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dorpond
05-19-2008, 10:52 AM
I have seen many maps over the period of many years and I came to realize that there were very few bluff style maps. Yeah, I have seen some small encounter areas built by the great community over at Dundjinni.com, but nothing that was roomy enough to give a few sessions of gaming.

So that sparked the idea:
Make a map that is based in a bluff terrain that is roomy enough to have a couple gaming sessions. This is probably more of a personal challenge more than anything else.

Issues:
Well I have the 75k issue. The good news is that we all do. This issue will probably effect me more however since more gaming real estate = less quality. For me to pull this off, I am probably going to have to use the smallest pixel-per-cell setting which will make the overall map look less pretty but give me the space I need for the party to plan, approach, and conquer.

Planned Settings:
Dimensions: 1280x1024
Pixels per Cell: 25

Mapping Tool: Photoshop CS3

Here is a concept of the bluffs that I whipped up in Photoshop. It is just a concept of the terrain. When I am said and done with this map, I will do all I can to share the PSD file so that you guys can see how I approach map making. Warning -- I am very messy and make lots and lots of layers. My organization skills with layering definately needs improving.

More to come...

(Note: The first image is the concept image, the second image is the contest final - I wanted it on the first page for you all to get to it easily)

dorpond
05-19-2008, 10:59 AM
More concept: I quickly sketched some huts to get an overall feel. I threw down some shadows for the bluffs, again to observe the general feel. Not sure if I want such strong shadows or not at this point.

ravells
05-19-2008, 11:15 AM
Interesting concept! I really like your bridges! Be fun to see how this turns out. How do the people who live on top of the bluffs get down to ground level?

Gamerprinter
05-19-2008, 12:13 PM
Nice Bluff Map, Dorpond.

I'd say to cut those shadows to 50% in darkness or transparency, so you can see the bridges and ground better.

To getting to the ground either include timber ladders, bridges to bluffs mostly off map, you could say, larger extended bluffs are on the other side of the bridge and that's how people get there. Or, they could be simply be climbing up the bluffs, not unlike the Anasazi do at their cliff dwellings.

Nice looking map so far! 8)

GP

dorpond
05-19-2008, 12:23 PM
What's really interesting is that I did sort of draw in paths leading up the two northern bluffs. I guess that proves I need to make them a bit more obvious. :)

Thanks for the heads up with that.

As far as shadowing - yeah, I don't think I care for the bluff shadows in the concept and I think they will make the overall map too dark.

Nice seeing that you agree.

GM's Apprentice
05-19-2008, 01:47 PM
Although I know that you think that the shadows are too dark, I think that might be appropriate for some settings. The world of the gulleys is a dark and forboding area.

However, currently the shadows of the bluff fall evenly regardless of the elevation of the terrain the shadows fall upon.

The bridges, for the most part, should be above the shadows and in the light. Likewise, the bluffs should rise out of the shadows. I recommend masking those areas and erasing or increasing the transparency of the shadows.

The change in lighting should really make those areas pop out at you.

Torq
05-19-2008, 03:29 PM
I'm loving this map already Dorpond. Great, artistic use of colour and understated contrasts make it tremendously cool. I personally prefer darker shadows because they increase the atmosphere and add to the muted nature of a map, which I prefer.

What is on the ground that makes the villagers want to buid on top of the high areas. Is it something really dangerous perhaps or are you just bluffing?

Torq

Redrobes
05-19-2008, 03:53 PM
Great Stuff Dorpond. 23 gauntlets thrown in now. You will get a pic on the thumbnails page (http://www.viewing.ltd.uk/Temp/CG/ChallengeTN/Challengers_May08.htm) if you add a Latest WIP tag. (Click on my entry if you need more info on that).

People like to comment a lot and throw lots of ideas in and around. I'll see a little more as you have lots of ideas already. I reckon a little shadow is alright tho... especially if your a priest with good turning ability.

Hussar
05-19-2008, 08:20 PM
That's really sweet.

Something to remember, these are battle maps. You need enough open space in order to place minis. Don't get too carried away filling up the blank spaces.

dorpond
05-19-2008, 08:32 PM
....The change in lighting should really make those areas pop out at you.

Yeah, after looking at the whole shadow thing, I think I am going to approach this more with the sun at mid-day or something. Shadows are nice but I think the general viewers will focus more on the accuracy of the shadows instead of the overall map. To be completely honest with you, I am not an artist by any means so I probably have the hardest times with the shadows. :)

All very helpful though - thank you!

dorpond
05-19-2008, 08:43 PM
I'm loving this map already Dorpond. Great, artistic use of colour and understated contrasts make it tremendously cool. I personally prefer darker shadows because they increase the atmosphere and add to the muted nature of a map, which I prefer.

What is on the ground that makes the villagers want to buid on top of the high areas. Is it something really dangerous perhaps or are you just bluffing?

Thanks for the vote of confidence! :)

Actually, my initial vision was an Orc type creature living on these bluffs. Down below on the ground I envisioned critters of some sort like giant beetles and such. The Orcs resorted to the high bluffs to get away from them and over time, called the bluffs home.

I also see this as being quite a challenge for a party. I see them facing the dangers of the giant beetles while making their way closer to the bluffs. The party can't really see what is on top of these bluffs but sees billowing smoke coming from one. They eventually get close enough to see a pathway going up and when they do, they face one of them coming down. The Orc-like creature sees them and tries to run back up. Does the party chase or take cover? Nonetheless, they look very tasty to the Orc who wants to let the others know it is feeding time. :P

Or.... is he bluffing? ;)

dorpond
05-19-2008, 09:01 PM
That's really sweet.

Something to remember, these are battle maps. You need enough open space in order to place minis. Don't get too carried away filling up the blank spaces.


Thanks!

Yeah, I thought the same thing while glancing at the mockup throughout the day. For a matter of fact, I already took out some of the mini bluffs down below so the party can have room to move and plan on removing many of the tents above.

Thanks a lot for your wisdom.

dorpond
05-20-2008, 10:51 AM
Here is the latest revision. Man, I am going blind staring at this map for so long. It all looks the same after a while and eventually, I ask myself if I am doing more harm than good to the map. LOL

Please, as always, let me know what you think and where I can improve.

(am I doing this whole WIP image thing correctly guys? I am just telling this thread that it is a WIP. Do I need to do more for it to show in the thumbnails?)

RobA
05-20-2008, 11:08 AM
It is showing up now.

-Rob A>

dorpond
05-20-2008, 11:21 AM
It is showing up now.

My previous WIP is showing, not my latest.

Hey Rob, can you post a link on how to do get my latest WIP to shop in the thumbnail page? I am not sure if I am doing things right. I just don't want to have to rely on you guys everytime I post an update. Thanks bud.

ravells
05-20-2008, 11:39 AM
I think that redrobes has to run the script for the thumbnails page to update.

RPMiller
05-20-2008, 12:19 PM
Since there was a little trouble with the procedure and to help ensure that future challengers can find the directions I've created a new sticky thread from Redrobes' post, edited the directions to make them clear and simple and locked the thread to reduce clutter.

Each month one of the CLs can go in and edit the link to the new thumbnails page.

Hope that helps.

http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=2066

Redrobes
05-20-2008, 01:50 PM
How you have done it in post #13 is exactly right. I run the script several times per day as I cant be away from here for too long ;)

As soon as you start a new entry and I see it, I edit the challengers listing and run the script again so even if a fresh start then you get a placeholder on the thumbs page. Every name and image is linked to the thread for it so you can get the very latest results that way.

I used to do it all by hand, now its a script plus an FTP upload for all the changed stuff. Maybe one day Arcana will manage to get it embedded into the system and run every hour or something like that - that would be the ideal way to do it. I tried to make it a CGI script so that anyone pressing a web page button you run the script through but it takes a while and the CGI times out.

I'm sure if the script were run on the local server then there would be no internet accesses so it ought to run very fast and therefore not become an issue.

The script here is in Perl but Arcana works in PHP so there is some conversion that would have to be accounted for.

dorpond
05-20-2008, 02:30 PM
Thank you RPMiller for posting that link and thanks Redrobes for giving more details on the way it functions. It is very helpful knowing what is going on :)

dorpond
05-20-2008, 02:47 PM
I quickly slapped the map, as it is right now, into Maptool and did a quick walk-through to make sure everything lined up OK to the grid. Thank goodness my character was nicely centered on the bridges instead of walking on the ropes. :P

Funny though but those are some of the things cartographers have to think about when making maps for VT's.

Anyway, I recorded my walkthrough to give you guys a taste:
http://rptools.net/dorpond/demos/Bluffs/Bluffs.html

trevor
05-20-2008, 03:06 PM
That's pretty cool Dorpond (kind of reminded me of a video game Speed Run as you zoomed past all the baddies).

What would be cool is if the other entrants demonstrated their maps in their VT of choice. It's great to talk about creating maps for VTs, but it's another thing to actually see it in use. Lots of little things to think about, like the grid alignment that dorpond mentions.

Something I thought was impressive was that the 75k map still had good quality even zoomed in. Very playable.

RPMiller
05-20-2008, 03:07 PM
Looks good.

I'm not sure I agree with the need to line everything up for a VT though. I posted a thread recently about grids if you want my opinion about that. I think the need for lining everything up is strictly a system thing and possibly a square grid issue as well. I won't go any further with that train of thought as I don't want to derail the thread, but you are welcome to check out my Questions of the Grid thread:
http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1984

Redrobes
05-20-2008, 03:58 PM
Everyones lost me with the lining up bit. It doesn't have a grid on it so whats to line up ? This map should be one of those that show how to use a VT without a grid surely.

Edit -- Just to add. I couldn't see the path up that you mentioned was on these rocks even when looking and knowing they should be there. The latest map shows them up much better now. I can see now how to get up onto the top. It also doubles up to show the scale better. Those bridges and tents could have been any size but the path should be at least enough to walk up so now I know that they are actually quite large.

RPMiller
05-20-2008, 04:44 PM
If you look at the video he linked to, you'll see what the talk about lining up is referring to. I strongly agree with you though that this is a perfect map to go gridless on. Unfortunately people would have to then figure out how to use their system without a grid. That is those systems that rely on it so heavily. *cough*d20*cough*

trevor
05-20-2008, 04:53 PM
The key is that there are people who _do_ use grids, and if you are trying to make a map that has the broadest accessibility you need to keep them in mind too. For example, it's nice when there's not a wall that cuts a cell in half, or in this case, a bridge that has spots that force the token to float in mid-air.

We've discussed that the 75k file size limit shows off the expertise of the map maker, it seems reasonable that an additional (and unofficial) criteria is that a master could lay out a fantastic looking map while still keeping it usable by the use-grid people.

Full Bleed
05-20-2008, 04:57 PM
I like it.

To chime in, I hope you produce a higher rez version that isn't restricted by the contest rules. "Playable" is one thing, but I'd enjoy it more if I was playing at 4 times that resolution. ;)

As for making maps to grids, I'm not a fan of that philosophy. Grids become an artificial constraint as is. Try making a really snakey, thin, cavern passage on a square grid and you'll notice real quick that it just doesn't work very well. Tokens end up cutting corners and standing in walls all the time. It's not pretty but people just have to suspend their disbelief a little more and it's workable. The solution to being "grid friendly" may in many cases fundamentally change the artistry of a map (you know, like when you walk into a dungeon and every room is a miraculously a multiple of 5' ;)) The point being that VTT's that require a grid are kind of missing out on one of the key benefits of using a VTT (i.e. not being constrained by a grid.) So the question becomes one of choosing to dumb down a map to a grid's constraints, or upping a game system's ability to play without one. (Point of note: Maptool does not require a grid.)

As for the map itself, it's coming along nicely.

A few things I think would make it look better... Unflatten the canyon floor to indicate some wind/water erosion and add some things to make the village area look a little more lived in (fire pits, water wells, animal pens, etc.) Maybe some kind of wooden fortification gate at the top of the path (so that Dorpond guy can't run right in! ;))

meleeguy
05-20-2008, 08:11 PM
A most fine entry.

As a friendly would-be competitor, I fear your 2nd version the most - something about texture harmony springs to mind. :D

NeonKnight
05-20-2008, 11:29 PM
Very, very nice.

dorpond
05-21-2008, 08:19 AM
I like it.

To chime in, I hope you produce a higher rez version that isn't restricted by the contest rules. "Playable" is one thing, but I'd enjoy it more if I was playing at 4 times that resolution. ;)

A few things I think would make it look better... Unflatten the canyon floor to indicate some wind/water erosion and add some things to make the village area look a little more lived in (fire pits, water wells, animal pens, etc.) Maybe some kind of wooden fortification gate at the top of the path (so that Dorpond guy can't run right in! ;))

Thanks Full Bleed!

Regarding your request for high resolution. I actually made this map at 1280x1024 since that was what the rules were. That being said, the PSD is that size. Sorry bud... I will however provide a non-compressed version at the end of the day. :)

Thanks for the advice. I did put camp fires and tried to clutter up the living areas. What ended up happening however was that the map became too busy and combat room started to fade. Then I thought about how I like to keep stampable objects off the map so that the map can be made for any gamer. For example, someone might want this to be more of a sci-fi 'another planet' map and in that case there may be space craft parts laying around these huts. :P

In general, I tend to leave off the clutter on my maps and leave that up to the GM who will be using them in their VT.

I guess what I need to ask myself is this: is this contest for the prettiest map or most usable by the masses? In general I am swaying more towards the latter since we already have a ton of pretty map makers out there (which by the way, tend to be useless to me most of the time because they have already have objects on them that don't fit my game).

I will definately add more character to the canyon floor texture - great pointer.

dorpond
05-21-2008, 08:21 AM
A most fine entry.

As a friendly would-be competitor, I fear your 2nd version the most - something about texture harmony springs to mind. :D


You know, I kind of liked that cartoony/gritty feel also. Sometimes I wonder if I do more bad than good by trying to make things better.

What are the general thoughts so far from the rest of you? Which of the three are better and why? A part of me loves the feel of the dark and tall shadows. Almost rogue-like while the players duck in the shadows as they approach the pathway up. Man, I am soooooo torn... :)

Torq
05-21-2008, 09:07 AM
I'm all for the dark and tall shadows. Its the most moody and evocative, and therefore I suppose probably the least generic, but I still like it best.

Torq

RobA
05-21-2008, 10:57 AM
In general, I tend to leave off the clutter on my maps and leave that up to the GM who will be using them in their VT.

That is exactly why I left my tower entry completely empty. I am sure it will hurt me in the end, but I wanted it to be usable for any purpose.

-Rob A>

dorpond
05-22-2008, 08:30 AM
I am hitting a brick wall with my artistic creativity. It seems that every attempt to make the map better ends up making it worse. So to give myself a creative break, I loaded up the map in Maptool and created a fun little scene.

(Dorpond closes his eyes and begins to think)
The mage fears nothing as she leads the way to the top of the bluff. The rogue decides to sneak around the mini bluff in hopes for a sneak attack. For once the fighters stay behind trusting their female companion but thier swords are readied...

Closer... Closer... She moves slowly... She can see a couple huts and then into view, she can see the foul smelling beasts that inhabit this place. She gets a quick view of 2 of them feeding on the remains of a humanoid - the male reported missing from Shimmering Spirings. Without further recon, she raises her hands and begins to chant..

The fighters in the back cup their ears.. "Here it comes" one whispers to the other.

!!!!!!KABOOM!!!!!!

The fireball explosion engulfs the hidious beasts and sends two others through the air.

**Roll Initiatives**

trevor
05-22-2008, 09:27 AM
Sweeeeeeeeet

RPMiller
05-22-2008, 11:08 AM
Now if trevor could just get animated gifs working think how cool that would look. ;)

trevor
05-22-2008, 11:17 AM
Now if trevor could just get animated gifs working think how cool that would look. ;)

That would be pretty sweet !

dorpond
05-22-2008, 11:26 AM
Since this website is all about offering advice, sharing ideas, and helping each other make better maps, I decided to dismantle my map and supply the parts and pieces for you to make your own bluff maps in your favorite VT.

To start, I took my bluff floor and made it a seamless tile for you all. This is especially cool if your VT can load these tiles stacked next to each other. Since Maptool is the only VT I know, all you would do in Maptool is load this tile as a background map. Maptool will automatically tile it in each direction to make one MASSIVE map.

I plan on supplying the huts and bluffs shortly. This way you can just plop them down wherever you want in your VT session. I also plan on supplying the bridges so you guys can walk under them if your VT allows for such.

I hope you enjoy and happy mapping! :)

dorpond
05-22-2008, 11:30 AM
Here is the boss hut. I started with Greytales hut and modified it crazily. Greytales original hut found here: http://www.dundjinni.com/forums/forum_posts.asp?TID=6276&KW=hut

Midgardsormr
05-22-2008, 11:53 AM
Superb! Repped. It might be even more useful without the drop shadow.

RPMiller
05-22-2008, 11:53 AM
That would be pretty sweet !
You are such a tease. ;)

RPMiller
05-22-2008, 11:55 AM
Superb! Repped. It might be even more useful without the drop shadow.
Agreed. Drop shadows = Bad in my book. Since you never really know which direction the light source will come from or what other objects you'll be using. The nice subtle outer glow that I mentioned to Gamerprinter for his trees he posted is a great way to get a nice blend and have the object pop.

dorpond
05-22-2008, 12:01 PM
OK guys, I will see what I can do about those shadows. Unfortunately, many of the shadows I have are hand drawn so removing them might be a bit difficult. Can't recall if I the buildings were hand drawn though.

In any event, here is the first bluff. This shadow for certain is hand drawn so one side will be darker than another - no rotation for you :(

I guess that means I make more bluffs even after the contest! :)

Enjoy!

meleeguy
05-22-2008, 12:35 PM
I think you're bluffing!

RPMiller
05-22-2008, 01:41 PM
I think you're bluffing!
I think perhaps I found a use for negative rep. ;) :lol:

Redrobes
05-22-2008, 01:52 PM
Shadows are a bit of a pain generally and I try to avoid them. But without doubt stuff looks better with them and although its easy to have a little generic drop shadow using bold shadows set at an angle causes a lot of problems if your in 2D. There are some objects which positively need shadows or some lighting in order to see them at all. Hills and ditches are probably the purest but I have been caught with mixed direction lighting on my roof tops in the last few weeks. Roofs just don't look right without a little lighting to show the angular direction of them. The worst is a hemisphere where no shadows and its really hard to make out what shape it is at all.

So your almost hemisphere bluff needs some lighting and this is always going to be a pain to sort out or reuse the items. If you had a 3D representation of it you could generate that shadow dynamically but thats yet more complexity to add to a program which ought to be simple to set up - might as well go full 3D and be done with it by that point - which is a direction I would resist.

I try to keep any strong shadows on a different image layer than the main item color so you might be able to offset that shadow depending on which direction you need it but it often breaks down if the shape is not simple.

I am prepared to live with a slight bit of multi-directional shadow but I am interested to hear any other opinions on the matter.

dorpond
05-22-2008, 02:36 PM
One thing I want to mention here guys is that when I sit down and make object art, I do not add shadows. I too dislike them.

But that is not the case here. This case with the bluffs, I have a completely different scenario - I didn't make this artwork for distribution. I made a map and now I am simply dismantling the map and supplying pieces so that a very similar map can be made in a VT but much larger. The key phase being "very similar map".

If the community is not interested in these shadowed pieces to reproduce a similar but edgeless (and much larger) bluff map, let me know and I will won't bother going through all the work. :)

meleeguy
05-22-2008, 03:49 PM
For myself, I'd love to see any information on how and what tools you used to create such wonderful effects (that you have the time and the desire to share).

dorpond
05-22-2008, 04:04 PM
For myself, I'd love to see any information on how and what tools you used to create such wonderful effects (that you have the time and the desire to share).

Now that my friend, I will be happy to do. Give me a few days and I will supply the PSD file (Photoshop) and I will be glad to explain the tricks I used to make many of the objects. Sound good?

RPMiller
05-22-2008, 04:10 PM
Sounds fabulous and sounds like someone may just get a Tutorial Author award. ;)

meleeguy
05-22-2008, 04:12 PM
Sweet!!!

What version of PS do you use? I might have to upgrade from 7 for this unless there is a way around that.

dorpond
05-22-2008, 04:48 PM
I am using CS3 but the tricks I used should be possible with older versions. The PSD file itself will not explain much but only show the many layers. For a matter of fact, you can probably do most of this stuff in Gimp but I don't know for certain since I don't really use it much.

Redrobes
05-22-2008, 04:50 PM
One thing I want to mention here guys is that when I sit down and make object art, I do not add shadows. I too dislike them.

But that is not the case here. This case with the bluffs, I have a completely different scenario - I didn't make this artwork for distribution. I made a map and now I am simply dismantling the map and supplying pieces so that a very similar map can be made in a VT but much larger. The key phase being "very similar map".

If the community is not interested in these shadowed pieces to reproduce a similar but edgeless (and much larger) bluff map, let me know and I will won't bother going through all the work. :)Blimey :o , let me reiterate but more simply...

I like your shadows.

Stuff like hills & bluffs look better with shadows.

I think you need lighting on them to make them look right.

dorpond
05-22-2008, 05:33 PM
Blimey :o

Heh, I love that word! :)

I wasn't lashing out or anything. I just wanted to make it clear that I have little options in this case and that if people really didn't want the parts and pieces, to let me know.

More light, huh? I might just try that - maybe play around with the levels a bit and see if I can make the light side brighter. Thanks for the pointer! :)

Redrobes
05-22-2008, 06:12 PM
It sounded fierce - but people say that about my posts sometimes when it wasn't meant that way. Blimey is a bit London really and they dont say that much (at least 'round yur cos oim from the west - you do hear a 'gert lush' occasionally tho, and scraged knees, daps, smoothing the cat and then there's pitched snow - obviously - I mean, what else is it supposed to do ??? ;) ).

(Hmmm methinks that even jedi google foo and wiki will have some trouble with them, but heres the best guide (http://www.mintinit.com/speakbristolian.php) I could find.

Back to shadows. I know you have limits because your map has the shadows built into it. I have the same issues on many icons especially city buildings. But what can be done about it - even if you have a separate shadow layer ? It's tough to fix without more shape info.

dorpond
05-22-2008, 07:50 PM
Fierce? Naw, if you saw me, you would see that nothing I say is fierce. :P

Actually, as of late, I think my communication skills have been going to the crapper. I think it is lack of sleep because of my 3 month old. :)

As far as your comment with 3D objects, I couldn't agree more with you.

Midgardsormr
05-22-2008, 09:21 PM
The shadows are not really a problem, especially the internal ones. I only mentioned it because the objects would be a bit more versatile without. In any case, objects with shadows are better than not-objects without shadows, so don't be discouraged from posting more!

And a peek at your psd would certainly not be turned down, either!

dorpond
05-23-2008, 12:31 PM
I got tired of working on my map so I thought I would do something productive like make a quick video of how I made the bluffs. There is no sound in this video since I made it at work quickly. Hopefully you can follow it.

http://forums.rptools.net/viewtopic.php?t=2142&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

Works good for making mountains and such.

One note: I never had any training in Photoshop so I am a hack. There may be better and easier ways to do this but it seems to do OK for me. :)

Oh, there is also a tutorial I made a while back at this same link. it shows how to used shadowy effects to create stairs and platforms.

Hope you enjoy and happy mapping to you all!

StillCypher
05-23-2008, 02:35 PM
Sweet! Thanks for sharing that. Now I want to go use it on something! (Like I don't have enough projects kicking around... LOL)

dorpond
05-23-2008, 03:57 PM
Glad it is helpful to you - can't see what you come up with!

dorpond
05-27-2008, 11:50 AM
I was waiting this whole time hoping to find out whether or not the contest was based on pretty maps or usable maps by the masses. Pretty maps to me are the maps that have all kinds of decorations and objects on them whereas usable maps are those that can be used by anyone because the objects are left off the maps.

But, the contest details was never really specified..

So I will just post my plain map and keep my fingers crossed. It was fun and I enjoyed it. I did learn a lot in this process, especially about being able to make decent 75k or less maps. You all did a fantastic job!

This latest version added cracks into the ground to make it feel a lot more aged and dry.

### Latest WIP ###