'll PM you, Del and any member here who wants the code to get at the button if you so desire.

I am running the same iCon demo as last year but I would like to double check that its still all good to go. By the end of the week I should have it ready and available.

Yes, I would like a promo code. It would be nice to have the full blown version to experiment with before iCon so that I can ask more informed questions or get everything out of it possible. Lookign forward to it.

Redrobes
03-11-2008, 09:48 PM
I have posted a PM (actually one yesterday and one today too). PM is Private Messages - link to them in top right under the Welcome, Kasim bit. Do you have a few unread ones there ? If I post it on the forum then everyone inc all guests etc would be able to use it. If your not seeing it then ill just email or use some other means to get them to you.

This is an incentive to be a genuine former CGuild member or iCon member. I love this site because people are really passionate about the maps and actually doing some. Theres a lot of hot air, watching and especially (Grrr) expecting somebody else to do it on a lot of other sites. This place buzzes so much I can hardly keep up with all the posts.

Kasim
03-11-2008, 10:51 PM
Yeah :? there was two messages from you waiting...

Kasim
03-14-2008, 11:21 PM
Does anyone have any images of things they've done in ViewingDale? It'd be interesting to see more possibilities and styles.

Redrobes
03-15-2008, 06:22 PM
I don't think anyone else uses it here.

All of my entries to the challenges have had some parts done using it.
December (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1273)
January (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1371)
February (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1475)
March (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1604)

Most of the months have involved me using an image editor to generate the base texture and then all of the icons on top are done with the app.

In December I used it additionally to generate height map elements by sprinkling rock height maps down over the base and then using DragonFlight to get that in 3D. The base was drawn with a pen, scanned, filled with textures and then the barrels, bags, skeletons etc were done on top with VDale.

Jan, I chose to do a 3D one. The gems and mounting lugs for them were placed on top with it.

Both Feb and March I am using a texture script to generate the base floor from texture layers and placing all the items on top with the app. If the floor were a dungeon then it could easily be done with it, I could have done this months floor using it but as I have posted in the thread the script I use is so easy that I am lazy enough to get that to do it instead. You will also see that the entries are usually quite high res and that its rendering all the items even if they are quite small. See the tray, plate and spoon in room 4 for example. The problem there is that I am so used to getting everything at proper scale that a spoon in a 125ft dungeon needs the res.

For sure, ViewingDale is weak at doing terrain. It can do it but it takes a lot of splat icons to make it look good. To be fair, there are not many apps which I would say were really good at that job either. The ones I could name are never mentioned here and cost a lot. So thats why I am trying to fix that with GTS where I can generate whole worlds at immense detail on DVD's.

The program is very effective where lots of items need to be grouped. Villages, cities, dungeons, buildings etc.

Maybe the best thing would be if you were to indicate what style maps you like or intend to make and I could suggest where it would or would not fit. I tend to use a variety of tools of which this program is but one. However it is a tool for which there are no other substitutes. You see a lot of planet scale world maps and village / city maps here. What you don't get are much regional maps or maps of cities where the city is small in comparison with the total map size. Or going the other way, you don't see many maps of small parts of cities, a street where the buildings are mapped. These are both areas where this app excels because you can zoom in from a city to street level or out to regional level. Not that it would exactly make the whole map for you in its entirety but it will zoom it such that everything is all in relation so that its easy to make one. If you start with a high res house and put a street of them together then it would render that street exactly for you in city scale and that street would be accurate in regional scale too. The point is that you don't have to do any work in those situations and therefore makes those maps more than just doable, but easy where usually they would be boring and quite tricky to get right. In any case nobody does them because if something changes in the city then the region map would have to be updated but with VDale thats done for you. I really should do a demo / tutorial about this sort of thing but lets get the iCon thing done first.

Kasim
03-15-2008, 11:07 PM
Most of the months have involved me using an image editor to generate the base texture and then all of the icons on top are done with the app.

I started doing some work with the newest version of GIMP 2. I'm guessing that it will be easier or smarter to create the land/topography/water itself with another program such as GIMP and then bring it into VD to start adding features such as forests, buildings and roads.

Yeah it's very apparent that I'm a noob when it comes to technology. One of the problems I envision with doing this method is that it will create problems. When I create a map in GIMP and then import it, what will it look like as I zoom in further and further? The oceans and beaches in GIMP that look okay at that zoom level will possibly look horrid at the level of detail VD is capable at working in. I'd have to create the GIMP map at the same level of detail I plan on zooming into, correct?

I'm kind of hoping some other people who use ViewingDale can chime in, giving some tips or strategies. Especially tips geared towards someone who's never used any of these programs before.


Maybe the best thing would be if you were to indicate what style maps you like or intend to make and I could suggest where it would or would not fit.

Well since VD is capable of doing infinite zooms, I was planning on mapping the entire planet in one shot, filling in details as I go or need. But since experimenting with the demo, I notied that I can take the section of land given to me and add onto it. So my plan has evolved into mapping half of the main continent to start. (A much smaller fraction of the land mass) Then filling in the details of the areas as time permits and the campaign requires. Later, completing the main continent and onward.


I tend to use a variety of tools of which this program is but one.

I'm trying to keep the amount of tools and at the same time, the learning curve to a minimum. If I have to figure out half a dozen programs and how they interrelate, I won't ever get the project off the ground. For the simplest of examples, see the uknown of how my map made in GIMP will react when imported into VD.


You see a lot of planet scale world maps and village / city maps here. What you don't get are much regional maps or maps of cities where the city is small in comparison with the total map size. Or going the other way, you don't see many maps of small parts of cities, a street where the buildings are mapped. These are both areas where this app excels because you can zoom in from a city to street level or out to regional level. Not that it would exactly make the whole map for you in its entirety but it will zoom it such that everything is all in relation so that its easy to make one. If you start with a high res house and put a street of them together then it would render that street exactly for you in city scale and that street would be accurate in regional scale too. The point is that you don't have to do any work in those situations and therefore makes those maps more than just doable, but easy where usually they would be boring and quite tricky to get right. In any case nobody does them because if something changes in the city then the region map would have to be updated but with VDale thats done for you. I really should do a demo / tutorial about this sort of thing but lets get the iCon thing done first.

That's exactly why I'm pursuing ViewingDale. It means I can do a single map and zoom in or out as needed. A caravan traveling overland to the next town? Great, zoom out a bit and you can plot the distance, terrain and get a great visual. Wow, ambushed at the bridge. Zoom in and you can see the terrain, plop down some tokens for the bandits and the caravan. Let the players see their situation and even maneuver tokens that way. When they get to town and decide to wander into an Inn, simply zoom in and open up the interior view of the inn. Wow, they found the dungeon that the inn keeper was trying to keep secret. Open it up and let them head on in for some dungeon crawling.

Seamless gaming, at my home using a projector, second monitor or second computer or over the net using the interface.

VD seems to do a good job of managing the map on many levels. If I did this in another program alone, I would have to create a new map at the planet level, a new map for each and every region and then yet more maps for every town, city, dungeon at any level of zoom that I might need to use.

Kasim
03-15-2008, 11:14 PM
One of the struggles going on in my mind right now is how to hand elevation and terrain.

I kind of like Tareth's approach with triangular arrow shaped markers that are set up to act like contour lines. This lets you see not only contours but also the direction of the slope. I imagine this would be quite doable by creating an icon in VD then putting them down just like any other. One unknown for me is how it will look on the grand scale when zooming out very far. Another is how difficult and repetative it will be to place all these in such a large map. The last being what kind of load will it be on the computer to have these hundreds of thousands of little arrows on the map in addition to everything else. Will it be possible to make a single icon out of the hill for example to ease the load?

Kasim
03-15-2008, 11:33 PM
Slade uses what I'd think of a more traditional cartographer's mountain symbol. The only problem I would see with this type of marker is that as you zoom in there wouldn't be any map, just a big black shaded in area.

Redrobes
03-16-2008, 11:54 AM
Hi Kasim, Gosh lots of questions there to pick up. What I did yesterday is mail a few people here to ask if I could use their maps to make a demo. I have had several responses with an ok. So I went ahead and did it. I hope that its ok with the others and if not I will remove the link.

I have made a movie showing what its basically all about. So I have taken RobA's progressive detail world maps which show how you might get the basic forms in at world scale. Then lower down there is Tareth and Landorl's maps to shoe mid range detail. Then I took Hapimeses city and Simonutp's tower to show smaller scale stuff and then I added some more tokens at human scale.

Link to Video (http://www.viewing.ltd.uk/Temp/CG/VD_Demo1/VD_Demo1_xvid.avi)

Most players should be able to play this but if you have issues then I would recommend VLC (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/). Oh and there is no sound on it.

For those interested it was made with CamStudio and MediaCoder.

Redrobes
03-16-2008, 12:36 PM
Here is a demo using Tareths map with the diamond contours.

Link to Video (http://www.viewing.ltd.uk/Temp/CG/VD_Demo2/VD_Demo2_xvid.avi)

What I have done is make a clear icon. You use these a lot. They are useful for grouping child icons together. I am using the pathing tool too. That drops icons down where the mouse travels with adjustable parameters like tracking and random rotations. In this instance its set up for rotating them based on mouse direction. So it drops contours where the diamonds point along perpendicular to the contour. Finally I am showing the effect of child cut off where the size of child icons can be shown and when they are faded out.

Once all of the diamonds are on their own clear icon as a parent then the following apply. When the parent clear icon is off of the screen then the app does not even consider the diamonds. So when the mountain is off screen it plays no part in slowing down the map. Also when the parent clear icon is too small and is itself faded out then all the grand children like the diamonds are not considered too. So when looking at the whole world all those diamonds are not slowing it down. Therefore only when you are looking at that area and at a scale that they would be seen is when the program draws them. By that reasoning you can have a lot of stuff on the map providing its grouped into levels that are of similar scale and similar position. I.e you parent people to houses, houses to cities, cities to regions, regions to continents and continents to worlds etc. If you parent all people to the entire world then its going to run very slow (Which is the way the majority of other mapping programs work !)

Kasim
03-16-2008, 06:10 PM
Wow, that just makes me want to see more..


I have made a movie showing what its basically all about. So I have taken RobA's progressive detail world maps which show how you might get the basic forms in at world scale. Then lower down there is Tareth and Landorl's maps to shoe mid range detail. Then I took Hapimeses city and Simonutp's tower to show smaller scale stuff and then I added some more tokens at human scale.



That's pretty much what I'm hoping to do, but I'll be aiming for no seams. If I do all the detail in VD, I'm thinking that it'll work out. Can you see any problems created by doing something like his city in all VD icons instead of an imported image? I'll just need to create an invisible parent to place them on, correct?

Redrobes
03-16-2008, 06:30 PM
That's pretty much what I'm hoping to do, but I'll be aiming for no seams. If I do all the detail in VD, I'm thinking that it'll work out. Can you see any problems created by doing something like his city in all VD icons instead of an imported image? I'll just need to create an invisible parent to place them on, correct?Yes thats right, remember everything is a branch on a big tree. So don't try to group everything all on one twig. Make a street in clear parent, put some houses on it. Attach the clear parent to the city base map. When the clear street is off of the side then no houses need to be drawn. I knew a movie would explain it a little better.

IMO to do full seamless I would still use bitmaps to do base terrain. Keep it simple and get the basic shapes in using that, keep to a limited palette. Then it will fit together ok. There are some extra functions within the app for helping a little there too. Once you have the thing all mapped out to a really basic level then you can get the app to make a new icon out of a screen image. It will get all the scale right and then you can attach that new icon back into the place it came from. Now editing this smaller area you can add stuff to it until you have that area done in patch icons / splats / new artwork etc. Then you can replace the image of the basic map to clear and it will be a clear parent sitting on the base map at the correct scale etc. Thats a more advanced technique but thats basically how you do it.

BTW. I have just made and uploaded the icon08 demo. Do you want to test that out say Monday evening ? You can grab that :-

ViewingDale iCon08 demo app (http://www.viewing.ltd.uk/viewingdale/downloads/static/Install_ViewingDale_iCon.zip)

Email me with a time. Say 23:00 by the tycho clock (http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/cgi-bin/timer.pl) maybe or whatever you have free.

Edit -- I should add that time should be UTC (so many timezones...). Also on my forum and the four ugly monsters there are the details of the iCon08 Ventrilo server settings. If your able then get a headset and mic and you can talk. We can do it by chat but its not so easy with the type lag.

delgondahntelius
03-16-2008, 08:06 PM
Well.. I've ordered it .. I think everyone else should do the same :D

Torq
03-17-2008, 06:04 AM
Very cool Redrobes. So what this means for a project like the Cartographer's Guild world mapping project suggested in another thread, is the higher your resolution the better?

Torq

Redrobes
03-17-2008, 09:23 AM
So what this means for a project like the Cartographer's Guild world mapping project suggested in another thread, is the higher your resolution the better?Thanks,

The more detail and res the images are the further you can zoom in to them. The usual way to create the world is to start at the top and do continents and detail them right in. Then go down and do it all again and so on until you hit cities and then make a fully detailed city map. The thing is that if you start with houses or the city then when you do the region the app can fill in the city for you. then as the region gets detailed the continent starts getting done for you etc. So whilst its true that its good to have detail, it might not be the best strategy to put the effort into to making every map wildly detailed. Better to put the effort in at battle scale and let the app do the work for you. Also, all the upper scales get modified automatically when you change the lower detail.

Its like a sculpture. You start with a blank block. You wouldn't chip off the top corner and detail all that in right away. You rough it out and then progressively work on it.

Another thing thats worth bearing in mind also is that you can reuse branches in the mapping tree. So if you make a fantastically detailed inn for one city, you can clone that and use it again - or even bits of it again. It takes no more storage to do it. The app gives you either option of having each of them unique or you can use exactly the same icon so that if you change one then the other gets modified also. So you might want to change the name label and the characters within but tie up the basic layout. Thats handy for generic villages or basic houses when somebody creates a new icon - like those Persian rugs for example recently. One quick mod and every generic house in the world gets a new rug. Of course you do have to be a bit careful when editing a global generic / template icon.

Kasim
03-18-2008, 12:22 AM
Redrobes gave a couple of us a demonstration tonight. Very well done, it helped to clear up a few questions and give me better insight to the program. I'm definately ordering ViewingDale and getting down to work. Thanks again for taking the time to not only do the program but to show me how to use it.

delgondahntelius
03-18-2008, 01:32 AM
:( I wanted to make it ... but I had to work ... had to pass the fun stuff up tonight

Redrobes
03-18-2008, 09:17 AM
Thanks, it was fun to do. iCon officially kicks off from the 21st and runs through to the 28th but the ventrilo server is running from now through to (I think) sencond week in April. The ventrilo server definitely makes life easier so if anyone wants a demo then just ask and ill find some time. Need a headset & mic or speakers and mic but trying to do it without voice over IP is hard work.

delgondahntelius
03-18-2008, 02:43 PM
I actually picked up a mic and a headset yesterday ... maybe we can do that over the weekend or something...

Kasim
03-20-2008, 02:22 PM
...and ordered.