View Full Version : Fractal Terrains Pro: tectonic plate simulation?

04-06-2009, 09:32 AM
Iím not sure where this thread belongs, either in the software section or here. Iím sort of looking for advice on two fronts: getting educated on using FT, and also simulating plate activity in FT.

I'm beginning to plot out the world map for my D&D world, in which I've been adventuring already for a few years. I have very few set-in-stone requirements; two continents a couple thousand miles apart with temperate coastal areas, and at least one reachable southern continent with areas of a more tropical climate. The rest is up to chance and I hope to make it naturalistic if possible.

Iím totally new to FT. Iíve spent the weekend fooling with it and learned a few things, but Iím having trouble finding tutorials that are comprehensive enough to set me in the right direction! So hereís what Iíve been thinking;

FT always generates continents with the highest elevations smack in the middle. I can certainly edit and fool around with this, which helps things look more natural. But I was wondering if anybody has advice about how to simulate more earthlike crustal activity within FT, so I can place continents/mountain ranges/ocean ridges in logical places.

Also, my experiments are looking pretty crude at the moment. Even if I have to paint the continents totally by hand to get naturalistic plate activity, I worry that the whole thing will look artificial because Iím not getting a good random look from my tools. Are there tricks for producing large continents that appear more accidental? Particular map projections that help the editing work out right at the poles? The only advice Iíve come across is to use large prescale offset tools with a small value, and sort of stipple the markmaking. Maybe this is just a skill to be learned, but maybe there are other tricks?

04-23-2009, 03:29 AM
Having experimented the hell out of Fractal Terrains, I regret to tell you that this is just not practical in FT. The most realistic-looking results you'll get in FT are from the program's ridged multi-fractal algorithm, but they'll never produce results you could reconcile with the patterns that plate tectonics creates. At best, you'll get something more like Venus, which has an active core but no convection and therefore no continental drift to speak of (because it has no relatively high-paced planetary rotation that could be regulated by a tidally-locked body like a moon), so in the absence of true continental drift patterns, planetary venting happens in random locations (read: random volcanoes everywhere), which results in a blotchier, less patterned surface. It can be done prettily, if you like that kind of thing. But it'll never resemble realistic earth-style plate tectonics.

04-23-2009, 09:56 AM
Yeah I settled on a random world, heavily editing it to give it a reasonably plausible look, then mapping it out for real in a whole other program. I'll use my hand-made version to alter the placement of mountains, which is what I'm doing now. The raw FT files give me mountainous shapes to use for reference, and gave me some elevation/temperature data to help inform my hand-made process. It also allows me to measure distances etc. though of course I've changed some of the data since exporting it.

Greason Wolfe
04-23-2009, 09:59 AM
As Gilgamesh said, there's no real way to simulate tectonic action internally in FTPro. About the closest I've come to that sort of thing is to keep cycling through worlds until I find one that has a pseudo-tectonic look to it, then editing like crazy to trim shores and flatten the "centralized mountains" before rebuilding those same mountains where they would more logically appear based on tectonic activity.

A couple alternatives might be to go through a "Simple Create" mode to generally locate things then edit from there. Alternatively, and I've had absolutely no luck with this approach, would be to build a file in an external program (like GIMP) and then use the "Color to Altitude Conversion" features. As I said, I've never had any luck with this approach, as the end results look nothing like I intended them to.

There are so many factors contributing to tectonic activity and how land develops from that activity that I would imagine any software package capable of simulating it would be rather extensive and user input intensive.


04-24-2009, 02:23 AM
Wow, I didn't know that FT could create a map based on an imported image, must check this out! Thanks Wolfe!

Greason Wolfe
04-24-2009, 03:15 AM
It works through the Image Overlays. I don't remember the entire procedure off the top of my head at the moment, and, as I said previously, I've never had any luck with it as it doesn't seem to do a straight conversion in the same way that Terragen does. One thing I'm experimenting with right now is accomplishing this through Terragen to Wilbur to FTPro. Since Wilbur can read bmp files (exported from Terragen) and save them as mdr files (which can be read by FTPro), I am thinking that I might get a better result. If my experiments go well and produce results that look close to what they should be, I'll hammer out a tutorial on the process.


04-24-2009, 03:58 AM
That would be great!

04-24-2009, 07:32 PM
I second that idea as well...will be very handy.

04-27-2009, 05:53 AM
That's great. Thank you for your sharing;)

simulation rachat credit (http://simulationrachatcredit.com)

05-26-2009, 11:31 AM
One thing I'm experimenting with right now is accomplishing this through Terragen to Wilbur to FTPro. Since Wilbur can read bmp files (exported from Terragen) and save them as mdr files (which can be read by FTPro),


Pardon my ignorance but how? All I can open is .ftw files. Please explain, I would be very grateful :!:

05-26-2009, 03:53 PM
You can open .mdr files by going into File>New... and then select Binary File. Click on Choose Elevation File and select your .mdr file you want to bring in (by default it filters for .bin files, so tell it to look for All Files). Don't worry about filling in all those parameters as Fractal Terrains automatically grabs them from the .mdr file. Then just hit Ok, Next, and then Finish.

There is an issue with .mdr files being flipped vertically in FT, but Wilbur does the same thing to .ftw files. You can either flip them before hand in Wilbur or afterwards in FT (Map>World Settings>Fractal Function and then check Flip Vertical).

05-26-2009, 06:14 PM
Thank you, for answering. But this method works for me only with .mdr files that are saved with FTPro. In all other cases I get only strange results, like those below :((

06-05-2009, 11:59 AM
simulation rachat de credit (http://simulationrachatdecredit.org)
interesting. :lol:

Greason Wolfe
06-23-2009, 10:25 AM
Pardon my ignorance but how? All I can open is .ftw files. Please explain, I would be very grateful :!:

Sorry, I've been away for a while and just saw this question. It's really not a very difficult process, but there are a few parameters that have to be met.

1. The bmp file that you import into Wilbur should be dimensionally correct for rendering in FTPro, i.e. 2 pixels wide for every 1 pixel of height. (I would personally recommend not going above 4096 by 2048 unless you have the RAM/Processing power to do so)

2. In Wilbur, before saving as an .mdr file, go to Surface>>Map Info. Where you see the "Edges" section, make sure those read as follows

Top : 90
Right : 180
Bottom : -90
Left : -180

This will stretch your file to cover the "full world" in FTPro.

3. As mentioned before, there is a "flipping" issue between Wilbur and FTPro. This can be solved in either application. In Wilbur, before saving as an .mdr file go to Surface>>Rotate>>Flip Vertical and then save your file. Alternatively you can save map in an .mdr format immediately, and once imported in FTPro (File>>New>>Binary File>>Chose Elevation File>>All Files) go to World Settings>>Fractal Function and check the Flip Vertical check box.

One thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to keep the .mdr file available unless you use the Burn Into Surface action which, IMHO, tends to distort/terrace the end results.

Hope this helps and, again, sorry for the delay in answering. Once I've tweaked out the final process I'll be posting it here. Besides the Convert Color to Altitude process, this seems to be the best way I've found to bring hand-drawn maps into FTPro.


06-25-2009, 11:07 PM
this is interesting... thank you for your comments

simulation credit (http://simulationcredit1.com)

07-05-2009, 09:44 PM
Thanks for sharing your idea here. I appreciate your idea, very excellent:).

simulationcredit (http://simulationcredit1.com)

07-07-2009, 10:23 PM
There is an issue with .mdr files being flipped vertically in FT, but Wilbur does the same thing to .ftw files.
sonnerie portable gratuite (http://sonneriegratuite.org)