I grew up on Dungeons and Dragons and have loved the imaginary landscapes. Recently I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons Online with my kids. Turbine has created gorgeous and well thought out dungeons but their map system is 2D which makes it difficult to navigate unless you have run the quest multiple times. I’ve worked on some of the maps to try to make them more understandable with limited success.
To overcome the limitations of a 2D map I have played around with creating a 3D map. By plotting known locations within the game I can export these quasi X,Y locations into ArcGIS 9.3 along with a 2D picture of the dungeon and plot the layout. Then by exporting a DWG file into Google Sketchup I can create a 3D environment and add other 3D models to the dungeon.
Using this process I went from a 2D map to a 3D map. There are quite a few things I can do to improve my results but this is one of my first forays into 3D mapping.
I have been tinkering with GeoCommons Finder and Maker of late. Finder is a data repository where users upload spatial data (either csv, shapefile or kml) and others can easily view and download the same data. If a user desires to map the data they can use Maker to create single variate or multivariate maps.
In the past when I have wanted to visualize data on the fly I either had to load up my GIS and create a base map, import the data and then make it pretty. This process (especially if a base map was not present) could take quite a bit of time. Google Maps was available to map small datasets. If I took the time I could create a mashup and put it on a hosted site. However, this can take a little bit of time, especially when I did not had a website to use for hosting.
Geocommons allows neophyte and experienced users a location to find data, or upload data and then quickly create a pleasing cartographic map. Of course if the data is not available you will have to create or find the data. Once found the data will probably need to be cleaned; it seems most datasets need a little cleaning. Obviously if you are upload a shapefile or KML the data has spatial element, however if you are uploading a csv file (such as a list of businesses) you will have to geocode the list to obtain the latitude and longitude of each location. Finder has some great tutorials on their site that show users how to use services such as Batch Geocoder to find the geographic locations of your data.
For my project I uploaded and mapped out the US Government’s fiscal year 2009 per diem rates. The per diem rates show how much the government will pay its employees for lodging and meals while they are traveling the country on business. For those locations that do not have any data the rate is $70 for lodging and $39 for meals and incidental, per day.
I have been working on a street map at 1:24,000 and been struggling with how to make the street names legible. The majority of my cartographic works have utilized either Arial or Verdana fonts for sans serif labels. I have wondered how professional cartographers, i.e. Rand McNally, TexMaps and others can have such small annotation but very little loss of clarity.
While searching for an answer I came across the CartoTalk forums which had discussions about optimal fonts for map making. Quite a few people recommended the following sans serif fonts; Helvetica Condensed, Frutiger, Avenir, Univers and Myriad. For serif fonts there were Sabon, Garamond, Heofler Text and Kepler. Of the sans serif fonts it seems Frutiger was mentioned most often.
I checked a few online stores that sell fonts such as Adobe and LinoType, the average cost of Frutiger Standard and condensed was about $60. As the graphic below depicts, I think $60 was worth it. (I did try some of the better free fonts but they did not meet my needs) The labeling was done in ArcView with standard labeling rules, 8 pt fonts at 1:24,000. The Frutiger letters are distinct and clear, more so than Verdana or Arial. At smaller scales the Frutiger fonts keep their legibility. I am fairly happy with my purchase and will be visiting CartoTalk more often for additional cartography tips.