Online map updates

Updating the Online maps today so they will be temporarily unavailable. I’m sorry for the inconvenience!

New Download Page!

w titlesA new Flanaess Map Download page is now up. I have brought together all the essential downloads to one place. The files are now hosted on Dropbox which should make downloads more reliable. But you probably still should use a download manager to make it work.

On the page are also all the source files as well. So those of you who want to create your own version or take my work in a new direction!

Lemons to Lemonade

First I must apologize for my lack of updates and almost complete absence fro the Internet the past two weeks. This has two reasons, first I have taken the plunge and upgraded to Windows 10 on my main desktop. This meant I had to back up all my data, reinstall practically everything and then restore the backups. Just copy a bit around 10TB of files back and forth and verify it, takes a couple of days. The second reason is more profound and serious.

For some time now I’ve had my doubts about the future of one of the tools I use the most, World Machine. When I started using it three years ago it was not only the software that best matched my needs, it was under intense development by its creator and improved regularly. The last 6 months have changed that picture and now it seems I have to face the fact that World Machine seems to have entered into the territory of unsupported software. I’ve heard the term Abandonware and now my beloved WM have become part of that lackluster environment. Reluctantly I’ve over time realized I have to face the music and look for alternatives, and before you fall into despair I can tell you there are alternatives!

The tools I’ve decided to go with along with Adobe Creative Suite and Vue, is Terragen from Planetside Software. Terragen have been on my radar for years and is a very capable software for creating and especially rendering virtual landscapes. The price (ten times higher than World Machine) and the fact that it lacked the sophisticated erosion features of World Machine made me hold off on Terragen. Thankfully Terragen now have added the erosion features I desired. They are still in beta but already doing the job, so I’m very hopeful and it has a much bigger developer behind it. Sometimes paying a higher price is the way to go.

So what does this means for my work?

The short answer is both good and bad, let me elaborate a bit on this. Just because World Machine isn’t developed doesn’t mean it has stopped working so ongoing projects can be continued. But some time you have to stop flogging a dead horse and move on, so I will start using Terragen as my main development platform from now on.

To learn new software takes time and complicated software even more time. Thankfully I’m going to do very much the same things and they work in similar ways which makes the task less daunting. But it will still take me a couple of months to get myself up and running with it, and new projects pushed into the future an bit. The first things to suffer from this are my Hommlet ToEE map, for this one I want to do it with a set of tools that will be around longer and let me integrate it with a wider area and the rest of the Flanaess.

Terragen gives me a huge benefit compared to World Machine, the ability to create and render using the same program, no export of conversion needed. This will speed things up and a whole range of new things possible. Terragen also supports planets, and the atmosphere around them so not even the sky is the limit. The price tag for this is steep but the investment are now made and I already have the hardware, now its just for me to spend the time and effort to get it up and running. Something I’m looking forward to, with the caveat that you will have to put up with waiting for results a bit longer. This is my way of trying to convert lemons into lemonade, thank you all for your patients.

New Year – New Horizons

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This time of year media of all sorts are full of predictions and plans, so let me join the fray. Best to ground this adventure with a short look at the year that passed. This first year I can truly consider myself a professional cartographer two things stand out, upgrades of all sorts and the Southlands.

First the great pride and joy of being part of the Southlands project, thank you so much to Wolfgang Baur and the Kobold Press Crew for that one. It was my first big professional project and after a lot of hard work it became something I’m very proud of. I worked on the Southlands for months and really got drawn into to its deserts, jungles, mountains and stories. The Southlands was not only my first big commercial project, it was also a huge step in how I work. Everything I had previously had been done using old software from the 90’s, now I stepped into the era of modern digital tools.

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The other big thing this year was “getting things in order”. My whole workplace needed a major overhaul to support a more productive environment. When you do maps for your own pleasure as a hobby, you don’t need to worry so much about how long things take or of your posture will hurt you in the long run. So I started the year with building myself a new adjustable desk big enough to accommodate three 30 inch screens. Two new PC’s powerful enough to be able to handle huge images and plenty of power for rendering have given me the workplace of my dreams. Now I have both the horsepower and the visual space to work on larger maps on one computer while the other one is crunching out renders.

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To work with fractals and 3D the way I do a large part of it is more like software development which means it takes time and are prone to setbacks. That is probably the biggest reason there are so few of us stubborn enough to do this kind of work in the first place. After months of trial an error, and I must admit mostly errors (that is how I learn!), I figured out how to start getting the results I wanted. To work on the basics are tedious and boring, but the worst part for me are the fact that there is very little to show from all the effort. Its not until you get to the more artistic parts of actually creating content that things gets interesting for anyone except eccentric map makers.

Screenshot 2015-12-28 18.59.14

Now when most of the basics are in place a more interesting future opens up, so what have I planned?

Here are the things I have planned to work with for 2016:

Commercial Project
A big commercial project that is already under way but not yet announced. It will cause some heads to turn when it’s being announced. I don’t know when that is going to happen yet so until then nothing more to say on that topic I’m afraid.

Custom Map Service
Most of the programming is in place, what is needed are a few good examples, pricing, and orderforms. How to order are one of the cornerstones and what I will deal with next. The key is to find a way for you to be able to provide me with a sketch and all the information I need in a way that is easy for you to do, and easy for me to use. I detailed this in an earlier blog post you can read here

Generic maps for sale
Along with examples I will work on a generic themes maps to sell on various content markets, as detailed in this blog post.

Website overhaul
My website have been looking the same for years now and is not doing a proper job anymore. My mapping business will move to a new website using the URL: annabmeyer.com and ghmaps.net will be kept for my Greyhawk work. I need a website that is more dedicated to map making and not filled with Greyhawk references. I also think that ghmaps.net could be better used if it was more of a repository for all my Greyhawk work. That will be my guiding philosophy when I go to work on it. I still haven’t decided what web technology to use. Now I’m using WordPress which is great to work with but limiting in what you can do, but my ability to learn new things are limited so I might stay with WordPress.

Patreon
I have had crowdfunding in the back of my mind for years now, and through the Southlands been part of one. Until now I haven’t found a project that are ideally suited for “traditional” crowdfunding like a Kickstarter. But Patreon might be a good way to fund those fan based mapping projects that would otherwise not be possible. Later next year when the other projects for 2016 are under way it’s time to flesh out the details, but you are all very welcome to tell me your thoughts!

Those are the planned projects for 2016 and will keep me more than busy the whole year and be the mainstay of my business efforts. But like to set long term goals and aim high, so I also have a few development projects I will spend time on now and then. More of the studying kind to see where they go, might be a towards a dead end, but like a true adventurer I have to try!

First on my development agenda is to get better at coding, so I have signed up for a course in C centered on gaming and graphics. To to visually code in World Wachine took me almost three years and I have no illusions about C, this is a five years long project at least. I see it as necessary for my professional development. Now I’m making maps, but in the future I will probably move more and more into teaching others how to do this and eventually into making tools for users to be able to create the kind of maps I do. Todays tools Like World-Machine, Vue, Blender and the others I use are more like development tools than something for end users to play with. That can be changed! I envision a simpler interface and ready made terrain types and any gamer could do what I do. The other missing component in this are computing power, you need a pretty hefty computer (or two!) in order to create the kind of maps I do. Thanks to Moore’s law and even more cloud computing that will take care of power needs in the future. Cloud Computing will be for demanding software applications what Dropbox are for storage today.

Digital tools for RPG’s are reshaping the hobby in a number of ways. How games and its content are being published, how we prepare and play the games. A large number of digital gaming tools are appearing, and I have adopted a few of them to make my gaming completely digital. There are still holes to be filled I have a number of applications I want to develop that could enhance how maps are used in roleplaying games, and other uses as well. I will work on these ideas and maybe a few of them are good enough to see the light of day eventually.

Another thing I will try to do more is write, as most of you who have had the not so sure pleasure of reading what I write can see, I’m no writer. But I have a lot of ideas and thoughts abouts maps, gaming and other things and I will try and share more of them.

One of the most important of my New Year promises are to game more. My goal are to play regularly at least twice a week and also to start running games again. It gives me more chances to socialize with my favorite kind of people, gamers, and it also inspires (read: forces me) to create maps for my own games. And to dust off my Greyhawk tomes are a sure thing to get my creative juices flowing.

Another little pet project that need to get going is a projector mount for game tables. I have the projector and specially ordered front reflecting mirrors, now I just need to spend some time experimenting. It will provide a good practical diversion when I get stuck in my digital endeavors.

Thank you so much for your support, it has made this into an fantastic year for me

I wish you the best of Holidays and a Happy New Year full of great adventures!

Map service update!

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My Custom map project has been a long time coming, so it’s time to provide some more details on what is to come. The nature of it has more to do with software development that art, so like many other software projects you run into problems that takes time to solve. My goals have been set high both in the features and quality offered, but the most difficult thing have been to make it efficient. How to create good looking detailed terrain maps was something I figured out some time ago. So one of the main things to achieve this time was to make it easier flexible. So I could cover all sorts of overland maps without having to invent the wheel all over again for each project.

So far this project have been about overland terrain maps. So far this have been my specialty, because I love to make maps of this type, but also because this is where I have seen the most room for improvement. Small area maps like dungeons and villages have been well covered for a long time with lots of great artists and several tools that can create good results. So I decided to start with the bigger picture.

The word map in RPG terms usually means a single image, in this case the word survey would be more appropriate. When I map an area it is with the goal of producing way more than the usual top down view with symbols and labels. The result is a wealth of information that can be used in various combination to produce a range of maps, from simple handouts to photorealistic posters and videos. It is in fact based on the same techniques used  to create the landscapes you see in major movie productions. The images presented here are from my test to make sure that all the features work the way they should and are not the final quality. I haven’t had time to fine tune the terrain colors and fractals yet, and production maps will also receive a Photoshop work over up by hand before being considered ready.

desert

Maps like this are there for you to inspire and plan adventures, use as base for encounters and battles. With a coverage of 30 ft per pixel you can get really detailed information. The example below is a 5 miles map, the enlarged section is the red square. Click on it to see it in full resolution, and it can take a little bit of time to download its a 10 000 pixel 20MB file .

5 miles w detail

This map above is made to be 5 miles across, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it at that scale. The version without buildings can be used to cover larger area if you want it to, that is up to you!

A 3D view of the area can give you useful information of what the land looks like.

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Here is an overview of the technique I use:

Topology
The lay of the land – where the hills, mountains rivers etc go. I build define a basic elevation form the base that everything else is calculated from. Then I add major rivers and lakes manually to make sure they match the what is needed for this particular map.

Terrain/Climate
Each area of the map is then given a terrain class: Arctic, Sub-Arctic (tundra), Temperate, Mediterranean, Desert, Savannah, Tropical and Badlands – special terrains like volcanic, other planes etc.

This will determine the detailed look of the land like craggy mountains or rounded hills, sandy beaches or rocky shores. The colors and textures, snow cover and much more. A number of varying themes within each terrain will ensure endless variation. Different types of terrain can blend into each other like Savannah gradually turning into desert och temperate forest giving ways to tundra.

Vegetation is controlled separately and I can either be left to vary with the terrain type or placed exactly where you want it!

Seasons
What the land looks like in the various seasons (for the Terrains that has seasons) like winter spring, fall etc. Texture maps for this will be generated automatically.

Habitation
Since the level of detail can be as small as 30 ft per pixel things like roads and buildings can be added.

Roads – that follows the land and even dig into mountain sides as needed
Buildings – from small huts to large structures and entire cities with randomly or precisely placed buildings.

Format and Pricing
The Basic Generic map, a top down map in the form of JPG files. Great if what you need is just a ready to go map to use in your games. Generic maps sold through various channels live DrivethroughRPG, Realm Works Content Market and others. These maps will will be single maps or a matching series of maps covering various landscapes. Different seasons will be offered when appropriate. For these the prices will be around $5 per area, and series will offer discounts.

The Advanced Generic Map for those who wants a bit more will include 3D views and altitude maps of the terrain as well to increase the immersion. The price will be around $10 per area.

The area covered is still to be determined but will probably be somewhere in the range of 10 – 50 miles, I will present examples and your feedback will determine what will work best. Printing options are something I will look into as well.

The products mentioned above will probably work well for the casual DM who just want something to use in his games that doesn’t break the budget. But what about the those who have spent countless hours creating fantastic worlds and who wants a map that matches perfectly? The custom map service are for you!

Custom map service. Provide me with a sketch and notes and I will create a map based on them. The result will make you to be able to play with your world and create things like 3D views, political maps, parchment or stone tablet or etched in metal, written in sand and lots other special maps.
The following maps are included:
Grayscale Height-maps in various versions – with and without water depth, and vegetation.
Texture maps in various versions – seasons, with and without vegetation, roads and buildings.
Shadow maps – ready made shading
Masks – grayscale TIFF images ready to use as mask layers in Photoshop (and other image editors) and 3D tools. There will be masks for things like water, vegetation, roads, buildings and more
Elevation map – color coded with and without vegetation, roads and buildings

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All the maps can be had in the format of your choice, JPG, PNG, TIFF etc. Sometimes PNG are the most appropriate due to transparency support. The resolution can be as precise as 30 ft per pixel and the whole world can be covered as a set of images. This is because of the limitations in file formats, most of them tops out at 30 000 pixels in either direction.

You will have the right to use the maps in your games and copy them for personal use. This is the rights that most RPG products comes with. The price is still to be decided but will start around $50 and offer discounts for larger areas.

For Publishers
The Custom map service and extras are of course open for publishers who wants to retain all the rights! The prices will be individually set depending on the scope of the project and results needed.

Extras
Special symbols, labeling, Photo realistic 3D views, video fly overs and many other services can be arranged as well.

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The various height maps,textures and masks opens up a whole world of possibilities for further enhancements by yourself or professionally done. Close up renderings using computer generated trees buildings and atmosphere can create photo real scenery of your world. Free tools like Blender  can be used this type of work.

I’m currently working on a large commercial project, yet to be announced that will use this mapping technique. Hopefully I can tell you more about that soon!

My next step is to refine each terrain type and then create finished examples that you will be able to download and see for yourself what they look like. I will try and use Greyhawk for these examples as much as possible so I can include examples of proper labeling.

Thanks again for your patience, I wish I could do this a lot faster but it takes time to get things right.  But the coming spring will be the time to start dusting off those old campaign maps!

 

 

3000px square maps are updated!

RW squares

Updated the small square map to 2015 rev1 and adjusted the size to 3127 pixels and thereby reduced the number of squares to 72. This will make them a bit easier to use.   I’ve also changed the versions a bit. The player version  lacks borders and text. So physical things like settlements, castles, roads etc are visible but no text labels or heraldry. The missing items are things that the GM’s have to add using labels or show the players have to find out through other means. The Reference map has it all including heraldry. Both these versions have hexes to make the placement and finding of things easier.

There are also two terrain only versions, with and without hexes. Please tell me if you are missing a version, like a player map without hexes for example.

You can find the maps here

Flanaess Map 2015 revision 1!

final mapIt took abit longer than promised but here it is, the 2015 Flanaess map update!
More than 50 things have been corrected or added (nothing removed) in this revision. The Places of Mystery in “From the Ashes” as now included as well as some ancient Suel ruins, a ruined Humaniod city in the Lortmils from the before the Hateful Wars.

There are still things I want to go over that didn’t make it into this update. The Pomarj got a couple of typos corrected but I have found some more information about the various humanoid tribes that I didn’t had when I mapped the area back around 2005-2006. So that is up for the next revision that will probably happen in next spring. So if you spot typos, things that are wrong or missing, please don’t hesitate to tell me using the contact form, or via Facebook.

The most time consuming part of an map update is to generate and upload the various PDF’s and JPG’s. The map now comes in a number of formats: full PDF, 6 part PDF and JPG, Online, 3000px squares and the Atlas pages. So far everything is updated except the 3000px squares and the Atlas pages. For those of you who access my map repository, you will find updated files including the updates sourcefiles. I’m sorry for not updating the Altas and 3000pf squares. The atlas pages takes an hour or so per page to create, so its on pause for the moment.

The 3000px squares will be redone soon, and will have an upgrade to 3500px and a few other tweaks that I have found out in my tests. This will make them more useful and bring the number to 72 which will improve use and make it possible for me to export them in go go. The export will still take hours but can be set to run overnight.

I’ve also restructured my master Illustrator map document to make future revisions easier. My goal is to come back to Greyhawk at least once a year for updates to this map, and other Greyhawk work.

Special thanks to Paul Newland and Steven Eugene Tice for having sharp eyes to spot some of my numerous typos, and going through various Greyhawk material to spot things I have missed.

On my agenda at the moment are one big commercial project that I’m sure will interest a lot of you. It will involve work at a level not seen yet so stay in touch for future announcements! Two smaller possible commercial projects are also in the pipeline this fall, from two publishers that I haven’t worked with before.

My custom map service is going to use the same technique as the commercial project under way, the target for a launch are the Christmas season this year. Hopefully Lonewolf Development will have the Realm Works content market up and running by then so it can be used to by my maps as well. I will create a couple of sample maps that can be downloaded here that you can examine in detail and study before committing to commissioning your own.

Thanks again for all your help and support!

Time for a first look at my new mapping process!

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It’s been a long time coming and some significant hurdles to overcome, but now its time to look at what my custom maps will consist of.  This is a first of a series of blog posts looking at my mapping technique and products in depth.

RPG Maps have traditionally been very artistic and often great looking, but an area have only been covered in a single way. My goal is to create a virtual model of a fantasy world, and using that model to create a variety of maps to fill the needs of the most demanding gamer and world builder, and still look great! What are needed to accomplish this?

A set of 5 different maps and then to combine them in various ways to create a virtually unlimited amount of ways to visualize your world. First a disclaimer, all of the images in this post are preview images with many faults and not to be seen as a final result.  At the top of this post is a look at these base maps and a couple of variants.

The first is the color texture of this area that is 2o miles across.

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The color map by itself looks flat and doesn’t give any hints to the shape of the landscape. To show terrain elevation a special color elevation map can be a good choice like this.

Elevation map

Another more visually appealing way is to use a shadow map like this.

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When you combine the color texture and shadow map you get an areal top down view of the landscape.

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Now we have the top down basic map view taken care of, but often simpler maps are needed. This is when masks come in handy, and they can be used for a myriad of things. To create vector shapes of coastlines, roads, borders etc. Here are an example of a coastlines mask.

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With a bit of skill using Photoshop, GIMP or your image editor of choice you can easily create political, religious, climate, trade and all sorts of other maps and overlays. When you use the masks and a bit of filter trickery you can easily create handout maps, parchment maps, stone and wood carved maps and other stylistic variants.

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The last of the parts of the puzzle are the greyscale heightmap, presented below.

HEIGHTMAP NFOR

Not much to look at but an essential tool that describes the topography of the landscape in great detail. With the heightmap and color texture map you can look at you world from any angle and with the help of some computer magic, make it come alive!

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Now you and your players can appreciate what your world looks like in breathtaking detail, from any angle you like!

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It will be possible to create “landscape photos” of iconic locations of your world, in high resolution for poster maps or why not your computer desktop!

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This is a first look at the possibilities and basic building blocks. In next installment I will look into labeling, presentation, formats and how you can order the map of your world!

Back from GenCon!

Had a great time at GenCon 2015, met so many old and new friends. Thank you all for making my time in Indy such a treat!
Several future projects where discussed, and hopefully some of them will see the light of day in the not too distance future. In the mean time Kobold Press published a two part interview with me about how I made the Southlands maps:

Southlands Map interview part 1

Southlands Map interview part 2

During Gen Con I also had the pleasure of being on the panel for the Kobold Press Better worlds seminar, which was recorded by The Tome show. You can listen to it here: The Tome Show GenCon 2015 Better Worlds Seminar

This weeks main task are to get my “Render Computer” up and running. The last part are on its way and will be here tomorrow and then I can start the build and installation. This will give me a dedicated machine to do 3D editing and especially rendering. It will have an 8 core CPU 128GB of RAM and Nvidia Quadro 5000, which will give me enough power to crunch through even the largest of terrains and other tough challenges. The best is that This will free up my main desktop machine so I can continue creating and editing while the new computer can do the rendering in the background. Large renders can sometime take hours, so to have a dedicated machine for it can enhance my productivity a lot.

My Custom Map service is next and an update on it will be ready next week.

Spread & Notation maps

Spread 1000px light grey

Here comes a set of handy Flanaess maps you can use to keep track of things like the spread of Evils sects, party exploration, where Orcs live, or to keep track of that undead infestation. The come in three different sizes: 300, 1000 and 5000 pixels, and three different colors, Light Grey, Dark Grey and Blue

Print and scribble notes on the, slap a layer on top in your image editor to paint a spread. Or use the Fog of World function in Realm Works to easily keep track of something that has a geographic dimension.
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You find the the Spread & Notes maps here.