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simovitch

maps and accuracy

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I purchased the CMBN big bundle a few weeks ago and I must say enjoying the new CM graphics and features a lot. I also played out the CMFB demo and was pleased with the graphical representation of the Ardennes in the winter. I've been there enough times in December to be struck by the familiarity of the terrain from my desktop here in California.:)

My question is, now that it appears that we can create maps with topo underlays, are the CMFB maps accurate for 1944? I've seen mention of mapmakers using google earth and I shudder to think that the road net and forestation will be based on modern extents. Compared with the 1943 GSGS or the 1938 German topos I can't imagine what google earth would be good for except maybe dragons teeth lines or watercourses? A ground level screenshot of the Rocherath-Krinkelt map from the Ruppenvenn looking towards Krinkelt would be helpful... Thanks!

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heh i'm out here in CA too.  I did that map and I got a lot of pointers from other folks.  The maps topology and primary forests are based on 1944 maps as is the relative placement of houses.  The details past that get harder as there aren't ground level pics of much other than the actual town. (I have 2 copies of the twin villages book, one original one newer, but it doesn't have an aerial view denoting houses so it was hard to really figure which building is where).

The details I got a lot assistance from folks on what the area looks like some of that admittedly based on google map views, but the back roads look won't have changed that much.  I don't have one handy but I'll see if I can't post one later.

If you are asking for a screenshot view of the map in game, the only item I would warn you about is trees will vanish with distance.  Long range views in CM tend to not actually give you the full pic.

I think I speak for the other mappers in that we all started with 1944 era maps

http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/search/collection/GermanyMaps

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I agree that Google-earthing some places is almost pointless because many places have been reworked beyond recognition. The Ardennes region is different, though. Its rather easy to tell the new buildings from the old. Using historical resources like 'After The Battle' and "Bulge Through The Lens" you often see the same buildings in the same spot on the same road in 1944, 1984 and 2014. Compare that to some parts of Northern Italy where you type in the coordinates of a particular battle and Google Earth drops you into the parking lot of an upscale shopping mall. :huh:

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Stavelot and Noville and the Aachen maps are done from 1944 maps, as well as period photographs when available for ground level views. GE is certainly a useful tool, but it is secondary to the period information. These maps allow accurate house placements within a few feet, etc. the only deviations are due to adjusting the roads to fit the CM road angles, etc,

Edited by benpark

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I prefer not to use Google Earth too much, for exactly this reason. For me, it's more fun to find a high-resolution aerial recon photo from the war and then try to recreate that in as much detail as the editor will alllow.

But I guess if you want to do a specific battle, you'll need to take and use what you can get. In that case, my suggestion would be to do these steps when working with Google Earth:

1: A virtual walk-through of the area and remove all houses from your map that are not clearly old.

2: Do a "scale down" of the road network. With that I mean to drop down all roads one level of quality. A modern, well travelled road becomes the CM regular road. Smaller paved roads become dirt roads. Dirt roads become foot paths or disappear. Long straight modern highways are generally just erased, unless you know for sure they were there at the time.

3: Cut all fields in half by hedges, low walls, or bocage (in Normandy of course). It's my impression that fields were generally smaller in 1944, and many small farms have later been bought up, fusing fields together.

4: Add more trees, bushes, and shrubbery. Weeds, too. I think the 1944 rural landscape would have had much more foliage, also weeds and shrubs at the edges and corners of fields. 1944 was a time before large-scale herbicide use and intensive mechanical clearing had really taken off. Tractors were in use in some places, but a lot of work was still done by manpower and horses. (here's a nice graph of tractors vs horses).

5: Consider making streams of flowing water less straight. There was a time in modern agriculture where a lot of the little brooks were straightened and dug out to make them more like canals. With bad results for wildlife. For this reason, they are now being re-curved in some places. Do your bit for CM wildlife :) Also remember that the land close to the small streams would often have been more swampy and marshy than today, due to less draining pumps being installed back then. So having a "golf lawn" straight down to the water would have been rare.

Edited by Bulletpoint

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7 hours ago, MikeyD said:

I agree that Google-earthing some places is almost pointless because many places have been reworked beyond recognition. The Ardennes region is different, though. Its rather easy to tell the new buildings from the old. Using historical resources like 'After The Battle' and "Bulge Through The Lens" you often see the same buildings in the same spot on the same road in 1944, 1984 and 2014. Compare that to some parts of Northern Italy where you type in the coordinates of a particular battle and Google Earth drops you into the parking lot of an upscale shopping mall. :huh:

After Rick Atkinson's book on the Italian campaign and CMFI came out, I fired up GE and took a virtual tour through the countryside. I was shocked at the changes. What had been largely open fields where fighting had taken place is now one big suburb. Only the peaks of the higher and more rugged mountains remain undeveloped. What people have posted here about the careful use of GE carries a lot of weight, but in many parts of Europe the underlying landscape of the 1940s has been all but erased.

Michael

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54 minutes ago, Michael Emrys said:

What had been largely open fields where fighting had taken place is now one big suburb.

I think you just summed up the entire world history in one sentence.

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Some excellent points (pun intended) made above. I'm always comparing the places I "fight" in between what the scenario designer has given us, period maps, and modern maps. I find it fascinating to see what has changed and what remains from '44. In the current game I'm particularly impressed with the map of Aachen that we get to fight on. A brilliant piece of work.

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15 hours ago, simovitch said:

My question is, now that it appears that we can create maps with topo underlays, are the CMFB maps accurate for 1944? I've seen mention of mapmakers using google earth and I shudder to think that the road net and forestation will be based on modern extents.

Getting the elevation is the main thing I use Google Earth for.  For example the Lanzerath ridge map was made using GE for the elevation.  I used some areal photos to confirm that the main roads and forests were more or less unchanged which gave me confidence that no one had reworked the landscape too much.  So, I used a GE map for the elevation along with the road network and forest boundaries adjusted using the areal photos.  Then used the areal photos combined with street view to place the buildings.  As @sburke said some of the buildings are clearly pretty much the same.  The goal is absolutely to get a map that looks like it did in 1944.

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And before I forget to mention it, the Peiper campaign maps are freakin amazing. I can remember getting the HASL maps and thinking at the time how great they were, well prepare to be blown away again. 

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1 hour ago, Ts4EVER said:

The Monschau map is kind of disappointing though, it seems like the elevation is completely wrong.

Yea, the town itself is a complete fiction compared to what it's actual layout and topography are. 

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For maps in France there are extensive aerial photos available for the map maker.  The thing with aerial photos is that it isn't always easy to get the scaling exact since you don't always know exactly what altitude the plane was flying when the pictures were taken.  Even if you do know it can be a difficult task to match the scaling with the game map in the editor in order to create an overlay.  That's where google earth makes things simple.  You can block out a map and you know its exact dimensions to the meter and that translates easily into your map scaling within the editor since the scaling can be matched exactly.  If my map is blocked out as 500 meters by 500 meters then all I need to do is block out 500 meters by 500 meters in Google Earth and you're in business. 

It is true that the modern topography can be very different than how things looked back in 1944, but at the same time you would be surprised by how similar some areas are.  Generally speaking the closer you are to a major city the more the area has changed.  Even in areas with a lot of urban build up you can typically find 'the bones' of the old landscape by recreating the road net.  The road net almost never changes.  Additional roads may be added, but the roads that were there in 1944 are typically still present in 2016 and once you can identify the original road net then recreating the rest becomes fairly simple.  The original road net becomes your guide and acts as reference points to recreating the 1944 landscape using modern Google Earth.

The bigger problem with map making in the game is the fact that you are limited to 90 degree and 45 degree angle of placement for buildings and roads.  That limitation is much more of an issue than any limitation with Google Earth.  As long as you have access either to aerial photos or topo maps from the 1940s for comparison purposes then Google Earth is your friend.

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I'm reminded of when they did the film "Is Paris Burning" (only) 20 years after the liberation of Paris they had to order all the rooftop TV antennas be taken down in order to get the shots. Now if they attempted that film they'd have to CGI-out entire apartment blocks from the horizon. Not to mention a certain ugly-arse glass pyramid plopped in front of a certain historical building which shall remain nameless.

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OK thanks for the responses and insights guys, this is reassuring and CMFB is likely my next purchase. And it's good to see some of the old breed still around. I think the last time I posted on Battlefront was back in 2008 when I limped away from a pedantic flame war with JasonC. That's not to say I hope he's gone, I enjoyed his posts immensely.

Looking forward to learning the new editor. I'm not so worried about Monschau being off but hopefully Hofen is in good shape. If it hasn't been done yet that might be my first project...

cheers.

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5 minutes ago, simovitch said:

Looking forward to learning the new editor. I'm not so worried about Monschau being off but hopefully Hofen is in good shape. If it hasn't been done yet that might be my first project...

cheers.

Ha looks like you'll have to get to work.  Hofen is not on the master map list.

The list is

Aachen, Chaumont, Lutrebois, Marnach, Meijel, Monschau, Noville (including a snow version), St Vith North, Stavelot, Stoumont and the Twin Villages.  And that is just the master maps. :D

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12 hours ago, ASL Veteran said:

The thing with aerial photos is that it isn't always easy to get the scaling exact since you don't always know exactly what altitude the plane was flying when the pictures were taken.

Or the focal length of the camera used. Camera specs are on record and can be looked up, I expect, but exactly which camera was in use for a specific mission may not always be well recorded. Most of the time this should not be much of a problem, but it is one more thing to take into consideration.

Michael

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I'll compensate for this by having 3 files that I will put into Photoshop and scale to match (based upon rivers, road networks, etc)-

-One image from a period map

-One image from GE set to view "Terrain", which will give me a more distinct contour line for the larger height differentials

-One image from either a period aerial (from one of several sources I either subscribe to, or can find on line). This helps with knowing where previous bomb damage, etc. may be if it the photograph is a recon image from a mission close in time to the map I am making. It also helps with understanding the actual layout of houses and even where individual trees may be.

I then layer these in Photoshop, and adjust the Opacity and Blending Modes (Overlay, generally) so that I get an idea of the overall terrain. I will then make 2-3 Overlay.BMPs. One of just the period map, with the height maps drawn in with a color code for each elevation, one of just the aerial image (if available) and maybe a hybrid of the two if the source material is more lacking (as it was as far as aerial imagery- besides modern GE images for the RT maps).

I will also go into GE, and view the general "lay of the land". For some maps, I will spend longer in Street View than others. I think you could go through the Noville map and also view in Street View, and it would match up quite well. As mentioned, it is fairly easy to see what the older houses are- I even matched the look of the houses in the Noville map to the look of what I saw in Street View. Stavelot and the Aachen maps used a bit less of that, and more of period pictures and trying to get the heights correct, etc.- but these hew closely to the period maps.

Edited by benpark

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What a fascinating discussion.

IMO, the maps included with CMFB are outstanding. Those master maps... just wow. I've been hoping some 3rd party designers would cut 'em up and use them for addon scenarios. Not too many of those yet. I'd have a go at it myself, but... to be honest, the part I love is the designing of the maps, trying to tweak the landscapes and buildings to perfection, while the part I'm much less comfortable with is the design of the AI plans. Pretty sure I'm not alone in that.

As to finding good historical maps, is there any consensus here on the best web source(s)? Free would be great, obviously, but if the quality of the maps were high enough and the database large enough, I'd definitely consider putting out a little cash.

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21 hours ago, Pak40 said:

Yea, the town itself is a complete fiction compared to what it's actual layout and topography are. 

It's a shame too, because I visited that town and it is really beautiful. Hard to recreate, probably.

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STTP- it is really variable as far as map availability. This site was helpful for comparisons of the BoB areas, personally:

http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=14&lat=50.0645&lon=5.6680&layers=gsgs4042&b=1

I subscribe to this website, which has generally very useful aerial imagery from 1944-1945 sorties (primarily):

http://ncap.org.uk/

Otherwise, it is sleuthing. I always do searches in the native language of the areas I'm looking into. Dumb luck sometime wins out as far as finding things, too.

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20 hours ago, sburke said:

Ha looks like you'll have to get to work.  Hofen is not on the master map list.

The list is

Aachen, Chaumont, Lutrebois, Marnach, Meijel, Monschau, Noville (including a snow version), St Vith North, Stavelot, Stoumont and the Twin Villages.  And that is just the master maps. :D

Hofen is on the Monschau Master map. The town is just south of Monschau.

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I have hi res scans of most of the Ardennes; 1943 GSGS 1:50000 and several of the 1:25000 1938 German ones of the Eifel area. Also some very cool 1:25000 scans locating the westwall bunkers and dragon's teeth. These look to be like the actual asbuilt plates, not the overlays on the modern topo that you find on the internet. I'll post some screens when I get a chance.

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