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View Full Version : Introducing Hexographer: Hex maps made easy



SowelBlack
04-02-2009, 03:25 PM
Well, I definitely feel like I'm dipping my toes in the deep end here by posting about my humble little project among all of the wonderful maps here. And maybe the audience for my software isn't quite the same as the experts here, but maybe you'll want to give me some constructive criticism or maybe you might want to use this for a quick and dirty map, or as the basis/first step/layer for a more detailed map... but I digress.

For a little over a month, I've been working on a new project that allows someone to easily create maps in the style of the "Known World" or "Voyage of the Princess Ark" (from Dragon magazine) or other late 80s/early 90s D&D maps.

I've now gotten it to a point where I think all the major features that will be in version 1.0 are now part of the software. Some minor features may be added and definitely bug fixes will be made as it moves from this version (.70) to 1.0.

Below is a sample portion of a map created using the software:
http://www.inkwellideas.com/hexmap/178b.png

I'm still calling this version "alpha" so until it becomes "beta" (which I expect to happen in a week) new versions may not load older versions of maps. (So in other words please try it out, but please also understand that if you put a lot of work into creating a large complex map now, it may not load later.) Again, once it is "beta" or later everything possible will be done to re-load maps created with earlier "beta" versions of the software.

I hope you find it useful and please post or email (see my address in the "Help->About" dialog of the software) any comments or issues you encounter. Thanks!

Hexographer Link (http://inkwellideas.com/?page_id=160)

P.S. I'm still trying to slightly limit how many people see the early versions of the software. Until it goes "beta" please refrain from posting about it elsewhere. Thank you!

ravells
04-02-2009, 05:00 PM
I think this is a great tool! Hex maps have always been and always should be a part of fantasy mapping. I'll download it and have a play. Thanks for debuting your software here, SowelBlack and welcome to the Guild!

Notsonoble
04-02-2009, 05:01 PM
Neat... both the software and the site in general... any problem with spreading some of the articles?

And repped.

Steel General
04-02-2009, 05:23 PM
Welcome Aboard!

I'll give this a whirl if I get a chance.

Ascension
04-02-2009, 05:24 PM
Welcome. It looks like it does a great job and the colors are sweet as well. I'll definitely be spinnin this around as I love me some old school.

isomage
04-02-2009, 06:12 PM
I love hex maps. Awesome program.

icosahedron
04-03-2009, 09:37 AM
This looks really great. When the downloadable version with custom imports is ready I could see me using this a lot for maps on the fly, or roughing out an area to map in detail later.

A request to expand its client-base whilst you're developing:

There are a lot of sci-fi gamers too. A blank black sheet as well as a blank white would be useful, especially if it looked black on the screen but printed white to save my ink. The custom imports will allow for the creation of symbols for planets, bases, fleets, ships and vehicles.

Dunno if that's possible, just a suggestion. :)

Ascension
04-03-2009, 05:02 PM
Good ideas there diceman.

slapzilla
04-03-2009, 05:46 PM
Looks great! How does the Custom map numbers grid work?

SowelBlack
04-04-2009, 07:40 AM
Thanks a lot for all the compliments!


Neat... both the software and the site in general... any problem with spreading some of the articles?

And repped.

You're welcome to post the other article anywhere, but I'm asking that no one else post about the Hexographer until it is beta (hopefully next week) although it is getting posted elsewhere by people who don't seee my request. That's ok, because it isn't happening much.


This looks really great. When the downloadable version with custom imports is ready I could see me using this a lot for maps on the fly, or roughing out an area to map in detail later.

A request to expand its client-base whilst you're developing:

There are a lot of sci-fi gamers too. A blank black sheet as well as a blank white would be useful, especially if it looked black on the screen but printed white to save my ink. The custom imports will allow for the creation of symbols for planets, bases, fleets, ships and vehicles.

Dunno if that's possible, just a suggestion. :)

You'll probably see that very soon... let me know what you think when I post that has been added.


Looks great! How does the Custom map numbers grid work?

I'm not sure i understand the question... can you rephrase it? I am working on a new feature that will let you change the hex numbering from xx.yy to yy.xx. You will also be able to choose a different separator character, what number to start numbering the rows and what number for the columns, whether the hex number iis on the top or bottom of the hex, and the hex numbers' font/style/size/color. Is that what you were wondering?

SowelBlack
04-06-2009, 12:22 PM
A new version is up.

It has the new hex numbering options (available in the "Settings" window.)

And I did revise the way the base terrain hexes work. I greatly simplified them behind the scenes so it will be easier for me to support an "add custom terrain" feature in the future.

If anyone has suggestions for other icons or better icons or wants to make them and doesn't mind giving them away, please let me know. I'll give you the details. Or link me to a picture that's close to what you want.

Next up: some new terrain hexes (evergreen forests and outer space hexes), some more refactoring of how terrain works (but those will be minor compared to the prior terrain changes) and bug fixes.

Let me know what you think!

icosahedron
04-07-2009, 05:30 AM
If anyone has suggestions for other icons or better icons or wants to make them and doesn't mind giving them away, please let me know. I'll give you the details. Or link me to a picture that's close to what you want.



According to the website:


The custom icon graphics will probably expect simple pngs. You’ll be able to use any size you want as the software will scale them to fit within the hexes.

The style of your symbols is not photorealistic. Roughly how many pixels across are your hex symbols, so we can get an idea of how much detail to include?

My to do list includes making some webding style symbols for modern/scifi units for my own use. I might make them Creative Commons and, if so, Hexographer users might be interested - though with my current schedule someone else will almost certainly beat me to it.

I've seen some on the net, but I've found no decent free ones yet. If anyone knows of some it will save me some time and may help Hexographer users.

SowelBlack
04-07-2009, 08:43 AM
For the feature icons (citys, towers, mines, shipwrecks, etc.) and terrain graphics (the icons used for the mountains, hills, forests, etc. but not the background color), I'm using transparent pngs that are 250x250 pixels. I stay away from the far corners. These are scaled to 82% of the size of the smaller dimension of each hex then centered. So a hex that is 40x36 will have its icons scaled down to 29 or 30 pixels high (depending on rounding) and wide. Because the very top and bottom of the 40 pixel wide hex will only be 20 pixels, you'll want to avoid the extreme corners of your png. I also plan to allow users to customize the background colors of terrain and the scale percentage of terrain icons and feature icons.

Does that make sense?

Also, can you clarify what you mean by "not photorealistic"? Do you simply prefer a different style for all the icons and terrain graphics? If there is some constructive criticism, I'd like to understand it so I can make the software better.

RPMiller
04-07-2009, 11:00 AM
Had to give your rep a little boost. Great stuff! I definitely would like to see more modern stuff. Modern is just so hard to find and there is a good percentage of gamers that play games set in the Victorian to Far future time frames.

icosahedron
04-07-2009, 12:55 PM
Also, can you clarify what you mean by "not photorealistic"? Do you simply prefer a different style for all the icons and terrain graphics? If there is some constructive criticism, I'd like to understand it so I can make the software better.

No criticism of your software intended, it's brilliant just as it is.

If you look around this site you'll see a wide range of mapping and element styles varying from very symbolistic/cartoony styles to photorealistic/satellite image styles. There's no right or wrong, they're just different ways of representing things.

(I'm just learning all this stuff myself).

Your software has a symbolistic style representative of traditional RPG games - which is great - so if someone were to draw a realistic looking armoured car 'symbol' a couple of thousand pixels across, with shadows and reflections etc, it would look out of place with the rest of the map. OTOH, If a noob like me makes a 'space invaders' symbol ten pixels across with no detail, that might not match your maps either.

So I just wondered what you use. The info you provided will help this beginner to get it right, thanks. :)

SowelBlack
04-07-2009, 01:45 PM
If you look around this site you'll see a wide range of mapping and element styles varying from very symbolistic/cartoony styles to photorealistic/satellite image styles.

That's what I thought, but thank you for clarifying!

SowelBlack
04-08-2009, 03:03 PM
There are a lot of sci-fi gamers too. A blank black sheet as well as a blank white would be useful, especially if it looked black on the screen but printed white to save my ink. The custom imports will allow for the creation of symbols for planets, bases, fleets, ships and vehicles.

Dunno if that's possible, just a suggestion. :)

I have an idea of how to pull off the black on screen/white when printed idea, but it won't be anytime soon. I'll put it on the list however.

But I wanted to ask... specifically, what space tiles would you want?
-black with a faint starfield behind it
-black with a faint starfield but with a colored (purplish?) mask to signify a nebula?
-what else?
Icons:
-black hole
-planet (do we need different sizes/colors?)
-asteroid(s)
-space station
-moon (same as planet?)
-sun

SowelBlack
04-12-2009, 08:03 AM
I made a few updates recently:

Added "Delete" buttons to the "Lines" and "Text" tab panels to make that functionality more obvious. (Instead of only having the button below the map.)

Added a bunch of new terrain: light evergreen, heavy evergreen, evergreen hills and mountains, as well as jungle hills.

Added a whole new set of terrain for star maps. See the "Cosmic" tab. It includes a basic star hex as well as a star hex with a purplish tint to serve as a nebula hex. Then there are icons for asteroids, suns, planets, ringed planets, jump gates and space stations. If someone is into starship combat games and wants to make some suggestions about these, please post.

Improved the color chooser so it has defaults that match the background color of each terrain.

icosahedron
04-13-2009, 03:17 PM
Sorry, I missed your post #17, though I shouldn't be the only sci-fier around here.

Sounds like good stuff. I'll have to have a go with the software soon, but I can't access it on this machine.

FYI, in the absence of the dual black/white, I'll probably use a white background for my printer's sake. Can't speak for anyone else, though. :)

SowelBlack
04-30-2009, 11:12 PM
Based on the suggestion of another SF gamer (Traveller, I think) I revised the cosmic icons so that you can override the color as you place them. It took some thought for how to do it without needing to create a slew of icons that varied only by color (even if I only offered 8 or so major colors, for 8 or so different cosmic objects such as planet, asteroids, jump gate, etc. I'd have around 64 icons to create and display to the user.)

Anyway, I was able to discover that there is a relatively easy way to filter a graphic and change its color on the fly. Once I learned that, implementing it was pretty quick.

I was also pretty sick for about two weeks--it predated the new flu, so no worries that it was that. And I added a number of other features as I was figuring this one out. The coolest/most useful (I think) is the ability to import a map as a background and then modify your map's opacity so you can trace over the imported map.

Craig_in_ACT
05-07-2009, 11:26 AM
SowelBlack,

I just recently came across your software and love what it does so far, and am looking forward to the listed improvements. Last year (on this forum) I listed a job (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=2664) that I was interested in hiring somebody to do, but your software looks like it will do that nicely, when complete. I am really looking forward to being able to turn those hexes by 90 degrees :)

Thanks,

Craig J. Brain

SowelBlack
05-15-2009, 11:05 AM
I've made an enhancement so the hexes can be turned 90 degrees. You can now to orient the map in a "true columns" way (so the hexes form columns--the way it was before) or as "true rows." (If you have a better idea for how to name these two map orientations please let me know.)

There's an option on the initial Hexographer program window (the one that runs in the browser) to switch between these two map orientations. When maps are saved, this property is recorded so when you reload the map it will be set appropriately. You can also switch this property when you are viewing a map by going to the "Options" menu and choosing one of the "Hex Orientation" options. (But I wouldn't recommend it for maps that already have lines drawn. The change will cause those lines to not match up with your terrain.)

I've also added a "pan" button in the bottom left corner that allows a user to easily drag the map to move it and replaced a few of the text buttons with icons.

Also, previously I added a feature so hexes can be customized. The icon in a hex can be resized relative to the hex's size or the icon can even be turned off and the background color can be changed.

Here's the link since the old one is a couple of pages back: Hexographer (http://inkwellideas.com/?page_id=160)

SowelBlack
05-24-2009, 08:51 AM
Just posting about another update:

I've really re-worked the Hexographer's UI. I always hated having to arbitrarily divide up each tab and especially the terrain into forest/rough/other to fit in one single row of buttons for most screen sizes. I also think as things have evolved, the basic drawing tools on the bottom for lines and text should be integrated with most of the controls.

So I've created a side bar for all of those controls and grouped them a little more sanely. (IMO.) I've put them in tabs, and the tabs run along the right edge like a phone book. Originally I wanted each tab be a "drawer" (if you're familiar with that UI concept) but I had issues with the drawer objects that I was writing from scratch. So it will be tabs for now, until I find a better approach. (Or if someone suggests something that fires me up.) But love it, hate it, or like this but not that, let me know, please.

I also fixed a memory issue a couple of days ago.

Notsonoble
05-27-2009, 04:42 PM
Looks good! Keep it up... I'm looking at it for a warhammer campaign territory map or two...

knightvision
05-31-2009, 09:24 AM
I've mostly used the old school program Arr-kelaans hex mapper. The original download link is now gone. I really like this program and will be using it extensively in the future. Thanks so much for your hard work on this endeavor. 8)

SowelBlack
06-05-2009, 09:53 AM
I've added another very cool (I think) feature to the Hexographer software.

I'm calling it the "Terrain Wizard." If you start with a blank map, you just rough in the map (draw a line of mountain hexes for a mountain range, a circle of forest hexes for a large forest, etc. Then the Terrain wizard will fill in the remaining blank hexes based on what non-blank terrain hex is closest.

Here's a link to a fuller description, example & instructions:
Terrain Wizard for Hexographer (http://inkwellideas.com/?p=382)

isomage
06-05-2009, 10:16 AM
Well, since I can't rep you for that, as I haven't been repping enough, I'll just have to say that's pretty awesome.

Steel General
06-05-2009, 01:22 PM
I'll beat him with my 'rep' cudgel for you Isomage... :) *bonk*

Notsonoble
06-05-2009, 06:17 PM
That's gonna be handy, especially for some ideas I'm tinkering with...

SowelBlack
06-24-2009, 02:47 PM
Thanks for the kind words everyone. Several new features and bug fixes have been added to the core Hexographer software:


The random terrain generator has been significantly reworked so the resulting terrain is less random.
The random terrain generator process is explained by clicking "Help" once you've opened the custom random terrain settigns screen by clicking the "Custom Terrain" button on the start screen of the applet.
A number of small usability fixes have been made, such as some customization screens getting close, apply, and save buttons.



And the "Pro" version can now be ordered. For just $5 for a 1-year license of $25 for a lifetime license, the pro version allows you to:

Run off-line: The pro version is downloaded to your computer so you don't need to be connected to the internet.
Customize terrain and feature icons: Use any .png image for the terrain and feature icons. (Go to the map edit window's "Options" menu and choose "Customize Hexes.") Both the pro and non-pro versions allow you to change the background color of each terrain type, the sizes of terrain or feature icons, or whether to display icons or not.
Expand an existing map: Add (or subtract) a number of hex rows or columns above, below, to the right or to the left of an existing map. (Go to the map edit window's "Options" menu and choose "Expand/Shrink Number of Hexes.")
Add detailed notes to a hex: Any hex can now be described in detail with a freeform text field. Adding a note to a hex adds a small rectangular marker to the map. Clicking it will pop open the note for further editing or just to read it. (The note markers can be turned off using the map edit window's "Show/Hide" menu and selecting/deselecting the "Notes on Map" menu item.)


Pro version maps can be read and edited by the free version of Hexographer, but the extra features are not available for further editing. (However, custom icons added using the pro version will be displayed by the free version.)

Read more about Hexographer, use the free version and see pro version ordering details at: Hexographer: Overview (http://inkwellideas.com/?page_id=160)