For years now I've had my idea for a planet populated by humans. I wanted to write the entire history of it, from colonisation (loosing much technology in the process) to space expansion, but found out I'm so much of a science guy that I didn't care much for early history. So, to keep me from scrapping the project I decided to go the other way around, creating the setting for an advanced space civilisation.
I've started work on a star map. It isn't finished but i'd love criticism on it. The lines are jump links. The technology behind it is not for this thread but let's just say the intricate pattern that doesn't seem logical actually is. I also want to represent a large quantity of stars that aren't in the network, but my other attempts have failed. These unimportant stars were always too big or too bright. I want to give them names but they still must not detract from the important features of the map.
The second is a system map (is that considered a map??). Now I'm no interface guy (in french we'd say interfaciste but the political connotation it makes in english ... well... is funny) but I think I've achieved something that is relaxing to the eyes. I want to display Ethania Prime's data in a more graphical way. Any ideas?
(For some reason The images are darker because of .jpg conversion... That sucks...) Edit: My bad. It was my monitor...
Thank you for your feedback!
Your starfield background is far too low-resolution. You need to find or make something bigger that won't get all blurry like that.
For the minor stars, since you're not indicating the spectral qualities of the stars with color, I suggest making them a different color, like cyan and making them no bigger than the smallest of the mapped stars. Make the labels the same color, and adjust the opacity until you get them at a level where they're legible but clearly in the background.
The font on the star map seems inappropriate to me. It's a little too rounded and almost childish-looking to me. I like the font you've used on the Eth System chart. It's simple, clear, elegant and readable. I'd have been tempted to look for something more sci-fi, but I think you've made the better choice here. I also really like your graphical elements. Although you might tone down the glow around the Eth icon a bit. It's a little overwhelming.
Back to the star map: the glows are rather distracting there, too. Try reducing them to see how you like it. I like your approach to the borders, but I think it would look nicer without the outer glow. If that outer edge is nice and crisp, and the starfield is improved, I think you'll have something that looks very, very good.
btw: "interfaciste" is hilarious! I'm definitely going to try to popularize that over here.
I like that the 'territorial bubble colors' on your star chart can imply elevation -- always a tricky issue in a star chart. I bet you could use overlaps even within one star-nation to show local 'ups' and 'downs' too.
As far as minor stars - other than making it clear that the linked ones are not every single star in the neighborhood - think about what's your purpose in showing them. If the linked, populated ones are one in a thousand, the others will just confuse things. On a national earthly map, one leaves out the towns and villages altogether, unless they have some significance. If a trucker in the USA doesn't intend to get off the interstate highways, then it could be useful to map JUST the interstates.
If the other stars affect the jump links, then by all means try to show them -- but then you're back to needing to show 3-d data on a 2-d representation. If the effect is aggregate, say how many stars lie near jump paths changes your speed or danger, then you'd be better off indicating such conditions by something like color of the links. That way you could introduce complexity like 'route A-B-C-D is shorter and faster but the high stellar density increases wear on engines whereas A-J-K-D looks like a detour, but is smooth sailing'. Too, if jump links are not the only means of interstellar travel, maybe it's useful to show other important destinations - totally dependent on the universe you're devising & its travel physics.
All I have to say about the system map (bordering on 'diagram' instead of 'map' <shrug> ) is I like it - it's well done.
Hmmm... so is an over-strict interfaciste perhaps a GUI-nazi? :-) Which again paints an amusing picture...
Thanks for your replies.
Well, you've both shown me I'm a glow abuser (no silly french name for this one, sorry), and I also made a new starfield.
I added some minor stars, planning to give them some use. To explain a bit, the FTL system only works between stars of the relatively same type. Hence why all G stars are linked and red and blue ones are left alone. The minor stars could have been used to plot jumps, but that is for the story and not this forum.
I removed the glow from the borders, and they look a lot better now. I think I understand jbgibson's thing about elevation. It's true that the blue empire seems to be higher than the red one. This was not an intended effect, as the "borders" were supposed to represent the system's affiliation, not area of influence, but I think I like your idea better. How should I go at representing height without lines reaching a Y plane?
I think I'll but all the starmap's labels under the stars, for uniformity. So, for now, height, borders, and maybe find some way of representing space habitats in the system chart.
Thanks for your helpful feedback guys!
Edit: Moved labels under their stars
Here's a crude try at what I mean - no absolute z-axis placement, just relative placement. I'm sure it would come across better with the kind of subtle shading you've done instead of my heavy-handed approach.
In general, the yellow nation is above the blue one. There's two blue stars at the same 'altitude' - spot them?
I experimented a bit with your idea jbgibson. I like it but It felt like I had lost the territorial information. I added a blurred color outline in the background. I don't know if I should make those circles bigger so that all of those of the same color touch each other. I tried with smaller circles at lower depths, but didn't like the results.
I also edited star colors to add some variety. I also added the empire names but I think I abused of the glow again. I'll see what I can come up with.
Now I'll attempt to add labels to minor stars, to see if there isn't too much information on the map.
I think I'll also work on an extended system map, to be able to visualise planet-moon lagrange points and such, for space habitats.
I decided there wasn't enough information on my System chart, so I am making a new one.
The blue circles are lagrange points. I need to find a way to link station descriptions to their respective icons... That's going to be hard.
Regarding linking icons and descriptions: perhaps a thin outline around each symbol in the chart and in description boxes - a different color for each station orbiting a given body? I.e. Paradise and Heaven could get green and blue respectively. You could re-use colors across the various bodies, since it's already visually clear that (for example) Joshua Complex and Heaven are associated with different bodies. So both could be blue if necessary.
Hope it's clear what I mean. Just a suggestion.
I am greatly impressed by the detail here. I wish I had this kind of patience.