West from Tokyo

This is trivial, but too long for a tweet. I was befuddled a bit by the headling on this PCGamer article:

After 30 years, Japanese tactics series Super Robot Wars is finally coming West

Isn’t it easier to go east to get here?

Tokyo east to San Francisco is 5000 miles. Tokyo west to New York is 9,400 miles.

It’s a nice demonstration that not only are we map-oriented, but our mental map is Europe-centered, like the one above. We could more accurately call the “Far East” the “Far West”.

Arkham’s Gotham map

This has probably been done before, but here’s a consolidated map of Gotham City as depicted in the Arkham series.


(WordPress used to automatically make a link to a bigger version, but now it doesn’t, so click that link to get there.)

Weirdly, Arkham Knight (which we have to assume is Rocksteady’s last word on the subject) tilts the Arkham City portion of the map by 45°. If you don’t believe me, check the in-game map! You can identify the courthouse, the Peabody Institute, Wonder Tower, and the steel mill, and clearly see that the street grid is tilted relative to Miagani Island.

Arkham Origins gives the location of Wayne Manor and Blackgate.  The Origins portion of the map may be oversized here.

Seagate is from the Matter of Family DLC for Knight; its location relative to the city is not given.

The inset (bottom left) gives the Arkham City map; it has a little peninsula that doesn’t appear in Origins, and also makes downtown Gotham much closer than in Knight.

As a bonus, here’s a comparison of the same view in Arkham City and Arkham Origins.


Not everything matches up, but a lot does. What you chiefly notice, I think, is that even with the snow effects, City was much clearer. Origins has way too much fog.

Big city

Conworlders, this is what happens when you let yourself get carried away.  I’ve been working on a street map of Verduria for about six years now, and I think it’s finally done.  Here’s a preview:

Click to make bigger but still unreadable
Click to make bigger but still unreadable

“Done” means that every street is mapped and named, along with touristic highlights— parks, government and military buildings, churches and temples, guilds, schools, hospitals, and major stores and inns. There’s plenty of room for more buildings, but I’m pretty happy with the coverage.

The size of the Illustrator file is 4.6 meg; the artboard is nearly 17 feet square. There are over 1500 features named. Most of the street names have meaning in Verdurian culture and history, though there are also lots of in jokes (so, your name may be in there, but you’ll have to know Verdurian to recognize it).

It’s based on a poster board map I made years ago, with transparent colored film and X-acto knife (ah, in the pre-computer era, how exciting it was to wander the art supply store). However, that map covered only about 1/3 of the city, and of course it couldn’t be shared.

Next up: chopping the thing into maps of each neighborhood so they can be put into the Almeopedia.

By the way, the square in the middle of the water (at F10) is the size of a Chicago city block, 1/8 mile on a side. The little brown rectangles just to the right are some real buildings so I could size structures correctly– the top one is my apartment building; the bottom one is a nearby school.

I had a wacky plan to re-create the whole island of Arcaln in Hammer. Instead I’m working on a part of the Nezi neighborhood, in Unity, as part of a video game.

Hammering out Arcaln

So, some kind of fit took me and I decided to create a 3-D model of the island of Arcaln. It’s far from done, but here’s a peek.

Longtime alert readers will recognize this Verdurian home.  I’m going to have to fire up XSI Softimage to create some Verdurian furniture.  I wish HL2 came with more plants… filling out the garden may be tedious.  (The cheap way to make a plant is to put images on some intersecting, transparent flat surfaces; but this is only reasonably convincing at ground level.)

House for sale, some rain damage
House for sale, some rain damage

(No, Verdurians don’t have trucks.  It’s there to help me with scale.)

Here’s an overview of about half the island.  The walls in the distance are placeholders for the fortress of Arcaln itself.  You can see that there’s a lot of work to go.


You can see that I’m using a blown-up city plan as a guide to building placement.  I’m using Hammer, which has the neat idea of a 3-d skybox.  Essentially you have the center of the map at full scale, and then embed it into a larger model that’s done at 1/16 scale.  The game engine combines the two areas.  The effect is that you can have a huge vista going off into the distance, though you only can explore a small part of it.  This technique is used in all the Valve games.

A Valve map, by the way, is about 2500 feet square, or a quarter square mile total.  With the skybox it gives the impression of an area up to 8 miles on a side.  (This is actually considerably smaller than Bethesda maps.  But Valve’s Hammer editor is far easier to make buildings in.)

This project has made me think hard about the scale of my city map.  The one filled-in block is about 1/4 the area of a Chicago city block– that is, it’s about 1/16 mile square.  Yet it looks much bigger.  It was worse a couple days ago; I finally realized that I was creating the buildings way too small– they were about 20 feet wide.  The last few days I made them twice as big or more.

So far the finished parts of the city look a bit artificial– too clean and uncluttered.  I may leave it that way– it’s going to be enough work as it is.  To make it look more real, I’ll have to put a lot of time into minor details, terrain, and clutter.  And then maybe add a bunch of zombies and headcrabs so it’s a playable HL2 map…

Cartograms 2012

I’ve plugged Mark Newman’s maps before.  But here’s his 2012 page, filled with beautiful and informative election maps.  He’s improved the algorithm so states retain their shape better.  For presidential elections, we should be using this map (with state area tied to electoral vote) rather than the geographical one.  Our eyes can’t adjust for population density; on this map it’s immediately evident who won, and it’s not so distorted as to be ugly or hard to read.

I also like this very pretty map of counties, colored by percentage of Dem/Rep presidential votes.  In this case I like the geographical map better.  The cartogram version is more informative, in that it shows that the country is really mostly purple with blue areas– the all-red counties are very few.  But it’s much harder to read.

Bad chartmaker! Read more Tufte!

I saw this over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog.  What an awful chart.

First, it’s showing one parameter (total oil consumption) by resizing the area of the states.  Wtf?  Except on a very gross level, who can quickly evaluate the areas of irregular shapes?  And though we’re pretty familiar with US states, the blown-up map makes it hard to compare to the original sizes.  Quick now: is Tennessee bigger or smaller here than its normal size?

Second, total consumption is a pretty dumb thing to highlight.  Of course more people will use more oil.  So overall the chart only (poorly) communicates state  populations.

The more interesting stat, per capita consumption, is thrown in as a three-valued color coding, and then repeated in a separate bar chart whose alphabetical listing makes it impossible to look for any regional trends.

There are some stories here struggling to get out, such as why New York is the clear leader of the pack.  Population density, perhaps… or maybe it’s outsourced all its oil usage to New Jersey.

Our purple country

I ran into this fascinating map while researching election results. It’s a cartogram of the 2004 presidential election, coloring each county by its proportion of blue (Dem) or red (Bush) votes, and sizing each county by population

The map comes from Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan.

Compare to this map of the 2006 House election. But this map shows even more spectacularly where exactly the blue and red are: blue in the big cities, red in the rural areas, purple in the suburbs.

What it highlights even more is how much of the population is urban and suburban. You can see all our mid-size cities as purple islands floating in a net of red , and of course our biggest cities as honking big blue areas.

Also worth a look: Newman’s cartograms of some basic world data.