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I'm looking for a utility that I can use to generate 2D maps for hyperspace links between star systems for my Star Wars game, I've had a look at some 3D ones but for the sake of ease of explanation I'm happy to pretend that the universe has no third dimension.

The utility would ideally be:

  1. PC or web-based.

  2. Able to indicate star systems, links between them and travel times.

  3. Able to add a bit of window dressing (like galaxy clusters, gas clouds) around the star systems.

  4. Able to display star maps in 2D.

Is there anything out there?

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The atlas of the universe site has some maps that you can use. This article has links to Cambridge university's project to map out a billion-odd stars. There are many other such maps but that is real life and not random. –  Sardathrion May 22 '12 at 10:27
    
For random maps, you could use an undirected graph random generator. –  Sardathrion May 22 '12 at 10:32
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8 Answers

I know that I like Maptools for making 2D maps. I don't see why you can't set it to black and use star points and labels to show planets in relation to one another. Here's a link. You will need to use Java though.

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Sadly it isn't going to do quite what I want. –  Rob May 27 '12 at 10:39
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You could give AutoREALM a go, it's open source software so can take a bit of getting used to, to get the best results out of it.

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If you're willing to shell out the non-trivial sum of almost 85$, you can go to the ProFantasy online store and buy Campaign Cartographer and its Cosmographer addon. Probably too comprehensive for your use, but worth mentioning for anyone with a use for its myriad components.

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I am generally pretty impressed with NBOS products. You might check out their AstroSynthesis program. It does all sorts of 2 and 3 D star maps and system animations.

If that's too much, you might be able to get a stellar graphic set for their 2d fractal mapper program.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well after trying all the suggested programs I decided to give up and go back to basics; I drew myself a simple grid in PAINT and then used PAINT.NET to add dots and curvy lines on it for the hyperspace routes, dumped in a few bits of space dust and chiselled them out and presto; it's not the most fantastic map in the world but it shows exactly what I want.

Here's the map for reference:

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+1 for the simplest thing that could possibly work! –  gomad May 29 '12 at 21:21
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From a comment I made: How about using graphvix and in particular dot? Then, all you have to do is to add a layer for the background from any of the large scale images at Hubble.

In dot, you can write something like:

Graph G {
  "system A" - "System B" [label='3']
}

This will create an undirected graph with two nodes (system A and system B) linked by an arc labelled 3. Dot will display that network such as the minimal number of arcs cross. It does produce some stunning graphs. Now, it is trivial to read the dot file into python (or c++) and export the shortest path between any two nodes. Note that this is an NP problem so brute force will only work for a small numbers of nodes -- see the travelling sale man problem.

Since dot outputs a png (say), you can edit the image in Gimp. Make the white background transparent. Pick a nice image from Hubble and add it as a layer to your graph image. Make the Hubble image faded so that the graph shows up well. Et voilas, a superb star map with all the needed links.

Note that this could be also used for relationships between NPCs, plot threads, and whatever else that a graph can represent.

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I've been using UMLet up to now for class diagrams, but this should be useful for other stuff :) –  Rob May 30 '12 at 8:51
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@Rob: dot/graphviz is used by doxygen to generate UML diagrams from the code. It is invaluable in writing correct documentation but that is moving away from the original problem ^_~ –  Sardathrion May 30 '12 at 9:14
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Ohhhh if only I could convince my company to use doxygen, dear me. But yes, wandering from the point somewhat! –  Rob May 30 '12 at 9:16
    
I've used dot for Diaspora cluster maps, and I found it wanting. I handles links that "cross" (can't be flattened in the plane) poorly, pushing affected nodes far apart even when it's not necessary for ease of understanding. On top of that, it's sensitive to the order that links are put in the source file, which means making small changes can make a completely different visual layout even for the same logical layout. For some people these might not matter! For my use they really did. So that's a +1 and a -1 that cancel out. :-) –  SevenSidedDie May 30 '12 at 17:01
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Talking about the algorithmic creation of maps... the latex package tikz/pgf uses a graph drawing syntax similar to dot. It doesn't do automatic layouting of nodes, but allows more control over node placement than dot. texample.net/tikz/examples/tag/graphs provides some nice examples (and source codes) for graphs created using tikz/pgf. Latex output is usually pdf or dvi, but this wikibook page explains how to en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX/Export_To_Other_Formats –  sarahm Jul 17 '12 at 23:47
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I thought it might interest people to learn, as I recently did, that Hexographer can do nice star system maps. More information is in the tutorial.

You can have all sorts of labels, as well as the lines you needed for your map.

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It's a little dated, and written specifically for Traveller, but...Heaven and Earth can generate sector maps on a hex grid.

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