View Full Version : Slope study

03-06-2009, 09:57 PM
Being new to mapping, I often find myself blocked by apparently simple things... things like slopes.

I'm used to using omnidirectional shadow to imply depth, like for stairs or building levels (see my ships), but slopes still elude me.

Most maps I've seen seem to shy away from slopes too. They either mark them artificially (like with topography lines), use surrounding elements (like stairs) to suggest their existence or forgo them entirely.

So I've browsed through many maps, tactical and geographic, spanning many art styles, to see how slopes are conveyed. Here are the elements I noted:

- Approching the top of the slope, terrain gets progressively lighter.
- Terrain becomes abruptly dark just before the slope begins, showing a clear demarcation.
- The whole slope has uniform darkness, slightly darker than its surroundings. More "cartoony" styles usually sport lines here, getting more numerous at the bottom.
- After the bottom of the slope, terrain progressively goes back to its normal lightness.

I've tried applying those observations and am looking for feedback. The first image is the sketch and the second one has the underlying textures removed, showing only the shading. Both use 64-pixel tiles, 6 by 6.

03-06-2009, 10:55 PM
I took your color image and had a go at it, in hopes of being helpful :) The first pic is the final result.

1. First I added a simple gradient (second pic) set to overlay at 50% opacity.
2. Second I blurred everything on the original that was at the bottom of the slope, in this pic the bottom is on the right side (third pic). I used the blur tool at about 45 pixels for the tip of the brush.
3. Next I added a layer of 50% gray, set it to overlay then using the dodge and burn tools (at various tip sizes) I created some relief to give it some extra punch (fourth pic).

The black in the gradient might be a bit too much but I thought that yours was too light...you're on the right track, though, so keep up the good work.

03-07-2009, 12:31 AM
That's a mighty nice cliff! The blur and darkness help quite a lot in keeping the focus on the high ground, where players hope to stay.

Problem is... while my praise is honest, the result is far from a gentle 45-degree slope.

"The black in the gradient might be a bit too much but I thought that yours was too light..."

That's a self-imposed restriction... my ultimate goal is to make tilesets for MapTool. The grass at the top needs to be the same brightness as the grass at the bottom. Actually, apart from a 1-tile edge, the top or the bottom must look exactly the same.

Else, I can't use the same texture for both, and map size (in terms of computer memory) goes through the roof.

I made a new version of the slope to better display the kind of functionality I ultimately need. Again, it is a 6-by-6 area with 64-pixel tiles. The borders don't look too natural, but that's needed if they're to fit nicely into the tiles.

Rest assured that your counsel is always appreciated. Just seeing your treatment of my slope sketch has inspired me for other background elements and taught me new drawing techniques.

03-07-2009, 07:57 AM
Gotcha...the tiling thing does throw a monkey wrench into it. This new one looks pretty good.

03-16-2009, 06:43 AM
It looks great already and will look even better when more texture variation is added to the ground/grass. Then it will not be the only thing to look at, but is the sweets on top.

03-20-2009, 12:26 PM
Both of these sloping ideas are really good and provide the answer to making slopes on my own map. I will definitely have to play with the ideas! Kudos and reps and gold stars on the forehead for both of you!

EDIT: Sorry, Ceraus, but I have to spread more rep around before I can give you some! :(

03-21-2009, 09:35 PM
I'll manage, StillCypher. :(

Haven't worked on maps alot since then, but I'll be sure to post my "ground tiles" once they're done. I still think my slope looks too much like a cliff; I'll try having less of an edge at the top and have all the slope illusion be a matter of lighting.

Ideally, the slopes, cliffs and everything will be tileable on ANY grass-themed ground texture. And I'll have Ascension comment on them before they're finalized.

By the way, Ascension, the main reason why I use bland textures without relief effects like yours is that I need my cliffs, slopes and all to be tileable. (This also gives me a hard time with irregular borders.) Do you know a way to get such effects, but tileable? I could get better results if I could find something similar to your 4th pic, but, again, tileable (and transparent intead of white).

Out of curiosity, what are the favorite tile-resolutions used by people around here? I use 64 out of old Gametable habit and I wonder which starting resolution I should work from for maximum compatibility.

03-22-2009, 11:11 AM
Ceraus, I see what you mean about your slope resembling a cliff. I think it may be the rocky texture that implies a steeper grade than you desire. Sorry I haven't tried it myself, so I don't know if the effect will be desirable, but using Ascension's method above with the gradient applied to grass texture, with a quick fade back to transparency (to retain tilabilty) seems like it may yield something gentler. Thanks for the discussion, though. Whatever you decide the discussion and thread has been valuable to myself at least. *Repped* and rated.

03-23-2009, 05:18 PM
Tried something simpler and made a hill.

There's white at the top that fades out a square away, equally inside and outside.

There's black at the bottom, fading out a square away toward the top but fading out much quicker outside.

There's also shadow on the slope, (starting from the top) fading in half a square after the top and fading out half a square after the bottom.

The slope texture, as before, is rock and grass, but this time it fades out equally at the top and bottom.

The first two layers are at 30% opacity and the last two at 20%.

Again, I haven't touched fancy effects, just using black and white fade ins and fade outs. I think I've successfully dodged the cliff look, but now the top and bottom are not defined enough, possibly confusing players.

I've attached a grass version, an earth version and a version with no terrain underneath.

03-23-2009, 05:20 PM
Heh! The third picture looks like a bump in the messageboards.

Hey... that could be a good Mapping Challenge idea.

04-18-2009, 01:12 AM
Spent a few weeks with writer's block about slopes, but got through tonight.

I scrapped everything, went back to the basics and tried to incorporate some of Ascension's feedback.

I especially reworked the texturing, adding subtle lighting effects to the slope texture (while keeping it tileable). Then white on top, black on bottom and a little shadow, but with new, improved numerical values that don't over-complicate creation.

This is preliminary, but I'm quite pleased by the results. Keep in mind that my cliff in the first post and this new image are supposed to represent the same thing.

04-18-2009, 01:42 AM
I've also redone the hill with the new parameters. I'm posting the old one again for comparison.

I think the new one looks much better, especially in high resolution. Its sloped sides almost look stiff - which is exactly what I'm looking for. No ambiguity.

04-18-2009, 02:37 AM
First tile!

I had to compromise a lot on realism. Making a 2-square thick slope fit on a 4-square tile means I can't extend any gradient or shadow very far. Also, the exact locations of the slope's edges were up for debate, so I just squeezed every variable until it gave a slope that fit well and read well. As the white top and black bottom barely extend anymore, I made them massively more apparent (probably overdone the white).

Here's the first tile and how it looks on generic grasslands and on sandy/rocky terrain. The tile itself is rotatable and fits with itself. I'll go sleep on it now.

(EDIT: Oops, the texture doesn't fit. I must have misplaced it somewhere.)

04-22-2009, 05:13 AM
I'm no longer doing any "Slope study", but my slope work continues here: