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Thread: From a Small Region to a Large Region - Mapmaking in General

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  1. #1
    Guild Apprentice MTGEmperor's Avatar
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    Aug 2011
    Somewhere between the North Pole and the South Pole

    Question From a Small Region to a Large Region - Mapmaking in General

    Some of you now know that I like to write short stories, mostly for fun. But in my reference travels, I found the best way to stage a story or book is to plan everything out before writing. In other cases, I generate material from the top of my head.

    Case in point . . .
    When I was working on an old story called Blue Magic, it started off in a small location. However, since I am easily influenced by art and photography, I tend to make the place excessively large and continue to add more land to the story. I started to make the map when it was the original land. Of course, when new art appears, I add it to the land. What started off at 50 square miles of land, turned into 6000 square miles of different land types in a small location.

    One of my problems, now, is to superimpose the small region I have worked on for all this time amidst a larger map, showing the other regions beyond the estate's borders.

    I ask you all;
    how do you generate your maps? Do you start big and end up doing small or vice versa?

  2. #2
    Community Leader RobA's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    Toronto, Canada


    There have been a number of different threads dealing with this issue.

    My personal view is that:
    1) maps are created for a purpose, and every map needs to fulfill that purpose.
    2) Maps are designed to communicate information, and communication of that information must be a priority.
    3) Maps are iconographic in nature.

    Which means that I tend to redraw maps at different scales (covering different areas) with different detail and different items of focus. While I may try to keep these different maps geographically consistent, I'm not overly concerned with locking them all together like jigsaw pieces, as any differences can be blamed on different projections, views, "measurement" errors, or general artistic license to ensure clarity of communication.

    A common example will be of the depiction of rivers on an overland (large area) map. The width of the lines of the liver, and even the route of the river are all approximations, and if scaled up to a local map would make little sense...

    -Rob A>

  3. #3
    Guild Adept loogie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Strathroy, ON


    When I was in school for geomatic's we dealt with matters of scale and detail in a number of ways... one of our exercises was to render a square chunk of a map at 3 different scales... one was a plot of land with a number of roads, rivers, and railways in it... and the other was a detailed map of forestry with different areas of forest... the stroke sizes we were allowed to use were defined for us, which severly limited the possibilities of redrawing the area's using the same detail.

    The challenge of the exercise was to make them legible at all three scales, and display as much information as accurately as possible. In the forrested area you were forced to simplify the forest clumps, often smoothing them out and leaving out the smaller bits... It's something that isn't often realized nowadays with vector graphics, since they scale perfectly it is common to take the highest resolution and just zoom out... but using a highly detailed (not smooth) stroke and zooming out, it often comes across as bold, blurry, and out of place... in that case it's usually time to see about changing the scale, or creating a simplified copy of your data...

    The roads/rivers/railways was even more interesting, since as the image got smaller, it was quickly apparent that the lines that were distinctly separate in the large version became crowded and even overlapped in the smaller versions... The only way to keep these closely running lines legible is to move their location, to space them out so you can still see that there is a road, rail, and river running side-by-side, and that they do not cross... This is what RobA means by the information being a priority... In a map displaying something like transportation routes, identifying the interactions between the roads rails and rivers is imperative, and in that case, to keep the small map useful, it requires you to modify the geographic locations... This specific example is just one of many reasons why cartographers are still required... we may have the technology to display our data in a map, in a scalable lossless format, but conveying what we want to convey is still the top priority, and in map's it requires some experience to decide what to show and what to change.

    For your request I would suggest working in a broad, generalized concept before filling in the details... Place your current region in your realm, zoom out, and get an idea of the generalized "outline" of your finished work... then work out from there... I believe it's much easier to work top down than bottom up, but the top doesn't need to be much more than a general idea of the layout.... figure out where the major geographical features will be, things like mt ranges, major rivers, swamps plains, and forests... then decide where the largest of cities will be, come up with some major trade routes or roadways... it'd be good to define political borders as well, since they can easily be fairly generic...

    From there you can go into more detail, maybe starting with the areas immediately around the finished region... coming up with some of the finer aspect... World Building can be pretty much as easy or tedious as you would like, so it's really up to you as far as what you want to get out of it...
    Photoshop, CC3, ArcGIS, Bryce, Illustrator, Maptool

  4. #4
    Guild Novice
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    Mar 2012
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    I actually do a combination of both. I get the idea of what I want for a larger, world map first, then I pick a random location to put a continent, and I build from there. For me, by doing this I get a bigger idea of what goes on in my world and so I can have potential material to write in later. As of now, each of my continents serves a purpose for some form of story telling, and each one has a story to tell that can go into great lengths. I guess though, the big question I ask myself is, "How far do you want to take this particular piece of work?" By that I mean, is this a story that I want to use to build more stories off of, and in turn, world build around? Or will it be a one shot deal that I can set aside once it's finished?

    In my case, all of my writings so far will span my world, and from that I do a combination of making a world map, then making the continents to see how everything can fit together. As I go through the process and learn more about cartography, I make changes based off of what it is the world should be like. For example, the biggest question someone asked me, and in turn I asked myself, is do I want a realistic fantasy, or a straight made up world? From how my friend described it, by doing a realistic fantasy, even though it is fictional, it should have plausable elements that can be explained in some shape of form other than, "magic did it." With straight fantasy, it doesn't matter, you can do as you want.

    Once I figured out that I wanted realistic fantasy, I started to build my world, constantly figuring out the proper placement of rivers, mountains, tundras, landmasses, etc. I know that turned out a bit long winded, but I hope that helped?

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