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The Portfolio of Foreign Worlds Cartography - Maps for Writers & Gamers

Urabrask Revealed

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Have you ever looked at the fictional maps of other artists and thought about what could be improved and what works just fine?
 

Culsu

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Have you ever looked at the fictional maps of other artists and thought about what could be improved and what works just fine?
Not really, at least not in that sense. Largely because I know that in the end of the day you are doing commissioned work, and the client tends to have the last word even if some of their decisions might be crap. Most artists I know and follow have slightly (some vastly) different styles than I do, so the differences usually tend to be in how the lineart flows, what colors are used, and how saturated the colors feel.

That being said, when I browse the Fantasy section of the local bookstores I tend to look for maps - and those 9 out of 10 times are really crappy (from a purely artistic and a logical point) and may even turn me off a good story. Call it professional bias.
 

Urabrask Revealed

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That being said, when I browse the Fantasy section of the local bookstores I tend to look for maps - and those 9 out of 10 times are really crappy (from a purely artistic and a logical point) and may even turn me off a good story. Call it professional bias.
Yeah, I was more talking about the bookstores than other online artists anyway. What's your opinion as a professional map-artist on this map?
 

Bear Ribs

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Most often when I look at fantasy maps, first I notice if the geography is clearly nonsense* such as rivers flowing away from the oceans and towards mountains, peninsula not pointing at islands, lakes that somehow have several outlets instead of one, or major cities just plopped in some random spot without things that would justify a city like bays, rivers, a chokepoint if it's a military encampment, or arable land. Also, I tend to get irrationally angry at perfectly straight mountain ranges and oceans that turn 90-degree angles in order to box in the sides of the map.

Most fantasy maps fail at these simple standards.

From there I usually want to see if there's a follow-able path the heroes will take and interesting locations for them to visit to promote the story.

*If the world is clearly operating according to fantasy physics this need not apply, if there's a floating continent, crystals growing out of the ground the size of mountains, or we go really crazy like the world of Septerra Core, things are sufficiently wonky that I won't try to judge the rest of the map by contemporary geology.
 
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Culsu

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Yeah, I was more talking about the bookstores than other online artists anyway. What's your opinion as a professional map-artist on this map?
It certainly looks awesome. Who ever did this has way better lineart chops than I do, though it's almost more of an illustration rather than a map. Stylistically, it reminds me of the sort of art I'm familiar with for Terry Pratchett's works. That being said, from a worldbuilding POV my first question would be: where does the food come from...
Most often when I look at fantasy maps, first I notice if the geography is clearly nonsense* such as rivers flowing away from the oceans and towards mountains, peninsula not pointing at islands, lakes that somehow have several outlets instead of one, or major cities just plopped in some random spot without things that would justify a city like bays, rivers, a chokepoint if it's a military encampment, or arable land. Also, I tend to get irrationally angry at perfectly straight mountain ranges and oceans that turn 90-degree angles in order to box in the sides of the map.

Most fantasy maps fail at these simple standards.

From there I usually want to see if there's a follow-able path the heroes will take and interesting locations for them to visit to promote the story.

*If the world is clearly operating according to fantasy physics this need not apply, if there's a floating continent, crystals growing out of the ground the size of mountains, or we go really crazy like the world of Septerra Core, things are sufficiently wonky that I won't try to judge the rest of the map by contemporary geology.
This. Luckily enough I had to face that problem only a few times since I started making maps, and most times I was able to at least avoid the worst nonsense by constructively crafting some changes or work-arounds. Some people simply don't know any better. Now, if said people's stories are any good if they can't even understand which way a river flows is something I consciously choose to ignore for the sake of business. After all, I don't have to read 'em...

Looking at this map, I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of the color choices. The oceans seem too dark to me, I'd prefer a lighter shade that's at least not darker than the text and labels on the map, which I think an ancient mapmaker would consider the most important part since customers are going to be most concerned with.
It's definately a matter of taste. By and large, I was trying me hand at a style similar to these here.
 

Bear Ribs

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A parchment style map I created to try out some new approaches and color schemes. It's consciously less detailed than most other maps I've made to evoke the idea that this could actually be in use in universe someplace.
Looking at this map, I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of the color choices. The oceans seem too dark to me, I'd prefer a lighter shade that's at least not darker than the text and labels on the map, which I think an ancient mapmaker would consider the most important part since customers are going to be most concerned with. The simplicity is quite good and I like the design just not a fan of that ocean pattern. Where it says "THE PRINCIPI" is nearly unreadable due to writing going over that dark water.
 

Culsu

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Looking at this map, I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of the color choices. The oceans seem too dark to me, I'd prefer a lighter shade that's at least not darker than the text and labels on the map, which I think an ancient mapmaker would consider the most important part since customers are going to be most concerned with. The simplicity is quite good and I like the design just not a fan of that ocean pattern. Where it says "THE PRINCIPI" is nearly unreadable due to writing going over that dark water.
Yeah, I know. I actually gave "THE PRINCIPI" a slight bright stroke, but it's not enough. And I didn't want to give all region/realm names one as it would have changed the basic color scheme I was aiming at. :/
 

Urabrask Revealed

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It certainly looks awesome. Who ever did this has way better lineart chops than I do, though it's almost more of an illustration rather than a map. Stylistically, it reminds me of the sort of art I'm familiar with for Terry Pratchett's works. That being said, from a worldbuilding POV my first question would be: where does the food come from...
It's from a children's book-series called "Edge Chronicles". If I recall correctly, most, if not all of the food is imported from the forest between the mire and the deepwoods. Transport of goods is done by skyships, which are powered with smaller versions of the floating rock one can see on the left.
 

S'task

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Septerra Core
. . . Do you and I just have the same taste in obscure PC games? First you reference ZZT, and now Septerra Core? At this point, it demands a true test.. Tell me Bear Ribs, which turn of the century Mech game had the best story: Starsiege, MechWarrior 3, or Heavy Gear 2?

Also, @Culsu, are you taking commission right now... I might need some maps drawn up for a game I'm running...
 

Culsu

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Also, @Culsu, are you taking commission right now... I might need some maps drawn up for a game I'm running...
Shoot me a PM with what you've got in mind. I'm working on the tail end of two commissions right now but have plenty of time between the clients getting back to me. Important points for me to know are:
  • Size. How large is the map? What are its dimensions (cm/inches/pixels) and desired resolution?
  • Color or B&W?
  • Details. What's the level of individual detail you are looking for? This point includes such things like illustrated crests, flags, highly elaborate locations, ornate map borders, etc. As an example, think of the way you'd like to depict a town on your map: you can do it as simple as a dot. But you can also draw, color and fully shade a miniature town.
  • Style. What kind of style would the you like? I can be flexible, although it’s advisable that it remains at a style that I’m familiar with.
  • Urgency. How urgently is the map needed?
  • Sketch. Providing me with a sketch, no matter how simple, really helps me a lot.
An easy crutch is always to point at some existing map that you have in mind eg. "I want something like this."
 

Bear Ribs

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Sneak peek on a little something I'm working on. #TheWitcher
I really like this one, much easier to read than the last couple.

The blue islands just outside the Gulf of Praxeda, are they the same color as the ocean because they're underwater?
 

Culsu

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I really like this one, much easier to read than the last couple.

The blue islands just outside the Gulf of Praxeda, are they the same color as the ocean because they're underwater?
Yes. This feature will become more apparent when other parts of the map are revealed, like the Sedna Abyss.
 

Bear Ribs

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Man, that's a lot of fine detail, no wonder it took you a bit.

I rather like the small circular insets showing what the terrain is like at key points.
 

Urabrask Revealed

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The Lavender Plains and the Telredor Marshes, were they a practical joke by the god-creators of that setting or just some bored wizard with too much time at his hand? These locations stand out compared to the rest.
 

Culsu

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The Lavender Plains and the Telredor Marshes, were they a practical joke by the god-creators of that setting or just some bored wizard with too much time at his hand? These locations stand out compared to the rest.
Not sure about the background there, but the Lavender Plains are pretty much just the African savannah with, well, lavender colored grass. Now, the Telredor Marshes, there's certainly some magic afoot there since it's a large marshland made up of giant luminescent mushrooms.
 
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