April 13, 2018


I look at real-world maps a lot. It's a good exercise and it helps me uncover interesting features that I'd like to incorporate into my own world.

One thing I notice consistently is that real world coasts are a lot smoother than most fractured fantasy coastlines. Many years of oceanic action will do that. Above (or below, if we're in the southern hemisphere) the 70th parallel, the smoothness gives way to glacially roughened fjords, such as the coast of Norway or southern Chile (this is not a law but serves as a roughly observed rule of thumb).

Coastlines also demonstrate fractal properties: that is, they display similar characteristics at different scales. A smooth coastline is smooth up close. A fjorded coastline is fjorded up close. This means I don't have to worry too much about scale while I'm drawing all the coasts by hand. There's a danger here because when you're doing this much work by hand, it's easy to fall into repeated patterns.

Despite this, there are no straight lines in nature. So, once again, I have to make a tradeoff between reality and gameability. In this case, lots of smooth curves exponentially increases the size of my SVG, so I'm going to make all my segments straight, at least. I add nodes every 5 miles or so, and jitter them slightly (by about 1 px or around 1200 ft) so they're not perfectly smooth. Just enough roughness to make it look good. Thats still enough detail to tell a good story.

Great care must be taken with glacial areas so as to not make the fjords too big. Maybe I can trace some or Norway or Chile's coast to get a more accurate characterization. Without actual fjord coast to trace or copy, it's very difficult to predict how those "cracks" will occur. Usually what happens when I encounter a situation like this is I do a bit of research and come up with a model that would shock any serious scientist of the field, but yields sufficient results for my map. I don't know that that's possible.

My iterative process does serve to make the coastline somewhat more natural. I've done a few tests, considering how rivers affect the point at which they reach the sea (or their destination body of water). So I am optimistic that the various other processes I subject the map to (river erosion, deposition, mountain chains) will positively shape the coastline to appear more natural and less ad hoc.

I also have learned that I need to work backwards to the places I actually want to start in my game. I tend to refine my technique of course, so the early parts are always worse. In mass-scale artistic projects, I either get lazy or better. But I usually don't maintain the same standard.

Resources of interest:

No comments:

Post a Comment