13 Jan 2015
2015 is gearing up to be a very interesting year for me, first year as a true professional. Next after the Southlands will be a major upgrade to my hardware. Have ordered the parts needed for a dedicated World-Machine/Vue/Blender workstation/render machine. It will give me a computer with 128GB of RAM that can do the heavy lifting, and free up my normal computer to unhindered do all the editing, texture work etc. A new 27inch monitor, flexible arms to all my monitors, and some other goodies will make my workspace much more flexible.
3D world building/simulation is a field that are going through a revolution right now with some almost god like tools on the horizon. My goal is to try and use them to enhance tabletop role playing, the first phase have been to try and learn the basics which was something I did working on my Flanaess map. The second step is to put my skills to practical use and create work-flows and templates to effectively produce maps and illustrations for use in games, which is something the Southlands map project is teaching me.
Two more map commissions are on the horizon this year, both are only early talks yet but they both look promising. Other big things for me this year will be a more formal launch of my custom map commission service, and my first set of maps for sale. Prices and details will be available in a few months.
I wish you all a great 2015 and many great games!
05 Nov 2014
My work on the Southlands are in an intense period, with textures, city map and the foundation for the whole continent taking shape in parallel. There will be a more in depth progress report soon, and even more for the backers of Southlands. It is a lot of work, but it is coming along nicely with more and more details added each day.
Other World Mapper Kickstarter is on its last day. Its been a highly successful run blasting through all the initial stretch goals and then some! So there are only a few hours left to jump onboard early on this promising map maker tool.
In the background my plans for next year are taking shape, and its gearing up for a major year with several interesting projects spanning different worlds and topics. A couple of the themes for next year are “Classic Vistas” and “Back to the Flanaess”, a new website will also be launched to host this and other things. More on this in December when the Southlands are done and its time for the next year outlook.
23 Oct 2014
Time for me to promote a Kickstarter again, this time its not one I’m participating in . I’m just backing it. This time its a Fantasy Map creator – Other World Mapper by the small indie developer Three Minds Software.
Those of you familiar with computer graphics are familiar with the bitmap vector divide, there are paint programs and their are CAD programs. Other World Mapper is one of the few attempts I’ve seen to make good use of the strengths as well as usability of both in one package.
Many of you have asked me what program to use to make your own maps and customize already made ones like mine. I use professional tools like Photoshop and Illustrator which are costly and takes hours to learn and even longer to master. GIMP and Inkscape are open source programs that can do a good job filling in for expensive professional tools, but they still have the learning curve. They also have lots and lots of functions that you will probably never need in order to make or adjust maps for your gaming needs.
There are dedicated fantasy mapping tools on the market already, and I have used several of them with varying degree of satisfaction. Just like professional digital graphics tools they seem to fall into the categories of bitmap or vector. Dundjinni was, or maybe is it still available I’m not sure, but it is firmly in the bitmaps camp. CC3 is based on a CAD software, which means its precise and fast. but most people find CAD software unintuitive for artistic creative work like map making an I can understand that feeling.
The creators of Other World Mapper seems to have taken this into account when they started to develop their map maker. The list of features and their video presentations caught my interest, and I couldn’t resist backing this project, please consider doing the same!
You can find there Kickstarter project here:
12 Oct 2014
My work is now almost entirely focused on the Southlands – Adventure beneath the pitiless sun! New monsters, new magic, and realms inspired by the Arabian Nights, Egypt, & pulp adventure tales!
by Kobold Press and for Pathfinder RPG. The Kickstarter is on its final week, so please head over to the Southlands Kickstarter page and find out all the great content that have been unlocked so far. Among them a Campaign map and a number of other maps I’m working on right now, so please consider backing this project!
As my work progress I will make updates on the Southlands Kickstarter page, but also make blog posts here. I know that if you read this you are probably very interested in my work, so here on my site I will go into more of the technical side of my work. For information on the setting, and all the amazing things that are included I suggest you head over to the Kickstarter page or download the free preview from Paizo Store.
This first installment will focus on the basics of terrain and texture. Later on as my work progress there will be more of real map making, now I’m working on settings and programming which can be boring even for the most passionate.
To map a vast continent that stretches for thousands of miles is a major undertaking, and to make it stand up and match the creative fervor of the Kobold Crew and some of the best in the business doesn’t make it easier. But as all brave adventurers know you just have to get going and face the perils!
My approach is to prepare by getting my tools in order and doing my research. That meant pestering the writers on this project for details with lots and lots of questions and reading all there is to read.
With all this in mind, my first goal is to create a preview map, something that can serve as the magnet for critique and inspiration. A deep dive into the world of fractals and textures, and 6 weeks later I had something that could do the job.
This map is done from scratch inside World-Machine using only a few basic fractal “recipes” and to make it quick it uses 1/10 of real scale. Export it into Photoshop for a touch-up, and it looks rather nice in the right light!
With the approval of the Kobold Crew, I now had a firm grip of what the continent looked like and a base to work from. It was time to start work on the full scale map. And by full scale, I mean that the terrain is created with so much detail it can be zoomed in and used for things like village and city maps, which means a lot of data. For Southlands that means 124 GB of TIFF files and fractals.
The way I work is to use some sort of sketch and hand paint a height map, all the way from the depths of the sea to the highest mountains peaks. Why do all this work by hand, why not just let the fractals do its job? For two reasons, first I needed to match an existing map and fractals are difficult to shape; they don’t always do as they are told.
The second reason is that computer-generated algorithms have a tendency to either look repetitive or “non-organic” or just too perfect. Real worlds have a bit of chaos, and in my opinion a fantasy world needs even more of the unpredictable and untamed. A hand-drawn and painted base creates that, though it can be a bit tedious work at times I have to admit.
I added rivers and forest cover on separate layers to match the locations on the various sketches. Each layer can then form the base for fractal terrain, colors, and textures.
In parallel I also worked on the programming bit to create a flow chart, which is a collection of nested “recipes” for how various terrains should look. It is a messy collection of small squares with lines showing in what order things are calculated. This is all done in World-Machine, a genius tool used by special effects departments in movie studios, game studios, and others who need computer-generated landscapes. I use Photoshop for painting height maps, textures and post-render touch ups, then go to Illustrator to bring it all together with symbols and text.
My template has 12 different terrain types, that each gives the terrain a distinct look, from swamps and low gentle hills to majestic peaks. By blending and mixing these types I can recreate virtually any type of landscape imaginable. Together with around 20 types of textures and there are virtually no limits on what can be visualized.
Forest overlay that can be adjusted separately to accommodate everything from a few palm trees at a desert oasis to lush deep jungles are something I’m setting up as well.
If you add color and brightness adjustments and the possibilities are endless!
The textures I’m working with are a combination of computer generated fractals, hand painted parts and colors and patterns I capture with my camera out hiking in the real nature. I have studied landscapes passionately for a long time, and this job let me combine my passions for role playing, hiking and photography.
A vital but often difficult part is to map lakes and rivers. To map a natural water system of lakes and rivers can be difficult in normal top down maps, in 3D it can be downright impossible. During my 15 years of mapping using Bryce a natural lakes and rivers were an unattainable dream. The latest tools doesn’t make it easy, but possible. So I’m proud to show off the first look at my mountain test lake, a canyon and the wetlands at the merging rivers.
Sometimes I can’t resist and have to have a bit of drama.
And every respectable fantasy world needs the extraordinary, a 20 000ft high pillar….
Some artists paint with a pencil on paper or oils on a canvas, and I have great admiration for them and their amazing results which gives me so much inspiration. In my work I try to create useful art by painting with fractals and textures on a digital canvas. The images I have shown here are all work in progress, but with your help I can do my bit to make this project come alive with adventures, treasure, and fun!
I hope you join me on the journey, and welcome to the Southlands!
The next installment in mapping the Southlands, will take you both to vast forests and then a first look at civilization…….. 🙂
24 Sep 2014
I just took down my Paypal Donation button, it marks an end of an era for me. The paypal donation button have been on my website in one form or another since 1999. For an amateur artist I used it as a way to try and cover a bit of the costs of running a website, and over the years more and more of you have been very supportive and helped me finance what used to be my hobby.
The last three years your contributions have made it possible for me to devote far more time and resources to my fantasy map making. a whole new generation of tools in the form of better computers and software have elevated my work to new heights. So far only glimpses of that work have become finished maps. But that is about to change, thanks to your inspiration, critique and support I’m now a professional, thank you all for all your help!
So therefore I’m hereby ending the era of donations. From now on you will have to give me financial support by buying the products my maps are published in. In the future I will also sell maps directly through various channels, the content markets of Realm Works and d20Pro, online PDF stores and also directly on my site. I will also launch a custom RPG map service for those of you who want to have a map made just for you.
As a part of this transition I will create and new website under my own name. This site will live on as a home for my Greyhawk map repository and also receive a makeover next year, but my blog, new work and services will be on my new site.
Again that you so much for all your generous support you have given me all these years, and I hope you will be interested in what I’m working on in the future. As Head Cartographer for Kobold Press Southlands I’m working hard on a series of maps for that project. So I’m taking this chance to invite you to take part of the journey to the Southlands by supporting: Southlands: New Fantasy Options for Pathfinder RPG
15 Sep 2014
Now that Gen con is over and I’m back at my desk working again its time for an update. During the month leading up to Gen Con I worked hard a map for Kobold Press Southlands.
Overland maps 2.0
Maps can be top down, 3D directional views and various style options will be available as well. For example parchment, stone or wood engraving, line drawing and more. The finished result will be a high resolution digital image in the format you prefer, for print or digital use.
12 Sep 2014
The d20Pro’s Kickstarter that I have backed is on the home stretch with 13 hours left. Please consider to back this very promising project!
I’m working hard on my next generation maps, and I will create several series of maps that will be available on d20Pro content market. I will post soon with more information and pictures here.
21 Aug 2014
Back home again after my first Gen Con, and it was a fantastic experience. Had the chance to see and meet so many wonderful gamers of all sorts, Greyhawk fans, gaming legends, designers, cartographers and a whole bunch of just passionate gamers just like me!
The ENnies, what an evening! It was a great experience despite I didn’t win this time. Just to be part of the celebration of role playing and the many people that makes the fund games being celebrated for an evening was an experience of a lifetime.
Got the chance to meet some of my gaming friends and colleagues I’ve only have had met online with before. One of the first one I found at her booth was Alyssa Faden, Cartographer and Game designer extraordinaire.
Had a chance to hang out with the Kobold Crew and enjoy they gave me a great time. The same goes for the evening I spent with the Greyhawk Meet and Greet, thank you “Mortellan”, Jayson, Skip and “Baronzemo”, you gave me an evening to remember!
Also had a chance to talk business several times, so there is a chance that I will be busy and long time to come, being involved in a variety of projects. Thank you all for your help and support, I wouldn’t have got this far without it!
When I got home the so often talked about Con Crud have affected me, so I apparently missed my Fort save. Despite a runny nose and feeling a bit feverish I’m back at my desk working on creating height map templates. Its one of the most boring parts of 3D map making, but to know how to create precise height maps
is an essential part of it. Here is what can look like in Photoshop when it is color coded, in order to be easier to read. This is then saved as a grayscale image to be used as and base for the fractal work in World Machine. Using Photoshop to create it makes it easier to convert an existing map into a 3D fractal generated virtual landscape.
The fractals can then be draped in pixels and exported from world Machine back to Photoshop again as a terrain for a top down map, or to Vue to be rendered from any angle as an illustration.
Below are a screenshot from World Machine, it is one of my terrain experiments trying to work out how to create the transition from savanna to desert. It is a bit like playing god to be able to play around with a whole virtual world, having it all at your fingertips and being able to shape it any way you want.
One of the hardest things is to try and match a map that already exist like the Greyhawk map. Using Bryce it took me years of trial and error basically, by hand painting fractals and keep doing it until I got the results I wanted. Now I can do so much more much faster. Here is an detail view of a 10 mile bit of the coastline at the city of Admundfort on Walworth Isle in the middle of Nyr Dyv.
There are not texturing and only the coastline and surrounding waters are defined. Basic terrain with erosion are in place and I’m pleased with the results, with terrain details and texturing it will be a highly detailed map, enough to pick the spot for your castle!
13 Aug 2014
I just wanted to spread the word about the latest Kickstarter project I’m backing: d20Pro Unlimited Virtual Tabletop.
The project is to create a new version of d20Pro that can handle multitouch, better graphics and what caught my attention, Realm Works integration. d20Pro is already a very capable and great Virtual Table Top software, but if this Kickstarter goes well it will be a much more powerful tool for Role Players. It is already well beyond its goal of $10 000, but I’m hoping they reach some of their more ambitious stretch goals.
I’m very soon on my way to Gen Con where I’m going to take a closer look at d20Pro on touch screens among many other thing.
10 Aug 2014
I’ve added a few more Atlas pages. Slowly working my way across the northern Flanaess. You find them on the Atlas Page.
I’ve also working on whole world mapping techniques, this is so I can offer that as a part of my map commission service. I need a world to work on and my choice is of course Oerth. The challenge with this is the age old dilemma to make flat map of a spherical world. But for Fantasy worlds its usually the the other way, you have a flat map showing at least a part of the world. Here is my first try at Oerth.
This is only a first test and I have to state that this is not an attempt to create a proper map of Oerth. This map have spurred a very interesting discussion in the Facebook group Flanaess Geographical Society, with all the passionate and knowledgeable fans around I’m sure there will be some good things coming from it! In the meantime I will work on how to efficiently create a high quality map of a whole world.
One of the first things on my agenda is to create templates for each stage of the process, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. The grid on the Oerth globe show 500 miles “squares”, well they are squares at the equator. The reason for a 500 mile grid is to tie in with my “regional map standard” that will be maps 500 miles across.
What I’m planning to offer are three types of maps, whole world overview maps, 500 miles regional maps and 15 mile local maps with very high detail level. When I have these three types worked out I will start with “encounter maps” of dungeons, outdoor scenes, houses etc.
Prices will vary with map style, map view, number of details, and symbols and such. But my goal is for the basic top down terrain map to be less than $100. There will be pdf’s and template files provided that will hopefully make both the ordering and work process better and faster. I’m only in the early steps of setting up the service, and I will post here regularly with more details and full size examples of what you get.
I plan to offer among other things:
- Top down views in “satellite style” with a realistic terrain view, various stylized maps like parchment, engraved in stone and the like.
- 3D views from any angle you like, to really show off what the terrain looks like. These maps can also be styled.
- Special rendered views, like landscape photography from your world. To show what a certain special location would look like. Perfect for your computer as desktop background or why not a large wall print 🙂
The map you order will be delivered as high resolution digital files in the format you prefer. So whether you’re a game publisher, novelist or gamer, with a bit of money and some work by you, I will be able to map your world in a spectacular way.
Thanks again for all your support and interest! I hope to meet as many of you as possible in person during Gen Con.