The Great War Map (WIP)
Europe 1914 (Go to File, Download Original, to see the 15mb pdf.)
In my spare time for the past year I've been working on a board game for my friends and I to play via email. It's grand strategy treatment of the First World War that aims to give players a measure of plausible historical freedom to fight the war as they see fit. It's a hexagon based war game on land, but at sea it is divided up into much larger, but roughly equal sea zones. Currently, neither the hexes or the sea zones are on the map of Europe. There is also no surround on the map, but the red lines are railroads circa 1914, and dashed red lined are railroads built during the war, but not ready at the outbreak. I did my best to ensure that the borders are accurate to the period, as well as place names, since many of them have changed significantly with the break up of old empires. And you'd be surprised how many lakes were actually man made in the last 80 years thanks to huge hydroelectric projects. The text placement isn't finished yet, so it's still kind of cluttered.
I haven't yet incorporated the terrain and land cover. I have an example of what the terrain looks like at low resolution attached as a thumbnail. The terrain is derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, and after significant geo-processing, cleaned up in Photoshop. Green is normal movement and defense, light brown is rough and dark brown is mountains. Land cover is forestry and desert derived from Landsat imagery. I have that data, but not in a finalized format.
That's lovely! I've been looking for something similar to this for maps of my own (real world shapes with topography, I mean). How did you get it, may I ask?
Well, there's oodles of geographic data available for free online via many government and academic sources. The one problem is that much of it is aimed at users of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. There is free, open source GIS software though, but it's not the easiest thing to learn.
Originally Posted by VincentAlliath
Anyway, for my pdf map I linked, I got data like lakes, rivers, coastline, cities, contemporary political boundaries, etc from Natural Earth. However, their vector data comes in ESRI shapefile format, which requires some kind of GIS software to work with. Raster data comes as a TIFF, which can be opened in photo editors.
The terrain and land cover I got from the Global Land Cover Facility. They have lots of satellite imagery and data derived from satellite imagery. It comes as a geoTIFF, which is a TIFF with geographic information tagged to it. It'll still open in a photo editing program. If you go to their data viewer (click on Map Search), you can download the data. I downloaded specifically, the 'SRTM GTOPO30', which is the continental sized tiles of world topography, with each pixel covering 1km x 1km, and the 'Global Land Cover, Global', which classifies the Earth's surface by vegetation or land use, with each pixel also covering 1km x 1km. There is much higher resolution imagery, but it covers much smaller parts of the Earth.
While I didn't use them, there are free shaded reliefs of different scales and regions of the Earth available from the Shaded Relief Archive. The format is TIFF.
I hope that helps answer your question somewhat.
*Edit: I forgot to mention, David Rumsey has a huge collection (24,000+) of historic maps going back over 500 years, all scanned at very high resolution and available for free viewing and download. I used them for checking historical political boundaries and place names. It's a great place to go even if you just want to look at beautiful old maps.
Here's an updated version of my boardgame map, with hexagons and sea zones for movement and combat. I integrated the land cover and terrain, but it still needs some work. Forest is green, and the desert is the speckles in the Middle East and North Africa. I turned the names off for now, so the map can more easily seen.
Oh wow, the detail! This looks fantastic, and you can just feel the hours and sweat that went into it.
The only critique I have is that the coastline-sea border looks too ... um, too. I'm not sure exactly what it is that's bothering me. If it was my map I'd start by shrinking the blue line and maybe putting a gradient in place of the thick blue line, but I'm ALL trial and error -- I have no idea if that would fix the problem. Of course, if you look at it and think I'm nuts, there is no problem in the first place :)
Upon thinking more, I can see the boardgame-thick border thing, in which case I'm wondering why nothing else has the thick border. Ah well, hopefully that gives you some food for thought anyway.
This makes me want to get out some little miniatures and start taking land from my neighbors. You might want to tone down the roads (the orange lines) just a little bit on the non-mountain areas (because those are orange as well). Could just be me but my eye seems to be drawn to those areas the most. The blue rim around the land I might go darker but not too much. Looks pretty darn good, though, man.
As for the coastline, I think you're right about it being a bit too dominant. It's actually kind of difficult to see in the small resolution jpeg, but there is actually three lines offset from the coastline itself, like you see on old maps. I attached a close up example of what I was trying to do. I gave the thing a print out at its intended size, and the dominant effect is way too strong. If you take a look at lakes, the effect is less, because the line weight is lower. So I'm going to match the coastline effect to the lakes.
I'll fiddle around with red lines, which are actually railroads. They didn't seem to me to be too dominant, as they are supposed to be strategically important, as they are they are essential for long distant movement and supply. I didn't want them to get lost, but I'll see what they look like when they are more toned down.
I should have another version by the end of the day hopefully.
Looks fantastic but that's a LOT of hexes!!!
Have you played 'Paths of Glory' by GMT games? Best WWI wargame I've ever played.
Looking forward to seeing the progress!
Oh, I see. At full size the rails don't look too bad actually and since their pretty important you might as well leave them. If a tonal contrasted railroad system looks good then I'd still opt for that, myself, but it's not necessary.
Ah! Yes, full res makes a big difference! I still think those coastlines are a bit strong, but I can see where it was coming from now. I don't think the rail lines look too strong, but you may want to (if it's vector and won't take forever) put little crosslines in along them, that's a pretty common notation for rails.