First, the technical aspects of this. The final image sizes were exceeding 3 gigabytes in Photoshop’s large file format. Most of this came in the last few days of the project, where I was combining layers from different files and adding touchup layers. I have a computer literally built for exactly this purpose (drawing huge maps), and I did not expect the 10-15 minute save sessions I was dealing with. Lesson learned — next time I’m going to handle large maps in chunks!
The project was entirely done in Photoshop CS4. For most of the early project I was using 64-bit since it could access the full 12gb of RAM. However, CS4 64-bit began locking up with light rendering, which I was using to aid the shaded relief I was working on. At about this point, any time my computer idled, CS4 64-bit would crash. For the last few days of the project I moved exclusively to 32-bit, which was mostly stable.
This is a hand-drawn map mixed with the aid of digital processes. Specifically, I used three layers of shading, one of which was a computer-generated shaded relief technique, which allowed for very accurate height-map shading. The height maps were generated from specific contours I designed in Photoshop, based off the drawn ridgelines. If you look closely, you’ll see the hand-drawn ridgelines that generate mountainous terrain.
That said, there were also two layers of hand-shading. Because an automated shaded relief does not accurately give a feel of depth in a map of this scale, I used airbrushes to add faint highlights and shades across the world. This is specifically what allows for things like plateaus and high mountains.
Rivers were by far the biggest time investment in this project. Unfortunately, for the precipitation of this world (called The Sinking Lands for a reason), I just couldn’t skimp on them.
The entire project was broken up into 9 segments before it could be processed by DeepZoom Composer. The viewer on the webpage above is based off Seadragon AJAX, the non-Silverlight version of DeepZoom.
Note: There’s touch-up to do on this map, especially w/ color and gradients that didn’t do the transfer to JPEG file format well. Most of this has already been done in the source files, but because a full compile locks down my Photoshop computer for so long, it may be a while before I update the files server-side.
There’s also one river violation. Not the one in the South w/ the big lake — that’s intentional and is a canal. The river violation will be removed; the river was there first and the mountain decided to jump in when I wasn’t looking.
The first thing to understand about this map is that it has been developed for use in a browser-based game. The reason there are no cities or other landmarks shown on the world map viewer is because — at a point relatively soon, we hope — we’ll have them as clickable, interactive markers.
We’ve got a lot of written story to Evensfell, most of which will be published in the coming days and weeks (some of which already has been, if you check out “The Firefly King”). Evensfell is a concept that is completely independent of the game based on it — more accurately, the people, places, and stories have been around since around 2003, and the game is built on the story, not the other way around.
The map does not show the entire world, nor even a major continent. When I refer to the ‘world’ or ‘world map,’ it is in reference to the world the people of these lands know.
Evensfell is a drowning world. Off the Eastern shores, an endless system of hurricanes and tornadoes permanently blackens the skies, whipping torrential rains across most of the lands. This is The Blackened Reach. Snow twists in from the north, feeding into the Reach.
The Blackened Reach has twice broken past the Eastern mountains and brought the Great Winters upon Evensfell. During these events, civilization has collapsed as food supplies disappeared.
Mountains are crumbling under the relentless rain. Through the interior seas of Evensfell, sailors see the ruins of ancient cities just beneath the surface.
The Reach will sink the world.