Though I haven't been able/willing to update my thread in the Sci-fi mapping forum for a little while, I am one map away from what I consider to be Version 5 of the Emarion Universe maps, with version 5 being the first one whose individual star maps I have completed. Version 6 will be the second, hopefully, with a more attractive appearance, less formulaic approach to the mapping, and a higher map resolution to fit my 2048x1156 monitor, which recently arrived along with my old desktop.
Now, the ideal end to the cartography section of this project is a self-contained program which would animate the stars on the universe starmap in real-time and allow the user to click on them to view the (also animated) map of the star's planets and moons, further being able to click on a planet to see the globe at a larger size, and finally again to see the map in a Wagner VI projection or something, and of course get all of the info about that planet or moon in a sidebar.
Since I can't program very well in the two languages I know, and neither of those languages are prepared to make such a program a reality anyway (Gscript 1 from an old game called Graal and Ruby's RGSS/2 from RPGMakers XP and VX, if you're curious) I'm interested in knowing what my options are for other star mapping software. I've heard of gems like Celestia and such, but as far as I can tell it's not really what I'm after. Here are the things I'm hoping for in a star mapper, in order of importance:
- 3D presentation. If it's not in three dimensions, I can do it in the GIMP, probably better. Now, if it shows the star system from a particular angle but renders 3D spheres orbiting the star, I'm interested.
- Unrealistically small distances and unrealistically small differences between star size and planet size. Stars are only about two times the size of the largest planets, and the largest planets (including gas giants) are only about the size of Earth and a half, pole to pole.
- No gravity simulation. I would much prefer that planets and moons simply follow the orbital path I set for them, if they do move, or otherwise not drift off into space because nothing is massive enough to hold together. In Emaria, the gods basically created gravity as a force of convenience.
- Support for other cosmic entities, like asteroid belts, and stars located within nebulae.
- Support for relatively small planet textures which won't look horrible. For V5, I've been using 1000x500 textures since the planets are only seen fairly small anyway. I'll probably do a little bigger for V6, and I'm willing to do it in specific dimensions I'm given, but I don't want to be making 4096x4096 textures for every planet. Also, if the planet accepts textures which are more or less Mercator-type projections, all the better.
- Good-looking stars. Sure, making the star a blinding source of light is realistic, but it doesn't look attractive at all, and at worst makes people not want to look at the map for more than a few seconds.
- Star casts shadows automatically. That's the one thing I never got quite right in V5, was shadows which looked like they were cast by the lack of light on the far side of the planets.
- Planets can have visible city lights or different coloured clouds
I'm sure I'm missing something here, but I think I got the gist of it. Basically, I want a program that'll output the maps I've made given the right inputs, and ideally allow me to see them in action without needing to spend hours on things like planet shadows and ensuring the planetary orbits are all starting from the same pixel in the center of the sun.
Oh, and right now I'm not too worried about price. I'd rather see what options are out there rather than miss out on something because I can't afford a few hundred dollars right now. Anyway, many thanks to anyone who points me towards any programs which might work.