Saturday, December 12, 2020

City Design WIP: Part Three

About two weeks into the process, a more finalized look finally emerges for the bright and beautiful city of Mythuín. As the result of "real life," I spent anywhere from 2 to 9+ hours each day actually working on the map (no weekends for indie publishers, of course), so work hours are indeed piling up. So far, the computer has had no problem handling the growing file size.

For the previous article, click here.

Much of the effort aimed at developing outlying suburbs and natural-looking terrain. At this scale, it was a challenge. After a few scrapped attempts, I happily settled on textures for farmland, woods, and hills.

The image above shows the South Bridge district. The section north of the river isn't finished. The farmland pattern came from an aerial view of fields in England, roughened and slightly blurred. I rendered it in a partially transparent layer over a mottled green-brown texture. Both components are feathered to smoothen out their edges. The process is simple: 1. Select areas on the map, 2. Copy the textures from separate files, 3. Paste to fill the selected areas. Repeat for each layer.

The image above shows the west bank. The step following the placement of farmland addressed small rivers and pathways. A new layer farther down received a mottled brown texture akin to bare dirt. I then traced pathways and riverbeds through the farmland with an eraser tool to reveal the bare dirt on the lower layer. In between those two layers, I drew white lines within the riverbeds, and replaced them with a water texture. When done, the edges of the pathways and the river textures got feathered for a more natural look.

The next image displays parts of the old town, the seaport, and the so-called Tower Hill area. The old town, known as "Old Meru," marks the location of the original Meruín settlement, wedged between a natural cove and a hill. The Meruín are aquatic elves, so their dwelling and street design reflects "fluid" lines. I altered the initial coastline inside the port and added docks and wooden piers. The hill presented a challenge. I scrapped a few attempts before settling on the present look. There are five separate layers, starting with the basic green-brown mottled texture I used for farmland. I tweaked the brightness, contrast, and hue of the first three layers. The last two consist in a brown rocky texture. All these layers were heavily feathered and blended together for the final result.

The Skyport and its warehouses lie on the north side of town. I copied original skyship artwork from earlier projects and rescaled it. This shows how large the city truly is. Most of these skyships are about 30-35 yards long. Ideally I should alter the edges of the river, since its banks are masonry. There ought to be docking features here and there alongside the river. The top of the image also shows a forest texture. It's layered directly on top of farmland, feathered, and rendered partially translucent to better blend it into the image. I also knocked out the grid from the city center, for clarity.

A riverine port and shaft lock are adjacent to the skyport. I had some fun showing rougher waters past the bridge and the waterfall. A shadow hints at the position of the cliff bisecting the entire city. The north bank shows a small suburb at the end of the bridge, a nearby forested stretch, and marshes below the cliff. The edge of the riverine port will be altered to look more like docking facilities. 

Talking about scale: here's a bit more  on the subject. The 1mm = 11 meters indication refers to the scale on the printed map. 100 meters = approx. 110 yards for those of you unfamiliar with the metric system. I also included travel times for characters moving about the city.

That's it for today. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

City Design WIP: Part Two

 About a week ago, I started showing the process I follow to design a city (click here for Part One). As promised, here are the next few steps.

The biggest task consists in drawing streets and open spaces with white lines. You can already tell where main districts may be located.

The old town huddles next to a big hill, just south of the port area. A fortification stands on the hill, dominating the harbor and its entrance. Low and lower-middle-class neighborhoods lie east of the cliff's edge. West of the cliff is where middle and upper classes reside, with the wealthiest buildings and those housing the realm's government facilities closest to the giant tree. Two forested parks straddle the large waterfall at the city's center, each with a mausoleum in its middle. Suburbs, hamlets, some forests, and farmland will occupy the west and south river banks. Here's a closeup of the center area.

The next step takes all of 30 seconds, which consists in an automated command adding a thin black outline around the white lines showing the streets. Zap!

The key to all this work is to rely on different layers for most things. Moving right along, the next step knocks out the white color from the map. That's even faster than adding the outline. The intent is to remove anything that would mask the color and texture of the streets in the next stage. Zap #2.

Now comes the more exciting part: adding color and texture. A light, gray/beige, gritty texture will do fine for streets and open spaces. At this scale, showing a cobblestone pattern is absolutely futile. A neutral blue for the river and pool is easy enough. I added a bit of green here and there for gardens and inner courts. It's important to fill in colors and textures on layers beneath the one with the outlines. Since this is a raster image, trying to add color on the same level would make the black outlines look really ragged. Plan ahead. Make backup copies of previous versions in case you can't fix a problem spotted too late in the process. Some editing will correct small details, such as intersecting outlines that were not visible earlier beneath the white layers. And voilà!

Various colors will replace the buildings' boring gray background. These will serve as a color code to locate the city's various districts. I added thin black lines to delineate adjacent buildings within city blocks. Surely, you're getting the point by now. Definitely easier to look at with the extra bits too. A later step will add more detail such as bridges for sure, extra towers, trees, the harbor's breakwater, docks, piers, ships, boulders alongside the seawall, and so on. Given the size of the city, it'll take a while. Patience is key.