View Full Version : GIS for Fantasy - Overkill?

03-01-2009, 03:10 AM
There are a number of free GIS systems out there. Never one to stop until I've gone too far I'm considering a GIS for my game world.

Still some elements make me think twice.

1) GIS systems help organize a LOT of data, much of it mechanically collected and the vast majority collected by other people. Will a fantasy world generate enough data to make a GIS useful.

eg. It might be fun to map out a town or two precisely but would you want to be responsible for mapping out all your towns?

2) If you could accurately map the devastation from a fire or magical calamity would anyone care?

What do people think. Would anyone go as far as a GIS for their fantasy world?

Have they?


03-01-2009, 05:43 AM
As a professional GIS user, I would recommend against it. Digitising all your coastlines, political boundaries and other geographic considerations is a LOT of work if you want it to look good.

If on the other hand you have all that data already in vector format then go right ahead.

03-02-2009, 03:13 AM
I have considered it. The reason why I never tried is twofold; one is the reason you stated - it would be too much data to generate - and the other is that I simply don't know about the different types of software, what would be useful, etc etc. I could of course figure this out, but I never felt like spending the time on it.

In the end I guess what I do wish I had was some sort of normal vector drawing software that catered to map-makers. Say, inkscape, but with extra options that let me paint on a sphere, or change map projections on a whim, support different levels of detail etc.

If we could then couple this with some basic simulation capabilities la Sim Earth, we'd have a winner.

03-02-2009, 06:18 PM
IF you are looking for software then this is a good place to start.

06-25-2011, 02:58 PM
I realize this is an old thread, but I came across it whilst doing some research.

I am interested in using GIS to build a fantasy world as well. The reason, honestly, is because I want learn GIS for professional reasons, and I know that I'll have more fun with the learning process if I can use my [over-active] imagination.

Is it possible to start small, perhaps with a map of an island, and expand outward from there. How much base data does GIS need? Can't I just create the island and fill it with various data?

06-25-2011, 07:08 PM
GIS is quite capable of working with limited extents. In fact it's far more common than global datasets. Most people using it are only interested in a particular region: a municipality, a country, an island, a set of woodlots, etc.

07-14-2011, 05:17 PM
Well, I'm experimenting with GIS for creative mapping. There's the steep learning curve, and I highlighted some other negatives in the mapping software thread:
It's perhaps not the best-suited software, since it tends to be oriented towards working with real-world data than creating stuff from scratch, and it's not geared towards "artistic" maps.

But I think there are some positives. Stylistically, if you want your maps to look like real maps (which is what I usually aim for), there should be no problems.

Regarding what gorkamorka mentioned a couple of years ago; you can usually exchange vector data between GIS software and Inkscape (though you may need to scale and georeference). I've used this to employ Inkscape's fractalize tool to add detail to coastlines. Raster can be edited in other software - except that rasters in GIS tend to have more than 8 bits per band per pixel, which most image editing software isn't designed to cope with.

GIS is excellent for dealing with stuff at multiple scales. You can do a continent, and then you could do a zoomed in region, and everything will match up with your small-scale map. Do beware of putting too much detail; whole continents with 100m coastline resolution and shapefiles of tens of thousands of villages can bog your PC down quite horribly. If you're mapping a planet, projection handling capabilities are useful (though you don't need a full GIS for that.)

Since GIS software is oriented towards serious real-world analysis, any models - for example river flows, erosion, whatever - will likely be based on real science. Probably not a concern for most, but I for one am not content to simply draw stuff; I want to have some sort of scientific underpinning. Of course one has to be aware of limitations in the models; will a river model reproduce meandering correctly, for example?

There are some great tools for working with DEMs and other rasters. Something I'm particularly interested in trying is to draw a general outline of some topography, and then combine that with randomly-generated detail. The result should be a map with the kind of detail stuff like Fractal Terrains can give, while giving the artist control over the "big picture".

Another unproven possibility might be easing collaboration. I'm thinking a group could work on a project, exchanging shapefiles and rasters, and it's pretty easy for one person to bring in the stuff another person's sent them.