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Map Tutorial



Hi everyone-

I'm back with another update here. And to reveal the surprise . . .

As hinted at in small print at the end of my last update, and as requested by many loyal readers, I'm devoting this update to showing how exactly I make these maps. And afterwards, we'll look at some new maps. wink.gif

I've learned a few things studying David and Emil's tutorials (dedgren and emilin, for those who didn't know), as well as getting some tips from Daniel (Shadow Assassin) and I kind of landed on somewhat of a hybrid of their respective methods. Making a road map of your cities isn't difficult to figure out, but it can be difficult to master. If you have any familiarity with graphic design, this may be a bit tedious, so my apologies in advance.

The first step, obviously, is getting the street network layout out of the game and into some sort of graphics software. The method I use involves taking the in-game Camera, and simply taking a picture of the Traffic DataView.


After this, I go into The GIMP (a free, open-source program, found here), and I open up the screen capture I took in-game, and simply cut the Traffic DataView graph out, and place it into its own document.

Things are a bit small right now, so I upsize the graph, usually from the standard 256x256 up to either 1536x1536 or 2048x2048. It'll get a bit pixelated after doing this, but considering what comes next, it's no issue at all.



After this, I close down The GIMP and open up another free, open-source program, Inkscape (found here). Inkscape is a vector graphics program, and for those that don't know, vector graphics are essentially line-based, and it is a "lossless" medium (as opposed to conventional "raster graphics")--rescaling it will have no effect on quality.

I open up my upsized Traffic DataView in Inkscape, and the remaining process involves just tracing the lines on the DataView with the Bezier Curve tool. It works almost exactly like the "Line" tool in good old MSPaint (and most other image-editing programs), except it does have some other, more advanced features.


By default, the Bezier Curve tool produces rather thin-looking black lines at a 1px width. Doesn't really look all that great. But it's possible to edit the color and width, as well as other properties of the line quite easily. All you need to do to bring up the "Fill and Stroke" dialog box, by double-clicking the little color swatches down in the lower left corner.


The "Stroke paint" tab affects the color of the line--you can change the line either by using the color wheel, or by specifying a "web color" code in the "RGBA" box.


You can change the width in the "Stroke style" tab, as well as affecting various other characteristics of the line.


There are a few other little tricks I would like to share--namely, mapping bodies of water. Typically, what I do involves tracing the shoreline all the way around, and then connecting the ends to make a continuous line. Then, I go back into the "Fill and Stroke" box, and under "Fill", I select the "Flat Color" box (the solid, filled-in square) and just specify the color.


The same method can be used for showing city boundaries, etc.

As far as adding text, it's just as simple as using the Text tool, and specifying the font and size. Flipping and rotation is also easily possible--rotation by angles other than 90-degree increments is easily possible with the "Transform" option under the "Object" menu. And because the text is in a vector format, there's no quality degradation from rotating it at an odd angle.

As far as smoothing things out on curves, the trick I usually do involves trying to conform to the curves as closely as possible simply by clicking new points to change the angle accordingly. Upon doing this, I use the "Node" tool, which shows all the points on that line. Then, I click each node on the curve and use either the "Make selected nodes smooth" or "Make selected nodes symmetric" (usually in combination--"Make selected nodes smooth" is just to the left of "symmetric") and it will make the line curve a bit more gently. Sometimes, things will get a bit deformed, but it's possible to control the arc of the curve by using the little handles that now stick out from the node. It'll take a little trial and error, but it can be done.


So, there you have it. Obviously, if you have another software suite already that can handle both raster and vector graphics, like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, those will also work nicely in place of The GIMP and Inkscape, though you can't beat the price on those two programs.

And here's our finished product, a map of the Delphi area, which is located about 7 miles north of Argentum. It's relatively remote as well, and as you can see, Highway 61 is actually only a 2-lane highway here (an aptly named one, too wink.gif).


Here's an in-game overhead shot of the area.


Hope that was at least somewhat useful. smiley.gif

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