Spec for perfect Fantasy mapping tool for authors

This is a rough draft for sharing…

1 Introduction

Fantasy authors, game designers and referees need a tool for creating and maintaining imaginary worlds.

Since we are in the business of crafting and/or extemporising narrative, our requirements only partially overlap with those of cartographers and designers.

  • Where cartographers need precision, we need indeterminacy so that narrative can shape details and not the other way around.

  • Where designers need automation and aesthetics, we need control and ease-of-use so we can focus on creating rather than tool use.

Even so, our worlds need to be consistent over time, and presented in a manner that engages the imagination.

A GlobeMaster file should be able to contain all the cartographical information generated for a particular world.

I hope the following makes sense…

ostrich-egg-globe-asia

2 Vision

WorldMaster presents the user with a virtual old style globe like this (see right).

This globe is the primary means of interacting with the world, though the software can generate a range of useful projections.

It displays qualitative rather than quantitative information, for example mountain symbols rather than contour lines.

3 Information Content

The globe displays the following information:

3.1 Grid

Depending on Zoom, the standard grid appears.

3.2 Landmasses and Ocean

Landmasses can be dragged and dropped during initial creation, but otherwise remain locked.

  • There may be tools to create fractal edges and realistic continental shift, but otherwise users rather than formula shape the continents and islands.
  • Oceans are portions of the globe not covered by Landmasses.

3.3 Text

Text is available for labels and notes.

  • Text can be attached to features.

3.4 Lines, shadings and arrows

The user can draw on the globe as required, e.g. to show trade routes, prevailing winds etc.

3.5 Terrains

Terrains are represented by generic Terrain Symbols, such as swamps, mountains and trees. The symbols indicate the quality of the terrain.

GlobeMaster handles terrains as Terrain Areas, Terrain Lines and Terrain Features.

  • Tools may exist for automatically generating or applying default terrain based on climate.

3.5.1 Terrain Areas

Terrain Areas are polygons containing Terrain Symbols, such as swamps, mountains and trees. The symbols indicate the quality of the terrain rather than specific quantities such as height.

(Note that no scaling is required; the idea is to show that a patch of the world is mountainous without committing to specifics.)

  • Where the Terrain Areas overlap, GlobeMaster combines the symbols. For example, mountains and jungles will produce mountains with jungle around the bases.

3.5.2 Terrain Lines

Terrain Lines are user-drawn lines that show linear features such as Rivers, Passes, Roads and Mountain Ranges.

  • Terrain Lines override any Terrain Areas they cross.

  • Some Terrain Line types show interaction between Terrain Areas and Terrain Lines, for example Mountain Road shows a road winding around a mountain.

  • All Terrains types are available as Terrain Lines.

3.5.3 Terrain Features

Features represent things such as Cities, Castles, Towers of Ultimate Evil, and specific Mountains.

  • Features are resizable.

  • Features override Terrains and Terrain Lines.

  • All Terrains are also available as Features.

  • Feature symbols are generic in order to not present wrong information. E.g. only one castle symbol.

4Functions

4.1Measuring

A tool enables measuring from point to point and along Terrain Lines.

4.2 Turning

The globe can be turned by simple dragging and behaves like a physical globe.

  • Symbols maintain a fixed orientation with an option to redraw.

4.3 Zooming

You can zoom in and out as required. However, the Globe has five standard zoom thresholds – Global, Continent, Region, Local, Tactical.

  • Zooming scales the symbols so that they look sane. Typically, this means that symbols maintain the same screen size, e.g. a region of mountains simply shows more mountains.

  • Lower level edits do not automatically propagate to the higher levels, e.g. tweaking the course of a river and adding a village at the Local level does not impact the Regional level.

  • Higher level edits do not automatically erase lower level ones.

4.4 Layers

You can add information to different layers, switching them off and on as required.

  • Each terrain type has a layer.

4.5 Export Projections

GlobeMaster can export a variety of projections. These should not look embarrassing,

  • Symbols are resized after creating the projection, so not oddly stretched.

  • Scales, compass roses etc are provided.

  • Optional Hexagon overlay. Nice if this could be stretched by the projection.

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