Overwatch: The Map

12 different maps

Overwatch is game developed by Blizzard Entertainment released today, 5/24/2016. It belongs to the newly coined genre “hero shooters” which is a traditional multiplayer first person shooting where players choose skillsets based on characters instead of classes.

The story has been in development for some time and knowing Blizzard’s handiwork, it’s probably consumed a large amount of resources. I’m personally, glad to see them developing their fictional universe in a setting using real geography that we, the fans, are familiar with and inhabit.

The following are the different arenas and locales spread across the Earth:

Temple of Anubus – This is located in the famous monoment park in Giza, Egypt. It’s a fictional building but the Pyramids that shadow it and the Giza plateau it’s situated on are both very real.

Hanamura – This is a picturesque location with budding cherry blossoms and classical Japanese architecture. This fictional city itself could be any metropolitan suburb in Japan. The direct translation of Hanamura is “Flower Village”. For the purposes of our georefrencing, we’ll use Tokyo for this location since it, along with Kokkaido, are the two most famous places for viewing the cherry blossoms in reality.

Voklskaya Industries is a near-future representation of a Russian heavy industry production plant. The fictional plant converts “omnium” into “Svyatogor”, mechanized fighting exoskeletons. Any large industrial center with infrastructure and access to Siberia can fill the role of this town for georeferencing purposes. Novosibirsk is the biggest city in Siberia with 1,5 million people in 2012 [1]. For the purposes of our georeferencing, we’ll assume Novosibirsk grows into the industrial powerhouse that is home to Voklskaya Industries.

Gibralter is an easy point to map. What’s interesting about Overwatch’s Gibralter is that it seems to have changed hands. In Overwatch, the former British territory serves as a base for the organization of the same name. This international Gibralter is an interesting concept and illustrates the importance of the strategic positioning that Gibralter occupies at the mouth of the Mediterrainian.

Dorado is a fictional city in Mexico. It’s set upon a sweeping bay and features a large power plant that is reminiscent of a mayan pyramid. For the sake of our georeferencing, we’re going to assume this town exists in reality by another name. I settled on Campeche, a city known for its lighted streets, mirrored in the eternally nighttime map of Overwatch’s Dorado. It’s on the Yucatan peninsula, within a the historic Mayan territory and reach of the ruins, possibly providing the local inspiration for its fictional power plant. The Bay of Compache is a feature of the southern Gulf of Mexico and it perfectly fills the discriptor of a sweeping bay in Overwatch’s Darado.

Route 66 is a historic highway in The United States and is the subject of many cultural creations and fanciful folklores. This highway, once known as the “Main Street of America” sweeped south and west from Chicago to Los Angeles. In Overwatch, the map features some very familiar looking canyon formations. Maybe it’s Flagstaff?

Lijiang Tower is a beautiful skyscraper set in a luminescent, futuristic, East Asian city. It has a real life counterpart, a Lijiang city, in the Yunnan province of southwestern China. The beautiful Lijiang Tower in Overwatch might be in this relatively quaint Chinese town. Currently, in real life, hovering around 1.5 million people, it is a relatively small player in the game of Chinese Metropoli. How this rather humble city becomes the bustling spaceport city with Lijiang Tower nestled in the center is still yet to be seen.

Ilios is a lightly colored seaside town complete with scenic cliffs and ocean breezes. It’s fictional, not appearing on any world maps of modern or historic Earth. It likely is inspired by the many islands of the Aegean sea. Illios, meaning “sun” in Greek, is definitely an appropriate name for this Island. It may be a reference to the legendary city of Troy; Illion. This would put this map in modern day Turkey which contradicts the Greek flag adorning the map. For mapping purposes this is what we are going to assume.

An appropriately geographically named map, Nepal, makes an interesting appearence. How to a group of sentient robots who have experienced spiritual awakening, it has one of the most unique backstories of the map. It’s name, however, is quite vague. It’s a monastary tucked away in the Himylayas. These most famous real life counterpart would arguably be Tengboche a village over 12000 feet in altitude and home to a Buddhist monastery. It’s located in the northwest region of Nepal and is prone to earthquakes. My research hasn’t show any current robot residents so Overwatch’s iteration might still be some time in the future. Let’s just hope the new electronic denizens are shock resistant.

King’s row is a street in a what appears to be a futuristic London. A high tech Big Ben can be seen in the distance and it’s sporting the flag of the United Kingdom.

Numbani, hoiwever, isn’t as easily identified. Situatied along Africa’s west coast, it could be the future iteration of a number of cities spanning Ghana to Nigeria. The flag that accompanies the map is not a real-world flag. It could be a city state. We’ll assume it is a futuristic Lagos. It could also be a futuristic Accra. It could be a new city state entirely.

Hollywood is the easiest location to georeference. It exists in the real world and the world of overwatch.

[1] http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=POP&f=tableCode%3A240

A Trail of Digital Breadcrumbs

LAte in 2014 I fould myself in the Shenandoah Mountains almost daily, taking GPS coordinates. I used an app to track my movement and then georeferenced these tracks and stiched them together to create a trail map of the area. There weren’t any complete trail maps of the area when I had Google searched at the time, so I decided to make my own. This was my first pioneering project that really piqued my interest in applied geography and GIS.

Each day a different trail was tracked. Each of these result screenshots showing the trail were cropped, made semi-transparent, and transposed onto a basemap in Photoshop.

hone quarry main.png
Hone Quarry recreation area and its trailheads with a location history trail in red tracked using the MapMyRun app

The topgraphic elements made the orthorectification easier when incorporating the data onto the basemap. Luckily, MapMyRun, Nike+, and several other free options had app has a companion site that allows you to view high resolution, interactive maps of the data. This alleviated the need for a lot of resolution acrobatics.

Using Google Maps’ resources, I was able to take screenshots of area and stitch them together to create a high resolution image. This method isn’t the most efficient but it go the job done.

One part of the collection of Google Maps topographic images that were used to create a high resolution topographic map of the area.

The work was originally done in photoshop but with the .psd plugin for paint.net it’s not necessary.

This map is the result of the stitching and overlaying the tracking layers:

NRRD cutaway map.jpg

Full resolution: http://i.imgur.com/r5x3Bsq.jpg

This was a fun exercise in georeferencing and, of course, field work. It’s interesting to see the real 3D space that the 2D maps are projecting.

It correlates with the official National Geographic trail map of the area, which I had to order online. The receipt of this official map concluded this project. I’d consider myself an expert navigator of these woods now, both in the analog and the digital worlds.

An insert from the official National Geographic trail map of the George Washing National Forest on the border of Virginia and West Virginia

Full resolution: http://imgur.com/UnkMRpb

This type of georeferencing is becoming more and more integrated with daily life as our spatial lives are encoding in the digital world. Future National Geographic maps might have a “you-are-here” feature. The sky is the limit.

Distance, Delivery, and Deliciousness

Drive time analysis is key for making logistical decisions. In the case of a certain Italian restaurant, drive times could mean the difference between a hot salad and a cold pizza.

The two factors that go into this particular analysis are drive time, the time it takes to drive somewhere using the road network, and distance, network distance not Euclidean. Two drive time measurements were taken to represent the different business loads; dead and peak-hours. ArcGIS is the program used.

This first map is the 15 minute range of a driver leaving the store at 12:45pm on a monday using ArcGIS Online’s proximity analysis. The second accounts for traffic at 6:00pm on a Friday. This gives us an interesting spatial representation which we can use to identify some features of the area at a glance.

delivery distance
Lighter purple: Areas normally with a 15 minute drive-time that may experience delays during peak hours

The lighter purple signify areas that may be affected by traffic, taking longer than 15 minutes to reach during times of peak congestion. Everything beyond the purple takes longer than 15 minutes to drive. Orders from the light purple areas are where customers need to be made aware of delays. It’s interesting to note the inlet of inaccessibility to the southeast of the blue origin marker. This is partially due to the lack of a thoroughfare that runs perpendicular to I-85. Hopefully, in the future the now under construction George W Liles parkway will remedy the excessive drive times to this area, expanding the reach of delivery.

Splitting the spatial representation into three different time intervals presents another perspective:

delivery distance interval
5 minutee, 10 minute, 15 minute intervals

The intervals extenuate the importance of thoroughfares through the area. The lightest purple, 5 minutes, denotes the neighborhoods and roads closest to the store. Single deliveries in this area should take around 10 minutes round-trip. Darkest purple is 15 minutes and will be a 30 round trip or more at the furthest extent. Food temperature is of extreme importance when operating in this region and the proximity of destinations to thoroughfares play key roles in deliveries exceeding the 15 minute radius.

Unfortunately, the ArcGIS online basemap doesn’t include the updated I-485 data. Its completion further enhances this range.

Interactive Map: http://arcg.is/1Tbene0

Geographic Gaming

Who’s on the receiving end of the sword when you’re battling online? Your reach might be longer than you think.

Friends on Steam with geolocation enabled publicly by country, from 1 to 6

A curiosity occured to me about the geography of my friends list on Steam, the video gaming platform. I’m a notorious friend collector and I it would be fun to use the Steam API to retrieve some data about my friends list and georeference what I could find.

An API key from Steam is needed to use the function and can be retrieved here:


Replace the Xs with the API key in the following URL and you’ll be able to make data requests. This is used to authenticate you:


Define the argument steamid=. This is just the ID of the user being queried. Replace the Ys with the 64 bit number of your, or anyone else’s public steam ID which can be found here:


Now we have our friends list and all the publically available data associated with it. The default output is Json, and I want to organize and extract the georeferenced data in Excel. https://json-csv.com/ easily converts the data. By adding the 64 bit IDs to the steamids=argument at the end of the URL below we can query the geographic data, if it’s available. Only 100 entries can be returned at a time:


Only 13% of my Steam friends had their data publically available to the API. The data consisting of 27 entries was added to cartodb.com and the following choropleth map was created. Hoping in the future more people will make their location data public so it can be collected by the API for applications like this. Though it’s not likely representitive of the true demographics, it is still interesting.

Interactive Map: https://jdean32.cartodb.com/viz/603704b2-187a-11e6-b2c1-0e5db1731f59/embed_map

However, the API data leaves much to be desired. Shifting through the data by hand was over 600% more effective, yielding 166 data entries compared to the 27 recovered by the API. This is do to the nature of the API. If a field is market private, no data is collect by the API, regardless of whether it is viewed to friends, etc. This by-hand method allows me to collect the other 139 entries Privacy buffs will rejoice at this functionality, and possibly lawyers too, but will leave those with an appetite for quick, available data hungry.

Collecting the data with the by-hand method, which consists of browsing the steam website and recording location data one entry at a time in an excel spreadsheet, was easy enough although time consuming. If only there was so way to alter the API to retrieve this “friends-only” data. I then organized it into a table that should be read by ArcGIS Online no problem.

presort steam exercise
A snippet of the by-hand data collection results after formatting

A possible complication could be the use of the blank cells which had been used to denote entries that didn’t include a region with a country. These were originally labeled “no state” but I thought ArcGIS would handle them more easily if they were just blank. Then came the fun part, editing the data so it is understandable by the GIS software.

One of the earliest complications was the use of native spelling. In Steam, the region of a country can be in the spelling of the native language. This is how the data was recorded. ArcGIS online doesn’t recognize some of these entries. Going through and changing everything to english was the first step.

Bulgaria with 1 out of 2 entries showing


An example of this is Sofia in Bulgaria. Spelled in English as Sofia. Spelled in Bulgarian and represented by the user on Steam as Sofiya. The region Stara Zagora was recognized but not the capital Sofia. Only 2 of the 4 Romanian entries showed up. Checking the spelling against the results on the map was the first step to rectifying the presentation of this data.

I got to discover some interesting locations like Broken Hill, New South Wales, Austrailia, an inland mining town. Karnten is Corinthia, the southern mountainous region in Austria, in German. Nordrhein-Westfalen is North Rhine-Westphalia in English. South Tirol is South-Alto Adige in Italian. Marrakech is spelled Marrakesh in English.

top 10
Top 10 countries. 3-way tie for 10th

After organizing the data I figured I would present it in a way that would highlight the individual cities as well as total counts within a country. A choropleth should handle it.

79 entries had city data compared to 2 with the Steam API. What’s the significance? Only 2/166 = 1/83 = 1.2%. The question becomes how are we going to present this data.

The video above represents the friends that are located in California. Notice the two clusters; Los Angeles and San Fransisco.

combination image.png
A combination of some selected cities and a choropleth of users per country in Europe

A problem with the map above is that the labels for the countries cover up the symbology for the city layer.

Below is an interesting animated map of friends in Europe.

Below is a global perspective:

steam map
A complete representation of the world with choropleth elements and symbology marking selected cities.

Full Resolution: http://i.imgur.com/DtuBzSk.png

It’s interesting to compare this map with the original map with the API data. What this shows is that if you want the most accurate data you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. It also means that if you’re a privacy-minded person, you’re data is in good hands as far as the API is concerned.

Internet Proliferation 2014

The internet, the biggest thing since the cell phone, is an important cummication tool in the lives of people and businesses around the world. This choropleth map created in CartoDB shows the percent of a country’s population with access to the internet in 2014. The darker the blue, the more internet users per 100 people.

Note the gulf countries in the bottom right of the insert above

Full Resolution: http://i.imgur.com/z7BQww9.png

Interactive Map: https://jdean32.cartodb.com/viz/0b7dfbae-0260-11e6-9cec-0ef24382571b/embed_map

Data Source: http://databank.worldbank.org/data/reports.aspx?source=2&type=metadata&series=IT.NET.USER.P2



Choctaw is a computer built in March. It’s purpose on the home network is to handle and carrol file dumps when the main media server is under heavy load. So far so good. The processor is a workhorse from 2008 and the motherboard is running 8GB DDR2 ram. It does fine as a cloud in a… whatever you call a group of clouds. In the future it can function as a firewall, a packet sniffer, or a retro gaming rig with the right video card addition.

The serial ribbon used for the DVD drive really gives it a special charm.

choctaw spec