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Gaming Industry Cartography

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#1
Schley

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Well here's my first post.

Though the subject matter is fictional and the Publisher (Wizards of the Coast Inc.) is in the gaming industry I figured I'd show a few of my recent pieces and see what you guys think. Comments and critiques are more than welcome. :D

Mike

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Mike Schley
Illustration & Design
www.mikeschley.com
Twitter – @schley

#2
burwelbo

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Mike

I always find these types of maps very interesting. I was wondering what software you use to make them? Is it just photoshop or something more applicable to the gaming industry? I like the tattered canvas look and have been trying to do something similar. I was wondering if you can outline how you do that, especially in Photoshop. Good job on the maps. Do people actually pay you to do gaming maps?

Bruce

#3
Schley

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These were produced in Photoshop on a Mac. I use a Wacom Intuos 3 drawing tablet for my interface and start from a very rough line sketch typically provided by the client.

As for whether I get paid for gaming maps. Yes, most definitly. Otherwise being a full-time freelance artist would really suck. ;) The company I am contracted by most often (Wizards of the Coast) is owned by Hasbro Inc. and assigns cartography like any other editorial illustration.

I set up my Photoshop document with lots of individual layers and layer sets for things like the compass rose, ink layers, color layers, and background surface. Typically I create the backgrounds and compass roses for all of the maps in the set at once keeping in mind the theme of the book the group of maps is being published in. Once I've finished creating the supplemental items I start working on the primary inks. I draw them in with a heavily modified brush tool and a light touch on the tablet. When working on the inks and underlying color layers I try to focus on artistic flavor and accuracy to the adventure/game. Once all of the art is finished I set up my tags in a seperate layer set above the art and work up all of the textual info. Occasionally I'll use Adobe Illustrator for this phase since It's vector path and type controls are more robust. Obviously there is alot I'm skipping over here, but basically I approach my maps as digital illustrations and try to create compelling stories for the reader by giving them a ton of flavor.

Mike
Mike Schley
Illustration & Design
www.mikeschley.com
Twitter – @schley

#4
Kartograph

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Hi there!
Great stuff. I just had my first experiences with fantasy cartography for a module by Wolfgang Baur. Would love to hear more about your techniques. I definitely culdn?t do anything with a tablet. Guys like you and Lazzaretti sure add to the feel of the game. What is your background, education wise?

#5
David T

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Mike,

Nice work! When I was in high school in the 80s, I was big on Dungeons & Dragons, and other fantasy gaming. Naturally, I made my own maps as my friends and I participated in many adventures.

When I went to work for a private firm a few years ago, and moved into their sales department, I started to look into this. I remember getting a contact at Wizards of the Coast, and talked to him once or twice about our companies working together.

In the end, nothing happened. Part of it was the company I worked for - an internal perception that this wasn't a worthwhile mapping effort, something they didn't want to be involved with, and a desire to have me pursue other avenues of work (that was what was implied to me). I could have pursued it a little harder, too. My very admitted inability to sell that company's services (I'm a much better cartographer and GIS Manager than I am a salesperson) also conspired against anything from happening.

If you'd ever be willing to share even some sort of basic work up on how to do that 'tattered scroll' look in Photoshop, I would certainly be interested. I think it's a great artistic technique, and I've always wanted to have the ability to add that to my maps.
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations

#6
DaveB

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Looks cool :)

Fantasy maps have always been part of my interest in cartography.
Dave Barnes
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#7
mike

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Very nice!

Reminds me a lot of the RPG games like Elder Scrolls series.

#8
Schley

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Thanks for the warm welcome and all the kudos. :D

As for the flavor aspects of my work, alot of it is a combination of photo manipulation and straight illustration. For instance, quite a few of my backgrounds come from high-res scans of centuries old waterstained book pages that I then re-edge and weather in photoshop with a variety of brushes and layer effects. The compass roses and border designs on the other hand are just straight illustration. As for the contents of the maps, I use a variety of techniques. One that I really enjoy is to duplicate a layer of surface texture that I plan on shading extensively. instead of painting shadows onto a new layer above my base layer, I'll take the duplicated base and apply a curves or levels pass that looks nice and dark. Really crank it, but try not to blow it out too much, you just want to bring it into the range of a good deep shadow. Watch your saturation as well and keep it in line. Once you've got a deeply shadowed texture layer, just apply a layer mask to it and fill that layer mask with 100% black. This will mask out all of your shadow layer and allow you to paint your shadows in with a soft textured brush using the layer mask. Effectively This gives you more global control over your shadows without the confusion of a lot of seperate effects layers. Additionally, by shading with an effected duplicate layer rather than direct brush color you retain the textural color info that resides in your original base layer.

One of the things I hope to work on in the future is developing more technical cartography abilities since most of my work so far has been illustration heavy. What I'd really like to do is work out a way to incorporate interactive realworld mapping with a strong illustrative sensibility. So far I've got the art thing down, I just need to train myself in the crunchier bits. ;)

Speaking of crunchy bits, where would you guys suggest I go for an in-depth look at the process of modern cartography? I.E. How to translating survey info, what the standard software used is. etc. Any help would be awesome!

Mike
Mike Schley
Illustration & Design
www.mikeschley.com
Twitter – @schley

#9
Martin Gamache

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Speaking of crunchy bits, where would you guys suggest I go for an in-depth look at the process of modern cartography? I.E. How to translating survey info, what the standard software used is. etc. Any help would be awesome!

Mike

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This is a good place to start Mike.

Check out the resources page too.

Since you've got alot of the art/tool background I would focus on things like projections, datums, grids and information design aspects. Alot of that can be gleamed from a good cartography textbook, although a bit dated in some aspects...the 6th edition of elements of cartography would likely be a good introduction to alot of things for you.

You will also need to learn some GIS concepts to allow you to go from raw data to a file you can work with. A GIS course at a local college or from an online college should be enough to put you on the right track.

Alot of this stuff has been discussed on this board before our current loss of content so I suspect if you read back over the last year you will find plenty to entertain yourself with. Feel free to post questions here, most of us are happy to help.

BTW those maps are very impressive, I hope you get to apply your skills to some real world places.




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