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View Full Version : New to fantasy mapmaking...what software should I use?



RoninFrosty
06-01-2009, 04:47 AM
So I've been working on my own campaign world, and I think I've got enough of the base mechanics down to feel comfortable at least drawing up the world map. Problem is, I think I may have some unrealistic expectations regarding what I'd like my software to be able to accomplish.

I'd like to be able to switch from, for example, a political map to a topographical map, I guess basically utilizing "layers", and I'd also like to, if I were to zoom in, use contour lines for topography. Is there any software out there that I can reasonably expect all this from?

jfrazierjr
06-01-2009, 08:58 AM
So I've been working on my own campaign world, and I think I've got enough of the base mechanics down to feel comfortable at least drawing up the world map. Problem is, I think I may have some unrealistic expectations regarding what I'd like my software to be able to accomplish.

I'd like to be able to switch from, for example, a political map to a topographical map, I guess basically utilizing "layers", and I'd also like to, if I were to zoom in, use contour lines for topography. Is there any software out there that I can reasonably expect all this from?

Sounds like you might like something like Campaign Cartographer or Fractal Mapper. Both about the same price.


Campaign Cartographer has a steeper learning curve (due to it's non transitional user interface) but TONS of add on symbol packs (which you pay for)

FM is easier to learn since the UI is based on the Windows standard, but it has few available symbols.

Both have the concept of layers(though CC calls them something else!!) Another good thing about these if that they are vector based, so you can scale to print at any size with no loss of resolution (when using ONLY vector symbols!!!) Bad thing is that since they are vector based, you can only get so far up on the pretty scale(depending on how pretty you want your maps AND your definition of pretty.)

NeonKnight
06-01-2009, 11:38 AM
Yeah, CC3 (Campaign Cartographer Version 3), uses layers, and sheets. I wrote a quickie article on this forum to explain the difference but basically in a nut shell, the two are separate and distinct from each other.

You could do most of what you say in your post above, and I often do or did in my past maps. I would make a map, and then have a separate 'layer' which showed the political boundaries that I could show or not show. For zooming in, I simply made newer maps.

The big question becomes one of, how much do you want to spend. Speaking as a CC3 user, the software is quite versatile and I can accomplish much with it.

Midgardsormr
06-01-2009, 11:40 AM
I agree with Joe (edit: and Daniel). I know that Campaign Cartographer can do those things, and it also permits maps to be linked together, so you can navigate around through your world by clicking on hot spots in the maps.

Generally speaking, though, you'd want to make a new map for your zoomed-in topo view because all of the symbols and text will scale relative to the zoom level, and there isn't a level-of-detail function that will simplify the coastlines as you zoom out. So if you make your lines detailed enough for the zoomed-in view, things will get very sluggish on the zoomed-out view due to having more nodes than you need.

If you feel confident in your ability to use graphic editing software, you might look into Inkscape—it's a free vector program that will probably do some of those things better than CC3, but you'll have to develop your own assets, as there is a dearth of svg format symbols available at the moment.

jfrazierjr
06-01-2009, 12:21 PM
Generally speaking, though, you'd want to make a new map for your zoomed-in topo view because all of the symbols and text will scale relative to the zoom level, and there isn't a level-of-detail function that will simplify the coastlines as you zoom out. So if you make your lines detailed enough for the zoomed-in view, things will get very sluggish on the zoomed-out view due to having more nodes than you need.

I will say that this "issue" is one place where Fractal Mapper has superior support(well.. depending on how you look at it may not be an issue!). FM allows each layer to have a set zoom scale(both ceiling and floor if you wish) so that you can turn that layer on or off as you scale in or out as needed after a one time set up. The primary reason most people use this is to keep country labels from getting the way as you zoom in to a region. I have used this to start a map with few general labels for countries and as I zoom in, those hide themselves and then "county" and a few city labels show up and as I zoom in further, those disappear and "new" city labels appear along with village and other local stuff.

RoninFrosty
06-01-2009, 01:54 PM
Wow guys, thanks for all the feedback. I'm researching CC3 and Fractal Mapper at the moment, I'll let you guys know what I end up with.

icosahedron
06-03-2009, 05:47 AM
Hi RF,
Ask Redrobes about Viewingdale. It has excellent zoom features and a political map could be derived from the main map and reached via a jump command, which would have a similar effect to a layer, but I'm a new user and I haven't done any world or regional-scale maps yet, so I don't know about labels re-scaling themselves under zoom.

RoninFrosty
06-03-2009, 01:47 PM
Well, everyone, I finally decided to go with CC3. It's definitely a bit...different (with the whole pick your command, THEN your target setup), but I'm giving it a fair shake, and I'm pretty impressed with the kind of stuff I can turn out in short amounts of time. Thanks for all the feedback.

@icosahedron: I've already made a decision at the moment, so unless there's a free trial or something for this program, sounds like a no go :-( I am interested in seeing some of the results though, do you have a map that you can post?

icosahedron
06-04-2009, 07:18 AM
@icosahedron: I've already made a decision at the moment, so unless there's a free trial or something for this program, sounds like a no go :-( I am interested in seeing some of the results though, do you have a map that you can post?

Well yes and no. Everything I have produced so far has used Viewingdale, I think you could dig stuff up by searching for my posts. However, the scope has been very limited so far. I'm working on some bigger stuff, but I haven't even got it to 'WIP' stage yet. Maybe soon. :)

I believe there is a free trial and you can get a good impression of what the software can do by following the link in my sig to the website (I'm not on commission, I just like it. :) )

However, good luck with the CC3.

NeonKnight
06-04-2009, 07:37 AM
If you have any CC3 questions feel free to shout out!

Trace
06-09-2009, 08:45 AM
Test drive! Download the demos for each application and see which one is bested suited for your needs. Remember, what you get out of any program is based on what you put into it.

That is the only advice I give on mappers. ;)