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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Creating an Amber Estate Map


Wait a minute! What's that? A map for the Amber Estate? That's correct... I made it myself. But the process was a lot harder than you'd imagine, and certainly an intriguing one - allow me to talk you through it.

Planning the Map

Obviously, creating a map was going to be a challenge. I'd have to draw things from an angle I couldn't see, make sure they were realistic and matched up, and then somehow create it in the style that Wizard101 uses. The first thing I did was log in and look around the Amber Estate. I took the dragonfly ride a few times and was actually fortunate enough to do so when you could zoom way out and get a really awesome view of the house.

I looked at the individual stairs and decided to make them accurate for the most part... I even counted the hexagons and used the correct number for the map.


They would be relatively simple. The connected on specific sides and there wasn't a ton of them to the point that it'd be impossible. I used a brown outline for this one and use Adobe Illustrator to begin drawing. 

The areas weren't too tough, minus some of the hill in which the house sits. I ran around looking at contours and where the edges of things went. I knew it wouldn't be perfect, but it'd be pretty close.

Wizard Style

I noticed that some lines were thicker on maps. I recalled the area you could walk in being outlined and the rest being smaller lines, so that's what I did to start with. Then I looked around and noticed that it seemed to just be an outline... at least in Wizard101.


The Wizard101 Abracadoodle characters and principle art in general appear to all be vector objects. Raster images use pixels - they fill one pixel with one color. So when you scale them up, one pixel becomes four and four becomes nine, and so on. That's how you get pixelation. Vector images are just lines and shapes, so when you scale them up and down, the angles and lines stay the same, they just get bigger or smaller. 

That in mind, Vector images don't use a lot of fades and effects. That's why shading isn't very common other than two completely different colors being used. Additionally, the vector images are normally on white backgrounds and don't use transparency. 

The ground in the Amber estate is largely red... or all red. So I needed some variation. I chose to do a darker red in the areas you couldn't walk in and a lighter one on some of the upper-level planes. Additionally, I chose a darker version of each to create a shadow with. 


Now I was ready to add in color - done with the blob brush. I tried to keep the number of colors pretty small - so when I could use one color that I'd already used for something else, I definitely took advantage of it. I tried to be pretty specific. The image below has all of the lines and colors selected. As you can see, I even made the dragonfly landing area the dark brown color that it is.

In many cases, in fact, most cases, I wouldn't make up my own colors, either. I'd actually paste a picture from the game and use the dropper to pull a color and then apply it to one of my elements. If I colored something (on a separate layer) and didn't like the color, Illustrator would allow me to change that individual color to some different tone from the photo. 


Mapping Things Out

I took a map with a relatively low number of objects and areas and used my clone stamp tool in GIMP (which I much prefer to Photoshop) and created a plain, parchment background for the map. I had to take my drawing in Illustrator and paste it in Photoshop, though, where it would retain its transparency, the change the color mode from CMYK or RGB, save it as a PNG and then open it in GIMP. For those of you who are familiar with my character drawings, this is why I post it on white... getting the transparent version takes an extra 20 minutes.

Of course, when I pasted it on the map, there was no texture on the actual area. I tried different layer blending modes on the map, but nothing seemed to be working. I ignored that problem for the time being and moved on to filling the empty space surrounding the map.


It seemed only logical that there'd be a dragonfly... and so I used the male character on one with green and the wide-eyed female character on one with purple that was flying around him in a near-collision. I also chose to use the Bumblebee pet from the bundle. 

Finally, I had the female on a small island and added the male behind her practicing with his Stingshot, also from the bundle. However, he missed whatever he happened to be aiming at and realizes that he's about to his his female companion square in the head.


Textures and Other Effects

I had a full texture ready to place over all of the drawings, but couldn't figure out the proper blending modes. And so I asked a master of textures... AluraRB! She told me to desaturate it and put it on Multiply. (That's design speak for converting it to black and white and making the colors below it stronger) Of course! No wonder it had been coming out a funny color.

With the map finished (shown up top), I decided to all put it in-game. I took a normal screenshot in the Amber Estate with the Wizard City map and placed mine in its place. (Click to enlarge)


There were a couple of needed additions, of course. I made sure that the Commons and Home button, as well as the top ribbon, were on top. I took the Shermlock font and typed "Amber Estate," made it larger to retain quality, and then took the bottom and pulled it up to make it look more like the official font, as I've done with several things I put a lot of time into. Because it wasn't a major part of the map, I didn't bother using Illustrator to correct individual letters or play with case. 

I also added the Spiral door symbol that appears with worlds - of course, we never have any house maps, but there's a door, so I assume it'd be there if there were. Finally, I cut out the green arrow and placed it approximately where I had been standing on the map, and added the proper glowing effect at the base. My map was now complete!

I am very satisfied with the result - the map, I feel, is extremely accurate and was a lot of fun to create. It also took a lot of work, and I've been preparing it for some time, so it may not be a common thing, but the Amber Estate is definitely worthy - it's one of the better houses.

What do you think? Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

6 comments:

  1. Didn't come out half bad for a first try, lol if you could make the rest of the bundle houses that would be cool. Especially sun palace. I have been working on the Pirate101 maps personally since they are a bit more challenging for shading but in the end yours came out nice and you mastered the abracadoodle style.

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  2. Nicely done! I can tell that you put a lot of thought and hard work into this, and it came out well. Wonderful presentation of the steps, too. You should make more!

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  3. Nice creation Swordroll! If I am not mistaken that is vector right? I guess Adobe Illustrator or some similar software.

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    1. Hehe... those comments go through, don't worry. I just have to approve them. :P

      Yep, Adobe Illustrator is one of my favorites. Though the layering and such was done in GIMP, only because I can't stand Photoshop, even if I can use it. :P

      I have to admit that I'm totally clueless when it comes to the multitude of other Adobe programs I have.

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  4. Really nice and impressive. I didn't think a fan made map would turn out this good, but you really blew me away here. I agree, even though Photoshop is a powerful program, it is really annoying sometimes. Also, if I am not mistaken, can't you add the map into the game yourself by adding it into one of the maps folders? I have never done it before but I assume it should sort of work like adding mods to Minecraft, perhaps you can somehow find the other map files in the Wizard101 file directory in your C drive and add in this map? Not sure if it wll work, but would be something to look into and everyone could download it then.

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    1. As intriguing as that idea is, modifying the files would happen to be against the Terms of Service, so I'd have to pass on that. :P

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