A map is a useful means of helping people find their way round your mission. This is especially useful if the mission has a complicated layout.
There are many ways to draw a map. The following tutorial describes a method that does not require a great deal of skill.
Take a screenshot of your mission in top view. Right click in the top view and select Solo View to give yourself as much space as possible. You should also use the filter to turn off everything except Terrain.
Often you’ll find that even with the filter, there is too much detail. Delete any brushes that make it hard to see the basic layout of the place. For example, pyramid roofs, overhanging upper storeys, staircases etc. After tidying up the brushes, you will end up with something simpler:
Before you go further it’s wise to think about what style the map should have. Should it be like an architect’s plan (very neat and accurate), or should it have a more freehand look? For the former you can simply create a new layer and trace over the lines using a soft-edged brush. The latter style is a little more involved, but it is not difficult.
You can draw the map using any of the freehand tools in your graphics program. A graphics tablet can help, but even with a mouse you can get good results. I prefer a genuine hand-drawn map, which is explained in this section.
If you’re not concerned about accuracy/proportions, you can get some paper and just draw the map based on what’s on the screen. If you do want accuracy, print out the black and white screenshot and trace over it. If your paper is thin enough you’ll be able to see through to the lines below. If not, and you don’t have a lightbox, hold the pages up against a window. A few paperclips will keep the pages lined up.
In the past I’ve drawn the lines with a CD marker pen. These produce good thick lines, and the ink can soak into the paper. The example above contained too much detail for that, so I used a pencil. As the lead wore down it was easy to change the darkness and thickness of the lines. Below you can see the printout and the result of my tracing:
Around the edges you can change the outlines of the brushes, and draw some non-existant buildings to make the map feel like a part of a larger place.
Scan the image, or if lens distortion isn’t a problem, take a pictue and upload it onto your computer. You’ll need a high resolution for that to get a sharp enough image. This image was scanned at 300×300 dpi:
Next, you need to tidy up the background. It may look like pure white but there are in fact lots of subtle variatoins. This may cause problems later on, though it depends on what you do with this image.
Undo the selection, increase the threshold and try again. With the current example, a threshold of 30 allowed the tool to seelct most of the background. If the threshold is too high, the selection will start to eat into the lines. If you draw your lines with a pen, or a dark pencil, you can use a higher threshold.
It’s entirely your own preference, but it may be easier to ‘flatten’ the image to get a white background.
You can touch these up by hand (using a mouse or tablet) or you can apply a ‘drop shadow’ effect. In GIMP, go to Colours > Colour to Alpha, choosing white as the colour. This step helps to remove the white in the small spaces within the lines as well as the main background. The result is something like this:
Go to Filters > Light and Shadow > Drop Shadow. Set the offsets to 0, opacity to 100 (this can be changed afterwards via layer transparency) and lower the blur radius. Try starting with 5 and see how it looks. You’ll get a new layer underneath the main one. Duplicating this can make the shadow even deeper, helping to fill in the gaps:
This filling was done using a graphics tablet. GIMP supports many options, and in thise case the opacity of the brush was determined by the pressure I used. The filling should be done on a separate layer so you can adjust the transparency, and therefore the darkness.
There is a set of original T2-style blank maps here. NewDark allows maps to be in .png format, so you don’t have to use a 256 colour palette. You can search online for old paper and pick one you like. Before you add the outlines/text, you should resize it so it has the same aspect ratio as the default map pages. The pages eventually have to be 552×360, so the ratio is 1.53:1.
Once the background is ready, go back to the outline/filled image and scale it down so it will fit onto the background. Remember to keep the layers separate. Copy and paste each layer onto the map background, and you’ll end up with something like this:
You can further improve things by duplicating these layers and experimenting with blend modes and transparencies. If it looks good, it’s correct.
Your map may require some writing, and some lines/arrows to indicate various locations. You can use a handwriting font with your graphics program, or you can write by hand on paper and scan it in, just like the map. This should be done separately so that you can scale the outlines and the text by different amounts. Writing usually needs to be quite large so the player can easily read it.
Even the most scruffy handwriting font is still very regular. Every ‘e’ has the same distortion, for example. By using your own writing you can create something much more convincing. And if your pen is having trouble with its ink, your imperfections will be effortless.
Go to Save As or Export, and save the file as pageXXX.png. XXX should be 000, or 001 etc. It’s a convention to use page000 as a blank page for the player to store notes, but it’s your choice. Save the file to your intrface folder. You can optionally save it to a language subfolder if you have text and want to plan for including translations.
In Dromed, load your mission. You need to specify the minimum and maximum map pages. Type the following commands:
quest_create_mis map_min_page, 0 quest_create_mis map_max_page, 1
Suitable values depend on the files that exist.
A nice map is a very satisfying thing to add to your mission. I hope that after reading this you can see that with only the most basic drawing skills you too can draw a nice map. This turorial won’t be dealing with automaps, but if you want to try that, my AutomapPNG program includes a tutorial.