I don't know about any of the rest... but...
As a lay-person with little to no map experience, here's how the height of things in your map looks to *me* at first glance:
If that's right, or close, since I'm not great with top-down views anyway, then you've probably accomplished that goal with shadows
Medieval building could be tall... most (wealthier) ceilings were high, and a lot of buildings were as much as 3-4 stories. So, you'd have about a 40 ft building, without a roof. for manors, meeting halls, anything with higher ceilings, you'd have even taller buildings.
Castles, forts, lookout towers could be even taller.
In crowded cities, with land space at a premium, people would often start to build UP instead of out... so even your commoners would have taller buildings there.
The reason cathedrals couldn't have ceilings beyond 200 ft is a combination of things... larger bases and fewer interior walls gives less structural support. Cathedral domes/spires were made out of heavier building materials... they were often built more for beauty than with a mind to stability...
Finally: 200 ft is really tall. In Washington DC they have a restriction (or did) on building height that caps out at 160 ft. 200 ft is a skyscraper. It's not large as far as skyscrapers go, but it's still a skyscraper. To illustrate: Here's a 288 ft building. Keep in mind, nearly a third of that is the spires.
How tall do you want your buildings to be?
Ah.. no. You misunderstood. That map, the excellent battle map isn't mine. I wish I could do something that good. It was meant as an illustration of a water effect I'd love to know how to do on a city map scale. I've also been studying maps like that for shadows and the like.
I figure I can draw some pretty tall buildings without destroying suspension of disbelief. Especially if they are in clusters and leaning on each other. There is a section of the city that is a total slum where they've built everything all together out of junk and whatever material they could find. Its really tall and unstable. That's gonna be really fun to map...
I've got this idea of some really large waterwheels on the river also. Maybe windmills on some of the hill sides...
Oh, I see... sorry about that. Still.. on that map, what I see is mostly shadows.
Since it's not your map, but an example, we can learn from it, right? So the shadows... coming from a light source in the North/NW, so all the shadows go to the southeast side of the objects - but not quite evenly. The largest house has a lot of shadow under the south, and the other houses have much less... smaller objects have shadows entirely to the east. That might add to the illusion of height.
I see that the *paths* or wooden sidewalks go a bit UNDER the edge of the larger objects. That could give it some of the 3D feel... The larger roofs are on the tallest houses. That would make sense. The closer the object is, the bigger it looks.
The stairs add to the illusion of depth at the shoreline. I think the reason it looks *extra low* is that the shadow of the land, on the top of the stairs is going the *opposite* direction to anything else.... it's just so small your mind won't notice it unless you're looking for details.
There are (what are they called? eaves?) projections on the roofs of the taller buildings... it makes those roofs look like they have a bigger slope.
The stairs at the end of the wooden sidewalks have slightly southern shadows, and the wells are slightly off center - which makes them look deeper. The angle of the main path gives a slight rise to the land, and the shadow on the *wrong side* of the larger of the two paths to the NW house makes it stand out more.
And I've yet to find an object in the picture which *doesn't* cast a shadow... even when the shadow covers other objects.
I'd guess you could achieve a reasonably similar effect with mostly shadows, and by layering lower items (balconies, window boxes, paths, barrels on the ground).
It may or may not end up as the same quality (depending on your skills/patience) but it should achieve the effect you want. Also, tall, rickety, ill-constructing buildings won't necessarily be quite straight, will they? So parts of the lower building may lean/jut out/whatever.
Waterwheels and windmills... you might try shading opposite sides of the rungs on the waterwheel... like the stairs here...
If I were doing an art project (which I am decent-ish at) rather than a map (which I'm lousy at), I'd start by drawing a fairly large, faint shadow on two sides of the tallest building.
I'd then pick several other tall buildings, and draw a shadow around them (and the first building, because the shadow should get darker closer to the building, anyway)... but I'd make the shadow for those a little smaller on one of the sides. Then repeat the process for each progressively smaller group of buildings.
... and then I would shadow the trees, and rocks, and miscellania with faint lines.
Finally, I'd hit all the really deep items, like stairs, waterwheels, windmills, with shadows on the opposite side.
And.... that would probably take me 30 years, lol
I'm sorry, I wish I could be more help, but I really don't know what I'm doing, I can only say what I see.
(and as for the 3D view - it's very neon... maybe because the water is so much darker. Could you lower the brightness on just the top half of those maps somehow? that might help. Or is that not a thing you can do on that program?)
Okay, I'll run away now! Best of Luck~
Last edited by Jalyha; 01-12-2014 at 01:43 AM.
Reason: random words at the bottom of the post i dont remember typing...