View Full Version : Something is not right.

11-24-2009, 10:23 PM
Okay, after graduating from the RobA school of regional mapping I have moved on to trying my hand at a city map.

I've got a good start on it but . . . something is not right. First, here is the map so far.

It looks . . . okay. So far there isn't much 'special' about the city, but that is more geopolitical than anything so it really doesn't matter. I'm really pleased with the way the city walls turned out.

Still I'm not satisfied. I think the problem (in part) is that I was going for something more art-like and less photo-realistic. The buildings look good for that but the land is off. I put an embossed overlay in to create the land effect and it really changes the image. But . . . I do want to show the way the city is inbetween two high ridges descending to the sea. If I take the embossed layer out the map has a more artificial feel but looses the important terrain feature.

Well, give me your opinions folks. I could use some feedback.

Techniques For Those Who Care
Land and Sea - Used a simplified version of RobA's regional system to get the basic land and sea. To get the elevations I used a radial gradient (with a healthy offset to get the flat zone), a bottom to top linear gradiant, and a noise layer all overlayed or in addition. Played with the levels till it looked right, made a layer from visible and embossed it (remembering that 30 elevation rule). Also bump mapped it with a blurred copy of the river mask to get the valley effect.
Roads - I just stroked a path on a new layer, selected the path by color and filled it with a brick pattern stolen from someone here. Added the slightest of drop shadows too.
Walls - I used the Voronoi path script (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=7778&highlight=voronoi)from Ijontichy. I put anchors in where I wanted the center of my city sections (often on a major road joint). Used the script, then fiddled with the resulting paths. Took some work to get the outside walls right but the Voronoi did great on the inside. Stroked the path on a new layer. Made 2 more layers. Selected the walls (a thick line at this point). Grew it by 3. Stroked the selection 6px with a solid line on layer 2 and a half/half dash on layer 3. Filled all three lines with a stone tile. Dropped the brightness on the second layer. Added a drop shadow to both (making it bigger by two for layer 3). Then just to give it a bit if a beveled look, I selected the crenelations and stroked that selection 1 px.
Bulidings - I fiddled with a building tile for a while, but never got a result I liked. So I made a brush pipe (several actually). Half of the houses were downloads someone here pointed out, half were hand made. Then I simply got my daughter to brush all the section and told here to fiddle with the scale a bit to make the buildings have more size difference. I did the important ones myself.
Everything else is pretty straight forward.

11-24-2009, 10:36 PM
I'm not fond of the grassy land texture. It's clearly grass, and as such is too large for the scale of the map. Plus, the water is flat color rather than textured, which makes something of a mismatch to my eye.

I'm not sure how nice it will look without that texture, but perhaps if you simply had something with much smaller detail? You said you're not going for a photoreal look, though, so I think maybe either flat color or a stipple texture of some kind might be better.

11-24-2009, 11:01 PM
Yup, the grass has been driving me crazy. I tried straight color but it doesn't work at all. I guess I'll dig through these forums and see if someone put up a nice small grass. Or, I could make one . . . to tile or not to tile that is the question. . .

11-24-2009, 11:10 PM
Okay, here it is with a finer gass.
Better I think.

11-24-2009, 11:11 PM
Ooops, just noticed I shrunk the grass edge and have dirt there. I will fix that for the final.

11-24-2009, 11:14 PM
I think the grass in side the city looks good, just outside the city I needs some sort of adjustment, I just don't know what.

Personally I like the water as is. I know it isn't textured, and thus looks different from the rest of of the city (style wise), but I personally like it

Quick question, you have a building which has it's own wall, somewhat centered on the map, a little to the right. Is that suppose to be a church with a graveyard with mausoleums?

(My comments above were on the first version of the map)

I like the grass texture from the first map inside the city walls better, but the second texture on the outside better.

11-24-2009, 11:19 PM
Quick question, you have a building which has it's own wall, somewhat centered on the map, a little to the right. Is that suppose to be a church with a graveyard with mausoleums?

Exactly. I was worried about that, but since you pegged it perfectly, I'm happy.

As for the grass I'll fiddle with both and see what happens

11-24-2009, 11:28 PM
Okay, here is the inside outside grass.

11-24-2009, 11:34 PM
Personally I like it like that

11-24-2009, 11:51 PM
That grass outside has a nice color range but is speckled and distracting, maybe a tiny blur of 1-3 pixels or so might help ease that. That grass inside is very vibrant, I'd save that for parks. Your docks have a shadow with the sun in the bottom left, your walls have a shadow with the sun in the top left, but your buildings have no shadow and are highlighted with the sun in the bottom left mostly - the large inn-like buildings with many gables have sun in top left highlighting.

Personally, I like the bay and the docks the best. The docks have a slight stroke and it works pretty well with the water...maybe try that on the buildings as well. I might go and scrap all of that grass in favor of straight-forward coloring like the water...all that grass distracts from the building detail. That might be the whole problem, too much detail fighting for attention all over the place. The walls do look great, though :) Just my thoughts, follow them if you like.

11-25-2009, 02:37 AM
Biggest thing is the Buildings. The Walls, Docks, etc all have a glow/shadow, but the buildings have none. As a result, there is a disassociation when looking at the map.

11-25-2009, 11:52 AM
I agree that the buildings could use some shadow. What I really like is the organic feel to the city, like it was built over time, rather than in a day :)

I'm stuck on the grid too often.


11-25-2009, 07:01 PM
Thanks Folks. Especially about the building shadow. They did actually have one, the layer just got turned off somehow. Ooops. Put it back on.

Ascension, thanks for noticing all the shadow discrepancies. The light was supposed to be lower left. As soon as I turned the building shadows back on it became pretty evident. Don't know how the wall shadows ended up wrong. Okay, I do, I missed a "-" sign, carelessness I guess. I also turned the Inn with the bad shadow. There are probably a couple more little ones like that. I twisted a handfull when I was putting the roads in just to get them to line up. The little ones are probably okay since they are so small and unnoticeable.

As for the grass . . . I tried a solid colour and it was just wrong. With the emboss it looked waaaay wierd. I have come up with something though. I tossed int a noise turned green gradient layer over the grass and lowered its transparency to 75%. Now it has just a hint of that former grass texture and a much better look. I also killed the embossed layer and added a simple radial gradient set to overlay. That way the ground just gets a bit darker as it descends. I think this gives enough of a hint of the descending slope to do what I need.

Hmmmm, can't seem to upload it, I have to go will try again in an hour or so. Sorry for the wait

11-25-2009, 08:44 PM
Hmmm. . . couldn't direct upload that one. Oh well, this is why I have a photobucket account.

Here it is, the new and improved picture. Now with 30% better grass, building drop shadows, a consistent light source and Vitamin M (for map - cause we all need it).

11-25-2009, 09:46 PM
It is interesting to watch the evolution of a map...

The first thing I noticed when I zoomed in and took a look at your map, your docks are on top of some of your buildings. I would use layers to ensure that each layer didn't end up on top of something it belonged under. I would use layers: 1) Ground, 2) Roads (and docks), 3) Buildings, 4) Walls, 5) Clouds.

The second thing I notice is that your shrunken buildings are nothing more than re-sized bigger buildings. I would use two or three sets of buildings to replicate into the various areas of your map to keep them unique and from looking like the other areas you used to create them in the first place. Changing colors could also help with this.

My final observation is more of a question... why does this city have so many walls dividing it up like that? I'd love to hear your story about this city. Construction of walls is expensive and labor intensive. To have so many walls, the builders must have some reason for dividing the city up like this. Many historical cities have concentric walls that were built as a result of the city growing out of its original walls and requiring new walls to protect the new city sections. This alone creates different textures due to the era in which the construction happened. I like to think about "why" a particular area in my town exists, who lives there, are they rich or poor? Is there a special area of commerce or defensive feature to that part of town. Like writing a story, your city map can tell your story as you envision it while you are creating it.

Keep going, I'll be curious to see how it develops.

11-25-2009, 10:25 PM
When uploading there are some restrictions, the max sized of the image is around 4000 x 4000 and the max file size is 4.7 megs for a jpg. So if you're making something larger than those dimensions you either have to shrink it down or reduce the jpg quality (hardly noticeable).

11-25-2009, 11:27 PM
Ascension: Size wasn't a problem. I'm under the limit on both dimension and MB, plus it is just a tweeked image of the ones that went up successfully.

castlewrks: Yeah, thanks for the catch. I was fiddling around and accidentally lost my docks. Luckly I hadn't saved yet so I grabbed them from a reboot of the old image and just dropped them in on top without thinking. I will fix them. Should be able to just mover the layer down.

As for the building resize . . . yeah. I had two building brush pipes, a small building pipe and a large one. I wanted more size variety though so I just told my daughter to wiggle the brush scale a bit (she is 8 and really wanted to help, brushing the buildings seemed a good option). They do lack variety. They are about a dozen buildings each, and some of those are just re-roofs of the same building. My intent is that over time I will add slowly to the pipes. I hope to get about 30 buildings in each. Then I want two more brush pipes, a hovel pipe and a large estate pipe. So, you are right, and in time I hope to rectify it. For now . . . this is my learn to do a city map, so I'll have to be satisfied until I can devote some more time to house images.

Edit: I also want to learn how to get the brush to 'turn' as I move it. Right now I have some buildings copied and rotated but I want to be able to lay them out according to how I sweep my mouse. GIMP masters?

As for the walls . . . that is a longer answer. This is part of my iconic elemental campaign called The Broken World. In short, creation failed. The essence of elemental powers (I have about 20 elements) are contained in orbs. These were brought together in the beginning but for reasons that don't matter here they did not stick. All the orbs which were supposed to fuse into the basis of a cohesive world were instead scattered across the surface. The servants of the 3 heavenly powers were sent into the world to gather the orbs up. When someone takes possesion of an elemental orb they gain demi-god like power over that element. He can shape it and use it almost limitlessly, up to the point where another Orb Lord starts to push in another element in at him. Most Orb Lords use their power to forge a domain for themselves. Essentially it is a little kingdom where their element is supreme and overwhelming (thus the 'iconic elemental' campaign). So at the border of the domain of ice, for example, you suddenly come up against 1000 foot walls of ice, deep crevaces, bone chilling winds and huge icy mountains. The domain of sun, is a desert baked by 3 suns (the rest of the world has the usual 1 sun).

This setting gives me, as a DM, ample opportunity for cool adventure and encounter settings. If I want a fight on islands made of steel in the middle of a river of flowing lava, while the bad guys wield adamantine blades . . . no problem. Just so happens an Orc is in possesion of both the fire and metal orbs. Oh, the things I put them through.>:)

Back to the walls . . . In this case we have a traditional matching. The Orb of Stone is in the hands of a Dwarf - a good guy. He has raised up a mountain range for his people. The orb of water is in the hands of an Eladrin - also a good guy. Unfortunately, his sea is surrounded by bad guys. So the dwarf lord has pushed out a finger of mountains to the edge of the sea so that good folks can move more freely between the two. This mountain range is sandwitched between the domain of storms (giant controlled) and the aforementioned domain of fire and metal. The city itself is nestled between the arms of two high, dangerous ridges. Still the city is under pretty constant attack on both sides. Not just by giants either, but giants accompanied by hail and lightning. You get the idea.

Lots of walls mean lots of defense. Also, since this is one of maybe two safe habours it grew really fast. People flocked here. Thus they needed to erect bigger and bigger walls in a hurry.

As for cost. Well, the walls are stone. It is more a matter of the orb lord bending his will toward their creation than it is a matter of money. Or, more likely, he sends his advocates or servants (read clerics) with rituals he has empowered. Boom - walls. Sometimes it pays to be an Orb Lord.

Thanks for all the interst.

11-25-2009, 11:34 PM
Yup, pulling the docks layer down worked. That was a quick fix.

11-26-2009, 04:14 AM
It's coming along really nicely, I like the 'cliff' suggestion along the coast and the use of the internal walls.

What I'm not too sure about is the underlying structure of the city, the scaling of the buildings and how they are placed in relation to each other - possibly that may be the something that 'is not right' in your title. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Buildings tend to be oriented at right angles to the roads next to them, although many of the buildings in the map are oriented in this way, there are many which are not. This tends to give the impression (to me) of randomness.

2. I think one of the problems about using pregenerated symbols, particularly where they are quite detailed (e.g. with tiled roofs) is that when you scale them to different sizes the details (like the tiles) scale too. So what you end up with are large buildings with the same number of roof tiles but larger, when one would expect the same sized tile as smaller buildings but more of them. I'm not sure whether the eye picks this up in any conscious way or whether I'm looking too hard, but it reinforces the fact that the same buildings have been used and scaled which doesn't help with consistency.

3. A related problem might also be the relative sizes of the small buildings to the larger ones. With the larger buildings one would expect to see something more ornate or complex in structure, e.g with courtyards or wings etc. If the smallest buildings are, say, 3m X 2m, then the larger ones are about 18m x 12m. Buildings that big are unlikely to look like a normal square or rectangular gabled house - most of the internal rooms would have no light at all, unless most of the building was an open space. Unfortunately this is one of the perils of city building, the more detail you put in, the more detail you have to think about and insert to make the whole thing consistent - it drives you mad after a while.

Anyway hope the above is helpful, perhaps to bear in mind for your next city!

11-26-2009, 11:48 AM
Ah… huge improvement. It's looking much more cohesive now, which is doubtless why the critique has shifted from style to content.

11-26-2009, 12:44 PM
Thanks for all the comments folks.

I think the biggest remaining problem is the lack of variety in the buildings. For all of size, detail, and orientation, more building variety could solve the issue. Essentially I need more brush pipes and more in each pipe.

Ravells - on the scale issue, you are right but the roof tiles are not that bad (mostly can't be seen) at the resolution that it will be printed out at (it will be a standard sheet of paper), it's the chimneys that get me. I noticed it right away. The eye definitely picks that up.

This too will be solved with more brush pipes. I should be able to get a consistant detail scale with 4 brush pipes. It takes a few minutes to build every building so I think it may be a while before I get that done.

For now I think I am satisfied with the results. Time to move on. I've done the regional, I've done the city, now for battlemap and buildings.

11-26-2009, 02:36 PM
Got yer head in the right place....get it done and move on or you get bogged down. Good thinking.