Bloody oath mate, I was heading to the bottle-o the other day to get some stubbies for me and Dazza cuz I was more parched than a dead dingos donga and lo and behold a bloody drop bear come outta nowhere and started havin a go at me car so I grabbed me thong and slapped the little bugger back to Tuesday!
No joke, one of Selbie’s responses to The Relayterview. I mean, I did ask him about drop bears so it’s my own damn fault, but damn that made me laugh. Australians are a fun sort. If you’ve never had a chance to drink with some, you’re missing out. If you’ve never had a chance to hang out with them, go out of your way. They’re a good sort, they love their teasing, and I’ve yet to run into one that I haven’t enjoyed spending time with. Selbie’s no exception, which is why I enjoyed our long overdue sit down.
Just as a quick aside, Selbie, I’m sure you’ll read this sooner or later. Your drop bear story rocks, and thanks for being quick with the responses and patient with my slowness. It’s been a hell of a week.
Ease-of-use or more information. That’s more or less what maps boil down to. True story, if you dig around a little you could probably find where I did some maps a while back. They’re just toss around things with a fantasy slant that I made for fun. One of the maps I made could actually be quantified more as art than map, and in truth the information it gave was – at once – too much and too little; but it looked good, and other people thought it looked good, so I won a little competition with it. #TMI Right? Yeah, well, I like to talk about it from time to time.
Selbie Le-Grille (Got shrimp on that grill?) made one that’s pure, unadulterated, information at its finest. Damn thing is a work of art just for style. I hate you for it, because it’s damn good. I hate you so much that I’d buy you a beer. This damn map conveys the information that actually matters in such a clean manner I can’t help it.Section of Selbie Le-Grille’s Map
Look at it, and I mean really look at it, and you’ll realize that he conveys the jump points, the sizes, the types of systems, all of it, and it can be done at a relative glance. The colors are different enough that you can gauge the system, the type font is easily legible, the systems are spread out enough they don’t clutter, and they aren’t too far as to make it look like a bunch of open space. That is just awesome.
So yeah, little envy, but I can deal with that because I like it. That and I kind of want to find out if he has a real knife and if Crocodile Dundee is his idol, which would be a bit difficult to ask if I decided I didn’t like him. He did his research, in case that wasn’t obvious, with his map and you can even read it on the RSI site (Or Reddit, but who goes there?!).
The short and informative version is this: He used a guy’s design that revolved around circular hubs to convey information at the expense of geography. What we end up with is this clean, easy to read, easy to navigate map that relies on knowing where you are and where you want to go. It might not be useful to understand where the boundary of Vanduul space is, or how close in light years Sol is to Nyx, but who really cares if you’re just trying to figure out how to get there?
As some parting comments from our winner from “down under”, do something that matters to you. I think he hit that one pretty solidly and he surely did it himself. He took this idea of making a map, and then he ran with it like a kid with a pair of exceptionally sharp scissors. Best part? He didn’t trip, and he cut through all the extra bullshit to make this work of art. Nice job.
As usual, here’s the Q&A edited a little.
Q: According to that handy, dandy, RSI site, it says you’re from Australia. Queensland to be specific. Is that correct?
A: Correct. I grew up in northern Queensland and now live in Brisbane.
Q: If you don’t mind, tell me a bit about Queensland. It may seem a bit odd, but tell me what you love and hate about it.
A: It’s great. If you want a whole bunch of sunshine then this is the place to get it. Plus there is a lot to enjoy in the southeast from the Sunshine Coast all the way down to the Gold Coast so I enjoy getting out of the city some weekends just to relax. Brisbane is a relatively ‘young’ city compared to the southern states so there are some frustrating elements to it such as transport etc, but the high rate of growth here means that everything is constantly being improved.
Q: Selbie Le-Grille. It seems like there would be a story surrounding that, mind sharing?
A: Selbie was a high school nickname I picked up and I’ve used it a lot online mainly because it almost never gets taken as a username. The Le-Grille part is something I tacked on as an in-character surname for SC. It comes from Homer Simpson’s failed attempt to build a BBQ which in itself was a good allegory of the creative process.
Q: Been out into the boonies and seen any drop bears lately?
A: Bloody oath mate, I was heading to the bottle-o the other day to get some stubbies for me and Dazza cuz I was more parched than a dead dingos donga and lo and behold a bloody drop bear come outta nowhere and started havin a go at me car so I grabbed me thong and slapped the little bugger back to Tuesday! :D!
Q: I noticed that your comments on a recent throttle redesign, have any thoughts of making your own control setup for Star Citizen and what controls do you use currently?
A: I enjoy the process of making regardless of how much I actually know about it. For example I have no knowledge of electronics whatsoever but I find it fascinating to see how people have designed their own control and sim pit solutions to suit their gameplay style. Simply having a go at something can provide a lot of creative stimuli for other design projects.
My current control setup consists of whatever I can afford/find on a low budget. I have a basic Thrustmaster Flight Stick X which is serving as a placeholder until the new T16000M is released. I also have a TM Cougar MFD which bought specifically for SC and will be using more often once the gameplay becomes more advanced. As far as creating my own stuff is concerned, I’m only limited by the fact that I’m renting and don’t have enough space to make these cool projects!
Q: If you don’t mind saying, what do you do outside of the game?
A: I am a draftsman and design assistant for a Landscape Architect. I am also currently studying a Diploma of Building Design to further my knowledge of building construction and to increase my employability in other areas of the industry.
Q: You definitely did some research with your transit map. Is that work related or is research a ‘job hazard’ in your industry?
A: After high school I studied Landscape Architecture for a number of years before having to drop out for life reasons. The time I spent there reinforced the habit of always using reliable sources of information and to keep an open mind for new concepts that haven’t been considered. A lot of really smart people have done a lot of hard work to discover new ideas so it’s silly to try to reinvent the wheel when someone out there might have already done it for you.
Q: How long have you been following Star Citizen?
A: Since Chris’ very first announcement at GDC in 2012.
Q: What about the game drew you to it?
A: After Freespace 2 and Freelancer, I was slowly growing more and more frustrated that space games were fading into obscurity either by lack of resources or lack of quality. The prospect of finally experiencing a space game that; A) would bring you directly into the game world with barely any abstraction (ie. not an RPG, 4X strategy game, on-rails 3rd person shooter etc), and B) use the best technology to make it look and feel realistic.
Prior to SC I was just a liiiitle bit jaded by the collapse of Jumpgate Evolution which had floundered into vaporware due to supposed “creative differences” between the publishers and the developer. So the idea that a developer could now freely push their ideas toward an end goal without the intervention you would normally see in the industry gave me a lot of hope.
Q: What do you think you’ll do in Star Citizen?
A: ALL THE THINGS. No seriously, I want to try out everything the game has to offer and find my niche in the game. Whether it’s raiding a capital ship or hauling a Hull-E full of Big Benny’s across the galaxy I want to give it a go. The scale and fidelity of interaction within the game world will certainly offer a huge diversity of gameplay opportunities.
Q: Let’s start in on your map. Tell me about how you made it? Go step-by-step if you wish, just an overall run down from start to finish.
A: It all began when I was using the awesome Star Map music by Pedro for my after-work chill sessions on the PC. Every now and then I would go back to the map tab and look up a system just to know more about certain areas. While doing so I kept feeling frustrated that I couldn’t remember systems or paths the next time I came back to it. Usually because of the changing orientation and the 3D arrangement of the stars. That led me to realize there needed to be a better way to memorise the map that didn’t involve a tangled mess of fuzzy lines. I then recalled seeing the earlier tube-style maps done by Tommytrain and Zhatt.
So I went exploring for different ways to portray map information and after pages and pages of reading and scrolling through images, I happened to see one of Robert Maxwell’s maps which immediately stood out to me as a cool way to design a map. This got me reading about his system of breaking down the information which then triggered some ideas on how to apply it to the Star Citizen map.
As I had described in my thread post, the main obstacle I faced at first was that every way I tried to wrap the map routes around a central point made it difficult to keep it legible. It wasn’t until I was staring at the other SC maps that I had the epiphany to split the map around two centres. Sol and Terra. It also worked from a lore perspective because of the constant political rhetoric I kept reading about between the old and new worlds. Now that I had a solid concept, I put together a framework of concentric circles and radii in Illustrator and began to sketch out the routes, starting from the major ones and progressing down. As I worked on it I also learned a few new techniques which helped streamline the process and keep the graphical elements consistent. Finally, I borrowed some of the aesthetic cues from the Ark Starmap to help the title block look more authentic.
Q: Why did you decide to use Dr. Maxwell Robert’s design over say Vignelli?
A: I had never heard of him previously, but Vignelli’s method follows the same principles as Harry Beck’s London map by adhering to the 45 + 90 degree axes. Maxwell’s design builds upon both of those by using concentric circles to create a naturalistic line for your eye to follow as well as forming a recognisable shape to memorise.
Q: While I do think your map is very readable, it doesn’t seem to adhere to the overall layout of the “galaxy”. Do you plan on working the map to try and adhere more to the astronomical geography?
A: While I would love to be able to recall the principles of semiotics, my brain will probably BSOD whilst doing so :P Basically “the map is not the territory” is a concept I have always kept in the back of my mind ever since my university days and it is very applicable to the work I do in construction. You don’t always need to perfectly depict reality if there is no need to, and you will never perfectly recreate a reality via a medium that is not reality itself (!). If I need to get from A to B via C then it doesn’t matter where A, B or C are located on a map, so long as the ways to get there can be understood then the method of conveying that information is successful.
Q: What was the most fulfilling part to making it?
A: One of the hardest parts of design is attempting a project without any conceptual framework to guide your design direction. So to have a clear set of design parameters based on Robert’s principles made everything feel like it was just falling into place. Once I had sketched out the grid of concentric circles and radiating spokes I found it was relatively easy to build the map from there.
Q: What’s the most difficult part to making the map?
A: The sheer amount of time it took to carefully get all of the linework drawn accurately and keeping the shapes consistent.
Q: Did you run into any problems making the map?
A: Yes. The real life tube maps are designed for rail systems that follow a linear route with nodes that don’t split into multiple directions. With Star Citizen’s jump network, we have wormholes running all over the place! The upper left portion of my map near Vanduul space had a lot of paths that had to be carefully arranged so that each path wouldn’t visually interfere too much with the other routes. It was very easy to end up with a total mess of incoherent pathways and my first released version didn’t quite achieve a legible result. The community’s feedback was invaluable to help me figure out how I could improve it.
Q: Say someone wanted to make maps, what suggestions would you give them?
A: Less is more. Make your highest priority to ensure coherence of information with as minimal clutter as possible. One way to guarantee that is to set a limit to how much graphical information you will communicate. If you want to add more data, you can always make a new map focused on a different theme (eg. trade, mining, crime etc). My current map, for example, is purely to show jump point connections and where to travel with what size classification. Nothing else.
Q: Do you think you’ll revise the map as time goes on?
Absolutely. I really like the concept of the circle and spokes system and I know that more can be done to improve the current map, as well as creating other map versions for different needs. If I wasn’t so busy I would actually teach myself coding and animation so that I could create a fully interactive map.
Q: What’s your favorite ship in Star Citizen?
A: I don’t actually know if I have a certain favourite because every ship CIG created has far exceeded my expectations. However I do love the heft of the Freelancer and the idea of starting out a trade career in the PU after the tour of duty in Squadron 42 sounds very appealing to me.
Q: Why is it your favorite ship?
A: I think it’s the fact that after so many design iterations the Freelancer still elicits the same feeling of excitement to venture out into the wider SC galaxy. Also I have a weird fascination with that bulky dashboard.
Q: How did you feel when you were announced as MVP?
A: Incredibly humbled. Not only was I picked out by CIG amongst a bunch of other amazing community creations at the time, but also the fact that everyone in the community was so appreciative of my work. Maybe because CIG keeps repeating the same thank-you’s on every video and article that I started to take the true extent of the community support for granted, but being on the receiving end of it really brings it into perspective.
Q: If you had one thing you wanted to tell the community as a whole, what would it be?
A: I guess just do what matters to you. If there is something you feel you can contribute, then don’t let your hesitation get in the way of that. The community has already provided a wealth of creative ideas and yours could easily be one of those.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add?
A: I guess I should clean up those drop bears off the windscreen now.