It's been a couple of years since I last did a new map, but a bunch of folks that I worked with at my last job are starting up a new strategy game project called Empires of Tahn, and I got the chance to create the map of the game setting.
A lot of detailed background has been created for the setting already by the team's writer, which of course you can read more about on the project's site. Broadly however, the setting consists of what was originally one major continent, split clean in half when the gods literally fell to earth with such force that they shattered the surface, punching clear through into the dark and hollow realm beneath the world. Thousands of years later, the seas are still slowly draining into the underworld, and the mortal empires have raised up the Empyrean Isles, floating, semi-mobile islands they use to project their power outside their territory on the surface and prosecute their wars to control the power left in the fallen gods' wake.
Given the time constraints of the project, this map had to be pretty quick work on my part. In total, it was created in about two days work (after some back and forth on concepts and so on, with with a little fiddling after the fact). This placed certain constraints on the complexity of the thing, and the amount of hand work I could afford to do on things like individual map elements. The biggest real compromise there was with the text, where I went with a simple font choice instead of indulging in the hand lettering I've done on previous maps that I've created.
Aside from the time constraints, the biggest artistic challenge was portraying the sense of depth in what was ultimately a traditional style pseudo-top-down fantasy world map. Selling the idea of the flying islands hanging above the surface and the seas flowing into the fathomless depths of the Godfells required quite a bit of experimentation with various perspective techniques. Ultimately I think the solution I settled on sells the perspective without creating too much dissonance with the more traditional viewpoint of the rest of the piece.
Aside from a very preliminary scanned pencil sketch that provided the basic shape of the landmasses, the map was drawn entirely in PhotoShop using a Wacom tablet. I employed a lot of layer effects on fill layers to make my life easier, along with making brushes out of individual trees, hills, and mountains (a half dozen or so of each, with various brush based randomization) to speed things along in terms of the decoration. Virtually all of the texture is a series of simple layers piled on top to produce the traditional, authentic feel.
I'd love to hear any comments, feedback, and criticism you've got, and of course I'll be only to happy to answer any questions.