It’s no secret that I’m big on Star Frontiers. I’ve been playing it off and on since I was 12 years old. So it should come as no surprise that I did another Star Frontiers thing. This time I recreated the original Port Loren Map digitally.
Now there are a few other fan created versions of this map out there (Here’s the google search) but none of them captured the feel of the original for me.
I have many memories of adventures and encounters played out on this map over the years. I still have my original copy that I got with the boxed set back in the 80′s. I had it laminated back then so we could write on it (and the maps on the back) with grease pencils (anyone remember those) to add features or notes. It has held up quite well over the years thanks to the lamination.
I started on this project a couple of years ago and don’t really remember what prompted me to really get into it. But with an increase on on-line virtual tabletop systems, I figured it would be nice to have a near original copy for the nostalgia value alone. I had finished everything but the labeling last November but then being back in grad school hit me with some super busy semesters and I had to put the project on hold. When I finished my last paper for the most recent semester last week, I figured I’d finish this off and get it out there for people to enjoy. I thought I’d talk a bit about how I put this together.
The map was drawn in Inkscape, my current go-to vector drawing program and was drawn in a series of several layers to get all of the features on there properly. The map is drawn at 100 dpi.
I started by counting out the size of the grid. The map is 67×42 squares in size. The map has two squares per inch which makes each square the size of the chits that came with the game. However, I discovered while doing this that the original map is actually squished a little bit, at least in the horizontal direction. Every fifth column is slightly smaller than the others. I vaguely remember this from playing on the map but never really thought about it much. Because of this this new map, if printed, will be slight larger than the original as I have corrected that problem.
Given the basic size I created a new file that was 1″ larger in both directions than the map so that I would have a 1/2″ border all around. The first layer of the map just contains a large blue rectangle that was the color for the roads on the map. I also established a rectangular grid in Inkscape to allow drawing all the objects easier as the tools would snap to this grid.
Next I added the actual map grid. This is actually quite easy in Inkscape. You just go to Exensions->Render->Cartesian Grid… This gives you a dialog box that allows you to set the parameters for your grid. You can set things like the spacing between the lines, thicknesses of the lines, and have primary, secondary, and tertiary grid divisions if you want. I just set primary grid lines at 50 px spacing and the correct number in the x and y directions. After adjusting the setttings, just click the Apply button and your grid appears.
With the grid in place, I started working across the map putting in the grass, sidewalks and water features and the buildings. I basically did this one grass section at a time and worked from the upper left to the bottom right. The grass was put on one layer and the buildings on another. Both of these layers were placed under the grid layer so that the grid overlaid them. You may notice that the color used for sidewalks (in that big center area) is the same as the color used for water features (e.g. around the government building).
After that was done, I put on all the doors on their own layer. This was the first layer above the grid as the doors needed to not have the grid running over top of them. Otherwise, these would have just gone on the building layer. This layer also included the “In” and “Out” labels for the underground parking areas.
Next came the shadows. In the end, I think this is what was really missing from all the other maps. With the exception of some of the shadows on the Stellar Tower Hotel, all of the shadows were drawn on their own layer that was placed below the building layer. This allowed me to less exact on those shadow bits that were “under” the buildings and get them drawn faster.
The next layer was the monorail and walkway system. This layer was originally above everything up to this point but at the last minute, I realized that it should be under the shadows and moved it down in the layer stack to the right location. This is one of the areas where I deviated slightly from the original version in that I made the pylons for monorail system slightly larger than in the original (and consistently sized and shaped).
Next came the fun part, figuring out how to do the shrubbery. (For some reason I have Monty Python running though my head. “You must bring us … a shrubbery”.) I did not want to draw these by hand. I figured there had to be some sort of image filter that would give me the basic rough outlines that would match the original map. After a lot of experimenting, I found one that I liked and got the colors figured out. Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten exactly what it was. I have the filter saved as part of the image but I can’t seem to find it in the tools at the moment. That is something I’ll have to refigure out if I want to make another map in this style. This layer was placed below the shadows layer.
Finally, I added in the labels. This was done with two different layers. The first, and topmost layer, simply contained the labels themselves. However, the text was running over the grid lines and, like on the original map, some of those grid lines had to be masked out to make them more readable. This was done on a second layer just below the text. I simply drew rectangles of the same color as the underlying background to cover the grid in the appropriate places.
And that’s the Port Loren map, recreated. The more I look at it, the more I feel the purple is a little too deep. Maybe at some point I’ll go back and try to match the color a little closer but it’s not too far off when comparing a printed section of the map to the original. The other thing I couldn’t match exactly was the font. I came pretty close using Liberation Sans but I could never find the exact font used on the original. If anyone knows what it is, please let me know as I’d love to update it to that font.
Someone pointed out that the in and out directions for some of the parking garages don’t make sense. I’ll probably go back and change those in a future edition as well. I didn’t really pay attention when I was making it as I was just recreating the original.
Finally, there are a couple of fan made maps that extend this map or draw a different part of the city. I may take a stab at recreating those maps in the same style.