View Full Version : The Silver City (a big city around a waterfall)

01-20-2013, 11:32 PM
Since apparently there is no way I am getting what I want with regional mapping, I am turning once again to cities, which for some reason I find more congenial.
This one is a little different since it has the most peculiar terrain I ever tried until now, and that's why I am starting by sharing the very first steps of the map.
Do you think that the elevation and the waterfall effect is decent? Or how could it be improved? The map is 6km*6km and the waterfall should be 150-200m high.


Freehand 5.5
01-21-2013, 02:54 AM
Why don't you just go to google maps and have a top look on the terrain of the niagara falls?

01-21-2013, 05:11 AM

01-21-2013, 08:44 AM
Hi feanaao. Tricky terrain! I think that you're on the right track with this. Waterfalls usually have a large pool at the bottom and then an outflow stream/river from the pool. They also don't usually spread out so much at the cliff face. Can't wait to see more of this map! :)

01-21-2013, 10:37 AM
The niagara falls example is interesting indeed. Because the river widens quite a bit just before the waterfall, although it is previously narrowed by the rough terrain as compared with when it exits from lake Ontario. It is true though that it produces a much bigger pool (technically, a whole lake) after the fall, I will work on that. Also, apparently a 500m wide river produces the niagara falls, so mine much bigger one should perhaps produce even bigger falls? Is there a clear ratio between how big the river is and how wide the falls, given a more or less vertical drop of a given height?

edit: meanwhile..

01-22-2013, 09:34 PM
If cliffs and waterfall are difficult, what about stairs of epic proportions?


01-22-2013, 10:05 PM
I like the rock in the middle, but since it is at the lip it should create a break in the falls all the way down.

01-22-2013, 11:56 PM
Fair point. I tried something. Plus added some little hills. Is the geography of the site acceptable by now? Should I move to the city proper?


Freehand 5.5
01-23-2013, 01:17 AM
I start to like this one. You're doing a great job with the graphics of the cliff.
The water seems to be a bit dark for me.
Water is colourless so a river or lake can have two colors: the colour of the bed beneath (if it's not deep) or the reflection of the sky (if it's deep). Both aren't dark blue.

Concerning the cliff I would say, that you could do it a bit more naturally and more interesting.
It's too straight for my taste and it doesn't break up or has some minor slopes or terraces.

The idea with the stairs (hm, what else) is good.
What is the scale of your map?
Keep in mind that a stair escalating 150 m has to be 200 m long, better 250 m or 280 m.

01-23-2013, 07:51 AM
I will try to vary the cliff a little more. The scale of the posted image is 1px=2m (I work on 1px=1m), the stairs is roughly 500m long for an elevation of 200m, so it is not too step.

01-23-2013, 08:20 AM
this one looks very interesting, looking forward to see where this goes

01-23-2013, 07:41 PM
Tried some tinkering on the cliff and other minor things. Does it look better, or worse, this way?


01-24-2013, 02:35 PM
Here I tried to address the critique about the river, by introducing semi-transparency. Does it work?


01-24-2013, 03:42 PM
It looks much better. I'd be tempted to add a bit more white foam at the base of the waterfall perhaps.

01-24-2013, 03:56 PM
I think this is great (particularly given how tricky waterfalls can be). Although I think one problem with it is where the water and cliff edge meet on the bottom right side. IMHO, the top left of your waterfall looks better because the two meet up pretty convincingly, but on the bottom right the cliff seems to extend out farther than the waterfall.

01-24-2013, 07:28 PM
Anomiecoalition, that is actually the effect I was aiming for. The cliffs extend a little bit beyond the waterfall line on both sides (though the southern one more than the northern), they are also a little higher than the waterfall. I figured that both things would be caused by water erosion.

Will Brawner
01-24-2013, 07:54 PM
This looks awesome! I can tell you're working hard on the waterfall contours. I'd agree that the base of the falls needs a bit more foam, but hey, great job! Can't wait to see the city.

01-24-2013, 10:47 PM
For some reasons photoshop decided to transform my work into an Eldritch abomination. So I had to retrieve a back up and rework from there.
This could be the more or less final terrain before I start with the actual city.
As per the foam at the base, you have to keep in mind the scale of the map, as it is you have roughly 100m of thick foam and much more of the thinner swirls. This is already exaggerated as compared to how a real waterfall would behave.


01-25-2013, 12:37 PM
Wow feanaaro. This is starting to look fantastic! I love the swirls on the water at the top of the falls, it give the water movement. You've got rock/sediment along the riverbank at the top of the cliff, any reason you didn't add that type of effect to the bottom? I keep coming back to this thread to check your progress because I can't wait to see what you do next!

01-25-2013, 02:21 PM
Thanks Ciorstaidh. The reason for the rocks being visible on top of the cliff and not at the bottom is that (I guess) rocks are exposed by erosion, whether by the river or by the wind-rain, thus they would appear at the edge of the cliff and where the river becomes faster, in the proximity of the fall. Elsewhere the sediments would not be removed quickly enough to expose the bedrock.
Meanwhile, I am trying to define the basic structure of the city before going on to the real chore of placing buildings.


01-25-2013, 04:07 PM
I've had my eye on this thread for a while and I am really impressed at how much it has improved!

This looks amazing, can't wait to see it finished!

01-25-2013, 11:22 PM
Now, one stair was of course not enough. So, as the keenest amongst you could have predicted, we have elevators too (hey, it's a fantasy city).
The only way I found of making those is by faking a isometric-ish perspective (I know it is geometrically absurd, but what other way there would be?). This of course conflict with the rest of the map which will be top-down, albeit with shadows and reliefs. It was already a problem with the cliff anyway... but no, I am not going to try to do all the buildings isometrically in Ps. Hopefully once the city will be finished it won't be too jarring.


Will Brawner
01-26-2013, 09:45 AM
Looks awesome! Keep it up!

01-28-2013, 12:31 AM
In a (futile) attempt to mitigate the boredom of placing innumerable buildings, with this city I am proceeding with a "multicentric" approach, which hopefully will also produce a more organic look in the end. By the way, I would welcome suggestions about the layout, placement, etc.
The city technology level is roughly that of our classical antiquity. It's main economic drive is obviously being the point at which the commerce on the great river needs to pass to go over the waterfall; but it also has a major military role in that it must defend itself, the surrounding region (for food-crop), and for extension all the lands downstream, from the incursions of a bellicose population of barbaric tribes (bull-riders! I'm telling you!!) that roams the vast plateau.


01-28-2013, 01:44 AM
wow this is shaping up very nicely. though those lifts on the cliffs seem a bit too mechanical for a classcial antiquity tech-base :S

01-28-2013, 10:13 AM
The idea for the lifts is that there are two big stone columns nested into the cliff, to which the wooden platform is hinged. The platform is then pulled up by a big rope or chain which is rolled around a wheel, pushed by horses or something (possibly captured barbarians, if you know what I mean (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIPlaor68DU)). So, it would not work (not for that height certainly) in reality, thence it's fantasy, but there is nothing highly technological about it.

01-30-2013, 08:55 PM


01-31-2013, 01:30 PM
Given the apparent difference in fortification quality between the high city and the low city, have you consider putting a gatehouse on the stair step road, between the two.

01-31-2013, 01:57 PM
I did consider that, and might be doing that. However, even a large stair like this one would be prohibitive terrain for an assault and could be easily controlled from above. Moreover and most importantly, the real military threat comes from the high plains (in fact there is a secondary fortification defending the entrance to the bridge), walls on the lower level are mostly to keep out brigands and other lesser threats.

01-31-2013, 04:10 PM
Looking very good. Very interesting concept ! Have some REP for the hard work !

02-02-2013, 11:09 PM
I was not happy with either the colours or the "roofs" effect; thus I removed the latter and swapped the former for two uniform patterns. Both will be reinstated once I will have better figured out how I want them.


02-06-2013, 09:24 PM
Update. The high left river bank should be more or less finished as it is.


02-07-2013, 05:28 PM
That looks great feanaaro! The waterfall is awesome. :) I like the current look of the buildings, though I suspect that they will look even better in the final version. ;)

Will Brawner
02-11-2013, 09:41 PM
This is really impressive! I just now began to realize how huge the waterfall is. Everything fits perfectly.

02-12-2013, 12:18 AM
I must admit, I had my doubts about this city when you started posting, but all doubts have been put aside now. This is coming along nicely. I like the placement of buildings - it's got a good historically realistic arrangement. Keep it up.

02-12-2013, 05:12 PM
Thanks for the comments, your encouragements are much appreciated.
Here it is another step, the lower city, on both sides of the river, should be more or less finished as it is now (I mean, topographically; I still have to revise colours etc, as I previously said).


- Max -
02-12-2013, 05:33 PM
Even if I'm not a great fan of height/realistic map, you're doing a great job on this one!

mystic badger
02-13-2013, 04:22 AM
The work on your cliffs is beautiful ! What exture have you used ? I've a problem with mine and Hoped you could share your wisdom.
I find the placement of your houses very thoughtful, espcially economically. Quite impatient to see the finished map !

02-13-2013, 08:33 AM
What do you mean by "economically"?
The textures I use have partly been found in this same forum, and partly downloaded from other places. I did not really keep track of everything, so I no longer know precisely whence they came (I think these two are, once again, from Pasis... I think...). I hope I don't offend anyone by re-posting them here.
The cliff is made by superimposing the two rocky textures that you find attached upon the base terrain. They are pictured with a big soft brush with 10-20% opacity, in subsequent strokes. Also, both layers have a bevel, which is not noticeable with the soft 10% brush but can be used to represent some spots where the rocks pop out of the terrain.



edit: actually, I am not even 100% sure that these are truly the textures I used now, it has been a long time since they were imported into photoshop. Anyway, you can find many other good textures around.

02-13-2013, 08:45 AM
Freaking awesome ! I love that waterfall city !

mystic badger
02-13-2013, 09:28 AM
What do you mean by "economically"?
The way you place your houses is the place where people would live, close to their work. I take the example of the houses near thre elevator-thing, we can easily imagine it's where the operators live.

Thanks for the textures and the technique !

02-14-2013, 10:28 PM
Details may still change, but in terms of "placements" the city is finished.
Now off to find the right colours for buildings. Also, "roofing".


02-15-2013, 03:41 AM
Seeing this makes me want to try and make city maps again, very nice


02-15-2013, 09:27 AM
That looks really good. I can only imagine how much work you put into this. It's an awesome idea and the city is mapped out really well, and I also like the style of the waterfall. There are two things that I'd like to mention, though:

First, what is the river bank's elevation right next to the waterfall? I mean how much higher than the water level are the first houses? And what is the climate of that region? What I want to say is that it is a potential (big) danger to build a city directly next to a river of that size. For example, the Amazon river is about 5 km in width, but it can grow up to 120 km (!) in the flood season. Which is pretty enormous of course, but still, high tide is a huge problem in cities located directly on river banks. Have you thought about flood walls (if the climate of that region allows high tides at all). Same goes for the islands below the waterfall, as they would be most likely eroded and/or flooded pretty fast in times of high tide.

Second, I don't like the lifts. The isometric depiction destroys the top-down view perspective in my opinion. You could think about the following concept though, which I think is more realistic, too. Elevators normally work with counterweights, a concept that was invented in the the ancient times in Greece. And then there is also the concept of the inclined lift (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funicular#Inclined_lift). Combining both with the direct availability of enough water, there is also the concept of a water counterbalanced funicular (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funicular#Water_counterbalancing). Each lift could have a water-tank as counterbalance, that is filled with water at the top making it heavier than the lift (including loading of course), thus pulling it upwards. When you want to go down, the water is slowly released from the tank to let the lift down. Slowly to prevent the lift from crashing down instantly :D The water that is released from the upper lifts could be stored in some kind of basin or tank on the second level and be used to fill the lower lift's counterbalances. Now, if you think about a funicular instead of a lift, the platforms could be drawn simply as a flat shape, while the lifts could remain the way they are now. Here is an example of the Lärchwand-Schrägaufzug in Austria: 47° 12′ 21.3″ N, 12° 43′ 9.3″ E - Google Maps (http://goo.gl/maps/9xICo). What do you think?

02-15-2013, 03:17 PM
This is looking good so far Feanaaro.


02-15-2013, 09:56 PM
Absolutely beautiful. I had a very similar idea for a town of my own and will be using this as my source of inspiration. Excellent work!

02-16-2013, 11:13 PM
Colouring: I can't decide whether I should let prevail the grey-blueish scheme (which is closer to my original idea of the city) or the reddish-brown one (which I may find more aesthetically pleasing), or keep a mix of them, similar to what I have now.
Suggestions welcome.


02-18-2013, 12:13 AM
Your city looks amazing. At a glance the waterfall seems smaller, but after a better look it is much bigger. Also the additions to your city makes it seem even better. Keep up the great work!

02-18-2013, 01:47 AM
Looking better and better. :)

02-18-2013, 09:33 AM
Thanks, but what do you think about the colour options?

02-18-2013, 11:57 AM
I like what you have so far. My only suggestion would be to make the stairs run parallel to the cliff instead of straight up. Maybe a series of 4-5 switchbacks....even one could work. I picture a landing with a guard tower - maybe the tower is 2 or 3 stories with a squat barracks connected to the bottom floor.

I think of this only because it would be less work to build (and climb) the stairs with rest stops along the way. Think of the poor builders. Rather than climbing the steps every day to where they left off the day before, they would have landings to camp on. And I see no reason why they wouldn't find a use for all the stone cut out of the cliff. There would be lots and lots of stone blocks left over.....hence the tower(s) and barracks.

What do you think? I'm very interested to see how this turns out whatever you decide to do.

02-18-2013, 12:30 PM
I agree that a parallel stairs would have looked better. Unfortunately, I don't think I am able to achieve a reasonable effect for that, because I have very limited drawing skills (and no tablet/pen to work with!). Also, the "perspective" of the entire map is very "fake", due to the way in which I was able to do the slopes, and a parallel stair would call even more attention to that than the "elevators" already do.
On a functional, or "pseudo-realistic" level, however, the stairs as it is it not that bad. First, as already remarked, it is very big, ~500m long (and 30m wide), for a ~200m elevation, so it's not too steep either for the builders or the users, reducing the need of having multiple switchbacks. Secondly, it is not precisely carved into the stone, as I see it the appearance should make clear that it is done exploiting a pre-existing gentler slope in that point.
I may add some fortification/barracks at the bottom of the stair indeed.

But really, I need inputs about the colour scheme, I can't decide.

02-24-2013, 06:46 PM
Sorry for the late reply.

As to the colours... I really like the "temporary" version of your buildings mainly because it feels cleaner, less "cluttered". On the other hand I like that on the newsest version there is more variety of colours to the rooftops. They suggest social diversity very well. Colours used in the rural area look very pleasing to my eye. However I would maybe tone down a bit the reds and blues of the rest of the buildings. Maybe you can change the current blue-green for the grey you have used in your temporary version? I like it much better than that intensive blue.

Well, I hope this helps... It is hard to decide what would look best without seeing other possible versions. ;)

02-24-2013, 10:01 PM
I haven't done much lately. I have been lazy, an busy. Also, the file is now so big that is bringing my computer to an halt, as usually happens toward completion of these maps.
Anyway, I've followed your suggestion and turned the blues into greys. Let me know what you think.


03-01-2013, 02:18 AM
Can you try unifying the colour of buildings? For now I think that the big "square" ones with red rooftops are "too visible" Maybe try making all of them gray?... Overall the buildings look good. What's bothering me most now that I look at the image is the prominent, dark shadow of the cliff. /maybe it would look better if it were a tad less dark and more like its part in the lower right-hand corner? I'm just throwing idas at you here. ;)

05-23-2013, 05:08 PM
Very meagre progresses for such a long time, but anyway...
I ended up ditching the "blue-ish" roofs.


05-31-2013, 09:20 AM
At long last it is (almost) finished. Now I only need to place the regional mini-map and it will be done done.


05-31-2013, 10:32 AM
This is really fantastic. I love when people come up with innovative ideas for "problems" I really like the lift idea and personally I don't think the mix of perspectives does anything to harm the map. I like the mix of roof colors you have now (although to be honest I liked the monochrome of your "temporary buildings" a bit better). I really like the waterfall and the feeling of height and depth you've achieved. Overall all this is a wonderful map and you should be applauded for all the hard work you've put into it. Have some rep !! :)

06-01-2013, 11:18 AM
Very impressive city map!

06-01-2013, 12:57 PM
Fantastic map, just Awesome!! One of the best waterfalls I've ever seen!

06-03-2013, 07:03 AM
Looks great. I like the colours of the buildings in this latest version very much. :)

06-04-2013, 06:59 PM
Thank you for all the appreciations and encouragements, and also for staying with this thread despite the very long hiatus.

Adding the mini-maps reminded me how my dissatisfaction with the regional maps was the main motivation in starting this city... but anyway, that is what I have, and therefore...
It should be finished now, unless there is something major which escaped my attention, I would move it to the finished maps forum shortly.


10-02-2013, 03:36 PM
I will try to vary the cliff a little more. The scale of the posted image is 1px=2m (I work on 1px=1m), the stairs is roughly 500m long for an elevation of 200m, so it is not too step.

If I came up on a stairway that was a half-kilometer in length and straight up, I don't think I would go up it (for fear of having a heart attack at the halfway point) or down it (for fear of slipping, falling, and tumbling to a bloody death at the bottom).

In most cities with cliffs and stairs, the stairs follow a series of switchbacks with landings and scenic vistas every once in a while.

You might consider a funicular if you want a straight shot up. (see Quebec City)

(EDIT: I hadn't yet seen your most recent update with the elevators. Nice touch. I would still consider a switchback stairway.)

10-02-2013, 04:16 PM
Sure, the stairway is very long. However, besides the fact that I did not really know how to depict the switchbacks you describe, the in-world justification is that it is build there in that way because the terrain itself was more favourable in that point. It is also quite wide, which would have been difficult to obtain if it was laterally carved in the cliff, and given the relatively low steepness, it should not be too bad. It should also be consider that every step is meters long. Picture this (http://www.comune.roma.it/PCR/resources/cms/images/SCALINATA(campidoglio)_d0.jpg) kind of stairway, only much longer. It can definitely be travelled by horses etc. if one does not feel like walking. Also, it is an utility staircase, I don't think these people would be too interested in scenic vistas when going around their businesses.