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Thread: How do I decide where to place roads on a world map?

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    Question How do I decide where to place roads on a world map?

    Are there any good tutorials concerning how and where roads should be placed on a world map? I can understand certain aspects will enough such as discerning trade lanes and travel speeds, but I'd like it if there were something more comprehensive to tell me what to look out for in a medieval-fantasy setting...

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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    I don't think we have any posts covering the topic but I could be wrong. Some basic common sense is pretty much the best approach. Don't run em thru mtns when you can run em thru plains; avoid monster areas; avoid swamps or deserts unless there is appropriate technology or serious need; capitols will be connected for certain; wherever roads intersect there will likely be a lil town grow up around that; roads are mostly meant for merchants and armies so the road that is the fastest is not always the shortest; and never make straight lines
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    Haha, thanks! I did know most of those points, but it was a good refresher and you pointed out a couple things I didn't think of too. I just hope I don't break my file. It's already 3 MB. Adding a whole layer for roads... Haha, I'm lucky I have an i7. >_>

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    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Coyotemax's Avatar
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    3mb file and you are concerned about a separate layer for roads? what software are you using? (curious, your numbers seem low from what I'm used to)

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    Gimp, haha... It might not be as big as I think. The only reason I'm worried is that on my old, low-end computer, I once built up a map on Gimp that was about 2.5 MB and it ended up getting corrupted. But that may've been less Gimp and more computer. THIS computer is pretty awesome, so it might not be a problem.

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    Professional Artist Facebook Connected Coyotemax's Avatar
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    Yeah, I know a lot of gimp users on here, and while they sometimes complain about slowdowns when running certain scripts (like fractalizing paths when they have dozens of rivers) I don't think i've heard anyone complain about slowdowns due to filesize.

    I'd say you should be pretty good to go - in fact, it might be worth it to try pushing the limits on a file just to see how far you can take it before you need to concern yourself, that way you can put less effort into worrying about files and more effort into the work itself

    I did that not too long ago, and it's a very subtle psychological difference, but for me it was noticeable
    (using photoshop here, but the underlying principles I'm talking about are the same for any software out there. know what happens when you get close to limits, and you tend to be more efficient and practical)

    That all aside, what Ascension said about roads is pretty much all I've ever learned.

    The only thing I can add is I like to think about it from a visualization perspective (will they actually look good on the map, and is it necessary information for the purposes of this map?), and keep in mind the economy of the realm they are in - can they afford roads? is it a small enough region that you want to show iffy dirt roads and such, or just stick to well maintained ones? Picture yourself as a merchant trying to use the roads, would you actually take the long way around the forest like the road does, or do you know that it's safe enough to take a shortcut? Why would people use the road if it doesn't take them somewhere worth going? all that stuff.

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    Well, I've personally had serious slow-down issues on GIMP due to file size. It's the main reason work on my map seems semi-abandonned (it's not, but continued work on it, in the sort-term, is infeasbile when I don't have much free time in the first place and running a noise filter can take ten minutes or more on my not-fast-enough machine). When I was doing smaller-size regional maps the speed wasn't an issue, but when I started working on a full-scale world map, it just became essentially impossible.

    Granted, it's not all GIMP's fault: my machine only has like 3G of RAM and a basic graphics card (maybe 128M? I'm not sure I don't have it in front of me, atm). And the file I was working on is pretty big.
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    Hmmm... Yeah...! All good points! I never thought about weighing between the long way and a shortcut... Thanks. And I'll have to see about pushing the limits of Gimp sometime, too, haha. You have a point there. It'd be nice to go all out without having to worry about file size.

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    Software Dev/Rep Redrobes's Avatar
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    640Kb should be enough for everybody... seriously tho, 3Gb is a lot of RAM. If a bitmap is fully unpacked then its about 4 bytes per pix x width x height x layers + undo buffers. Which is a lot but even 5Kx5Kx4bytes = 100Mb so you would need 10 layers of that to get to 1Gb. Lack of RAM is the usual culprit why stuff slows down. For Gimp and most graphics apps then video card ram makes no difference at all. 3D apps, my VDale, and the odd bits of Photoshop + games make strong use of graphics card ram but its more uncommon.

    When I tested image file sizes I usually get to about 12Kx12K before it starts to die in the file formats. By about 20Kx20K they mostly start crashing and some cant take more than 16K. The PS own brand format and TIFF are pretty robust at size but if your not mental like me then using something about the 4K size should be no problem for any map in Gimp with a fair amount of ram.

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    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Hello, your question about Roads is a good one, and one that as 'kinda' been brought up by me before.

    Humans (and dwarves, elves etc) like all animal species, will do their utmost at an instinctual/subconscious level to conserve energy when traveling. This means, they will try and take the most direct route from point A to point B, or as straight a path as possible. Things like small hills and gullies will be skirted/circumvented if the horizontal distance's energy expenditure is less than the energy expenditure of going over/down through the hill/gully.

    The above is why I hate seeing city maps with individual buildings with wide yards in fantasy city maps. In days past these would have never occurred as realistically people would have built the same buildings much closer together as they would have spent less energy (at a time when nutrition was not as well as what we have today) to traverse the city. The yards would be almost non existent as people would chose to cross that open space to reduce the time/energy output to get from A to B.

    So, where does that leave Roads in an Overland map? Roads will stay mainly on the plains, flat areas. If they do go into hills it will not be a straight on approach but at an angle where the rate of incline will be gentle (think of what consumes less energy, a flight of 5 steps over 4 feet or a 15 foot ramp). Roads will also follow rivers for the most part, cutting across the land only in places where a river's course will double back to itself in a short distance. This allows easy access to water for travelers and their livestock, and when it does cut across open land, it will be because either another source of potable water exists or the distance is such that the river will be reach again after a short time so less water must be carried (that energy expenditure thing again).

    When a road DOES cross a mountain range this is done at a Mountain Pass:

    In a range of hills or, especially, of mountains, a pass (also gap, notch, col, saddle, bwlch (Welsh), brennig or bealach (Gaelic)) is a path that allows the crossing of a mountain chain. It is usually a saddle point in between two areas of higher elevation. If following the lowest possible route through a range, a pass is locally the highest point on that route. Since many of the world's mountain ranges have always presented formidable barriers to travel, passes have been important since before recorded history, and have played a key role in trade, war and migration.

    So, roads from one side of the range will often join at the point of where the pass enters/exits the mountain region, and by proximity likely the location of a fortress/town or other community of importance.
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