View Full Version : The foundations of a new world

06-13-2013, 03:44 AM
Hello, I am here looking for some help on the basic shape of the continents in my world. I realize this map is incredibly crude, but before I go on to do any more work on it, I wanted some input and advice from the experts first. This is only a very rough drawing of the shape of the continents, once I settle on something that is appealing Ill go in and detail all of the coastlines on zoomed in scale. The continents are meant to rival the continents of the real world, to give you a sense of what scale im going for. I want my landmasses to be realistically and naturally shaped yet aesthetically pleasing. Im basically just looking for advice on how it looks, and how I can make it better. I guess I should mention that the world is going to have several empires and warring factions, (wait, isn't that every fantasy map?) so I tried/am trying to include some interesting land and water shapes for interesting and/or challenging places for these empires to fight over and around.

Also forgive me if my thread is in the wrong place or I post the image incorrectly, Its my first post here.


06-13-2013, 05:22 AM
I like it! Looks kinda like the sea levels have risen a lot, you know?

06-13-2013, 09:08 PM
Alright heres an update, with a new continent (about Greenland sized) and some islands near it. I also altered the southern continent.


Thanks Blazes, that wasn't my intention to make it seem like the ocean had risen up on the lands a lot, but you're right. Kind of interesting, but how would that be explainable in my world as to why the water level seems to have risen globally so much? Is that even possible? The only thing I can think of is if Antartica completely melted for some reason.

06-13-2013, 11:33 PM
Assuming your world is supposed to be spherical, you should really give some thought to that and what projection you are using. Any projection is going to cause very significant distortion of some sort when you flatten a sphere (or spheroid) into a flat map. That distortion can take the form of stretching, squashing, tearing, sheering, and rotation. Different projections distort or preserve different properties in different areas of the map, which makes them suitable for different kinds of map.

For instance, for a population density map, you generally want a map that preserves the area of shapes, but which distorts shapes a lot to do so (In Cartography/Math speak this is called an "Equal Area" or "Equivalent" projection) For a navigational map, you will often want a map that preserves shapes/angles, at the expense of distorting sizes (In Cartography/Math speak this is called a "conformal" projection) or which preserves great circles as straight lines ("Gnomonic") while for general reference maps like you find in an atlas or an educational wall map, you usually want a projection that balances different kinds of distortion out ("Hybrid" or "Compromise" projections)

For maps with restricted extents, you want projections that minimize the distortion within that extent, and push all the distortion out into areas not in the map. The smaller the extent, the more closely you can fit the projection for a better map. The finer details of which projection to use for large scale mapping ("zoomed in") are not that important to fantasy mapping, but at small scales ("zoomed out") it has a very large impact.

If you draw a small scale map without any distortion from the projection, it's simply wrong, and will look wrong to anyone familiar with maps. If you ever try to change the projection, the problem will become VERY clear. If you want to get this right, it's something you need to worry about right at the beginning. There are sometimes ways to 'fix' it after the fact, generally for larger scale maps like continents. For whole worlds, you are usually just out of luck if you got it wrong. The problem is that if you drew the map without distortion, then whatever projection you assume the map is in, that lack of distortion in the map means the land itself has to be distorted the opposite way to the projection in order to compensate. So when you switch projections, you get the backwards distortion of the first projection combined with the forward distortion of the second.

06-13-2013, 11:51 PM
Ice cap melting would be one solution to that yes :p I would try to think about possible tectonic plates and how those would affect your land masses. They look a little random but maybe I'm just a crazy person. Actually, I think water levels are all very relative since they change over the millennia anyways. If you look at google earth it's really interesting to look at all the land masses that we would have if the sea level went down significantly. The coast of Africa for one would have a lot more islands. Small islands really are just mountain tops. :)

My only advice at this point probably sounds strange so let me preface what I currently see. Right now your coast lines are very etched and dynamic with lots of bays, isthmuses, and islands which is actually fantastic. The most boring kind of maps have very coastlines nearing circular blobs so you are absolutely on the right side of that! I'd suggest actually relaxing the jaggedness in some areas and smooth them out a bit. In the real world you do have areas like Greece, Japan, Indonesia, and I guess the whole of the Mediterranean and Caribbean which have lots of little bits to them and are very dynamic. On the other hand you also get areas of regularity and broader shapes, such as: the western bit of south America, much of the coast of Africa, much of Australia, India and south east China. All these areas on the small level have lots of jaggedness but from afar are smooth shapes which are not too interrupted. Let yourself have some generally larger shapes too.

I guess I am trying to say have dynamic shapes on the medium and lower scale but also on the larger scale. Try having a continent that looks like banana, crescent moon or a pear and have some coastlines be highly broken up while maybe on the other side the coast is more smooth. Again looking a Turkey, its southern and northern coasts are smooth but its western one is all chopped up. If you allow for a larger mass of unbroken land you could imagine a larger desert or plain situation being there. This advice can also be applied to continent spacing, placement and relative size. Your north and south landmass groups are similar in size over all.

This is a LOT of writing but I don't think your map is off to a bad start or anything and I actually like it! This stuff is to a degree all a matter of taste as well and I find myself overlooking it from time to time. I hope do you get what I'm trying to convey here :)

06-14-2013, 01:34 AM
The different degrees of smoothness/ jagginess that Viking recommends have terrain implications. Sharp, young mountains you figure 'continue out to sea', with their ridges and peaks becoming peninsulas and islands. When you see a smoother coast you'd generally assume flatter / gentler terrain adjacent. Some of the fractal world generators allow only one fractal degree for the whole globe, and based on Earth :-) that feels unrealistic. Clumps and strings of mountains alternate with plains and steppes and swamps. Your shapes are delightfully intricate, they could just use some beaches - which can have a different kind of intricacy. Look at the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts: barrier islands, capes of sand spits, river inlets, deltas -- and a few jaggy areas that aren't mountainous so much as drowned (the DelMarVa peninsula, and Chesapeake Bay).

A simple way to imply some of the high-latitude distortion Hai-Etlik mentions is to draw like you have, then progressively smoosh the land masses north-south, as you get further from the equator.

06-14-2013, 01:54 AM
A simple way to imply some of the high-latitude distortion Hai-Etlik mentions is to draw like you have, then progressively smoosh the land masses north-south, as you get further from the equator.

That's roughly doing a reprojection from Mercator to Plate Carree, but you still have to draw Mercator right, although that is somewhat easier than drawing Platee Carree correctly. You do have to be aware that everything in Mercator is getting bigger as you approach the poles. so you are in effect drawing the map at wildely different scales depending on latitude. And it assumes you want the map in Plate Carree in the first place, which isn't usually the case for a finished map as it's not a very good projection for most use cases. It is easy to convert from it to other projections though.

06-14-2013, 02:06 AM
Everytime i read your comments, i think i still have to reread about projections.

06-14-2013, 04:15 AM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback! I suppose I should have given more information on what this world is for, I was going to in my original post but decided to keep it simple.

Basically, this world is the result of a small minecraft server, almost 2 years running. We've started with one town, and built more and grew out into several nations, etc. We went through a few world changes, and Id decided I want a "final" world, with enough room for all of the places we want. Now, this world definitely isn't Minecraft centric anymore, I want to develop a world that stands on its own. But I also plan on converting it to a Minecraft world aswell, so I want this world to be.. Minecraft "friendly". Basically what this means is.. I want my maps to be flat and not distorted, a perfect translation to the minecraft world that is based on it. Because Minecraft is flat. Once I settle on a continent shape and decide where mountains and rivers will be, I will be creating a heightmap based on those things, which will end up being the image used to generate the flat minecraft worlds.

Now, I had imagined this world on a globe of course, and even meant for the world to wrap around east to west at the edges. So Ive obviously got a dilemma, but being as its a fantasy world, I suppose I could either
A) Ignore distortion and pretend like nothings wrong, of course like you said this will be obvious to cartographers that somethings amiss or,
B) Have the world actually be a giant flat slab, with the ocean running off of the ends. This wasn't ever originally a part of my plan, but Ill have to think about it.

Regardless of what I end up doing, I am almost positive I want the world to be flat without distortion. So ill definitely have to consider my options, thanks for bringing it up.

As for plate tectonics, another thing I should have mentioned at the beginning is basically a replacement for that. In the lore of the world, It used to be one continent. After a few thousand years, a large "earth-shattering" event happens in which the land is broken and pieces are pushed away, like a ton of plate-tectonic moving in one day, essentially. That's also the reason for some of the crack shapes cutting into the land, such as the large one on the northern continent, to kind of show a result of that breaking and shattering of the world. I do feel like the pieces could be pushed back together and fit nicely, just as you can see on Earths map.

I do realize that I made almost all of the coasts jagged and whatnot, I guess I knew I had a problem with that. Same with there not being any really large inland areas. Problem is at this point I feel reluctant to change that and essentially remove some of my crafted bays and peninsulas and seas and islands.

One more obstacle Im running into is also relating to Minecraft. I want the world to be portrayed in game as large as possible, (obviously its going to be scaled way down, not unlike how the Elder Scrolls games have done) But theres definitely a limit on how big these worlds can be. I thought I could make a few continents, and have each minecraft game world just encompass one continent, and have 3-4 game worlds. This is having a design restriction on my continent shapes and placement because I wanted each continent to be able to fit nicely into a rectangle for each minecraft world.


The km measurements are in game, not the "actual" size of the continents.

I realize the whole Minecraft conversion is putting several restraints on my world, but I am aiming to end up with something that both looks really good on its own, and is convertible to Minecraft, essentially. Because I want to be able to actually go in to this world, build its cities, etc. And make some nice looking maps as reference for me and other players on my server.

06-14-2013, 04:15 AM
If the world is fantasy, going with a flat one saves a lot of headaches...
As per the landmasses shapes, my impression is that the continents are too similar to one another in size and shape. Also, I miss the feel of at least one big continent, all of these looks like Australia or at most South America sized. This of course may be perfectly intended (especially with the mentioned sea-level rise), it's just not to my taste.

edit: given the minecraft-centric nature of the whole thing, my comment does not make much sense anymore.

06-14-2013, 04:39 AM
Oh no I agree, I do kind of feel like its missing that large shape. But its all about perspective, I think. Without a sense of scale, the continents could be any size. They could be larger than Eurasia for all we know, but in relation to each other, since there are 2 similarly sized continents, it doesn't feel as big. Im starting to realize that Im probably going to have to start from scratch again with newly learned things in mind, I just want to get as much feedback and criticism on this current one so I can keep that in mind when reshaping or building new continent shapes. I may have to make one of the main continents a bit beefier than the other, so it doesn't have that feeling that nothing is that big.

EDIT: I also want to see if I can find shapes that are able to fit inside rectangles, and yet still seem organic and keep from feeling like those borders are there when looking at the world as a whole. I hope that makes sense what Im trying to say there.

Edit 2: Alright, Ive modified it a bit more, adding a bit more land to the south, and trying to make the world look less symmetrical and more natural, tell me what you guys think.


06-16-2013, 04:33 PM
Alright, Ive adjusted the continents once again and I think Im really close to something I am happy with. I tried planning out major mountain ranges, as well as a faded line for tectonic plates and a red line for the equator. Let me know on how realistic the mountain placement is.


06-16-2013, 06:15 PM
Hey Alex,
That looks pretty good to me to be honest! I don't know why but seeing it with the mountain ranges makes it feel so much more believable! I like how it's coming :)

06-17-2013, 05:02 AM
Hey thanks a lot Viking!

Heres an update, Ive started zooming in and drawing more detailed coastlines. Im going for the final coastlines for this view of the world, which will be the lines that the even more detailed coastlines will be based off of when I zoom in much closer to make local maps. Im open to any criticisms or advice anyone has on this, I want to make sure its looking good before I move on to the rest of the continents.


- Max -
06-17-2013, 05:40 AM
Seems you're off to a good start