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Thread: First try at a city map

  1. #1
      Forcas is offline
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    Post First try at a city map

    First try at a city map-suzail4.jpg

    It probably sucks really bad. Please feel free to give advice/criticize.

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    Welcome Forcas, to the wonderful world of city mapping (and since I haven't said it elsewhere yet, welcome to the Cartographers Guild).

    Your map has a lot of promise, but it does also have a lot of space for improvement. I hope you are committed, because there's a lot to cover. If you are committed, I'm happy to help guide you through it.

    First, though, I need some information from you:
    --what information can you provide about this city?
    --what parts of the city are important, and what are the landmarks?
    --what, if any, type of city are you going for (eg. Greco-Roman/medieval/early modern/dystopic Victorian/East Asian etc.)?
    --how does this city fit into the surrounding countryside (i.e. is it a city within a nation, a city-state, a kingdom's capital; is it surrounded by farmland, forests, uncultivated mountains, desert; is it alone, or are there other cities/towns/villages/hamlets nearby; is it in a peaceful realm, threatened by external or internal enemies)?

    The more information you provide, the easier it will be to advise you about it. PS: I saw that English is not your first language, so if anything I wrote is unclear, just ask.

    Don't be discouraged. Inventing a city is hard work, but I always find it rewarding.

    THW

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      Forcas is offline
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    Hi, and thank you for responding.

    This is a medieval/fantasy city located in the desert. It is the capital of the kingdom. The points of interest are The Castle, the guard castle, the prison, the two temples, the port and the trading area. There are no towns or farms around, all the sustain comes from trading, so the most powerful families are parts of the trading guild.

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      lostatsea is offline
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    City are intimidating so much so that I haven't felt up to that challenge yet ! Anyway yours shows promise and there are a lot of people here who can offer very good advice. Welcome to the guild by the way !
    "Aye The skies be clear , the seas be calm and the winds be with us .....

    ARGH!! but the damn compass be broken!! "

    Capt. Noah Swalter Last voyage of the " Silver Crest"

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      Forcas is offline
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    Yeah, after this experience I think I'll stick to battle maps and maybe try large scale maps.

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      J.Edward is offline
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    Hey Forcas - welcome to the Guild. Quick question. Did you start from a hand drawn map?
    I ask because it looks like you worked to the "edge of the paper". If that's not the case then what was the reason for drawing to the border?
    I used to do this a lot. I always started my maps on 8.5 x 11 paper and worked to the edge.

    You should keep at it. Just do some fast sketches to get used to the shapes and layouts.
    Cities aren't so bad to do. They take a bit more time but the basic elements of a city are pretty simple when you break it down.

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    OK, Forcas, below are some suggestions for your map. I think the first two, really, apply to every map you ever do.

    1. Take a look at some city maps by other cartographers, and decide what you like the look of. There isn’t anything wrong with trying to reproduce the style of other mappers (although it is always courteous to acknowledge them first, and don’t simply copy their work). Just to get you started, try Sapiento’s Sarkamand, Max’s Dragonsmouth, Bhimra and Jerusalem maps, and feanaaro’s commissioned maps. There are many more out there; these just seem to me like good choices to start for your map.

    2. Take a look at some actual cities. GoogleEarth is your friend here, but if you can find some historic maps, so much the better. My recommendations: Istanbul, Turkey; Alexandria, Egypt; Carthage, Tunisia; Baghdad, Iraq; Isfahan, Iran. These are cities which, I think, share similarities with what you have described about your own. This step is important to get an idea of scale, as well as street-layout.

    3. Decide on a scale for your map. Use the research from step 2 to get it reasonable realistic. I don’t know what software you are using, but if you can, try putting a grid over the map for easy reference (keep the grid on a separate layer, so you can remove it when you’re done). One of the reasons I mention scale is because your map at the moment has a few things which look odd to me:
    • The city walls are massive, especially when contrasted with the castle/palace walls
    • The town-square, likewise, is huge
    • The main street is perhaps too wide
    • The alleys/lanes (if that’s what the spider-web like lines are) are extremely narrow

    4. If I were you, I would make the following alterations (I’m assuming you are using Photoshop or something similar, here; if you aren’t, not all of my suggestions will be possible):
    • Expand the map canvas: as J.Edward pointed out, the way it comes right up to the edge looks like you ran out of space, rather than decided to make it that way. Also, there may be things you’ll want to put in the surrounding landscape—even if there are no farms, there might be graveyards, watchtowers, dry river gullies, etc.
    • Think about topography: are there hills in or near the city? Rivers/streams? There are plenty of tutorials on the cartographers guild that can help you incorporate topography into your map: Ascension’s Atlas Style Tutorial is a good one to start with.
    • Add some texture: you’ll be amazed how a quick and easy procedure can dramatically improve a map’s appearance. cgtextures.com is a great source of free textures.

    5. Post an updated WIP in this thread

    I have taken the liberty of editing your map, to give a sense of how much of a transformation these suggestions can make. I hope you don’t mind. I didn’t change anything about the content of the map (except to add some hills in the topography), and there’s a few strange results, because I was using the magic wand to separate town elements. I applied the grid to only part of the map, so the other half remains visible.

    If you are still happy to receive comments/critiques, I’ll deal with the town layout when you’re ready to move on to the next stage.

    Oh, and by the way, remember that this is YOUR map. I have a tendency to over-analyse urban maps, so if I am making any assumptions/suggestions etc that you don’t agree with, let me know. I won’t be offended. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to make the decisions, and you are the one who has to be satisfied with the results.

    THW
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails First try at a city map-forcas-city-map.jpg  
    Last edited by TheHoarseWhisperer; 08-30-2014 at 02:35 AM.
    lostatsea likes this.

  8. #8
      Forcas is offline
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    Wow. Thank you so much for your advice. I'm going to start working on these aspects right away. Btw, I'm using Gimp.

    And, yes, i started with a hand-drawn sketch. It does seem like I'm running out of space.
    Last edited by Forcas; 08-30-2014 at 06:48 AM.

  9. #9
      Forcas is offline
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    Ok, here's the WIP:

    First try at a city map-suzail2.jpg

    I made the map bigger, added some hills and vegetation, made the roads, the market and the walls smaller. I didn't make the houses mainly because I have no idea how to make them look good.

  10. #10
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    That latest update is an improvement. The scale looks more consistent now (the absence of the houses, I think, also helps the scale), and the topography also helps make the city easier to understand.

    I wouldcstill like to see some texture on it, and, if I may say so, I think the colours are a problem. They are too bright, and heavily saturated, at the moment. A good idea would be to make them duller, and try to get all the colours reasonably similar (I.e. Reduce the contrast of different elements): the research I urged you to do, as well as the daptation of your map I did, should give you an idea of what I mean.

    Now, as promised, some suggestions about layout. These are just the first thoughts I have for now, but I think they are the main issues at the moment:

    --no city comes out of nothing. Most settlements begin as farming/resource settlements, fortified locations, or trading settlements. Many combine the last two functions, as service towns grow alongside a castle, or castkes are established on trade routes to protect them from enemies. Other options are deliberately planned settlements (for political, symbolic, and/or strategic reasons), and refugee colonies. There are probably other reasons, but I can't think of any right now.

    So my first question is, why does this city exist in the first place? All city maps, I think, should answer that question, but it is especially important for yours because, as you have explained it, it is a very unlikely city in the first place: has to import its food, no apparent source of water, and a seeming absence of agricultural land or natural resources to export.

    My second question is, once founded, how did your city become the capital of a kingdom?

    These are important questions because they will help to identify the way that the town grew. For example, if the town began as a port, then obviously the earliest settlement would have been beside the sea, and grow inland afterwards. You look like you have quite a few options, here, actually. The major road that goes offthe map might be a trade route that, for somecreason, comes close to the sea at this point. That is enough reason for traders to establish settlements here, to link land trade routes with sea-based trade. Furthermore, the presence of a fortifiable hill gives even more justification.

    --This leads to the next issue: the marketplace. I don't know why the market is where it is. Markets appear in places that are good for trade--along roads, docks, outside castles, areas that many people visit (in medieval Europe, many markets were located in churchyards), areas that are protected from bandits (outside castle gates being a good choice) etc. Other features of markets include a preference for flat land, places they can avoid paying taxes (another feature of medieval towns was the presence of markets outside town gates, where farmers could sell their goods without having to pay the toll to enter the gate), and, perhaps less important, a source of water (for animals).

    Some other things to consider are that towns don't have to have only one marketplace (many towns would have multiple markets, often specialising in a specific good--eg fish, oil, leather/leather goods, wool etc); markets are rarely circular (exceptions exist, in specific circumstances; see Lucca, Italy)--usually they are rectangular (sometimes just a street made wider), or triangular (if they occur where roads intersect); in hot climates, it is extremely uncomfortable to sit outside all day, so markets were often brought indoors (this is the origin of the Islamic bazaar, or covered market).

    My advice, depending on how you decide this town was founded, is to put a wide and fairly straight street between the port and the traders' road, perhaps close to the entrance of the castle. It could form the commercial backbone of the town.

    --A few more things to think about
    ----Where do they get water from?
    ----What building materials do they use, and where do they come from?
    ----If they import all of their food, where do they get the money from? What do they sell in the port? What do they make?

    That's all for now. Sorry if it is a bit disorganised or unclear. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    THW

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