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Thread: When is it too much? Cartography as a permanent state of learning

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    Post When is it too much? Cartography as a permanent state of learning

    Happy Friday!

    So I'm working on a battlemap that depicts a ruin in a sandy desert and I just realized I've spent the last hour or so reading the results from searching google for "patterns of wind driven sand accumulation around buildings" as well as substituting "aeolian" and "structures" to see if I got more technical results. What am I doing? I have no background in engineering or physics! And from what I understand, fluid dynamics are very difficult to model because of their complexity. But now I know a little bit more than I did.

    So I'm just curious about how other people approach the research of map-making. My current thinking is that I learn a lot by making maps. However I also have to keep in mind the purpose of a given map. Right now I over do it. I spend time zoomed in, working on details that disappear when the map is viewed at a normal size. In this particular instance I don't need to understand exactly what's happening, but I'm hoping my map will be a little better if I pay attention to the fact that the sand in my scene has been mostly deposited there by wind.

    Any stories of too much research? Something amazing you learned because it is tangentially related to a map you made? Is making maps totally the greatest?

    cheers,
    Meshon

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    Community Leader Gracious Donor Jaxilon's Avatar
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    It is awesome. I have spent hours looking at mountains. I have spent hours looking at Instagram photography pages that take interesting images. I stop and stare at little moss patches imagining them as tiny Terraformed landscapes. I'll look deeply at the texture of a tiny flower and right after I started doing maps I found myself fascinated by the ripples of wet sand at a beach. I figure it will be enough when I can draw or paint it without needing to look at the details, IF that ever happens.

    Enjoy the journey. I guess its true that there will always be a million little things you do to a piece that none will every witness except you.
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    Guild Artisan Domino44's Avatar
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    I can relate with you about over researching, right now I'm working on my map 'City of the Underworld' and I know I've spent twice as much time looking at pictures, reading articles about anything significant in Greece...Etc, than actually working on the map. It's also hard because I love ancient Greece so I can loose myself on rabbit trails that I won't even use in my map. I agree with you that actually sitting down and painting and trying out different things that work is more productive but it's also a lot more difficult (for me at least).

    The coolest thing that I learned while researching this map was that when people in Greece were designing a city they would take into account the way that the wind blew so they would structure the streets in a way that would channel the wind to keep the whole city cool during the summer. That kinda blew me away, for a little bit just went "WOW" that takes some real crazy smart thinking to do something like that. How am I going to incorporate that into my map, I have no idea, I don't even think the underworld has wind.

    I haven't even mentioned all the photoshop tutorials iv'e read and watched, but I would guess that almost everyone on this site has a little bit of crazy in them just like me.
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    I often use actual science in the maps and map objects I create - which often go unnoticed, or I cause confusion among some viewers of my maps. For example, I created a crystal coffin several months ago using 3D to create both the crystal coffin and the coffin inhabitant (a girl). The problem was I included refracted light in the rendering of the crystal coffin - meaning, light bends when it passes through glass or water. Since the coffin especially around the head and feet of the inhabitant steeply curves downward, the refraction is most noticeable here. Both the face and the feet are somewhat distorted with a duplication of imagery in each facet. Several people pointed out "What's wrong with her mouth" and "Why does she have 2 sets of eyes?". I responded it is caused by light refraction. While some understood, most couldn't get a grip on why I did that, and may not have completely grasped the concept of refraction.

    The question would be should I even include refraction, when most people just don't understand. My answer - its reality, so I included. I just a map object, if its a real problem, don't use it, but really, even if the majority don't care for it - I don't care. I wouldn't change it.

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    I think having a firm grasp on physics, other sciences and what things in nature do helps us. At the same time this is an art form so aesthetic decisions that represent the physical realm often need to come first.

    Glass, Water, fluid dynamics and the like are quite tricky to replicate so instead of trying to exactly do what nature does or what you think it would do sometimes making decisions what aesthetically looks better is the most important.

    I think the failure is that many are using pictures, internet searches and textual reference rather than just going and exploring the real world. Drawing a picture of a desert without ever going to one will never capture the true nature.

    There was a thread a while ago with a very lengthy discussion on how far can travel in a day. The thing that surprised me was that no one actually ever did any trecking. I hiked the Appalachian trail over a 3 month period. So I know what healthy, athletic people carrying a full load can do. However, in a fantasy game though it reflects reality still needs to have a rule system so things can flow better.

    Art work is the same. The best we can do is understand the world around us, experience everything we can first hand and then take that knowledge and experience and heighten are art.

    One failure using CGI is that the lighting systems inside are slightly different than real life. Lighting is the key especially 3d. As the poster stated about the refraction problem. You don't want your refractions to actually take away from the art. Those systems are to add realism and bring out features not to make your art work look off.

    Sometimes I will spend 100's of hours tweaking something just to get .1% difference in final product. I will show before and after to people and they don't always see the difference.

    Being precise and accurate is good but spending dozens of hours to get no return on results is a waste on that particular piece. However, you never know when that effort might pay off in time saved or better results for another project.

    One time I spent a full day texturing something that I ended up deleting. However, the process that I used helped me figure out other things that changed my work flow and sped up production for other things.

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    Guild Artisan Gracious Donor J.Edward's Avatar
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    Great post Zeichen. I totally agree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zeichen View Post
    Being precise and accurate is good but spending dozens of hours to get no return on results is a waste on that particular piece. However, you never know when that effort might pay off in time saved or better results for another project.
    This is very true, why I don't get discouraged when a long process comes to naught. Because it didn't really, I always learn something.

    Now, I really wish that I could go visit every kind of place that matched a location I was mapping but that's not generally going to be a realistic possibility. But there are other possibilities. I have spent no time in desert environments like the one I'm mapping. But I've been in a dust storm that fired grit like a sandblaster. And I've seen how blizzards pile snow around buildings in the most amazing shapes. Even though I don't have the experience of the exact environment, I think, zeichen, that your point is spot on and that I can definitely draw on my own real world experiences to inform my maps. I've probably done this from time to time, but thank you for delivering the idea to my conscious mind. It will be really fun henceforth starting a project and thinking, "Okay, where have I been that's like this map?"

    cheers,
    Meshon

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