At XuEn's suggestion I've decided to put this in its own blog entry, so it's mostly a cut-and-paste from the image's about section.
I'm one of those people who likes to know where things are in relation to each other, maybe as I quite often get lost and my attempts to drive from one place to another can sometimes be a bit of a magical mystery tour. My experience of wandering about in video games is no better, whether or not it's intentionally aimless.
Sometimes there are maps to refer to. If there aren't, sometimes someone else does one. And when they don't, as a last resort I'll try my own hand at it. I'm not very good at it but I won't be put off by such trivialities!
Anyway, most of the rest of my thoughts and reasons for doing things the way I did are covered by the existing reams of wibbling.
So what is it?
An attempt to make a coherent map of Bitterblack Isle inspired by a random observation when traipsing around The Forsaken Cathedral that I could see into the area below.
Right from the outset, I suppose "why?" is a reasonable question as I've had to make several changes to the in-game map for it to work, i.e. excluding some areas and rotating others. While the resulting image is somewhat useful as a guide to BBI, it is now compromised as a 100% functional map. A "100% functional map" as a requirement is somewhat obviated as that already exists right here, and while I wanted this to be as accurate as possible, the driving force was curiosity, the desire to see if an actually coherent map could be created at all. Much to my surprise, it can, pretty much, and it's thrown up a number of things I really hadn't expected such as the proximity of what I'd previously assumed to be entirely disparate locations, e.g. the Cathedral being right next to Duskmoon Tower and the Midnight Helix beneath the Fallen City.
It has involved various assumptions and compromises which may or may not be a good thing. These are:
- Copy-paste areas, e.g. wholesale duplication of the Garden of Ignominy and Midnight Helix, or of smaller parts of maps such as the sewers in Gutter and Cathedral. These are assumed to be either:
- vertically superimposed, e.g. the cells in Regret and Cathedral are presumped to be multi-storey, the sewers in Cathedral and Gutter are assumed to follow exactly the same paths, and the larger rotundas i.e. Sparyard, Dread and Futile Truths are stacked one atop the other.
- excluded beyond what was assumed to be the original, so the Garden of Ignominy is included but Defiled Truth etc are not because they simply don't work in any coherent sense. Corridor of Emptiness is included on the same basis and Hallowed is not for the same reason.
- Doorways are assumed to be just a door whenever possible, but this sometimes isn't. In most cases this would just involve a small anteroom, hallway or stairwell not shown in game such as the corner required to progress from the Harbour to Ignominy but in some cases the distance is significant, such as Futile Truths back to Emptiness, which may indeed represent the corridor in question or be an otherwise long but uneventful trek not shown in game.
- Some areas appear to be scaled so I have rescaled them using the icons as a guide. Any scaling factor is probably defined explicitly in an *.arc file somewhere, but I'm not about to go looking! Most scaling is fairly straightforward when present, most being 75%.
- A few areas I've positioned according to a visual "what seems likely?"
i.e the shape of Tower of Treasons seems to follow the curve of the cells mentioned earlier, and the larger tower of the Garden of Ignominy could conceivably be its highest point.Update: though still true, this example is no longer relevant due to deciding that Tower of Treasons falls under Point 2 of the "copy-paste" clause above. See full explanation for the, er, full explanation.
- Some areas needed to be rotated. I suspected this to be the case before starting, though that "gut feeling" was perhaps just do to so many doorways being at 90⁰ angles. Specifically, they are:
- Duskmoon Tower, rotated 90⁰ clockwise so when entering from Ignominy you are still facing the same direction you approached from, i.e. east. This means that the exits to Regret and Dread are more ideally positioned.
- Corridor of Emptiness, rotated
45⁰ clockwise90⁰ clockwise (see update). This helps line up the exit to Fortress and its harbour now seems to face a more reasonable direction.
- Futile Truths is rotated 80⁰ anticlockwise (or possibly 75⁰, I forget now) in order to make its access from Gutter line up if it's stacked with Sparyard and Dread. Its exit makes no particularly good sense whichever direction it's facing though is arguably more likely to face west (as it does here) rather than north in its original orientation.
So all that explained, here is my map. It looks a bit confusing but actually isn't particularly: as the layers mostly occlude those below I've included coloured outlines of where they are presumed to be located and colour-coded the gates between them. In most cases there is just a single gate for both areas as they line up; in a few cases e.g. Stockade to Refuge there are two a short distance apart, the top-left colour indicating which zone the gate belongs to; and in rare cases e.g. Futile Truths to Emptiness they are far apart.
As far as I can see, the map seems to mostly make sense in terms of structures, how the various bits relate to each other, waterways and so on. I don't *think* I've tried to do anything impossible but it's been fairly intense having to first of all line up often several vertical elements per zone and then stack several zones vertically, so I may have overlooked something. But it seems to work for me.
As mentioned, some areas have been omitted, either because I don't think they would add anything useful to the map and would just confuse matters e.g. Defiled Truth, which seems to live up to its name, or which I didn't get around to because I'm knackered.
Possible Duskmoon-Cathedral conflict
One thing that is slightly perturbing me is the way Duskmoon Tower and the Forsaken Cathedral coexist. I think it works but it may not be quite as perfectly aligned as I would have hoped. Probably close, though.
One thing is obvious which is that the labyrinth of passageways would need to run underneath Duskmoon's open space: there's no bridges or anything visible above. Which means that the bottom level of the cathedral is going to be somewhat below the bottom level of Duskmoon, though I don't think that's really a problem as the exterior bits of BBI that are visible are clearly very craggy and feature lots of cliffs and overhangs and however big (or not) the island, what we see is probably built into a mountainside.
The other somewhat interesting implication is that Duskmoon Tower itself (i.e. the actual tower) is probably part of the cathedral.
Update: resolved; see below.
Removal of Tower of Treasons Repaid
Something had been nagging away at me which is that I'd resolved the other copy-paste areas by either determining that they were different vertical storeys of the same structure or that they were late development additions/changes and therefore should probably be overlooked.
The one exception (well, the main one) was Tower of Treasons Repaid, which is an obvious duplicate of Midnight Helix. Since the latter serves an actual purpose, i.e. obtaining the key to progress further and Treasons seems like simple filler, it seemed reasonable to presume that Helix is the real one.
Somewhat reluctantly, since it feels like "cheating" if I'm creating a cohesive map by removing half of it, I experimented with taking Treasons out of the equation and interestingly the entire bottom-left of the map (i.e. Harbour, Emptiness, Ignominy, Duskmoon and Fortress) fits together much more nicely. It seems to have accomplished the following:
- Emptiness, though still rotated, is at a more likely 90⁰ angle.
- Fortress is now properly aligned to go straight into Cathedral, the doors being very close and at the same point on the Y-axis.
- Duskmoon's exit to Regret now lines up exactly. This is somewhat at the cost of the exit to Dread, but it is still very close and correctly aligned.
- Perhaps most significantly, it resolves the potential overlap with Cathedral and it's now possible to imagine that Duskmoon Tower itself is a part of Cathedral's exterior structure.
- A minor point is that it also resolves the issue with Warrior's Respite which had been bothering me as I imagine it to be on the surface.
- In addition, similar to the more logical layout if Treasons is removed from the equation, the transition points from Duskmoon to Gutter are now very closely aligned if the similarly pointless-other-than-as-filler Defiled Truth is ignored. Which it is.
It does come at the cost of my theory of the prison cells, Treasons and one of Ignominy's towers forming a single structure but that was a bit of a "what if?" rather than something I thought to be fundamental.
Vertical arrangement of different areas
This is a bit of a tricky one and I'm mostly having to go on water levels, the sea level at the harbour being pretty much an absolute baseline for any large area or any area containing water: though some smaller completely-enclosed areas could conceivably be below sea level, for anything else this is highly unlikely. Conversely, small areas of water that could be little more than rock-pools e.g. the one visible from Ignominy's external walkway could be very high above sea level.
An implication of it being open sea is that, though a descent into the bowels of the earth is implied from a story perspective, the transition point between both Harbour to Ignominy and Emptiness to Fortress would need to include a significant rise. Whether that would comprise a simple stairwell as depicted in a couple of parts of Duskmoon or a much more meandering path isn't clear, but it would need to be a thing.
Areas with significant waterways such as Fortress, the Fallen City and the sewers probably have their water level at or around sea level. Which would make Ignominy quite high up as it must run above Fortress, there being nothing below the latter's bridges but a sheer drop into the water, but given that Ignominy descends into Duskmoon's upper level and Duskmoon is itself above most other locations that isn't really a problem other than the initial rather fatiguing ascent that would be required from the harbour.
It also makes putting Helix underneath Fallen City a bit of a squeeze, especially with Helix's own waterway cascading into Fallen City's, but I think it should still be possible.
Other minor points are that the "top stratum's" Regret must actually be below the "bottom stratum's" Cathedral if the sections with the cells are aligned as Regret is largely flooded while Cathedral has what is effectively just a drainage gulley, though I think this would correspond quite well with the requirement for Regret's transition to Helix's bottom level. With the sewer systems it's hard to determine whether Gutter's or Cathedral's are at the lowest level as both involve significant descents from their respective entry points, though I don't think it's especially important.
Update: having played a little more now being more mindful of these things, I've noticed that the waterway in the Fortress of Remembrance cascades down a waterfall immediately under the first (i.e. southernmost) bridge and its main water level is very much lower. This part of the river doesn't simply flow from the outside but cascades down another waterfall in the area's ceiling in its far south. I'm not sure what implications this might have considering its relative water-level to the Harbour considering Fortress has at least three, i.e. whatever is above it; what is below and to the south of the first bridge down the two-flight staircase from the entrance; and the main part of the area around the four-/five-storey tower.
I have no idea whether this may be canonical (nor if any of the rest of my conjecture might be, for that matter!) but my conclusion is that it would seem to make a lot more sense for the Harbour to be on an albeit rather large inland lake and not the open sea, as described in sea level. That would explain the cascades of water seen throughout Bitterblack Isle's various levels as well as the innumerable water features, which might be rather pleasant if not for all the things trying to disembowel you.
An additional thought is that the sea at the Harbour may not necessarily be the open sea but could be an albeit very large inland lake, which would make it potentially less troublesome in terms of water levels elsewhere. Although it's implied that the Arisen & Co sail directly there from Cassardis, what was shown at the introduction of BBI may simply be the last leg of the journey: after all, the small catamaran moored there is a rather inadequate vessel to ferry five people hundreds or possibly thousands of miles!
While I'm somewhat uncomfortable about the deletion of the albeit really very conspicuous duplicate Corridor of The Hallowed, from a purely theoretical point of view, my sudden interest in ceilings has brought to my attention that the spiral staircase at its entrance from the Harbour has a second storey. A convenient contrivance for my positioning of the entry to the Forgotten Hall over here rather than over there.
Multi-level areas and their juxtaposition
One thing I am aware of about outlining the entirety of each in-game "zone" is that several of them already comprise several vertical levels, e.g. Harbour, Fortress etc have four or five levels each. It is likely that in some instances these levels straddle or even interleave with the levels of adjacent zones, which I have not shown in my map.
There are a couple of reasons I have not done so. Partly because my presumption of the vertical positioning of different areas is rather conjectural and not set in stone, e.g. I am assuming that the "cells" part of Regret is beneath the same area of Cathedral, and that Harbor's sea level is actually the sea and therefore represents the base-line for the entire map, but both of these assumptions could be wrong.
The other is that the map is complicated enough already without separating out the different zones even further, which I think would make it quite incomprehensible.
The Forgotten Hall
I had mixed feelings about the absence of both Rotwood Depository and The Forgotten Hall even though they were both obvious copies of Ignominy. But omitting two consecutive areas and leaving no means of accessing The Bloodless Stockade was troubling me so I decided I needed to rectify it.
I wasn't at all surprised to discover that, taken together, there's no way both areas fit into the map: I immediately ran into the same problem as with Defiled Truth which made me conclude it was just padding rather than a true, integral part of the map.
However, I did find that Forgotten Hall on its own sits below and slightly offset from Ignominy which meets my requirements of similar areas being in similar locations and things like waterways and passages not being physically impossible.
The only slight issues other than it being a direct copy of Ignominy are, firstly, the main square wouldn't be open to the sky as it is in Ignominy; though without actually going to check (which I'm not in a desperate hurry to do) I'm not entirely convinced that Forgotten Hall's roof is open anyway.
And the second is that its entrance is above Emptiness rather than The Hallowed so I've effectively had to invent a doorway for it. But considering The Hallowed hasn't been included because of the copy-paste rule I don't think that's too major an issue.
In conclusion, I'm not 100% happy but I think it's better included than not.
Update: having subsequently checked, The Forgotten Hall's roof is indeed completely enclosed, unlike Ignominy's, so it can be located underneath Ignominy with no complication.
I'm not totally comfortable with this. In addition to the matter of areas I've perhaps too conveniently excluded, even if I do think for good reason, taken en masse this can seem a bit contrived in order to force stuff to work.
Normally I'd be sufficiently nonplussed by it to abandon it but as it's not unknown for other areas depicted in-game to be at a peculiar angle I figured it wasn't totally unreasonable. Dripstone Cave, for example, is completely upside-down compared to what I would've expected, especially the exit just north of the Encampment but also the caves theoretically exiting to the open sea. Was this a design change, thinking in particular of the very early concepts of Gransys' geography, or an oversight? Does it matter which: after all, the same probably applies to BBI.
As it is, the three areas I've rotated don't feel totally incongruous and they mean that the map (mostly) works properly. I have done a fair bit of experimentation to see if it works with them in their unrotated state, most recently spurred on by the observation that the cascading waterfalls at the south-west of the Fallen City could correspond to e.g. the Midnight Helix... and while there are some compelling reasons to attempt a different approach, everything I've tried breaks far more stuff than it fixes. So it seems this is my definitive version, at least until I (or someone else) has a ground-breaking idea that is a sort of Grand Unified Theory of BBI mapping.
Duskmoon Tower: early concepts?
Another couple of things struck me when I was figuring out how stuff may fit together beyond where the transition points seem to line up. At present both of these concern Duskmoon Tower in its original non-rotated orientation, i.e. you are facing north when you enter it from Ignominy.
The first is the rather grand-looking entrance on the bottom level to your far right. It seems somewhat incongruous that it only contains a couple of "cupboards". I note that it is also at a jaunty angle; interestingly, this angle exactly matches that of the flight of steps leading into the Fallen City. I wonder if this was originally intended.
The second may be nothing more than a leftover from them creating two areas in quick succession but I couldn't help but notice the western end of the non-rotated Duskmoon has exactly the same size and outline as the outer part of Midnight Helix where the toxic river flows. I don't know whether to make any more of that than "that's slightly interesting."
Talking of grand entrances, I have wondered if maybe the doorway directly across the now broken bridge at Duskmoon was originally intended to be the Cathedral's external doorway. It wouldn't work as the map is now arranged but it could've been an earlier idea.
Dunno, really. I suppose at some point I should at least attempt to see if Rotwood and Forgotten Hall might fit at all in spite of the slight eyeroll that both are yet more copies of Ignominy. They may do, though I'm not optimistic. That said, I wasn't optimistic about any of this stuff working together which as it's transpired it seems to do remarkably well. I may give it a go if I find the energy but I've poured something like 20+ hours of effort into this project over the weekend and I'm done in.
Verify that The Forgotten Hall's ceiling is enclosed]]: though not of critical importance to the map, it is important that the description is as accurate as I can make it and this is still outstanding despite my claim to the contrary. Tiredness and absent-mindedness conspired to ensure I was observing the wrong area i.e. The Pilgrim's Gauntlet, which is not (and won't be) included.✅ Done: it is indeed roofed over.
- Rename this page and link it somewhere relevant so anybody interested can actually find it!
- Figure out why table-of-contents still isn't displaying correctly.
I wish they'd called them something nicer! Duskmoon is okay but typing out the others repeatedly makes me feel like I need a bath.