Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Great Caldera Poster Map Finished

Close to a year of work on the Great Caldera's overview map came to a head last weekend, and the map is finally complete, and entering the pre-print stage.

Vicinity of Seahollow, capital city of the fellfolk nation of Belledor, Great Caldera, World of Calidar.  Topographical map.  Stereographic Projection.
The area around Belledor's capital.
Exciting times for me, as this will be the first map I've ever had printed.  

Meanwhile, Bruce has posted two articles previewing the maps.  Part one covers the southern realms of the Great Caldera, while part two deals with the northern half.   He mostly concentrates on giving some background to the labels he devised for each nation.  It's a great read, with some tantalising hints of what is to come, as well as some classic Heardian humour.

I'd like to add a few comments about the creation of the art featured on these maps.

First up is the Belledor fragment at the top right, which depicts the area around Belledor's capital, Seahollow, in the province of Seafolk.

Grimsvik is the capital city of Nordheim, and also regional capital of Steinfold, Nordheim's leading realm, in the Great Caldera, World of Calidar.  Topographical map.  Stereographic Projection.
Grimsvik, capital of Nordheim.
The map is composed of numerous layers, which all come together to produce the terrain you see here.  At the base of everything is the height map, which I have posted about extensively already.  Suffice it to say that this map took about six months to design and erode at full resolution.  It is a 3D model, with sculpted mountains and valleys, rolling hills, and rivers meandering through the plains.  On top of this is a gradient map, colouring the terrain based on elevation, so that the plains and lowlands are light green, the hills are tan, and the mountains are grey-brown.  There are actually five or six of these gradient maps, allowing the painting of other terrain types such as grasslands, desert, swamp, and taiga on top of the plains.

What this means is that you can tell the elevation of any particular spot just by looking at the colours, and on the height model I can measure the exact height of any point on the map if necessary.  Mountains named on the larger scale maps (such as the hex map) refer to actual peaks visible on this map.

Central area of wizarding realm Caldwen, including its capital, Arcanial, in the Great Caldera, World of Calidar.  Topographical map.  Stereographic Projection.
Central Caldwen.
Next come the sea and lake masks, and the rivers.  The sea is a simple mask derived from the base height map, coloured blue.  The rivers are also generated from the height map.  We decided on the general locations during the design process, and then let erosion create the exact shapes in a natural way.  For some areas — Alfdaín comes to mind — this took multiple attempts, and was a bit of a headache, but I'm very pleased with the final results.  Lakes were added to the height map after erosion; Bruce designed logical shapes that fit in with the river systems, and I dug them into the height map.

At this point, we haven't done any work on lake or sea beds.  That may come at some point in the future, but for now it's all just flat surfaces.

With the land and sea all done, the last three layer groups add lighting, texture, and overlays.  Lighting consists of a 3D render of the height model, which with transparency effects gives shape to the underlying terrain.  Texture is predominantly visible in the sea areas, and to a lesser extent on the land.  It is a parchment texture, designed to bring consistency to the map.  I chose not to also incorporate the colour of the parchment this time.

Mythuín, in the Matriarchy of Andolien, is the capital of the elven realm of Alfdaín, Great Caldera, World of Calidar.  Topographical map.  Stereographic Projection.
Alfdaín's capital, Mythuín.
Finally overlays refers to the graticule (the grid of latitude and longitude lines over the map), borders, roads, icons, scale, legend, and of course all the labels.  This layer sits on top of everything else.

I will post more about all of these things after the release.

For now, I am now putting all my efforts into the second poster map, the hex map of Meryath, which is also mostly done.  The finishing touches should be done by the end of the week.  After that, it's back to the internal maps.  These, too, are at an advanced stage of design.  Everything should come together within the next few weeks.  It will not be long now before you can hold the book and the maps in your hands.

A full view of the dwarven realm of Araldûr, Great Caldera, World of Calidar.  Topographical map.  Stereographic Projection.
Araldûr, home of the dwarves on Calidar.  This image shows almost exactly what the final map will look like.