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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 35 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Has anybody used the pro fantasy map making software?  (Read 2047 times)
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« on: December 03, 2008, 02:31:25 AM »

Ron, I'm not sure where this is supposed to go, so feel free to move it to [suitable location].

I was thinking about using the Pro Fantasy software to make a world map for my fantasy setting.  I watched some of the tutorials, and I think I could learn it fairly quickly.  The basic software is only about $50, which certainly beats the time of drawing it by hand.  The maps look pretty good.  I read over the EULA, and it sounds like they're pretty open to you using maps in commercial content or handing them (your own maps) out for free, which leaves me open to eventual pdf distribution, if I desire. 

I'm always a little hesitant with things like this, however.  If anybody has any experience with it, I'd like to hear about it.  Things like "well, you really need the $200s of expansion packs to make it worth your while" and "it took me 40 hours to learn it.." are the types of things I want to hear about.  I haven't had much luck finding information elsewhere, it's almost like this company suddenly popped into existence...
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Dementia Games
Member

Posts: 29


« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2008, 04:12:15 PM »

David,

My post got lost so here's the short short version.

I first used their software with Campaign Cartographer, part of AD&D Core Rules 2.0 in 1998.  It made maps akin to Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms at the time, and I found it fairly easy to use.  Of course, Campaign Cartographer probably had much more limited symbols and tiles, but even so I was able to create some great maps over the years.  Today's versions are bound to be better and probably easier to pick up.  The interface used to be similar to AutoCAD and variants, if you're familiar with that layout.  Today, I don't know, since my experience flatlines there.  I would say that if they still offer free trials (they used to offer free downloads that were somewhat limited, particularly in the ability to save the map), then you've got nothing to lose in trying it.  Things may have changed drastically since then, but it was easy to pick up (a few hours and I was off to the races) and fairly powerful even in that limited state.  Give it a try if they offer it.
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David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2008, 09:14:19 PM »

Thank you for your input, Dementia. I have a little review for anyone else reading this.

Well, I went ahead and bought it.  They don't offer a demo, but they offer a "14 day money back guarantee" which is, imo, a lot worse then a demo.  It took me about 8 hours to finish a fairly well done map, but there's still a ton for me to learn and it'll be better for me to start fresh on a new map than use this one for anything. What the tool set offers over a program like Photoshop, are some pre-made icons, as well as what they call "Sheets." Sheets basically find the edges of objects and apply a filter to them to get a map effect. (Like coasts, beaches, and gradients.) A skilled Photoshop user would also know how to apply these filters, although it is handled more elegantly by Fantasy Cartographer. 

One flaw with Fantasy Cartographer is that it is very utilitarian in design, and a little outdated.  While it has layers that are similar to Photoshop, they are very difficult to work with. I won't go into too much detail, but basically it requires you to go to a different screen to manipulate the layers, whereas Photoshop lets you do all of that from the toolbar.

Having "Enough" to do a project like I want to use it for, requires a much larger investment of time and money, as I feared. There are $500 worth of expansions you can purchase.  The biggest two are City Designer and Dungeon Designer which cost $40 each.  If you do a "typical" fantasy city (the inside of the buildings, too), you need both expansions.  I don't need either of these for my world map, but I had went ahead and tried out City Designer because it sounded fun.

The next big expansions add more icons.  There aren't a whole ton to begin with, and they're very generic.  Unfortunately, you come back to the problem of doing things by hand, again. You can spend several hundred getting more icons, since most everything else you can purchase comes with at least a few icons (including their yearly magazine.)

If you're looking to use this software for any sort of "professional" project, and you already own Photoshop, you might just consider sticking with that.  Everything that Fantasy Cartographer offers can be accomplished with filters and a little copy+paste.  If the price of all the software expansions you'd need for your project, plus the time you spend mastering this program and the time spent tooling your icons, seems reasonable, then it might be worth it.  If you don't own Photoshop or a similar program, well ProFantasy's huge package is cheaper (although more unwieldly), than buying Photoshop.  If you have no artistic talent and hiring an artist for $50 sounds like a bad idea, then Fantasy Cartographer is also a good choice.

I guess, in summary, "Meh."
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MatrixGamer
Member

Posts: 601


WWW
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2008, 06:31:54 AM »

I use Campaign Cartographer 2 to make board game maps. I think it works well for large scale area maps and they have add ons to do cities and 3D maps. I'm not totally satisfied with the results but it is passable. I'm toying with trying out Adobe Illustrator to do maps but haven't tried it yet.

No matter what program you use I suspect it will be a lot of work. Computers help but art is still art.

Chris Engle
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Pelgrane
Member

Posts: 135


« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2008, 03:33:13 AM »

Disclosure: I co-own ProFantasy Software.

In answer, it depends what style of map you are looking to make, what style of map you want to make and whether your time or money is at a premium. If you can point me at an existing style you like, I might be able to help.

I recommend that if you are on a budget, and CC3 alone doesn't have a style you like, you take a look at the galleries for our annuals vol 1 and vol 2. If there is a map making style there you like, you won't need anything but CC3 and that annual.

CC3 certainly makes it easier to create good-looking maps, but it won't make you an artist. We don't want people who won't find it useful buying it. You might also consider asking over on the ProFantasy forums. The community members are very helpful, and you'll get an idea what new users can create with CC3 with or without add-ons.



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David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2008, 04:08:53 AM »

Pelgrane, in case you come back, I'll go into a little more detail on a couple of things. Also, maybe you can recommend icons that don't have the shadows...

Quote
The next big expansions add more icons.  There aren't a whole ton to begin with, and they're very generic.  Unfortunately, you come back to the problem of doing things by hand, again. You can spend several hundred getting more icons, since most everything else you can purchase comes with at least a few icons (including their yearly magazine.)

The core programs include a fair number of "central" icons, like mountains. As you start getting outside the realm of a grassy green map, you start running into troubles with being able to do snow, desert, molten/ash and rocky landscapes.  Basically everything you run into in a typical fantasy campaign. 

My other issue with the icons is just the general design choices made with them. For example, the mountains have a semi-transparent shadow that stretches across the area to the side of the mountain. First of all, I've never seen this in on a fantasy map before (the shadows were always contained within the edges of the mountain.) Secondly, mountains don't really shadow their surrounding area except during dusk.  Unfortunately, this makes it really hard to place them, and doesn't look very good, imo.  I would personally have found the program much less unwieldy if icons had contained their shadow within their edges. 

Another example is the groups of trees.  All of the groups of trees are squares, which is actually very unnatural.  I was making a forest next to a cliff, and I basically put down one swatch, and then thirty other single trees to make it look rounded.  If the icon/swatch of trees had instead been round, it would have been far more useful.  Also, why do the single trees have trunks, but the forest swatches have no trunks?  If you were using multiple forests next to each other, you could simply overlap/cover the trunks and at the forest edge, you'd get a nice effect. But as it is now, you have to line the forests with individual trees to make it match the single trees.  After lining the forest though, it doesn't look natural.

Also, I think it would have been nice to have had an icon style made specifically to look like a hand drawn map, something like you'd see at the beginning of a fantasy novel.  I would have preferred to have gotten this with the initial map program over the existing icons. I know you can antiquitize the maps, but it still looks a little too... busy.   

Quote
One flaw with Fantasy Cartographer is that it is very utilitarian in design, and a little outdated.  While it has layers that are similar to Photoshop, they are very difficult to work with. I won't go into too much detail, but basically it requires you to go to a different screen to manipulate the layers, whereas Photoshop lets you do all of that from the toolbar.

What I think I actually miss the most about layers when using Fantasy Cartographer, is the ease of overlapping objects.  In FC3, now that I've made 2 maps over 12 hours, I've probably spent about 2-3 hours of that wrestling the icons (wasted time).  In Photoshop, every time you "paste" an object, it creates a new layer as the top layer.  If you need to put that object behind another object, you simply drag and drop the layer lower down in the stack.  In FC3, if I put down 5 trees, and then realize I need to put some trees *behind* those, I either need to start over, or I have to use go through some convoluted steps.  What's even worse is when you accidentally put an object in front of another object, where one of them is obscured, and now you need to select the obscured object. I know a more advanced user wouldn't find this difficult, but I imagine it would be more appealing to new users if it was easier. 

Ultimately, all this stuff comes back to "Learn how to use it really well" and "Draw/fix icons to your liking."  But your biggest selling point is "Makes it easy to make fantasy maps for your game!"  Also, people are really resistant to the idea of, "Yeah, you don't find the base product useful, but you will if you spend enough money on addons!" (People design a lot more dungeons then they do overland maps...) I could continue on about some simple  and complicated design decisions that would improve the new user experience, but I kind of doubt you want to hear it anyways. Good luck with everything!

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Pelgrane
Member

Posts: 135


« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2008, 04:57:21 AM »

Pelgrane, in case you come back, I'll go into a little more detail on a couple of things. Also, maybe you can recommend icons that don't have the shadows...

Quote
The next big expansions add more icons.  There aren't a whole ton to begin with, and they're very generic.  Unfortunately, you come back to the problem of doing things by hand, again. You can spend several hundred getting more icons, since most everything else you can purchase comes with at least a few icons (including their yearly magazine.)

The core programs include a fair number of "central" icons, like mountains. As you start getting outside the realm of a grassy green map, you start running into troubles with being able to do snow, desert, molten/ash and rocky landscapes.  Basically everything you run into in a typical fantasy campaign. 

I'll happily return to this. First, I'll stick with my recommendation that if you don't like the default styles you have a look through the Annuals to find some you do like. CC3 + an annual will cover most mapping needs. If you can't find an overland map-making style in either of the annuals, do let me know, and preferably point me at something you do like. The other suggestion to make for overland map-making styles is Symbol Set One, which includes four new styles at less than the price of the annual. See the gallery here.

The default style certainly does include methods for creating the terrains you mention. See this example.

Quote
My other issue with the icons is just the general design choices made with them. For example, the mountains have a semi-transparent shadow that stretches across the area to the side of the mountain. First of all, I've never seen this in on a fantasy map before (the shadows were always contained within the edges of the mountain.) Secondly, mountains don't really shadow their surrounding area except during dusk.  Unfortunately, this makes it really hard to place them, and doesn't look very good, imo.  I would personally have found the program much less unwieldy if icons had contained their shadow within their edges. 

I'm sorry you don't like the design choices on the symbols. It's first I've heard of this particular complaint. We could release versions without the transparencies if there was demand.

Quote
Another example is the groups of trees.  All of the groups of trees are squares, which is actually very unnatural.  I was making a forest next to a cliff, and I basically put down one swatch, and then thirty other single trees to make it look rounded.  If the icon/swatch of trees had instead been round, it would have been far more useful.  Also, why do the single trees have trunks, but the forest swatches have no trunks?  If you were using multiple forests next to each other, you could simply overlap/cover the trunks and at the forest edge, you'd get a nice effect. But as it is now, you have to line the forests with individual trees to make it match the single trees.  After lining the forest though, it doesn't look natural
.

There are two ways to build up forests. There is a preconfigured drawtool which creates entire forests. You just need to select the area, and it will fill it. I'm guessing you haven't seen the recently released free manual for CC3 from the reg page. See Page 22 for how to do this. The other way, which I'm sure you've read about is to build them up manually.

Quote
Also, I think it would have been nice to have had an icon style made specifically to look like a hand drawn map, something like you'd see at the beginning of a fantasy novel.  I would have preferred to have gotten this with the initial map program over the existing icons. I know you can antiquitize the maps, but it still looks a little too... busy. 

I've certainly got the message that you don't like the default style! But, that really is a tiny subset of what CC3 can do. We will be including a couple more overland map-making styles with CC3 in a free update next year. I suspect they will be more to your taste.

Quote
What I think I actually miss the most about layers when using Fantasy Cartographer, is the ease of overlapping objects.  In FC3, now that I've made 2 maps over 12 hours, I've probably spent about 2-3 hours of that wrestling the icons (wasted time).  In Photoshop, every time you "paste" an object, it creates a new layer as the top layer.  If you need to put that object behind another object, you simply drag and drop the layer lower down in the stack.  In FC3, if I put down 5 trees, and then realize I need to put some trees *behind* those, I either need to start over, or I have to use go through some convoluted steps.  What's even worse is when you accidentally put an object in front of another object, where one of them is obscured, and now you need to select the obscured object. I know a more advanced user wouldn't find this difficult, but I imagine it would be more appealing to new users if it was easier.

Just use Symbols >> Sort Symbols in map and select any trees or mountains and it does it all for you. You don't have to worry too much about placement order. You can work from north to south to prevent this happening in the first place if you wish.

Quote
Ultimately, all this stuff comes back to "Learn how to use it really well" and "Draw/fix icons to your liking."  But your biggest selling point is "Makes it easy to make fantasy maps for your game!"  Also, people are really resistant to the idea of, "Yeah, you don't find the base product useful, but you will if you spend enough money on addons!" (People design a lot more dungeons then they do overland maps...) I could continue on about some simple  and complicated design decisions that would improve the new user experience, but I kind of doubt you want to hear it anyways. Good luck with everything!

Our software does make it easy to create maps for the majority of users. If you can already use Photoshop, you've jumped a massively bigger hurdle than you'll ever have to with CC3, so whether it's worth jumping CC3's smaller one is a matter of taste. "Doesn't work like Photoshop" is a reasonable problem from someone who is invested in learning Photoshop. The UI is designed to allow intermediate to advanced users to create maps faster than any other software, though we've made some sweeping changes in CC3 which help new users as well, in particular the new drawing wizard.

We are always pleased to hear suggestions as to how we might improve the new user experience, by all means send such suggestions over.

Our business model is all about customer choices and budgets. CC3 alone includes a very wide range of symbols for all applications including dungeons, and I believe offers very good value on its own. If you want more stuff, you can get it. You don't have to. We could sell a single app with everything, but it would be too expensive for most budgets.

An hour and a half's solid tutorial work at the beginning will save you a lot of faffing around, as I think my answers above demonstrate. Finally, I'll point you at the video tutorials here.

I suggest that we are getting off topic for the Forge publishing forum, and I suggest that if you have any further questions we take it over the Profantasy forum, or private email.
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