New Hex Map Previews

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New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Sat Jun 21, 2014 4:50 pm

Bruce just posted the third article in his "Behind the Maps" series, this time focussing on Calidar's hex maps. It includes extensive previews of the new hex art and the Meryath poster map, which should be of great interest to hex map fans.

It also contains the full version of a hybrid hex and topographical map which I spent most of the day finishing off today. This map had a number of different options, including a full hex treatment, but we went with this hybrid style. Please let us know what you think.

http://bruce-heard.blogspot.jp/2014/06/CAL08.html

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Azure Admiral » Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:26 am

The maps look beautiful, Thorf :D

The classic version really keeps the old feeling, and the new tiles are very neat. Good job!

The mixed overland version is astounding. That looks fresh and really interesting, since we can have more hints about altitude just seeing the rasterized terrain below the hexes: great idea!

Really good the Kingdom coat of arms too. It’s a rasterized version, or a vectorial one?

The only one detail I could advise is about the white labels. I’ve not actually understand if that’s for the font used, or for the white color, but that combination doesn’t seems to me to fit the whole thing. Maybe it’s just a matter of time to get my eyes accustomed to the new layout. (but the Kingdoms white name labels on the major Caldera map look very good, however).

Thank you and Bruce and keep up this amazing work, I can’t wait to have and see the maps in my hands! :cool:
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:28 am

BoneLord wrote:The maps look beautiful, Thorf :D

The classic version really keeps the old feeling, and the new tiles are very neat. Good job!
Thanks! :) As with the original Gazetteers, the symbol set will likely be built upon with each new map, as Bruce's design requires.
The mixed overland version is astounding. That looks fresh and really interesting, since we can have more hints about altitude just seeing the rasterized terrain below the hexes: great idea!
Yes, it really shows off the best part of the height model. These large scale maps use the full base height model, but I can also edit in new features as needed. In this case, I added some rolling hills.
Really good the Kingdom coat of arms too. It’s a rasterized version, or a vectorial one?
It's actually both. :cool:

Bruce designed it and exported a raster version, which I then brought into Illustrator and vectorised.

The only raster bit of the hex map image is the coastline, which is a high resolution raster layer. The border between the land and the sea is part of this raster layer, but the resolution is so high that you can't really tell it's not vector. This is a big departure from my Mystara maps, which always had vector coastlines. The reason for the switch is that I realised that vector coastlines can never hold as much detail and roughness as the raster coastlines — at least not without making them insanely complicated vectors. Not only is it better to use the raster, but it also saves a lot of time, as it is no longer necessary to trace the coastlines; instead I prepare them in Photoshop, reprojecting as necessary in Manifold.
The only one detail I could advise is about the white labels. I’ve not actually understand if that’s for the font used, or for the white color, but that combination doesn’t seems to me to fit the whole thing. Maybe it’s just a matter of time to get my eyes accustomed to the new layout. (but the Kingdoms white name labels on the major Caldera map look very good, however).
Bruce's label design includes an interesting visual divide between manmade and natural features. Manmade features are shown in Adobe Jenson Pro italic, in black, while natural features are in Quorum Black (and sometimes Quorum Bold), in white. There's a further division with water features, which we do in dark blue Jenson italic with swashes. And as you mentioned nations appear in their own Forest Shaded font, which is the theme font for Calidar, also used in the logo.

This system was designed for the Great Caldera map and carried over to the hex maps, to give some consistency across the different map styles.
Thank you and Bruce and keep up this amazing work, I can’t wait to have and see the maps in my hands! :cool:
Thanks for the feedback — please keep it coming. :)

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Azure Admiral » Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:57 am


The only raster bit of the hex map image is the coastline, which is a high resolution raster layer. The border between the land and the sea is part of this raster layer, but the resolution is so high that you can't really tell it's not vector. This is a big departure from my Mystara maps, which always had vector coastlines. The reason for the switch is that I realised that vector coastlines can never hold as much detail and roughness as the raster coastlines — at least not without making them insanely complicated vectors. Not only is it better to use the raster, but it also saves a lot of time, as it is no longer necessary to trace the coastlines; instead I prepare them in Photoshop, reprojecting as necessary in Manifold.

That's interesting. I'm fond of the vector school, but I admit that the raster coastlines are gorgeous :D

Talking about the whole process of map worldbuilding, there are some steps in which you had to actually draw things at freehand, as for coastlines for example (with a pen table or such)?

How did you add details to the coastlines?

Bruce's label design includes an interesting visual divide between manmade and natural features. Manmade features are shown in Adobe Jenson Pro italic, in black, while natural features are in Quorum Black (and sometimes Quorum Bold), in white. There's a further division with water features, which we do in dark blue Jenson italic with swashes. And as you mentioned nations appear in their own Forest Shaded font, which is the theme font for Calidar, also used in the logo.

This system was designed for the Great Caldera map and carried over to the hex maps, to give some consistency across the different map styles.
This font feature division sounds good, it's a nice touch :D


This project is really raising furthermore the quality bar about mapping (and was already high with your Mystara's maps masterpieces). I think we apprentices cartographers will have an hard work to do in drawing fanmade Calidar stuff :D

Two thumbs up!
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Ambreville » Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:01 pm

BoneLord wrote:This project is really raising furthermore the quality bar about mapping (and was already high with your Mystara's maps masterpieces). I think we apprentice cartographer will have an hard work to do in drawing fanmade Calidar stuff :D

Two thumbs up!
Agreed. Two more thumbs up! :mrgreen:
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:57 am

BoneLord wrote:That's interesting. I'm fond of the vector school, but I admit that the raster coastlines are gorgeous :D
Remember that when it's printed it's not really an issue anyway, since everything is just dots. By definition all printed matter is rasterised during the printing process.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter which it is, as long as it has enough detail. For raster this means resolution and DPI, while for vector it means anchor points and complexity of the paths (lines).

The advantage of vectors is their scalability, allowing images to be blown up and reduced without losing clarity and sharpness — although it should be noted that this is not always quite as simple as it sounds. For example, blowing up a design will naturally expose flaws that were not visible at the usual size, while reducing a design can make it impossible to make out because there's just too much complexity for the small space. I dealt with this issue when making the Calidar logo for this forum: just shrinking the logo down to 90 x 30 did not end up with a nice looking logo. In fact, it was barely legible.

In any case, for Calidar the coastlines and the height map are both done at very high resolution, so that they can be used as is in most maps. The only maps in the book that go to a higher level of detail are Glorathon's Royal Domain map, and its city map. For these, I have blown up the height model and added more detail to it.
Talking about the whole process of map worldbuilding, there are some steps in which you had to actually draw things at freehand, as for coastlines for example (with a pen table or such)? How did you add details to the coastlines?
I use a Wacom tablet for this sort of thing. I took Bruce's coastal outlines world map design and worked detail into it using various techniques, which you can read about in the Continental Outlines article over at my blog. In addition to using noise to add random detail, I also redrew various parts of the coasts to take projections into account.

Other things that require drawing by hand are of course the roads and shipping lanes, and the borders. Rivers were generated automatically from the height model and then edited in places by hand, and I actually traced them all for the Meryath hex map. There's less drawing involved than there was for Mystara, since I have very high resolution base files to work with for Calidar.
This font feature division sounds good, it's a nice touch :D
It's growing on me, too. :) It definitely helps to be able to see intuitively at a glance which labels are settlements and which are terrain features.
This project is really raising furthermore the quality bar about mapping (and was already high with your Mystara's maps masterpieces). I think we apprentices cartographers will have an hard work to do in drawing fanmade Calidar stuff :D

Two thumbs up!
It's very encouraging to hear you say that. :D

For me, Calidar really is the project of a lifetime in so many ways. There have been all sorts of different obstacles to overcome — mostly technical things where I knew what I wanted to do, but had to work out how to do it. It really has taken a great deal of work to get to this stage, and some parts of the world have been built and rebuilt multiple times. (The biggest headache in the Great Caldera was definitely the plains of Alfdaín, which went through quite a number of attempts before I got them right.) But the end product makes this all worth while. Moreover, it's a huge investment in — and indeed asset for — future maps of Calidar, since the Great Caldera height model is now done and available. What this means is that I can now generate detailed maps of the whole Caldera in a matter of days rather than months. I am extremely excited about Calidar's future, both from the point of view of a collaborator and indeed a consumer.

You'll see for yourselves very soon now. :D

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Ambreville » Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:37 pm

Thorf wrote:The biggest headache in the Great Caldera was definitely the plains of Alfdaín, which went through quite a number of attempts before I got them right.
One might wonder why plains could possibly present a problem. In fact, IIRC, the trouble there was getting the rivers to flow through the plains in way that looked natural. Because of the software used to generate the rivers, they all tended to shoot in straight lines across the flat areas. The challenge became preventing this from happening without the plains suddenly growing hills. Thorf, you might be able to explain this better, but I thought an extra word was needed here. :)
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:41 am

Ambreville wrote:One might wonder why plains could possibly present a problem. In fact, IIRC, the trouble there was getting the rivers to flow through the plains in way that looked natural. Because of the software used to generate the rivers, they all tended to shoot in straight lines across the flat areas. The challenge became preventing this from happening without the plains suddenly growing hills. Thorf, you might be able to explain this better, but I thought an extra word was needed here. :)
That's right, Bruce. The software I use for erosion, Wilbur, works great with mountains and hills, but it's severely limited when it comes to almost featureless flat areas. They just tend to fill in as completely flat, which makes the rivers go in horrible straight lines. The reason that Alfdaín was so hard is that it had the largest area of plains that needed to be done in one go out of all the nations of the Great Caldera.

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:14 am

Hoping to provoke some more discussion on the new art, I've uploaded Bruce's preview images to my web site so I can include them in this thread. I added the best preview image so far — a close up of the Glorathon area of the Meryath map — to the first post of this thread. Click the image to see a slightly larger version.

Perhaps of most interest symbol-wise are Bruce's new settlement designs, which include background elements to give a quite different effect.

Image Image Image Image Image Image

In order these are: city (in capital colours), large town, small town, village, tower, and lighthouse. (The lighthouse is my own design — the rest are all Bruce. :D )

I'm sure it'll please a lot of Mystara fans to hear that we're intending to use the correct symbol for each capital, coloured in red — an idea that has been bandied about in the Mystara community for many years.

Aside from the new background elements, it's also interesting that there's a distinction between large and small towns.

Any more thoughts on these?

Finally, here's the key with all of these symbols plus a whole lot more. I drew all of the new terrain icons.

Image

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Sturm » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:27 am

Great work, BTW the symbols have clearly an "indian" architectonical style rather than the usual european.. any particular reason why Bruce made that choice?

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Ambreville » Wed Jul 02, 2014 12:37 pm

Actually, the style is a mix of Byzantine and Polynesian (at least it's intended to be that). The style may vary with the setting.
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Azure Admiral » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:06 pm

Ambreville wrote: The style may vary with the setting.

Taht's gorgeous!

A slightly style change varying with the setting would be intriguing.

I really like this possibility, but I wonder if that could be a little confusing for casual readers to come up with all the symbols, even if the same types ("town", "village" etc.) would be very similar anyway.
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Sturm » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:28 pm

Ambreville wrote:Actually, the style is a mix of Byzantine and Polynesian (at least it's intended to be that). The style may vary with the setting.
Great, I think it's a wonderful idea, gives an immediate visual impression of a place.. indeed from a certain point mystaran products did that too, like the atruaghin, the milenian symbols and so on..

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:28 pm

I don't think there'll be a problem with recognising the different levels, because even if the building styles differ from country to country, we'll likely keep the same basic pattern — and certainly the same categories (which are universal).

Another point is that the number of cultures demanding different symbols is pretty finite. Most of them are represented in the Great Caldera, though, so the set of symbols should grow bit by bit with each episode. It should be a fun ride. :)

Did you notice the distinction between mountains and high mountains? Of course it's somewhat arbitrary, but the aim is just to give mountain ranges a little more shape. Named peaks also have their own symbols, again with two levels.

Another point of note: we've sorted out the rather messy distinction between swamps, marshes, and bogs. Basically, swamps have trees while marshes do not, and both are characterised by shallow water. Bogs on the other hand are water-logged land areas. The symbols for marsh and bog will be similar to the swamp symbol but with no trees, and a different shade for bogs.

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Sturm » Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:45 pm

Great work, it even improves what you've done so far for Mystara, and that's something :)

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Ambreville » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:05 pm

I just received pre-print proofs for both the Great Caldera and Meryath poster maps. They are gorgeous. They are a bit shorter than the standard TSR mapsheets, but otherwise deeper, so the actual printed surface is roughly the same. Print quality exceeds TSR's poster maps because of the hi-res art and vectored text originally submitted. Details are much sharper. Colors are identical to those in the digital files. The pre-print proofs were run on glossy paper. The actual poster maps will be printed on uncoated paper instead, which folds better (glossy paper tends to crack where the folds intersect). Print on uncoated paper won't be quite as sharp as the glossy version, but these poster maps should last longer. I approved the samples; printing and folding should therefore take place within the next several days (probably after the 4th of July and the weekend). Final delivery should happen within the next 10 days -ish. :cool:
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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Thorf » Thu Jul 03, 2014 2:56 am

Wonderful! :D I couldn't be more excited about these.

By the way, do you know if TSR's poster maps were coated or uncoated? Or did it perhaps vary depending on the map? I've noticed over the years that some Mystara maps are glossier than others. And the cracking on the folds issue is definitely something I've seen, too.

In any case it sounds great. I really can't wait to see the final printed posters!

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Re: New Hex Map Previews

Post by Ambreville » Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:42 am

Thorf wrote:Wonderful! :D I couldn't be more excited about these.

By the way, do you know if TSR's poster maps were coated or uncoated? Or did it perhaps vary depending on the map? I've noticed over the years that some Mystara maps are glossier than others. And the cracking on the folds issue is definitely something I've seen, too.

In any case it sounds great. I really can't wait to see the final printed posters!
Uncoated. There were very few outright glossy maps. This depended on the product lines, the available printers, and paper stock they had on hand at the time of the orders. The (glossy) print proofs I received today already show some unhappiness where the folds intersect. They now lie flat on my living room's floor. I'm looking for a way to work the creases out so I can have at least the Great Caldera poster framed. Anyone knows of a trick to do this? :?:
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