The "DarkConduit" Galaxy
Sorry I've been so quiet, since joining and enjoying a brief burst of this most welcoming community - it's been an age since I had time to sit down and map something, but I've resolved now to make some real cartographical practice!
This is my current project (dA link) - my first attempt at a galactic map. I started by browsing as many good galactic maps as I could, as sources of inspiration; I hope I've combined these visual tips in a manner which is pleasing to the eye.
The map depicts part of the DarkConduit galaxy - that is, the galaxy inhabited by the players and characters of a game I'm currently working on. I've sought to work on one quadrant first, get a style I'm happy with, then translate it to the other three quarters. The final map will depict the capital planets and regions of the game's playable races, and a neutral territory from which we'll launch most of our missions.
Umm.. well. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
The Milky Way graphic was obtained from Wikimedia Commons; the inset map of Kildare is of my own making; the planet graphic was drawn by Liam Nicholson as part of the same project.
It looks slick, but the purpose of a map is to provide information. How well it provides information in this context will depend a lot on the method of FTL travel used in the game.
I see that the game is apparently supposed to be a strategy game of some kind, but no indication of how the player will move around the map, or even if that is part of play.
Very good point, Wormspeaker - thanks for raising it! I shall indeed have to think on that.
Originally Posted by wormspeaker
Travel within the game is kept pretty simple, and maps such as those presented to the player in the UI - or indeed like this one, which echoes it - show a much larger region than is actually inhabited. Were even a single pixel of the Milk Way graphic to be made a playable area, the actual percentage of 'exciting' gameplay space would be minute. Instead each map zooms closer in on the galaxy, a hexagonal sector and then an individual star system. It's within these star systems that the titular DarkConduit comes into play: FTL travel is enabled by a network of portals.
I can see it'll take some trial and error to represent this portal network on the map, but I realise the importance of that more acutely now. Thanks for the reality check. :)
Edit: Just to clarify... The purpose of this map is not to help with our game design: I already have that covered through design documentation and other graphics. So while portraying the method of travel is important for this map as a thematic piece of work, I'm not relying on it as part of a reference document. It's mostly for the art, in that respect.
That is just beautiful! No criticism here.
I see that you have updated the map to show "one to many - linear jump" type FTL system. In this case you describe it above as a stargate type set up. At this point the map makes a lot more sense. Because without those jump lines I was assuming that it was a "free form omnidirectional" type FTL system. If that were the case I was unable to determine how long it would take to get from one point of interest to the next.
Originally Posted by Sinnyo
So at this point, the only criticism that I have is that if travel from one point of interest to the next does not involve the space between the points of interest, then showing that space between them is counterproductive. In this case, showing the hex grid under the points of interest does not provide useful information, unless the game charges movement based on the number of hexes that the path travels though. If that's the case then you will need to make sure that the paths conform to the hexes (instead of cutting straight across them as they do now). If the paths have a travel time equal to their length regardless of the number of hexes that they pass through then you should dispense with the hexes (at least at the lowest display level) and just put a length on the path. (If this is supposed to be a mock up of an interactive interface, then maybe the length only shows up if the route is highlighted.) However, if the length of the path is irrelevant to gameplay (meaning that it takes only one move to travel one jump regardless of length) then the paths only show the directions available for travel and then the hexes and lengths of the paths are irrelevant and should not be shown.
I suspect that the hexes shown reflect the way in which the game will be coded (an X/Y coordinate of the game asset) but the player does not need to know this unless it is relevant to gameplay.
Visually, aside from the seemingly unnecessary hex grid, it looks great.
Thanks again! The hexagons are part of the game's own readout: they denote a sector of space at galaxy level, and much the same on the next level of magnification - however each contains only one useful star system, so free roaming is cut off. A player can, however, claim that hexagon for their chosen faction so that it appears colour-coded on larger maps.
Each hexagon does serve as a distance marker, and they can be visited individually. My thought process for the new star layouts was that hexagons would be equivalent to a county border, while the direct lines represent a high-speed, FTL portal. In the same way that Geneon and Ensar are linked by wormhole (actually making Ensar equidistant from each of the three empires, for gameplay balance), the primary stars and outposts of each empire's home sector are linked by smaller wormholes for practicality's sake. That's not to say ships cannot take the slow path, and there may be sights to see along those paths, but these are not deemed important enough for me to mark each upon the map.
I'll see about rendering all that information upon the map in my next edit, to clear things up. :)
I've updated the map once again, and it's somewhat too big to paste within a forum message, even though it still only shows the left-hand side, so to spare you a frame-stretcher, I've uploaded a preview here to accompany the one at deviantART. Take your pick!
As noted on my dA entry, this'll probably be my last edit before the final piece. I've sought your critique and am very grateful for it! Unless there's anything still to change, it's really just a matter of finishing the map from here on in, so there's no need to bore you with every little one of those... ;)
Looks great. And we like updates (at least I do) don't think for a minute your boring us . :)
I agree with Jtougas, the map looks visually very good. I also like the way that the individual systems, planets, and sectors are displayed. Any lingering criticisms I have for the map are explained away by the game design that you are conforming to, and thus should not count against you. =) Heh.
As far as game design goes, the system they seem to have cooked up sounds like it should work pretty well. It's not terribly realistic, as you won't have only one star to a hex at the scale you are looking at in the real galaxy, but when dealing with a game you really have to abstract some things or you'll go crazy trying to be realistic, and the fun factor will suffer for it.
So, on the whole, you have done an excellent job. Good work!
Luckily for me, I am the game's designer. ;P Thanks very much for your comments, Wormspeaker! You've been a big help.
Originally Posted by wormspeaker