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Meshon
06-24-2013, 05:37 PM
Well, I'm attempting to do a really big battle map for playing Mordheim on a virtual table. The full size is 96x48 in virtual inches (or grid squares if you like, though it will be gridless) but I only have a section here (roughly the eastern half). There are a whole host of things to work out as I build this, but I'll start at the beginning and keep updating my progress here.

The battle map is supposed to represent part of a city in ruins with an open plaza at the centre (the circular flagstone pattern on the left hand side). Because this will be used for a skirmish game, my major challenge is representing the different heights in some way that is unambiguous (or at least relatively easy to figure out) for players using it. Rather than a flat map where walls block line of sight, the walls on this map will be varying heights: some will be nearly completely crumbled, others will extend up one or more stories. The game involves a lot of positioning for those pesky cross-bow snipers, sneaking through cover, and finding ways to outmaneuver your opponent.

So my requirements are:
-unambiguously display height differences
-show windows and similar gaps
-show walls that are only partial, provide cover but don't block line of sight
-show walls that are solid and block line of sight
-show walls that block line of sight on a lower level but are only partial on a higher level
-provide a playable and strategic table
-and look at least a little convincing, though concessions will be made to playability and time

I'll keep posting updates as I go, but I'd be happy to hear any advice on resolving the difficulties, or pointers to examples of maps that do similar things. Going forward my first task will likely be to fill in the large blocks with more precise building outlines.
Oh, and the yellowish areas are going to be places where the ground is elevated one story up.

Thanks for reading!

cheers,
Meshon

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arsheesh
06-24-2013, 05:54 PM
Sounds like a cool project. Look forward to following this thread.

Cheers,
-Arsheesh

Freehand 5.5
06-24-2013, 06:10 PM
Yeah, I play in Mortheim, too.
So i'm very curious about this.

Meshon
06-24-2013, 06:49 PM
Glad to hear there are other people who still play this game! I will definitely admit that playing Mordheim on a virtual table top has its compromises (mostly in the 3rd dimension), but it's been worth it to be able to play again with my old crew now scattered across the country. I'll be interested to hear what you think as I make progress here: one of the features of playing traditional Mordheim is laying out the terrain pieces before the battle, so creating a pre-built map goes against that a bit. However I've found the piece-by-(virtual) piece maps we were using to be less than satisfying, and using pre-built maps is actually kind of interesting as our warbands return to the same areas and can try new approaches and strategies on a familiar battlefield.

I hope you like it!

cheers,
Meshon

Freehand 5.5
06-24-2013, 07:30 PM
I heard about virtual gaming tables as quite expensive devices.
What table do you use for this project? What product? How big is the screen size?
Do you use the original miniatures on your table or are they virtual, too?
Or do you simply speak of playing online via a platform like vassal?

Btw: I do not play the game Mortheim. I said we play >in< Mortheim - just the setting.
We use the miniatures but RPG rules (the german Trauma Universalrollenspiel from FlyingGames.de) unfolding
even more complex stories and gaming as in the tabletop.
Such a map of yours would be quite handy for me being the game master. ;)
Printed maps are much more convenient for RPG scenes instead of building up 3D scenery like in the tabletop game.

Meshon
06-24-2013, 07:49 PM
I heard about virtual gaming tables as quite expensive devices.
What table do you use for this project? What product? How big is the screen size?
Do you use the original miniatures on your table or are they virtual, too?
Or do you simply speak of playing online via a platform like vassal?

Btw: I do not play the game Mortheim. I said we play >in< Mortheim - just the setting.
We use the miniatures but RPG rules (the german Trauma Universalrollenspiel from FlyingGames.de) unfolding
even more complex stories and gaming as in the tabletop.
Such a map of yours would be quite handy for me being the game master. ;)
Printed maps are much more convenient for RPG scenes instead of building up 3D scenery like in the tabletop game.

Haha, I'm cheap, so yes I'm referring to an online virtual table. The one we use is MapTool and I've built a framework for playing the Mordheim game.

Very cool that you are using it as a setting! My group has gone a bit of a different direction, but we've adapted the core Mordheim setting to our own game world, in which we also play D&D. So sometimes we play skirmish games and sometimes roleplaying, but all in the same world.

I imagine I will be breaking the map down into smaller sections to work on, so I will maybe have something you can use before the whole project is completed.

The only problem might be that I am building it at 100px per inch resolution, so it might not look great printed. The file is just too big for me to work any higher though.

cheers,
Meshon

Freehand 5.5
06-24-2013, 09:30 PM
Ah, okay. ;)
It's not very usual to play D&D in a Mortheim-like world. But I think that fits pretty well.
Recently I played a RuneQuest Legends session in the g+ hangout with some friends. We used maptool, too, and that worked without problems.
I like this development of online role playing. But while playing I wished I had two monitors.

144 dpi would be a lot better, but 100 dpi is acceptable.
Wouldn't it be possible to paint it in higher resolution by dividing it into smaller parts?
What is the maximal file size your compi can handle?
Do you work in Photoshop?
Or is it a problem of handling the final file in maptool?

Invictys
06-24-2013, 09:34 PM
Nice Meshon, I look forward to seeing how this works out. I play on a Virtual table top also (Fantasy Grounds 2) and have wondered how to build a cityscape with unambiguous elevation changes too.

I've recently started messing with heightmaps/bumpmaps which I feel could be a good way to do it if used properly and in a subtle way not the typical mountain terrain building way.

I have a finished map I posted today that uses the technique and links to the tutorial I used. (Link in sig to the Sandy Ravine encounter map in my finished maps)

Anyway, look forward to seeing how you work it all out.

If its applicable I could use a technique for a similar situation with a sunken city lying at a 30 degree angle, I have no clue how to depict that in an unambiguous and attractive way on a VTT

Jacktannery
06-25-2013, 02:36 AM
Interesting project Meshon. I'm going to keep an eye on this because I'm terrible at making city maps.

Meshon
06-26-2013, 01:23 AM
Well, there is certainly more to this project than I realized, which is good. I'll be learning a lot. It also means I won't always have amazing stuff to post, but I will keep updates going and try to explain what I'm doing as I go along.

Also I've decided to keep it at 100px per inch. I started building it at 200 but the file is already over 1GB and I've just barely started. I thought about working on the map in pieces, but there are a few elements that span most of the map (streets) that I'd have to make sure fit together, and a few of the operations I want to run will be easier for me to manage if I'm working on a file that is the whole map. I'd still like to figure out a way to produce smaller sections that fit together, but that may be next project.

This is the Illustrator layout file. I like using a vector program here because it is so easy to move things around and edit. Also my cobblestone streets are Illustrator brushes so that's where I start. In an older version of this I had a bunch of separate buildings; this time around I'm going for more of a medieval over-crowded city feel, where the houses and shops are all stuck to each other. We'll see how it goes.
55671

Then I start pasting things into Photoshop. I was thinking about really streamlining the map, for example having all the floor surfaces be on one layer, but I realized that the pattern overlays are not going to work well with that. I'll need to make each floor a separate layer and figure out a good way to align the patterns.

Next step is probably to try out some wall styles to see what I can come up with that looks half decent!
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@Invictys, I checked out the map, and thanks for the link. I hadn't originally planed on any rough stone surfaces in this district but now I'm pretty much sure I'll find a place to use those techniques.

@Jacktannery, I need some work on city maps too, so here's hoping I'll figure some things out as I go.

Thanks for reading!

cheers,
Meshon

Jacktannery
06-26-2013, 03:11 AM
Your floorboards looks exactly like that fake plastic wood you sometimes seed in really cheap hotels - nice!

The scale between the cobblestones and the floorboard planks looks a little wrong (planks too small?) and your building walls are a little pixellated and could do with a slight blur. Good start.

Meshon
06-26-2013, 11:47 AM
Your floorboards looks exactly like that fake plastic wood you sometimes seed in really cheap hotels - nice!

The scale between the cobblestones and the floorboard planks looks a little wrong (planks too small?) and your building walls are a little pixellated and could do with a slight blur. Good start.
Yeah, the floorboards! I need to put some embossing on them so they look exactly like shiny plastic! ;)
Thanks for the tip on the scale, I probably wouldn't have noticed that until it was well too late. And the walls definitely need some trials to get something unobtrusive but still pleasing in a subtle "I won't look to hard at the walls unless they block line of sight for my crossbowman" sort of way.

Back to the Illustrator grid!

cheers,
Meshon

Meshon
06-26-2013, 03:18 PM
Trying out some different wall styles. I decided I would see if an Illustrator brush could make better walls, but the results haven't been totally satisfactory. I tried a stone wall brush to convey a wall constructed out of stone blocks, which was okay but hard to work with once in Photoshop, as well as a timber and plaster looking thing, but that was even worse. I think for the large scale (i.e. lots of walls) that I'm working on I may have to settle for something simpler. Anyway, here's the results of my testing, just on a small section of the map for now:
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What I'm trying to develop are some techniques that will allow me to make large maps like this relatively quickly, so I may end up making some compromises. On the other hand my obsessive little brain has trouble just leaving well enough alone, so I fiddle around for large chunks of time, trying to get it "just right".

cheers,
Meshon

Invictys
06-26-2013, 08:02 PM
What about just drawing the outlines of the walls in Illustrator and then in Photoshop create a pattern filled adjustment layer on top for your walls, fill the layer mask black to mask it out, then switch to white and trace/draw/select&fill whatever your wall lines. After that you can add a style to that layer to give the walls drop shadow/bevel/color adjustment or whatever.

This way drawing the walls would be pretty quick in photoshop since you can draw a straight line between two points by holding shift between clicks. Also different buildings can have different wall textures/types by just repeating the process somewhere else on the map. You can save your wall style for easy repetition and consistency and you can always go back and change any wall texture on the fly since nothing is destructive about the technique..

I'm by no means an expert so this may be too rudimentary looking for your style but I do think it would be fast and easy.

Here's a proof of concept image with the stock round brush 100% opacity/fill. Its sloppy but I think it illustrates the concept. It took me around 5 minutes to do and much of that was picking a texture and remembering how to draw a straight line! =)

Using your walls and tracing on top
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Replaced your city with a desert background to better show the walls themselves.
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Meshon
06-26-2013, 11:03 PM
Haha! Invictys, I should have known you'd put the walls in a desert :) Joking aside though (I know arid is your thing right now), the walls do look great there. I'm almost tempted to toss the city into a desert! But I'll save that for another project. I've always wanted to do desert ruins.

What I was trying to do with my Illustrator brush walls was make something that had a little more texture than straight lines, but I think it's just too fiddly when I will need to complete over fifty buildings worth of walls.

I think my usual process is similar to what you've described, although I will admit to not really understanding adjustment layers yet. My usual move is to draw an outline of a building in Illustrator, and give the stroke a width of 20 or 30 pixels. I think copy that shape into photoshop and just apply a layer style and I have the beginnings of a wall. Here's an example where I've been mucking around with trying to make walls look ruined, but basically it's copy from Illustrator, paste into Photoshop, apply layer style (usually with shadow, texture, colour and pattern fill). You could also just draw the walls in photoshop with a brush of the appropriate width, but I do like messing around in Illustrator first for some reason...

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I'm going to go see if I can learn a thing or two about adjustment layers...

cheers,
Meshon

Invictys
06-27-2013, 12:24 AM
Haha well I do run a Dark Sun campaign after all so I have deserts on the brain often ;)

I like those ruined walls they look nice and detailed. As always there are many paths to the same goal and there's often an inverse correlation between speed and quality.

I don't know the first thing about Illustrator but fifty buildings is a lot to detail out! I look forward to seeing how you work it all out!

Jacktannery
06-27-2013, 02:58 AM
Meshon that looks extremely good. Your walls do look a little metallic though. You might consider placing your wall texture as a 'hard light' layer over a pale grey with just a hint of blue in it (for example - something like Red 156, Green 172, Blue 200) or a very pale ochre - It might help to make the walls look a little more matt. I'd also desaturate your green a tiny bit. Your cobbles are really amazing, but I really think you should get a higher-resolution wood texture. I have a good grey one somewhere if can't find one yourself.

Meshon
07-23-2013, 07:00 PM
I'm still struggling with exactly what process to use as I build all the structures, but thank you for the tips on the walls. I might use two layers to represent walls, or some similar trickiness. However, until I return to civilization in about a week, I'll have to content myself with making notes in a little notebook, rather than pushing pixels.

cheers,
Meshon