When writing this post up I am reminded of that Hollywood Producer’s cliche “you have three options: fast, cheap, and good–pick two.” So there is no perfect way of coming up with a map. The process I use is pretty complicated and using both my computer and good old fashion pen and pencil. So here we go.
The first question that has to answered is: can you draw and do you have patience? On the first question I would say that I am above doodling. I know how to draw but I would never describe myself as in artist.
First off I always create a world map. The reason is because I love world maps and the second reason is that it is much easier to zoom out than it is to zoom in. If you were wondering I am definitely a macro to micro worldbuilder. Now the first thing that I must do is to decide on what I want in my map. Whenever you are at a loss in the creative process remind yourself of what your goals are. And if you discover that you don’t have any goals well go back and create some. Since this world is going to be vaguely Cold War like with East vs. West my main goal is that I want the geography to clearly show the east-west divide. Also as added detail I want the divide to be a water barrier like a sea or a great lake. So that rules out pangeas and archipelagos
Now the program I use for my map-making is a software called Fractal Mapper 8.0. I first picked up the software about eight years ago. The software is good and as served me well over the years. But the problem is that I have worked with it so long that I have become used to its nuances and frustrated by its limitations. I find the main program too tedious for my map-making (I don’t want to waste precious time dragging and dropping the mountains for this mountain chain or having to fiddle with the layers). But what is in the purchase of Fractal Mapper is this free add-on called Fractal World Explorer. What this program does is that it randomly generates a world map. This is the main lesson I have: use computer generated maps for inspiration but do the nitty gritty by hand. It will save you a lot of headache. So after cycling through a few dozen worlds I find one that is promising. ….Yeah that’s the catch. Fractal World Explorer will spit out a complete and utter mess. This is just a catastrophe. But it does give you tools to fix it and the many years that I have been using this program I honed the use of these tools to do my bidding. And I can notice some promising areas that can work with my stated goal. The circled areas are the places that I find interesting and that I want to develop (the part with the black zigzags are the places that I am going to nuke completely). The image below is the result of my labors. Now for some stupid reason the software has this Mercator projection to the map so the areas near the poles are stretched so that massive area near the top is much smaller once put on a globe (a cool feature that is apart of Fractal World Explorer). I am going to pull up Fantasy Name Generator and pluck out a few names. I am done for now. Later I will develop a more extensive geography, but for that I like to use pen and pencil. Next time we will discuss the magic system of the world. See you then!