Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Moving Beyond the Skies

+Bruce Heard is hard at work on the latest +World of Calidar book: CC1 Beyond the Skies.  He has been posting previews of it on his blog for a while now, including most recently excerpts from the main part of the book: the god entries.  As you may have guessed from the previews, the main text is well underway, and Bruce is also creating symbols for each god, as well as some pretty amazing plans for major temples.

At the same time, I have begun work on two other aspects of the project: layout and mapping.

The layout is likely going to be very much in line with CAL1 In Stranger Skies, although we're also trying out some new features.  One of the big questions is whether to keep CAL1's three columns or switch to a two column layout.

Cartography-wise, CC1 is a very different beast from CAL1.  The maps this time will be much more thematic.  In addition to Bruce's temple plans, I am working to create some fixed styles for presenting demographic information — which in CC1's case mostly means geographical distribution of faiths.  Bruce has already posted maps for each Calderan nation on his blog.  Here's a sneak peek at a work-in-progress version of Bruce's Elven Faiths map:

Prevailing Elven Faiths in Alfdaín, Great Caldera, Calidar

This was a test-of-concept for the area colour-coding, using more subtle borders.  I have wanted to try out this technique for many years, but never had a reason to use it until now.  It's actually quite a simple matter of blending options in Photoshop, using an inner glow or a gradient stroke.  The tricky part is going to be in the colours, and making them fit nicely into the rest of the map.  I'm considering embedding some sort of other information into the colours, rather than just having them arbitrary.  And I'm also hoping to define a visual style for this type of demographic map that will allow you to see easily at a glance what type of information it's conveying.

More on all of this in the coming months.  I'll be back with more news as work progresses.  In the meantime, check out Bruce's previews over on his blog.

Here's a handy overview of the extensive material you can get a sneak peek at:

Monday, 13 October 2014

Soltan Ephemeris Tour

Earlier in the year, I posted previews of the Soltan Ephemeris, the solar system of the +World of Calidar.  Since then, on Facebook and Google+ I've posted various pieces of concept art — renders of each planet, set against beautiful NASA space imagery.  All of these come together in an illustration on page 119 of Calidar: In Stranger Skies, which shows the Soltan Ephemeris in all its glory.

You can see how to go about making things like this in the tutorials on my Cartography Links page, accessible from the menu bar at the top of this page.  (I watched them all and then took the bits I liked best.)

But today I thought it would be fun to gather them all up together here in one place.  At the same time, I've put together another video tour showcasing all of these images.

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Soltan, planet render, Thorfinn Tait Cartography
The Mighty Soltan
I had a lot of fun making this image.  I actually created a full equirectangular projection map of Soltan's "surface".  I'm not sure it will ever be needed aside from in making this image, but you never know with fantasy settings.

Soltan is utterly vast: 110 times the size of its largest orbiting planet, Calidar.  It's really very similar to our sun in most respects.

Narrated tour of the Soltan Ephemeris at YouTube

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Five Calidar PDF Secrets

Making the most of Calidar's PDF digital editions

Calidar's Kickstarter fulfilment is proceeding apace, and the PDF versions of the main book and the Kickstarter exclusive short story compilation have both been sent out.  Public release is drawing closer and closer, and hopefully Kickstarter backers' books are winging their way to you as I type.  Here's a little look at the PDFs to tide you over.

One of the last things I did for +Bruce Heard's first +World of Calidar project before release was preparing the PDFs.  Coming off of layout, it felt like the logical next thing to do — creating an index, bookmarking, creating hyperlinks, and a few other little tricks to enhance the usability of the PDFs.

But you can't use them unless you know they're there, so I'm going to take a moment to introduce these hidden features.  (Note that I will be explaining these using Adobe Reader.  Not all PDF readers give you access to all of these options.)

1. The background can be turned off

In the Layers tab, you can see the layers that make up the PDF file.  Not only that, you can even turn them on and off.

In the current version, all the text and images are on Layer 1, while the background elements are on the layer named Background.  This means you can turn off the parchment background graphic to print out on white paper.  (For your own use, of course.)

Notes: Layer 2 is empty, and currently the deck plan backgrounds are not on the background layer.  With Bruce's approval, these things can be fixed in a future update.

2. Bookmarks for easy navigation

Both of Calidar's PDF files are fully bookmarked.  Access the "Bookmarks" feature (called the Table of Contents in some PDF readers), and you will get an expanded version of the Table of Contents right in the sidebar.

Rather than just duplicate the Table of Contents, I went a step further and added in all the sub-sections, as well as two separate lists at the bottom: an index of maps and an index of art appearing in the book.  Using these lists you can peruse all of the maps and art, as well as getting a caption for each picture telling you what's in it.


3. Table of Contents and Index are hyperlinked

In addition to the bookmarks, the book's actual Table of Contents itself is made up of hyperlinks to its various sections.  These links are invisible, but that's okay because everything is linked.

The page numbers listed in the Index are also linked.  When there is a range of pages, the links take you to the numbers shown, which is to say the first and last pages in the range.

I also indexed the art and maps.  This is what the "Hidden Text" layer is there for.  You can't see it, but it actually includes text captions for each image, allowing them all to be indexed just like regular text.  To differentiate these, we used blue for art, brown for map references.

4. References are hyperlinked, too

You know when the text says things like "see This Section" and "for which see That Section"?  These are all hyperlinks, too.  The linked part is the bold chapter or section title.

5. Maps include scalable vectors

While most of the visual elements of the maps are medium resolution raster images, some of them include vectors — and all of the text is plain old vector-based text.

What does this mean?  You can zoom in on vector text and images and it will remain sharp.  And the text is fully selectable and indeed searchable: a normal search on the PDF will throw up text on the maps.

Maps which include vector elements include the Soltan Ephemeris Orbital Diagram (fully vector), the World of Calidar world maps (everything but the coastlines is made of vector art), and the City of Glorathon (only the external terrain is not vectors).

Best of all, all of the deck plans are 100% vector.  This means that you can zoom in as much as you want, and they will remain crystal clear.  You could use this feature to create floor plans for use with miniatures, for example.  (Again, for your own use, of course.)

Zoomed in view of the Star Phoenix's Forecastle, generated from the PDF.

Calidar is here...  Time to explore!

All of these points apply to both the main book CAL1 In Stranger Skies, as well as the Kickstarter exclusive PDF, CST1 Under the Great Vault.

Happy reading!