New Year - New Horizons 2018


Now comes the season for reflection, reckoning and to look forward. Traditionally I try to sum up my professional year and lay out my main plans and goals for next year. Thanks to the miracles of Internet and the Wayback Machine I managed to retrieve last years post from my now defunct website. Again I'm sorry for failing to maintain my website properly. To get a new proper website up and running is first priority for 2019, with added functionality for both regular visitors and my patrons. My goal is to have this up and running in January.

A year ago I wrote this:

By the end of 2018 my plan is to have successfully finished my second Midgard project, launched my Patron and have my first sets of maps on the new Content Markets. I also want to attend more conventions, Gary Con, Paizo, Con and others as well as Gen Con would be a real treat to attend. Budgetary constraints will prevent me from attending all of them but a with a bit of planning and luck I will get to some of them.

So how did it go?

Midgard was a huge undertaking that took up the lion's share of the first half of the year but I managed to finish it roughly on time. Mapped an area roughly the size of the Flanaess in around 8 months!

My Patreon launched quietly in the background at first with two minor projects to test the waters. Despite a reasonable interest things didn't feel right, so I sat down and worked out a new plan for my Patreon - to do what have always been my main passion - Greyhawk Maps. So In May I relaunched my Patreon with the goal of mapping the World of Greyhawk to the best of my ability. How this have fared I will come back to below. 

But first I'm proud to say I did nearly all of the things I listed, except one, my maps are not on any of the content markets. My excuse for this is that the two I had in mind was DM's Guild and Realm Works content Market. Thankfully this is not due to me being lazy, since one is not yet open for Greyhawk content and the other is not open at all yet. 

In fact 2018 have been my best year in doing this by far, with GaryCon, Paizocon and Gen Con as highlights as well as visits to both WotC and Paizo's offices. Have meet Darlene and a very many professionals and fans from the gaming community over the year, its been fantastic, inspirational and many new friendships have been forged. This year has also been the year that I have confronted my limits and weaknesses as well as my strengths. Now there are no doubts, my biggest professional flaw is that I find it horribly difficult to try and talk to my webcam explaining what I do. It feels like talking to myself in public, which throws me completely off track. My ambitious plan for a series of "How to videos" came to a meager few poorly narrated attempts that have prompted me to rethink my approach. 

The social factor is key, as the series of Legends & Lore Shows on Twitch for The Greyhawk Channel, that I co-hosted with Mike Bridges as well as having Jay Scott as a guest on one of my two Map Streams on my own Channel. With someone to interact with I can do this, is my take away from what have been both a challenging and very rewarding new part of my professional life. 

Thankfully I have received a solid backing on Patreon that have given me the chance to go back and work on Greyhawk again after several years doing other things. After a few months of trying to get things up and running I found my mojo again and more..

The results are a revamped version of my 20 years old Flanaess Map, with a reedited terrain and many new and corrected features. This map will be a good solid foundation for my Greyhawk related work going forward. Lots of extras have also been possible, with the spread Maps and Handout Maps that I'm in the middle of finishing as the main highlights.

Next years commission will be a still secret one for Kobold Press that will take the lions share of my time this coming spring. More on this when the project is announced. This will be my main commission project for the year, and thanks to your support I will now plan to devote half of my working hours to Greyhawk, the most I have done ever! 

What to come.....

I have a myriad of ideas and a number of things that are in the experimental phase (I'll present my workflow in a separate post later) and a number of projects ready to be started next year. 

The first of these are a first expansion of my Flanaess map, Hepmonaland in the same style as my existing Flanaess map. For the past year I have try to figure out if it is possible to expand my Flanaess map using using only Photoshop and still get a result that are at least as good as the existing map. By skipping the tedious and liming phase using Bryce3D I could advance much faster, and also be able to separate the shading from the texture. This is a holy grail for the ability to use the texture with a future created heigthmap.  

After a fair amount of experimenting I now know how to do this and it was easier than I thought and the results can be stunning, and it also gives me complete artistic freedom to take things to new heights that can be needed for a fantasy world. Oerth is a truly fantastic world that will require an epic majestic take on things at times.

My goal is to have Hepmonaland ready for public release next Holiday Season. My Patreon members will get a contentious access to new versions as the projects progress during the year. This will be the big ticket item this year and hopefully a good companion to the existing map, as well as creating texture and other elements for a future 3D map of Hepmonaland. 

This project will also mean I gain invaluable knowledge in how to work in Photoshop to create texture, shading and more. If the results are good enough I plan to go back and rework parts of the Flanaess to do the same and make that part of the goals for Flanaess 2019 or 2020 Editions.

A big part of this project will be a new way to present and store data. I will try and do this using QGIS and some of its plugins to make this a GIS compatible project. The goals with this is to make the end result much more usable and editable. QGIS is an open source application.

Before you set out on a project you have to plan and research, last year one of my main focus for this was how to skip the Bryce3D part of mapping. This year my research will be to do the opposite, to bring back the 3D bit again. This time it will not be using technology from the 1990's, it will be with state of the art tools of today. The first test area for this will be the Lendore Isles that won the vote on Flanaess Geographical Society Facebook Group. It needed to be a set of fairly small islands separate from the mainland. 

This will be a multi stage approach. First to create a 3D map with the same resolution as the existing Flanaess map. This can be used for overview maps as well as part of a global 3D map. The next step is to refine and re-texture this data to create a high resolution model of the terrain that matches the exiting map as closely as possible. The resolution I'm planning for these are 100 ft per pixel, covering areas up to 20 miles or so. This data can then be used to create photo real images covering areas of a few miles across, for things like city maps, famous locations and more to be presented in ways we haven't seen much of in the world of RPG settings yet. My goal next year is to do the first stage for Lendore Isles and a first area of mainland Flanaess. 

Due to persistent support among my most loyal Patreon members, the honor of being first mainland test area will go to Ratik. If the Lendore Isles turns out successful, I hope to be able to do Ratik as well next year. These are the my main project plans for 2019, but there will be time for small side things as well. Spread Maps will be something I will come back to and develop some more, trying to expand their usability and creating interesting stuff with them.

The field of computer graphics is advancing very rapidly nowadays and this trend is probably only going to pick up speed the next few years. The field of 3D graphics will be way more accessible with cheaper hardware, major releases in the field of open source tools like Blender. I'm my specialty, a new generation of terrain tools is coming with Gaea and Vue with new features and better performance. Some of the old tools like World Machine might be able to keep up with new tricks, whether they will or not, the tools will get much better. This is great news, but it also mean having to learn new things. 

I plan to take lots of time to learn and improve. A big part of this will be try try again to invite you along on this journey, so there will be written blog posts, Twitch Streams and Discord screen share sessions. Twitch Streams will be for everyone and focus more on basic stuff and a way to get a taste of what I'm doing. A new season of the Legends & Lore Show will start again fairly soon next year on the Greyhawk Channel. In addition to the L&L Show I will do a weekly map centered show on my own Twitch channel, and also the occasional special show if I have something extra to show. I will try and invite guests to take part in my Twitch Shows, so if you have a short little project that might be doable in a couple of hours please reach out to me and maybe we can do it in an episode. I had a blast creating a custom Ulek map for Jay Scott, and he will be back for more next year. 

For my Cartographer Patreon members I will do screen share sessions showing how to do things and general Q&A or topics of interest.  Hopefully these session can be recorded and be accessible for my top tier patrons afterwards as well. I'm sure it can be done, just have to figure out the best way to do it. Scheduling will be worked out in January when the Legends & Lore Show have its new recording time set. Another thing that needs to be done next year is to determine the projects for 2020. This is a job mainly for my Patreon members, so expect a series of polls to decide what my Patreon should be doing going forward. 

In the background

I routinely spend time learning new stuff, experimenting and trying to improve my results or find a better, or easier way, of doing things. This is not something I do haphazardly, I try to focus these efforts on what I need for future projects. For example this years big experiment have been to try and recreate my Flanaess mapping style using only Photoshop, and now that is ready to be used in mapping Hepmonaland. 

The stage before Experimenting is Concept, basically focused daydreaming with note taking. Letting my inspiration run wild and writing down ideas, sketch visions or capture those fleeting ideas when they pop up. Experimenting is to try and find out if an idea might be possible to realize. The Underdark is one of the big things that I'm now ready to bring from Concept stage to Experimenting with. Fantasy Elements are another one that sounds cryptic, but will probably make sense when I present some of the experimentation.  

Thank you so much for making it possible for me to do this, it means the world to me to be able to work on what I'm passionate about. Fantasy Cartography is a long meandering journey filled with struggles, pitfalls but also adventure, excitement and the joy of exploration and world building. I hope you want to share the journey with me!