Friday, January 30, 2009

How It's Done Rejoiner

Regarding the maps of the previous post.

The program used is Microsoft Publisher, 2003. I’m familiar with Quark also for the Mac, but I don’t have one of those at home and besides, I find it finicky (though it allows more visual options). To translate the map into a jpeg, I have to transfer the file to my other computer and Publisher 2007, which is part of why the formatting gets screwy.

The hexes are individual shapes strung together to make the hex grid, so each hex can be individually colored or shaded as necessary, as well as the hard borders softened to give it a gentler look.

The elevation data is obtained through the Fallingrain Global Gazatteer, the link for which you can find to the right. Each hex is assigned a set of coordinates (so much latitude and longitude) based on an overall map representing the entire Northern Hemisphere (a second map represents the Southern Hemisphere). This causes some distortion, on account of the hexes, which must be adjusted for. The numbers from Fallingrain are then crunched and applied to each hex, giving me a minimum elevation and a maximum. The minimum is then recorded onto the map.

The cities are then plotted on the map according to their latitude and longitude, being assigned to the appropriate hex and a fairly specific location within that hex. This location is later adjusted for the aforementioned distortion, as occasionally the rows have a tendency to define a city as being northwest of a particular feature when it should be slightly northeast. It is best to remember that true north as depicted on the map is not the top of the map, but always towards the centre hemisphere hex. Does that make sense?

Having plotted the cities, I hand draw the borders out, one line at a time, using the program tool for the purpose. Provincial and national labels are added. Provincial borders are shown by a 4 pt grey line, national borders by an 8 pt grey line. I experimented a lot with different colors and thicknesses, and arrived at this as it is easy to view even when the map is fairly small and both words and rivers can be seen easily—most published maps use orange for this or heavy shadings when regions are colored. I tried both and neither looked good.

I designate the highest hexes (based on their minimum elevations) in descending order and plot the rivers. Three high hexes creates a “source,” which begins a river. These rivers will follow the “trough” created by moving from the source hex to that hex with the lowest elevation, continued until it reaches the sea. Often in populated areas the exact position of the river has to be adjusted to match up with the cities, but in uninhabited areas the topography alone defines the path of the river. This means that occasionally the river is not precisely the same as on Earth, but this isn’t Earth after all—its my world—and I don’t mind a few minor discrepancies.

Now and then a river doesn’t have an exit hex. In that case, the lowest elevation of the most logical hex is adjusted. You will note a couple of green circles on the earlier maps. These are hexes that must be adjusted lower.

The benefit of having my rivers this way is that I can define the “size” of the river, as it accumulates depth and width from adjoining hexes…and joins with other rivers to create larger waterways. Thus on the map, the Rhine which begins in the Canton of Uri meets with the Lesser Rhine at Chur and increases in size (6+3, +1 for the “source hex” which has no river to the southwest of Chur). Rivers are displayed on the map in 1 pt font if smaller than 10, 2 pt if 10-29, 3 pt if 30-59, 4 pt if 60-109, 5 pt if 110-189 and so on. You might recognize the Fibonacci series in this calculation, which is actually a relative computation in this instance, being applied to all sorts of natural conditions.

The lakes and coastlines are drawn by creating a picture frame and importing a picture all of one color. The edges of this picture can then be adjusted by superimposing the picture on an actual map and fitting the plot-points to the lake or sea coast. In the case of the sea, not shown here, the “coastal” picture is extended so that the outer edge is covered with sea hexes. See if you can see what I mean by the map of Hadramaut included here. These lakes and coastlines are then superimposed onto the map.

Hexes without rivers then have their elevations changed to the highest elevation in the hex (to give the sense of topography). Where there is a city in a non-river hex, the city's elevation is used (the lowest city, if there are more than one). The circle notes are removed.

All elevations from Fallingrain are of population centres, not geographical elevations, so any given hex shows the highest level at which a population center exists. Thus, if you take the Canton of Ticino, the hex north of Bellinzona which reads “8,178” indicates the highest village. It isn’t correct, but I consider this to be the measure of what elevation must be reached to cross the hex, which I use predominantly for my trade tables, and the flow chart I posted last month indicating the association the trade cities have with each other (how far apart they are).

Now the rivers are drawn, one line at a time. The arrow notes are removed. This is slightly annoying, as I wish Publisher had a single draw tool like paint and Quark, but you can see that the lines drawn and matched end to end don’t look too bad. It helps to make the lines short. Again, I should point out that the bends and turns do not exactly correspond with Earth, but its good enough for me.

What is interesting is how often the Earth truth and the plotting match up and give me new data. Most times, looking at a map, you might note that Berne is a large city in Switzerland and that’s all. Having the benefit of the topography shown shows why it is so important. The low elevation clearly allows access to Geneva and southern France, the lower Aare and Rhine Basins, and the upper pastures of Interlaken…and ultimately to Italy. Thus, the focus point for three major trade routes.

Finally the map can be colored. The lowest elevations are in green, beginning with the darkest green for below sea level, and becoming lighter with each 500 ft contour. At 2001 ft the color shifts to a light orange, darkening each 500 ft to 5,000 ft, then each 1,000 ft to 7,000 ft. At that elevation, a light grayish-purple is used, darkening each 1,000 ft. to 10,000 ft., whereupon it darkens every 2,000 ft. above that.

At a future point, roads are laid out and small symbols are put in to designate mountains. Those mountains which get noted are those which make the Ultras List.

Is there anything I’ve forgotten?


sirlarkins said...

Thanks for this. I'll definitely have to check out Publisher--I've never considered using it as a map making tool!

PatrickW said...

Are the river sizes width? And in what unit of measure (feet/meter)?

Are the following correct?
1) start at minimum.
2) set rivers.
3) Reset elevations: non-river hexes reset to maximum, unless city, then set to city elevation, unless multple city, the lowest city.

Colors used:
5 shades of green
8 shades of orange
5 shades of "grayish-purple"?

By the way, I very much like your maps. They look awesome and I may try to emulate them for my game world (hence all the questions), assuming I can get them to come out at least half as good as yours.

Thank you for your time.