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Developer Journal #7

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The Mapmaker



The man behind the map in Pirates of the Burning Sea fills us in

Note: Johnathan 'Mapmaker' White is the artist behind the Pirates of the Burning Sea map. You can learn more about Johnathan's work by visiting his site at www.indianbay.net.

A Historic Cartographer is the name given to the very few of us in the industry that specializes in the creation of researched maps that represent a specific location at a particular point in time (mine specialization being 15th through 18th centuries). The term "Portolan" is used to identify hand-made maps that are observed as having a specific set of characteristics used by early Cartographers (Cartouche, Scale, Windrose, Rhumblines, and Misc uses of Hand-Created Art in the Map itself). A "Portolan Artist" is someone who follows the same design principles and technique as early Cartographers.

My career as a Cartographer actually started as a unexpected marriage of Art and an occupation that had nothing to do with it, a Navigational Specialist. I worked as a specialist in GPS, Radar, Satellite, and computer integration equipment that brought all aspects together for a merchant shipping company. Of course, in performing said occupation, the sea and practical aspects of cartography and navigation where a daily part of my work. I used to spend my down time sketching and painting which quickly was recognized by other members of the crew. I had received my education primarily in art, however while service in the Armed Forces and away, my entire portfolio (Thousands of hours) was destroyed in a flood which brought my future plans of pursuing a career in art to an abrupt halt, which brings me back to the ship. The Captain, who had gone on vacation in the Bahamas asked me to produce a "Piratey, old looking" map to show his vacation spots. Around seven years ago, this is the start to where I'm at now. That work was seen by an author who I began to work with, then a publisher, and the rest has been History.

The work that I do has been surprisingly broad, I have (in terms of Cartography) been involved in creating maps specifically for retail sales to represent Historical Geography (will explain below), for television programming in everything from Public Broadcast to having work in the History Channel in support of programming, motion picture industry set props (Beowulf, Prince of the Geats, which is currently filming basic set works for Pirates of the Caribbean). In the Beowulf project, in addition to set props, I am working in a logistical capacity as well in shooting location surveying, acquisition of talent / extras, set design, etc for the filming that will take place in Florida this Summer. I have done many works for Iron Crown Enterprises (RPG's Rolemaster, HARP, Spacemaster, among other titles) which include some standard format gaming maps as well as "Portolan" style maps and some non-conventional "art intensive" maps in addition to numerous illustrations for their newer product lines.

In addition to this, I have worked with a number of authors, publishers and retailers, as well as serving in a Cartographic advisory role to Historians / Historic Art Enthusiasts, Preservationists and Document Reconstruction Specialists, Collectors and even employees of other computer gaming companies. My work in the field of Cartography, has also been responsible for my involvement in general illustration and Corporate Identity Design (fancy name for a logo).

In my work with Flying Lab Software, I primarily interact I work with Troy 'Aether' Hewitt in coordinating their information with my work in the map. The whole idea of this project was originally proposed to Russell Williams of FLS who brought many of the specifics to the table. At this point, I think this idea has been in the works for about two and a half years waiting on the development of the game itself. Over the last few months, things have picked up considerably and really gotten underway with this project.

The process for this map is actually quite a bit different than what I am really used to. Normally, I create the entire map as a single piece. I would create the geography and text, have it reproduced (an artist's way of saving progress), create all of the art, reproduce again, then lastly apply color. Afterwards, for reproduction, the works are sent exclusively to Tampa Reprographics and Supply(trstampa.com) for reproduction and commercial scanning, their ability to scan full size art is an invaluable tool for an artist. The "Pirates of the Burning Sea" Map is different in that it is created in three primary sections; The Cartouche (Title Section), The Border Art, and the Map itself. The different parts are created at very large sizes (the border being four feet across), again sent to TRS for high res scanning and will be put together digitally to create the final work. This process, although extremely time consuming, gives me the ability to create this map with an extreme emphasis on art and detail.

As far as "Theme", I try to stay as versatile as the game. My idea is to incorporate many different aspects of the game (Pirates, Navy, Merchants, Governors, Natives, etc.) and keep the "Historic" Cartographic styles and appeal while making this map the esthetic (Artistically Appealing) that our player base has ever been exposed to in terms of style, content, and color.

Concerning time involved, well at this point there is no way of trying to keep track anymore. I would say as an estimate, just in the completed Cartouche and the Border Art, there is approximately 130 hours total in research and art. One would have to keep in mind that just Cartouche, although you can't tell is originally created at about twenty inches across and the border is four feet across, as will the map original for the actual map. On these scales with some very small brushes, there isn't much point in even trying to keep track of time.

The area covered by this map is actually quite extensive. It's Northern border is right about Maryland, South covering almost all of South America's Northern Coast and ALL of Central America and the Caribbean. One of my objectives is keeping this map in line with the game as well as being historically accurate in terms of reference to geography, astrological reference, and general style / appeal.

Traditionally maps of the period would have severe geographic errors and notations. The "Pirates of the Burning Sea" Map quite accurate to actual geography, most importantly, its accurate to what the developers are using. This map will keep the feel of an old map while making it a useful supplement to the game (Not to mention, the coolest wall piece that will make any Pirate enthusiast drool)

I've included artwork showing the Cartouche, as it is one of the primary components of a "Portolan" style map. It is the title section and generally contains information about the Map and the Cartographer. In addition, there are actually two separate coded systems in the map, that with the release of information by Flying Lab Software, can be translated, decoded, and used to point to specific locations on the map. This is put in place for quests, rewards, scenarios, etc. to expand on the game play experience.

The actual retail map will be between 26 x 24 inches and 30 x 28. This still depends on printer capabilities and will actually be resolved in the next few days. And yes, this map will be available for purchase at $29.95 plus tax and shipping of course. Port Royal Trading Company (portroyaltradingco.com) will be handling distribution of the map on an International scale. Oh, and this map is actually going to be printed onto a very high quality parchment to keep it as authentic as possible.

- Johnathan 'Mapmaker' White

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