The Observer Effect

It’s been a while since I managed to get something up but, if you’re reading this, I don’t want you to think that I’m not dedicated to this effort.  I am. After all, I am on a journey to Master CC3+.

Posts in mud

It’s hard work, keeping a blog. It requires dedication and effort…and sometimes it still feels like you’re pushing through mud up to your knees.  Sloooow going.

But…man! It is sloooow going. The journey is taking much longer than I anticipated.  So much so that I don’t even feel like I’ve started.  I’m caught up in the Observer Effect, a strange and should-have-seen-it-coming side-effect of my attempt to be very public with my journey.

Because I tend to go deep rather than to go broad, I’m spending a lot more time researching and digging through online resources for good, relevant content than I originally thought I would. Back when I set myself the goal to post at least three times a week, I could not fully appreciate the amount of effort it was going to take to meet that goal.

I’m not an idiot.  I knew blogging about a complex and interesting topic, backed by a piece of professional software, was going to take time.  What I found along the way, though, was a lot more respect for Technical Writers, Authors, and professional bloggers – especially those who are not supported by a complete creative team.  My hat is off to you; my sword is raised.  I salute you.

This is hard work that has already required significant support from my wonderful wife and three great kids.  The only way to find time to indulge in this effort is to take it from somewhere else and while I may not actually be posting something new 3-5 times a week, I am studying the topic at least that frequently.  I couldn’t do that without my family’s support because maintaining an active site with original content looks a lot less like this (click to make big):

Sad...but this is how I hoped blogging would be.and a lot more like this (click to embiggen):

Insane...but this is pretty much how I really work.

That’s an insane flow-chart, isn’t it?  I so wish it were not true.  Crazy as it is, it quite accurately captures how I actually work (with some liberty/exaggeration for fun).

I’m still not sure if that is sad, “dedicated” or insane.  Even for this post, I spent a fair amount of time looking through Google images for a “How to Write a Blog Post” flow-chart.  There is a surprising absence of them.  About halfway through making that monstrosity – somewhere between “Realize it is too broad” and “Find an Image”, I realized I was doing it again – getting too involved with the material – but I just couldn’t help myself.

I’ll work on it and I’ll get better as we go along.  Right now, there is just so very much to learn – not just about Campaign Cartographer 3+ and the ProFantasy Software Suite but also about cartography, world-building, publishing, WordPress, etc.

I want you to get more out of this blog than just a list of steps on how to accomplish a particular task.  My assumption is that you can find the necessary incantations required to perform a particular trick within the Community, on the ProFantasy forum or via Google.  Rather than just spend our time learning incantations, I’m hoping that together we can learn to produce better maps through understanding the principles of cartography and the art of map-making.  Providing the “why” – with supporting resources and references – is the signal I hope I’m adding to all of the noise.

So, just to whet your appetite (and because I’m feeling pressure to get something published), here are some articles I am presently working on:

Elevation and The CC3+ Color Palette.  I’ll use creation of a physical world-map to drive a discussion about the usage of color in a map to suggest elevation, how to create a color palette in the GIMP and load that palette into CC3+.  We’ll touch on why color is important in a map and what makes for a pleasing color palette.  We’ll also discuss why using gray-scale and pattern fills instead of color can be a great alternative.  I’ll probably write this as one article and then see if I can divide it into three articles to have a bit of a buffer.  One post to cover why choosing a palette matters, one how-to article on creating a color palette and getting it loaded and one article on the gray-scale alternative.

Scale.  A post about common map scales, map sizes and how to scale symbols (especially the “Scale Bar” itself) to appropriately fit different world sizes. We’ll use the planets in our own solar system and Earth’s continents for comparison to help you decide the size of your own fantasy world.  Speaking from experience: you tend to realize that you don’t know anything about scale very shortly after you realize that you just put two-to-three Asia-sized continents down on your own fantasy world. Even though it is not complete, the writing I did on this article, changed my world. Literally.

Getting around in CC3+.  Moving around in CC3+ takes a bit of getting used to – especially if you are used to raster program methods of “grab and pan”.  This post describes my experiences using CC3+‘s various movement methods including panning, zooming, re-centering, using named views, and the scrollbars.  I go looking for an alternative (already have something in mind); I’ll tell you how that goes.  Probably a two-to-three parter: one or two articles to cover out-of-the-box techniques and one to cover alternate approaches.  Standard (for me) approach: write the entire article and then break it down.

A Map for Every Occasion. A discussion of the various thematic map types, the characteristics of those maps and when you might care to create each.  Not sure yet if I’ll tackle Map Projections as I’m just not sure how much Map Projections really mean to me at this point.  This one is still a very early idea.  I know I’ll cover differences between “world”, “regional” and “battle” maps.  Still considering if I should go into Political, Nautical, Climate, etc.

In addition to the items above, I’m also working on a Glossary that will cover cartographic words and phrases appropriate to fantasy map-making and a list of Annotated Resources (links to symbol libraries, tutorials, articles, etc. that I use or that I think others may find interesting).

What are you learning about? What do you want to learn about? What are you doing to learn it?  You should leave a comment and tell me about it.

Oh…and just to prove I am learning, I didn’t feed the spiders this time.

5 Responses

  1. Michael

    Wow, you really are creating a monstrous task for yourself, aren’t you? But just think of the sense of achievement you’ll feel when you finally become a Master.

    I’ve had CC right back since the good old CC-DOS days, but have never more than dabbled with it; your articles are giving me new inspiration, so thanks for that. Keep up the good work.

    Also, I can instantly tell you’re an old-school IT industry veteran, because you like flowcharts! New, fancy, flash-in-the-pan architects and DevOps people use UML, Use Case Diagrams, and TOGAF rubbish instead….pfft. Flowcharts are far superior 🙂

    1. Robert Jacobs

      Thanks for the encouragement Michael. Glad to know that you are finding the articles useful and inspirational; that made my day.

      In my day-job, I am one of those architects you mention (well, not exactly, I’d like to think I’m an enabler and not a road-block and definitely not a flash-in-the-pan). I like to think my background as a developer has kept me relevant and I always try to be one of those guys that balances between what it takes to deliver and the governance that keeps big enterprises moving along. I’m not a TOGAF guy – I’m a whatever-is-appropriate-to-the-audience guy but I do prefer UML and Use Case Descriptions. I’m on-again-off-again with Agile – love the idea but only in circumstances where the team has control of their entire technical stack. Most of my experience has been on larger integration projects and, in those cases, Agile falls down unless everyone is doing Continuous Integration and Delivery (which, unfortunately, I have not found to be the case).

      Figured the flow-charts were more appropriate to my audience. 🙂

  2. Looking forward to the article on scale. I’m doing a much smaller map –a 100×80 mile area– and symbol scale is giving me fits. The default for the template seems so small. I figure I’ll tackle continents and worlds when I get the “neighborhood” right. 😉

    1. R.A.Jacobs

      I’ll try to bump that one up in the list. My day job has been sapping all my time recently so things have been going slow…it is such a critical topic. If you’d like, I can send you the notes I have so far for the article and we can have a conversation via email. Let me know.

      RE: your “neighborhood” approach. I’ve always been more of an outside-in/top-down designer than an inside-out/bottom-up designer which is kind of why the articles I’m writing are coming in the order they are. I’m jealous of designers who are able to think more inside-out; you can get down to business having fun more quickly. 🙂

      A quote from an upcoming article for you to consider:

      Despite advice to the contrary, the approach I’m taking to worldbuilding is to start top-down/outside-in, establish a strong foundation and then work bottom-up/inside-out. This approach isn’t for everyone. As Wikipedia notes:

      A world constructed from the top down tends to be well-integrated, with individual components fitting together appropriately. It can, however, require considerable work before enough detail is completed for the setting to be useful, such as in the setting of a story.

      With the bottom-up approach, the designer focuses on a small part of the world needed for his or her purposes…This approach provides for almost immediate applicability of the setting, with details pertinent to a certain story or situation. The approach can yield a world plagued with inconsistencies, however. By combining the top-down and bottom-up approaches, a designer can enjoy the benefits of both. This is very hard to accomplish, however, because the designer must start from both sides creating twice as much work which may not reach the desired product as quickly.

      1. I hear ya about work and time; my map is progressing very slowly, thanks to that. :/ And thanks for the worldbuilding link. I’ll look forward to reading it.

        (Just to clarify: my local map isn’t for play. It’s just to learn the program. Although, I’m liking it so much, I might as well use it. 🙂 )

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