A new generation of maps!

The past two years I’ve worked hard to come up with a way of using the best of modern digital tools in order to create more useful and better looking maps for all of us who have a place beyond the normals world to visualize. It can be a campaign world for your game, a fictional world for your books or the place of your dreams and you want to have it mapped. There have been wonderful maps created for these world before by masterful cartographers that made them look fantastic. My goal is to make them more useful as well as look  great!
Here is first look at what I mean.
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 High resolution version (8000 pixels, 25MB) can be downloaded here
The Hold of Ulthek is an area roughly 300 miles across found in the northern part of Ratik in the Flanaess. It is coastal realm with a cold temperate climate, a lot of forested wilderness and fairly high mountains in the west and north.
This map is the areal view showing what the actual landscape looks like. The projection is what could be best described as “near isometric” to give both a natural perspective and equal view of the whole area.  The teser map is 8000 pixels across and gives a detailed look at the landscape. The resolution I work with is 300 ft per pixel, which is enough to give you all the necessary detail in order to know every nook and cranny of your realm. Below is a close up look at the level of detail.
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For areas that require more detailed maps, like settlements, I can create more detailed closeups using a map like this as a base.
Maps should be more than just the looks of the terrain. You might ned an elevation map, a simple maps ready to mark things like the spread of an evil cult or trade routs or anything else. To cater for this I create a whole range of data along with the looks of the terrain, elevation (both color coded and TIFF heightmap), forest cover mask, water cover mask, erosion data as masks (flow, wear and displacement), normal map, 3D mesh, guide map, shading map. Other data can be mapped as well, like geology, weather etc. Results are available in TIFF format and can be used as layers in Photoshop, GIMP or any other image editor to easily (depending on skill) create the style of map you need.
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I will present the these functions in detail over the next couple of weeks. Both in as plain terms as possible for you who just want a cool maps to use in your games. But also delve in deep for those of you who want to tinker with them to create a set of maps that are perfect for your needs.
How can I have my realm mapped like this?
Several different ways depending on your needs and your budget. You can commission me to create it according to your specifications. This is the most expensive option, but also the one that means that you decide what you want. The cost for this is $100 for an area 100 x 100 miles. For larger maps  this rate is open for discussion depending on the nature of the map. A large area with very uniform terrain like jungle or desert and not a lot of unique features can be done for less.
I will also create a Patron to work on maps my backers want me to create. So by backing you get to be part of creating maps generic and specific for a more reasonable sum of money. More backers means I can devote more time to create more maps released to everyone who backs me. Generic maps of various types is something I intend to sell on the various content markets available.
I hope you will join me on the quest to visualize fantastic realms beyond the ordinary!

Winter is Coming!

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The new season of Game of Thrones are not here for a while so I took the time to work on a winter version of the Flanaess map. It comes in a labeled and a non labeled JPG versions. You can download them from the Flanaess Map Download Page.

The files are around 120MB in size I you will probably need a download manager, links are on the download page.

Work on next generation maps are progressing well, and a presentation of my first project will be posted here in about a week. This is also going to be a presentation of what kind of maps you can commission me to do!

Spread Maps!

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A new set of Spread Maps are ready to download here.

 

JPG Full Map, 2016 revision 2

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The Full Map JPG are ready on the Flanaess Map Download Page. This time thanks to more powerful computer and new versions of Adobe Photoshop a Acrobat it is now possible to create a single large JPG image of the whole map. There are two versions, non-hexed and hexed.

PDF map updated!

Full Map PDF 2016 revision 2

final map

The whole map in PDF format is now available from the Download Page!
To keep the file more manageable there are now a non hex and a hexed version. JPG version will be available shortly.

 

Online maps updated!

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The Online Maps are the first out of the 2016 revisions of my Flanaess map. More things are coming so stay tuned!

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.

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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!