View Full Version : [WIP] Melandis, a pavement desert city

02-10-2013, 09:34 AM

After receiving many advices about how to draw a medieval-fantastic city built in a rock desert, I made some trials (unachieved for now as you will see).

I already made the walls and towers, but I didn't figure them on the map yet, due to a lack of time...

Buildings, fields and such things are also missing, that will come very soon, I hope. Same for the scale... the map is about a mile large (1,5 km), to give an idea. The city has about 15,000 inhabitants (100,000 was too much :p).

I'm still looking for a less repetitive (and seamless) pattern for the desert ; difficult to find any that could fit, in fact.

Do not hesitate to criticize, comment, and so on :) thank you !

02-10-2013, 03:31 PM
Interesting to imagine a city there.

The desert pattern doesn't look too bad actually. Maybe you can increase the size of each tile or something so it will be less repetitive. Though I don't know what program you are using, and even if I did, I wouldn't know how to use it.

Anyway, I can picture this as divided into several different parts of a city. Hopefully the buildings you add will be awesome.

Keep up the good work

02-11-2013, 07:16 AM

Thank you for your comment :) I'm still looking for a good pattern, I guess it will be difficult to find "the" one I'm searching.

Maybe I will abandon this for a while and work on buildings and settings of the city.

Thank you again !

02-11-2013, 07:54 AM
Best not to get stuck on things you can come back to later, especially when you're at the start of the map. I read some of the stuff you had posted about the desert city before this, and how it's supposed to be the capital and relatively new. Drawing the most attention possible to a few key buildings in the city would be really cool. Perhaps you could even label (or make known in some way) buildings like a tavern or blacksmith shop or etc...

I hope you have as many ideas for this map as I do ;)

02-11-2013, 03:01 PM
As I said in the previous topic, this city is the one where my character in roleplay in writing lived for two years (and six years in real time). He was one of the leaders of the city, so I hope I will have ideas to figure the city... though it may be difficult to link writing and drawing... wait&see ! :)

Tonight I will make some trials on buildings.

02-11-2013, 05:34 PM
So, next trial...

Changes : desert pattern, grass pattern are completely different. Don't know if they are convincing... desert is made of a real picture, maybe it is taken from too high ?

I added some fountains on market places and at the entrance of the middle-class quarter. Those are voluntarily huge compared to streets and future buildings next to them, because I think they are a sign of the richness of the city (at least, the middle class of the city).

And ONE house lost in the middle of nowhere :D This is just to see how shadows will react, and what size houses and other buildings shall have. I intend to make about twenty models of different houses and copy-paste them with orientation variations, of course. Roofs shall be different, mostly red tiles (it is a hot climate), but also thatch for farms and poorer-class houses... also, variations on shapes of the houses (rectangular, L-shaped, and so on).

02-11-2013, 07:05 PM
Wow that's a pretty big improvement! A few points as always - would a city in the desert have a grass interior? Maybe some patches of grass but not golf-course material I wouldn't think. I think the next step for you (not an expert though) would probably be adding the city wall(s). That would blend the border between what is now grass and desert and I think would help you divide the city into different districts, if that's how you plan to go about it.

Interesting work so far...

02-11-2013, 08:46 PM
They might grow grass in their desert city as a show of (divine or magical) power.

02-12-2013, 07:25 AM
Yes, this is a difficult point to imagine : what are the limitations of magical power in such a campaign setting ? Ingame, you can almost do everything when you are a priest, a mage or any other spell caster. Druids can also use divine magic, that allows them to control climate, plant growth, and so on...

As I imagine the city, as a capital, it has to show the power of the whole nation, so spending much money and energy only to have fountains and grass in the middle of a hot desert could be not so eccentric. In my opinion, of course... :P

I'll keep building my map.

Thank you for your answers :)

02-12-2013, 08:26 AM
I didn't think about magic! Interesting.

02-14-2013, 01:48 AM
In case you still need some seamless sand tiles try these. They came from cgTextures.com and there are hundreds more. Look under "Soil / Sand"


02-14-2013, 07:15 AM
Hi Bogie,

Still searching THE pattern of my dreams, I will make a trial with these, thank you :)

I also picked up some roof patterns on CGTextures, and made about fifteen different roofs to figure buildings. I'm working on single buildings such as temples (one for each adored divinity in the city), the palace, and so on.

Oh, and I used your technique to figure the perspective top-down view of a roof, as you made on Dundjinni forums. Many thanks for that ! :)

Maybe I will have to remake the map a bit larger, 'cause I will not be able to pile up 15,000 inhabitants on such a small surface... :(

02-15-2013, 06:05 PM
So, it becomes an evidence that my map is too small (even in 4000 * 3000 px). However, I decided to make an attempt on placing buildings and walls/towers, to have an idea of the final result.

Without taking in account all building overlays due to a lack of space, am I going the good way ? I mean, are my buildings credible ? The walls, towers ?

In brief, what do you think about it ? What do I have to work a lot for the next trial ?

Thank you !

Edit : ok, I see some problems : forgot the fields, the shadows on roofs, and settings in desert. Well, no, I didn't forget, but this is supposed to be a to-do list for later :P

02-15-2013, 07:49 PM

Looking at this map, I'd suggest you shrink the buildings. As a general indicator, I'd recommend making each one about a quarter it's current size. That will also allow you to fit a lot more buildings in (for a medieval feel, they should have a really packed-in effect), and give the impression of a really bustling city. If you follow that suggestion, I'd also suggest adding alley and backstreets - I had assumed that your earlier road map was only showing the major roads, not all of them. Your walls and towers are also a bit too large. It's a lot of work, I know, but trust me, it'll really pay off when you've done it.

Two other things: I don't know if you are planning on adding gatehouses to the walls, but I think it would look more realistic. Second, is there a reason the buildings outside the walls are differently coloured to those within? Wouldn't they all use similar building materials (assuming they can access/afford them, of course)?

02-16-2013, 06:51 AM

Yes, this could be a solution : shrinking buildings... I will have to re-draw them because they will look too blur otherwise. To get a packed-in effect, this would be better like this, maybe (roofs with a 90 degrees rotation) ?


I wasn't sure it was necessary to add roads, but when I look at the map... in fact, yes, this is ! Next trial...

About gates, I put walls very quickly yesterday so I didn't even think about them. I even forgot one tower, but that doesn't matter, I reached the point I was looking for : what I have to re-make.

There are different kinds of roofs, the one outside walls are mostly made from wooden tiles and thatch, and inside walls, from red tiles, slate... but I don't know if this is really visible at this size. Again, I will re-make roofs...

Thank you again for your advices, they are most precious as when I'm extremely focused on the map, it is difficult for me to see what is completely wrong :)

02-16-2013, 08:02 AM
You'd have a hard time fitting 15,000 people in there! As TheHoarseWhisperer said, srinking the buildings and towers, then adding alleyways, would be a good fix. Sometime buildings could also overlap the street on the second level (if they have one).

It would make some sense that farmhouses (it's a desert, I know) would have different roofs, but you would want ot make that more clear.

I like it how it is, sorta a desert fortress looking thing, but I know that's not what you're aiming for.
Keep up the good work, it's starting to look city-like!

02-16-2013, 02:26 PM
If you shrink the buildings then I would suggest shrinking the scale of the walls and towers (which I already think are too big - particularly the towers). The texture on the walls and towers needs scaling down a bit - those flagstones are almost as big as some of the houses. The merlons too are huge. They are generally only built to provide cover for a single person. You could hide entire groups behind the ones on your walls unless your houses are all tiny shacks.

02-18-2013, 09:23 AM

Again a new trial. I raised the size of the city, shrinked the walls, towers and buildings (though I found no time to figure them for now :blush: ), added a scale (this is REALLY useful !) and changed also grass pattern inside walls (this one is more in agreement with the style of the map, I think).

The white border is useless but I will make a map border when it will be finished... (in one or two years, I guess :p).

This time, I'm more satisfied by the result...

02-20-2013, 09:06 AM
Next step, I added generic houses (without color variations but that will come later :)). Some other buildings will come next soon (temples, palace, warehouses...).

Changed the scale, too, and the desert background. Shrinked the grass pattern so it is less blur compared to the rest of the map.

02-20-2013, 10:51 AM
I fear you are veering towards the "BRAAAINS" effect. Remember that streets can be irregular but still be mostly straight, there is no point in being all curvy on a flat terrain.

02-20-2013, 03:50 PM

Yes, I was wondering if the roads were well placed... I will re-work on them, so :)

What about buildings ? Are they OK ? As I'm not expert, I would prefer having some feedback now so I would not have to re-make everything after...

02-20-2013, 06:41 PM
Mornagest, this is looking much better, but there are still a few layout features which might need work. Feanaaro is right that streets are usually fairly straight (although not perfectly straight). I hope you don't mind, but I thought it would be easier to show you my suggestions rather than explain them, and so I've done a quick edit of your map.

This is what I was aiming for: the red and green lines represent the primary and secondary roads of the city (green are the roads unchanged from your version, red are the ones you might want to consider adding). The yellow triangle ('B') looks a bit out of place. The easiest solution would be to add it to the palace district. The other yellow area ('A') is where the port is presumably going to go. 'C' is just somewhere I think you would be likely to have a large and impressive monument or building (eg. temple, statue, senate, whatever).

Because you asked about buildings too, I've done a quick city block, showing a possible layout for the buildings in it (red boxes = buildings, blue lines = alleys). The white boxes behind the buildings are the private yards of the different buildings, a common feature in medieval cities - again, some online research will give you an idea (Amsterdam, I think, is quite good for this). It might be worthwhile deciding which streets in your city are major (primary) roads and which are minor (secondary) roads. Buildings are more likely to line up along major roads, than minor ones.

When I made this picture I was trying to keep it consistent with what you have said about the city in the past, and also to make it the least amount of extra work for you. I have made no changes to the palace district, the district in the lower left, or the suburbs outside the walls.

Now please please please do not take this image as anything but a suggestion. You are the cartographer, and you must make the decisions. What I have drawn was done very quickly and is probably inaccurate in a number of ways.

02-20-2013, 07:08 PM

On the contrary, many thanks for your suggestions ! I was wandering a bit for two days now, without knowing where to go... especially how to figure those damn buildings. I made a trial with the rotating brush technique, but I am not satisfied by the result : medieval cities do not look like this, indeed...

Maybe I put too much secondary curved roads... I had in mind the ancient centre of Liège, in Belgium, that counts many short, narrow and curved streets like this, but maybe this is not the good model to take as...

The "A" area shall be the port, indeed, but I intend to create it after, as I still don't know how I will figure jetties so I left it empty.

For the "B" area, I was wondering if this couldn't be aesthetic to have some "pristine wood" in there... maybe this is dumb ?

And the "C" area will be the cemetary that is maybe a bit too wide, but... not as dense as habitations, in my mind (regarding the writing we wrote until know, in any case), so it needs more space (tombs are not stackable unlike habitations).

Again, thank you for your precious help :)

02-21-2013, 10:15 AM
A less brain looking-like roads net...

I also added towers as before, there were about one mile walls without any tower ; now there is one every 300 meters, and there are towers at city gates. I don't know if I have to do something else to figure gates...

I will now have a look at those houses with yards, then I'll add alleys.

02-21-2013, 04:59 PM
That is much better. I actually really like the way the roads on the top part of the map converge at one point - it seems like a smart place to put a town square or marketplace or something. The entrance to the cemetery also looks better, like something a royal coffin might pass through during a big ceremony. And the royal quarter's got a great layout too. This is a massive improvement from last time, and I'm looking forward to seeing the buildings going in.

02-21-2013, 05:39 PM
Thank you for your encouragement :)

02-23-2013, 10:35 AM
A small trial for buildings. I looked alot to find a satisfying effect for them, but I'm not sure they are convincing...

Is the display of the building block OK, also ? I put some trees and alleys to give more "relief" on them.

I also shrinked the scale once more... now it is : 2 pixels equal 1 meter.

02-23-2013, 01:28 PM
I think slightly bigger buildings would be better 4-7 pixels wider. I also think they need to crowd the road more and you could add some crowding the interior ally, if it is a poorer section. In addition I think you need a perimeter road or paths leading to each tower.

02-23-2013, 03:52 PM

Thank you for your suggestion :) here's a new trial with slightly wider buildings, and a few inner buildings (those quarters are not too poor, I would represent them as outbuildings, in fact).

About roads, I'll think about it (don't know how to draw them correctly).

Thank you again !

Edit : another, with some more houses along the alleys, and small walls to delimit yards...

02-23-2013, 09:12 PM
Looking nice! The sample block of houses looks good, I think you should just keep going and fill out as much as you can. Put in the special buildings first. The shops, the jail, the public buildings, the mansions, etc...

02-23-2013, 10:15 PM
Yeah I think you've got it now. Just keep going. Foremost is right, it might be a good idea to do the special buildings early (except shops, which were often mixed with houses anyway). I don't know what program you're using, but if its photoshop it might be worthwhile putting a drop shadow on the yard walls, to make them a bit more visible, or else change their colour so they show up more.

02-24-2013, 08:21 AM

Yes, I intend to place temples, palace, magic school and buildings like this, and then only fill the rest with classic houses such as those I figure here.

I'm using GIMP, I chose a simple brush to make a trial with those walls, but I can try with some others, maybe a bit less dark... or a shadow. Let's try !

Thank you all ! :)

02-24-2013, 04:43 PM
Added some important buildings that I labeled (for information).

I don't know if they look good... I'm not completely satisfied. Maybe their big size makes them less realistic, too sharp ?

Oh, and added a small shadow to the walls that delimit yards :)

03-02-2013, 06:18 PM

Some main buildings modified, like the palace. Added some houses blocks, though I hope I'm not sliding towards a brain-looking like city again...

This takes time, and I have not much for mapping... slow but sure.

03-02-2013, 07:31 PM
That Jail building (the big grey square) seems silly-huge.

In your mind picture your smallest house as a single small room maybe 10x8 feet, so basically enough room for a straw mat to sleep on, a lock box or whatever, and a hearth. Then imagine that jail compared to it. Just roofing (and it seems to be a flat roof too) a structure that size is a... colossal undertaking without modern materials. That's a convention centre. and without pre-modern lighting, the central rooms are gonna be in stygian darkness.

TL DR: add an inner courtyard (with a cross shaped centre so you effectively have four courtyards).

03-03-2013, 04:21 PM

Why... yes, you are right. To be honest, I haven't a clue how to do that roof, but I didn't check its size. Silly, the word fits. I guess you are right about light in the inner cells, too.

I will make a try with a cross-shaped jail. I do not know how medieval jails were looking like, except the London Tower, but I even do not know what building was the jail.

Thank you for your comment, it helps me a lot ! :)

03-03-2013, 05:19 PM
When I first saw that jail I thought it looked big, but I also thought that it might be deliberate. I haven't done any research into this, but I am pretty sure jails weren't a big deal in the medieval period. They were into punishment, but of a different sort (flogging, stocks, branding, maiming (eg. removing hands from thieves), and the ol' crowd pleaser, execution). Jails were only guarded rooms to hold someone in until the headsman/sheriff/whoever collected them. There certainly wouldn't have been individual cells for each prisoner serving an extended sentence.

Nobles, obviously, would be treated differently. My understanding is that they are treated more like hostages. They would be housed in a castle (or similarly well-fortified building, usually far from the cities), given a fairly luxurious suite of rooms, and be treated as guests who are not allowed to leave. There are numerous historic examples of this: Mary, Queen of Scots being the example that comes to mind. Hostages are kept alive because they might still be useful to someone, at a later time. Criminals are dealt with, one way or another.

What all of this means is A: jails were rare in medieval times. There are probably the occasional example, but not many (I think Newgate Prison in London is a good example). and B: prisons would usually get incorporated into an already fortified building. Newgate Prison was housed inside the city wall; dungeons beneath the castle, or high turrets on it might also be used (as you mention, the Tower of London). A building that is constructed in the city with the specific purpose of housing prisoners is unusual. Now these are just historical examples (and as I said, I didn't do any research into this). If you want prisons, go for it. I admit, they are very useful for storytelling. But you might want to make it smaller, and probably base the design on a castle, of some sort (actually, if you want an idea for a building that looks like it would be an ideal prison, maybe try the Chateau de Chenonceau from your own country).

I think this city is starting to look pretty good, by the way. I really like the palace and gardens. You might be interested in looking at Versailles, again in France, for royal garden designs.

Just two things you might want to consider:
are you deliberately making the houses smaller in the eastern part of the city to those you had in the north? I've noticed with fantasy city maps that houses have a tendency to shrink without the mapmaker realising it. Try
to be consistent. Unless the change in size is deliberate, in which case it's fine.

And you might be tending dangerously towards curvy mazelike alleys. I'd keep them mostly straight. Crooked and jagged is fine, but not curvy. I wouldn't change what you've already done, but bear it in mind as you
continue working on this.

Good work.

03-03-2013, 06:36 PM

Again, my thanks for the time you spend giving me advices :)

About the jail, maybe it would be better to incorporate the jail into a bigger structure including barracks and guardroom for city gates. And re-design it to make it smaller and more complex in structure (courtyards, two or three separated buildings ?).

The smaller houses in the central part of the city are deliberate, I appointed them as part of poorer districts, in opposition of the north district that is the merchant one. This is also why those houses have much smaller yards. In fact, the merchant district shall be surrounded by poorer districts. I guess those slums shall represent a third of the whole surface inside walls... this would be a good proportion considering the roleplay background of the city. Maybe it is not fully historically-based, anyway ?


I will try to make more straight alleys. I don't know why I'm eager to curve them that much...

Back to work. Uh. No, time to sleep, it is 0:35 AM here...

03-04-2013, 03:21 PM
I like the progresses. I would either use "rougher" textures for the roofs or "smoother" ones for the terrain. As it is I perceive a disconnect between the quasi-realistic ground and the more "cartoonish" (not meant as something bad per se) roofs' colors.

Edit: as for the "prison", you can maintain the sense of its being huge but with a better aesthetics simply by carving one or more internal courtyards.

03-04-2013, 04:22 PM

Thank you for your comment. The backgrounds are not meant to be definitive, as the desert one, for example. But I intend to make some modifications on roofs textures that may give some more homogeneity to the map :) wait and see...

03-20-2013, 03:22 PM
Been a while since I commented on this, and I see you've made some progress. It looks good, but I don't think it accomplishes what you want it too. If I remember correctly, you were going for a huge city, then scaled it down again. If you want a big city, I'd suggest giving it a packed look. More like all slums. Maybe add in more special buildings (I know you have temples already, but...) and a key to the side telling us all what they are. I think the best maps sorta give you a tour of the land, and the more engaging & detailed, the better.

That said, I couldn't of made this. Quite impressive so far, and I don't want to give you the impression that there's a lot of stuff to fix. A lot of work ahead maybe, but it's looking good already.


03-20-2013, 04:56 PM
Thank you for your comment :)

I've progressed just a bit since the last image posted... lack of time, alas.

I was wondering if giving houses a "pack look" would be a good idea or not... maybe I could have make that choice, but now it is a bit late as I don't want to spent too much time on that map (I guess this will be my only map for the next five thousand years...).

About the key, yes, this will be clearer with it. I think I'll add it when the map will be finished.

Thank you again !