A Planet in 12 Photoshop Layers
June 27, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Building a plausible world: a step-by-step tutorial, from plate tectonics to trade winds.

-G.Projector, the free NASA software the author used to project their rectilinear map onto a globe.
-A Reddit thread in which the author explains, enlarges upon, and occasionally defends their process and its scientific basis.
posted by Iridic (13 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
That's neat!

Of course, you can always just fire up a new game of Dwarf Fortress, too.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:30 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by axoplasm at 11:51 AM on June 27, 2014

Oh god, I did something like this once. I wanted a fantasy world to write stories in and this one overly intellectual friend of mine kept pestering me with questions like, "What's the axial tilt?" and I'd be like, "I'd don't fucking know, I just want to tell a damn story!"

Eventually I came around to his way of thinking where everything had to be planned out from the beginning. I went through the whole process as in the FPP and tried to make everything had to be super original and not some Tolkien pastiche. Hell, I used the Language Creation Kit to create a new script and language based off of concepts by John Wilkins' essay about a philosophical language. A Kalistocracy government, a society that understood basic Mendelian heredity before metalworking, celibate knighthoods and sex nuns.

In the end I ended up with something that was intellectually interesting but I just couldn't come up with any stories for it since it was too foreign for anyone to relate to. Now I just make shit up as I need it and its all good.

Still an interesting intellectual exercise, though.
posted by charred husk at 1:32 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey, look, the plate tetonics from that world.

That NASA software would have been handy. There were tools for doing this type of stuff back in the late 90's and early aughts but they weren't easy to work with. Managed to get a spinning globe .gif animation and everything. I can't even find the software that I used any more so the original data files are pretty much useless.
posted by charred husk at 1:41 PM on June 27, 2014

I think Metafilter's own zompist has written some stuff like this, although I'm not immediately seeing it on his site.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:00 PM on June 27, 2014

Heh - I was gonna link to /r/worldbuilding then I see the OP reddit link.

I have this insane vision of world building software, and when i was in a slightly hypomanic phase, posted asking if anybody else liked my concept and there was a lot of positive response (more than any other project I've ever shared with someone else) so that got me more manicy and was like "OK!" then my friends talked me down and now I'm sad, but continuing to work on a game of mine. One /r/worldbuilderer (worldbuildist?) wrote and offered to help but we haven't done much between my laziness, tiredness after work and trying to work on a game of mine, but...

I still wish I could build the concept.

While I'm amazed/impressed by people who really get the PHYSICS part of the world down (and to a degree I think it's a right thing to do), at some point it becomes pure simulation and that's less worldbuilding for storybuilding and more worldbuilding for physical realism to a degree that seems terribly boring to me (though I can see it being useful to others) -- though software that can help you facilitate realistic physics and such is certainly a benefit/boon...

Sigh. I think worldbuilding as a hobby can do this sort of thing, worldbuilding for fun and play, but worldbuilding for a consistent world for fictional storytelling has to have some sort of leeway so you can get around to actually writing the story as opposed to building the world.
posted by symbioid at 2:17 PM on June 27, 2014

If anyone is curious about my vision, here's the thread...
posted by symbioid at 2:19 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came for the world building, stayed for the sex nuns.
posted by chisel at 4:37 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

If anyone is curious about my vision, here's the thread...

Dang, that's really nice. Not just for worldbuilding, but with a model of actual Earth, all sorts of awesome historical data visualizations are possible...
posted by jason_steakums at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2014

See I just want a piece of software where I can put in the kind of land I want to set my story in and then generate the rest of the world for me so I can then use the rest of the world when I need my characters to go there.

Bonus points if it calculates travel times and enough biome information for likely crops. And can generate trade routes and likely city locations.
posted by NoraReed at 7:07 PM on June 27, 2014

There's a free program called AutoREALM which will handle the measurement part. You set the underlying scale and draw a route. It will derive the travel time by foot, horse, cart, and ship, for a variety of loads, paces, and conditions.

I don't know of any software that can do full-blown biome generation; nothing so granular as "oats here, buckwheat there." Fractal World Explorer can generate very basic climates and apply erosion to landmasses accordingly.

I'm afraid you're on your own for city siting. (But here's some non-interactive guidance.)
posted by Iridic at 7:46 PM on June 27, 2014

Holy shit fractal world looks awesome
posted by NoraReed at 7:56 PM on June 27, 2014

I used to do this exercise with 4th graders. We'd spend the whole year building a continent, starting with the basics, then go on to put in the biomes and made-up species. Then the kids got to out in their own cultures and write about them. Turns out you can make a whole year of teaching out of this exercise (and I did).
posted by argybarg at 6:55 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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