View Full Version : Using Google Earth and Sketchup for 3D world mapping?

04-13-2009, 07:07 AM
I was just working on my current RPG in which I am running in original setting. A bit part of my prep work for the game has been mapping out the world and deciding who lives where and what the surrounding topography.

While looking at some real world skyscrapers for inspiration for a Orthanc-like tower, I was looking at the 3d buildings in Google Earth (newest version 5 I think). Has anyone tried taking a world map and gloming into the Google Earth software? That would be sweet, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to even start. I found Google Sketchup which, apparently, is Google's free 3d modeler which you can use to make stuff for Google Earth.

I'm just kind of thinking outloud.


04-13-2009, 07:11 AM
Also, if it's not obvious, I'm a novice. So if something I've suggested won't work for reasons that would be elementary to a more experienced mapper, well that ain't me.

04-13-2009, 10:47 AM
The thought occurs to many and many have tried with varying degrees of success. I'll summarize the good the bad and the ugly.

The good is that the tools are free and there's a whole lot of people that are able to use them. They are well supported, they work and they are on the whole cross platform. Google earth allows you to add 2D maps and some 3D buildings but not I believe 3D terrain. I think Worldwind does allow that however but that's another story. Google maps needs just the browser and some simple java capability which is common.

The bad is that whilst you can create 3D houses, its a lot more difficult to do 3D than 2D so there's a lot less people prepared to make them. You do get many who will do famous buildings but a lot of whats required to do a fantasy campaign map to a degree of detail is a lot of boring stuff that just has to be done to fill in the stuff between all the exciting stuff.

The ugly bit of using Google earth / maps is that the primitives they use are 2D maps which do not have any hierarchical nature to them. To change a building in a town requires you to obtain the image original, move the house, render the image again, upload that to Google repository or web space somewhere and then everyone needs to refresh. That's alright if you a) are building to a fixed plan like the real world or b) somebody else is doing almost all the donkey work like Google does for the real world or NASA does for Mars etc.

So yeah its possible and if your prepared to do an awful lot of work then it can look great but its not a system conducive for cooperative building or rapid editing.

04-13-2009, 08:09 PM
Do a keyword search here and you'll find plenty of stuff on both SU and GE and how maps have been used/incorporated into both. If you do go into the SU world for basic 3d modeling, I dabble a bit in that and will help ya where I can. Welcome to The Guild.