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  1. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    Space Map!

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Madman, May 6, 2020.

    Hello my fellow Science Fictionists and/or otherwiseians!

    Wanted to build a space map for my fictional universe and would like to share my various methods of doing so here. As well as garner ideas for how to even start or go about this. Right now I barely know where to begin.

    My fictional universe contains a massive amount of galaxies involved in the plot. The scale is enormous to say the least. Some individual planets and star systems need to be named, as well as galaxies.

    I'm thinking of a 2d map of the galaxies only, since that can be printed into the book, but I may also opt for an optional 3d map.

    Tools:
    A painting software for the 2d map.
    Some sort of 3d program like universe sandbox or something else for the 3d map?

    Methods:
    For the 2d map I'm thinking of a zoom-able map where all the key planets/stars/galaxies are named. I would need something that could "generate" an entire galaxy, randomly, in a painting software. The entire universe would be seen from one standardised observation point.
    For the printed version that can't be zoomed to individual planets, only galaxies would be visible and laid out, this is the simplest option and the most appealing one for me, already have a basic sketch of it on an old A4.

    3d map using some other type of software, much more complicated. Might not even bother with this.


    Notes:
    - Not everything will need a name, only things involved in the plot, of course.
    - This is set in a fictional universe, our galaxies do not apply.
    - I have the basic layout of the universe in my head.


    That's my plan anyway. How would you do it? Thoughts? Opinions? I will share updates with what I may use here so that people may be able to use it in the future.
     
  2. aguywhotypes

    aguywhotypes Active Member

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  3. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    Interesting! May look into it in the future. Seems much like universe sandbox and the like.

    For now, for the 2d map I found a good video tutorial that can be adapted to making an entire universe:

    I would just need to redo the stars into galaxies.
     
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  4. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

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    For Ebooks (Kindle or otherwise), the most important thing to know is that they really do love large, high resolution sizes for your final product. It's important because most people view ebooks on their mobile phones, and to be able to zoom in to a decent level of detail on them, you need insanely high resolution sizes (5000pixels wide minimum sort of thing. The one below has been scaled down from the 5000x7500 pixel size that got uploaded to Kindle, and even then I felt I could've gone higher. This version is a measily 1000 pixels wide)
    So my first piece of advice would be - make sure you make the resolution size as large as your computer can handle from the outset - it is FAR EASIER to downsize an image than it is to upscale it.

    I just finished the one below for a friend, my editor, a few weeks ago, which is now a published book ("Despite Duty" on Kindle now folks!) The reason for the galaxy being orientated the way it is, is due to the criminal element of the galaxy in the book being named after decks of cards (King of Spades is one criminal boss, Queen of Hearts another etc etc)


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I tried to make mine look "literary" in the sense of giving it a black and white page book feel.

    To make it, i used 3Ds Max exclusively, a 3d professional modelling program, but you could achieve the same results with Blender - which is a free 3d cgi modelling tool on the internet. There's lots of tutorials on youtube for how to use Blender if you need to learn from scratch.

    The most important aspect I found from a technical standpoint was setting out and establishing the distances from the very start. It may sound obvious, but changing the size of your galaxy from 100,000 light years across to 125,000 light years wide, for instance, makes insane differences to the travel time between places, but that's if you need to go into that level of detail for the book.
    With the author I worked with, we went to the point of establishing how many multiples of C (light) it takes her starship to travel to certain places, because she didn't want things being instant like they tend to be now in Star Wars, and she didn't want it to take decades to get across the galaxy like in Star Trek.
    We found a happy medium, and placed the planets, the core worlds, and the outer zones, after messing about with the values.

    From a non-technical standpoint, especially a literary and expressive standpoint, is not to feel you have to add in EVERYthing to your map. Pinning the nitty gritty details of your entire map at the beginning may look cool, but it also can stifle your creativity in future novels or stories.
    Just as in a Star Trek novel
    - they wont list every Federation planet because it gives freedom to future authors to make up new places and lets their imagination and creativity be free.
    The author for this book really wanted to write her fun, escapist sci-fi tales as she wanted, on the fly.
    So, just as you wouldn't describe every single item of a room that is in a scene in a book, until it becomes relevant, there's no reason to put it on the map.

    I think we did a great job of striking a balance between looking "busy" and putting in only the locations relevant to the story in the novel.

    If you want to know how i technically went about creating it, its a simple layering system First bullet point was the lowest layer, the last one was the highest layer, above all else.

    • I created a layer with the base image of the galaxy I made, which i sent to the author so she could place the star systems where she wanted. I kept flipping the JPEG on this between the base galaxy image and the one she had drawn over, so I could easily zoom in to pin point things. That way, i could send her an update, she could then send me back the new updated version of her new placements, and it wouldn't affect the over-all project.
    • I then created the distance markers (the outer circle, straight lines, and even smaller 5,000 light year distance markers), all coming out of Sagittarius A, the black hole at the center of our galaxy. The "Ruler" layer
    • I then created the curving line layer for the spiral arm lines.
    • Territory/Border layer. For all the white lines that show different borders. Like the previous spiral arm line layer, I set this to varying degrees of transparency until i got the harshness I wanted.
    • Label layer. For all territories and spiral arms, it's just a simple text overlay layer, where I bend or splotch the names of the places on the map in an aesthetic way that looks consistent.
    • Planet/Star System layer. Finally I made custom markers that I could attach text to, and placed them accordingly.
    The shame is explaining all this is let down by the poor quality of the JPEG that Im using here. Its 1000pixel wide, and doesnt do the final image half the justice it deserves. But then again, I dont think anyone would appreciated waiting for a 5000x7500 PNG file to load on a forum page hehe.

    Hope some of this helps! If you have any other more specific questions, feel free to PM me.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2020
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  5. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    That's an enormous zoom level, if you are going from intergalactic level to planet level.

    Even a single galaxy is a huge zoom. The Milky Way contains somewhere between 250-400 BILLION stars, and is around 100,000 light years in diameter. Just think about that for a second. To scale the galaxy down to fit into the size of an A4 piece of paper means a scale of approximately 1:330,000,000,000,000,000.

    Now, the Virgo Supercluster, which contains 2000 galaxies, is 110 million light years across. That's 1100 times the size of the Milky Way, meaning your scale would be 1:4,950,000,000,000,000,000,000.

    Here's a universe generator:
    http://spaceengine.org/

    The universe, by the way, contains something like 100 BILLION galaxies. That's a whole lotta computing power needed to store that.
     
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  6. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    @Steve Rivers
    Thanks a ton for that, gives me a start. Big canvas, got it. I may opt to use a paint program. Thanks for your help!

    @Naomasa298
    Yeah, zoom level might be too much. I may simply have only some of the galaxies on the map and then another zoom layer for key stars, even then it might be too much, but I will figure out a way to do it. Or not?


    My inspiration will be the Hubble Deep Field:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Hubble_ultra_deep_field_high_rez_edit1.jpg

    My current method will be to have a black background, then paint several different galaxy sprites that I will dot all over the map, then using a spray to add gas and colour. The named galaxies will be hand made and placed on the map. It will look nothing like the deep field image, but will do. I may also make a black and white version.
    Will take a while, see you in a year or two! ;)
     
  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    There's very, very little in between galaxies. There wouldn't be any gas clouds in between galaxies. There might be star filaments trailing behind an individual galaxy, but that's it.

    The reason you see gas clouds or other features when looking at some pictures of galaxies is because you're viewing it through the galaxy that you're in - those features are part of your home galaxy rather than intergalactic space.
     
  8. Madman

    Madman Life is Sacred Contributor

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    Yes you are right, I meant to add gas in galaxies and such, and colour them, not leave gas clouds in between galaxies.


    Alright folks, this is the time. To reveal. For you. The splendour of creat... ok I'm going to stop bullshitting and leave you my work that could barely rival anything. Please don't laugh too much.
    (Outdated image link removed by me)

    It is just a basic thing for now. May work more on it in the future or perhaps contract a real artist... I'm having higher hopes for the black and white version though.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    There really isn't much between galaxies. So even a nebula would
    be tiny little cloud compared to the gap between galaxies. Pretty much
    just filled with little more than some hydrogen and other atomic particles
    that are spaced far apart from one another in the vast distances.
     
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