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Greason Wolfe
08-03-2009, 03:47 PM
As I mentioned in the "Bad News and More Bad News" post, I've started work on a new project intended for a Gaming Convention/Saga, and I'm happy to say that progress is moving along nicely. This morning I managed to lay out the coast line and drop in the first mountain chain (The Kreimyr Mountains) and whip-up an initial Terragen render just to see how things were looking. I have to say, at this point, that I am rather pleased with the results.

The area detailed ranges approximately 175 miles north/south and east/west. It is, I will admit, loosely based on the Northwestern portion of the U.S. and the Southwestern portion of Canada. Rather than simply reproduce said areas, however, I'm taking the liberty of modifying some of the land form and adding in a few offshore islands.

For this map, I decided to try a slightly different technique that takes advantage, at least in part, of RobA's Regional Map tutorial and touches ever so briefly Torq's Mountain Techniques tutorial. At the heart of it all is a random height field as generated by Terragen (call it Cloud Noise if you want). I made multiple copies of the height field and adjusted the color levels of each copy to represent a variety of elevation groups (i.e. Shores, Lowlands, Hills, etc.). Then, using the original height field, I've applied RobA's Blur/Overlay technique to randomize where these elevation groups appear in the form of masks. The advantage of this approach, as I see it, is that I can place things where I want them and still maintain somewhat of a "natural" look to the overall results. It also lets me control the erosion on a larger scale rather than having to wait through the Precipitation and Incise Flow cycles in Wilbur, although these will come into play when it's time to start working on rivers and lakes.


When time permits, I might write up a brief tutorial on this process as a potential addendum to both RobA and Torq's tutorials if they don't mind.

From there, it's off to Wilbur to take advantage of three features; Mathematical>>Offset, Mathematical>>Scale and Save As>>.ter. That last one is a great feature and produces far better results than simply saving from the graphics editor and trying to import as a .bmp file. There's just something about the .bmp import process in Terragen that doesn't work out cleanly, particularly along the coasts and when it comes to scaling. Fortunately Wilbur seems to solve this problem (Thanks Joe!!!!).

As for the adventure/saga . . .

It's still in a bare bones stage at the moment (along with the History and Religious aspects), but, in a nutshell, our adventurers/heros will be thrown into a situation where they must recover three unique gem stones and restore the Hearthstone. Although I'm far from finalizing anything yet, I have concluded that knowledge of the Hearthstone's location was lost several centuries ago. However, three particular peaks in the Kreimyr Mountains can be used to reveal the location of a remote "valley" in which the Hearthstone may be found. The adventurers/heros will, of course, have to recover the gem stones, root out the location of the Hearthstone, figure out how the gem stones can be used to restore this ancient relic, and then, if everything goes well, bring about a return of the three original creator divinities.

Anyhootie, here's the first Terragen render showing the Kreimyr Mountains. It's still pretty rough, color wise, but as far as land form goes, I'm pretty happy with the way it looks. I'll be adding in a coastal range of mountains next which should create a nice large valley in which most of the adventure/saga takes place.

GW

Steel General
08-03-2009, 05:31 PM
Good to see that despite everything going on, you can still find time to work on new projects. :)

Greason Wolfe
08-03-2009, 07:37 PM
One quick update for now, then it's off to get some rest before hitting the road. Dropped in the coastal mountain range. Haven't settled on a name for them just yet, but, as I had hoped (and planned), they created a nice valley that has a southern break to the coast as well as a narrower northern break. It will be interesting to see where Wilbur decides to place the rivers after the erosion cycles are completed.

As before, the coloring is still in its rough stages and very basic to keep land forms identifiable. Once everything is placed, land form wise, I'll work out the coloring scheme a bit better and may include a few distribution maps just to highlight certain areas. Still pretty happy with the progress though, and still fairly happy with the results.

As it stands now, I'm going to have to look at potential locations for other mountainous areas. If anyone has suggestions in this regard, I'm all ears (or eyes, as the case may be).

GW

P.S. I did render things a bit larger this time for a little more detail. I'm currently saving the .ter files at a smaller size for speed of rendering. When I'm ready to render the final map, I'll push the .ter file size up to maximum and render at a fairly large scale for maximum detail.

P.P.S. The only thing I'm not happy with is the beaches. They got expanded in this render, but I think I forgot to adjust my fuzziness setting on their elevation constraints before I rendered. I'll have to look into it when I get the next major edit done.

Greason Wolfe
08-11-2009, 12:07 PM
Re-Building the Mountains

Being on the road this last week, and armed with a printed copy of the Hearthstone Saga map as it stood in my last post, gave me some time to think about how things were progressing with the project, and one of the things that was bothering me was the look of the mountains in general. When I originally envisioned the project, I saw the mountains (particularly the Kreimyrs) as having a folded, more ridge-like appearance. Looking at my copy of the map, that just didn't seem to come across very well, so I've been endeavoring to rebuild them such that they reflected the aforementioned appearance.

Rather than relying wholly upon Gaussian Blurs and Overlay Blends to create the masks used to define the mountains, I started looking at incorporating a bit of Motion Blur as well. The difficult part has been getting a sense of definition to the ridges, and I may need to tweak things just a bit more, but now I feel that although there is still some "chunkiness" to the mountains, I am much closer to the folded look that I was hoping for.

Beyond that, there are two situations that I'm trying to take a closer look at. One of those situations has to do with the overall land slope. It occurred to me that with a land form that is basically flat with the exception of the mountains and such, I may end up with some odd river runs when I let Wilbur do its erosion thing. I've got a simple solution for that, however, and will implement it a bit later on in the project.

The second situation has to do with the implementation of a gorge-like area. I haven't decided exactly where it will be just yet, however, I believe that the implementation of the effect won't be overly difficult. My current thought is to create a secondary mask that will be applied to each of the elevation masks used to create the elevation model as a whole. I will, of course, have to experiment with things a bit just to make sure that it "blends in" properly.

On a side note, I did manage to tweak the surface maps for Terragen a bit and am getting closer to the right look for what I see in my head. There are a few colors though (and "textures" for that matter) that aren't quite where I want them yet. Still, I've only put in maybe four hours of actual work on the map as a whole and have to say that I am still very happy with the progress so far.

On another side note, I've selected the area where the story/adventures are most likely to begin and am in the process of cutting it out for a more detailed view. The area, Tyrendale, is a small mining/farming town located in the coastal range of mountains. I hope to have a rough version of that map up later this afternoon or, perhaps, tomorrow. Since it will be more of a local/town setting, I'll probably drop it into the City/Town Maps forum and add cross-over links between it's thread and this one.

In the meantime, here is the latest render. For the sake of detail, I used the full resolution version of the terrain file and rendered it at 33% (16 x 16 inches) of the intended final size, which should be roughly 48 x 48 inches, just to see how things looked on a grand level. There's still a lot of empty space to work with, and I've plans to drop in three exceptional mountain peaks once I've decided where the final "chapter" takes place. Beyond that, I'll probably add in some low mountains and hills in some of those empty spaces and then let Wilbur have its way with the file just to see where the rivers end up. That should give me a better idea of where settlements and forests are.

As always, comments, criticisms and suggestions are welcome, especially if anyone happens to see something that doesn't quite make sense or the potential for something unusual that could be added in.

GW

P.S. Thanks to my crummy dial-up connection, I keep timing out trying to load the 16 x 16 version of the map, so will have to settle for the 12 x 12 version. I really can't wait for FioS to become available in my little corner of the world. :x

Steel General
08-11-2009, 12:30 PM
I really can't wait for FioS to become available in my little corner of the world. :x

Unless they've already scheduled it to be built I wouldn't plan on getting FiOS anytime soon. Verizon is selling all of its properties in Oregon to Frontier Communications.

Greason Wolfe
08-11-2009, 06:00 PM
Unless they've already scheduled it to be built I wouldn't plan on getting FiOS anytime soon. Verizon is selling all of its properties in Oregon to Frontier Communications.

They've already done the install in the complex (along with the router station), we're just waiting on the main lines to be dropped in at this point. There was some kind of delay because of construction in the area, but they are, hopefully, going to be dropped in within the next few weeks.

GW

Steel General
08-11-2009, 06:43 PM
Ahh OK, you should be good then.

I've had FiOS for a couple of years now (just as an ISP first ,but now land line phone & TV as well and love it). Since I also live in one of the states Verizon is selling off (Indiana), I'm just hoping Frontier doesn't 'drop the ball' with the support.

su_liam
08-13-2009, 01:54 AM
That's looking a lot like a mutated Washington/Southern B.C. area. Puget sound is a little dry, and Vancouver Island is a peninsula. My imagination can almost see a Columbia River down toward the bottom.

EDIT: Oh never mind! I should have read the first post better. BTW, I'm in Eugene. I use Clearwire. Used to be lightning fast, now... not so much... okay, though, I guess...

Greason Wolfe
08-16-2009, 10:35 PM
EDIT: Oh never mind! I should have read the first post better. BTW, I'm in Eugene. I use Clearwire. Used to be lightning fast, now... not so much... okay, though, I guess...

Ah yes, I just passed through Eugene (well, actually I skirted it along the Beltline) a couple days ago. Grew up out in Florence, so any time we (the family and I) wanted to go anywhere, we passed through there as a matter of habit.

As for this project, I've been going back to see what I can do to make the mountains a bit crisper. I'm very close to where I want to be, just have to tweak things a tiny bit more and I think I'll be there. I've also been taking a closer look at some aerial photography in hopes of refining the surface maps used by Terragen for a better look. It's a real pain though, as I have to tweak colors by tiny steps, but that, like the mountains, is getting closer and closer to the look I'm aiming for. Hope to have an updated version of the map available in the next day or two.

GW

Greason Wolfe
08-17-2009, 09:20 PM
As promised, an update.

Spent most of my spare time today working on the surface maps used by Terragen. With each step, it's getting a bit closer, but still not quite finalized yet. My goal, at the moment, is to get the base coloring down more so than worrying about the textures, as they will be cut in using distribution masks when I'm ready for that part.

Now that I have the coloring close to where I want it, I'll be going back to re-fabricate the mountains and see if I can get a better look to them. While they aren't necessarily bad at this point, they still aren't quite where I want them.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

GW

Steel General
08-18-2009, 08:16 AM
To me it seems that there are large 'gaps' between the mountains. It appears more as a group of separate peaks than a mountain range.

Maybe some more transitional terrain between the mountains? *shrugs*

Greason Wolfe
08-18-2009, 10:35 AM
To me it seems that there are large 'gaps' between the mountains. It appears more as a group of separate peaks than a mountain range.

Maybe some more transitional terrain between the mountains? *shrugs*

Yep, same problem I am seeing. The problem is deciding whether or not to try to fix it in the elevation file or in the surface mapping. There is transitional terrain between the mountains, but getting it to surface out properly in Terragen is proving to be a pain in the hind-quarters. I toyed with the idea (last night at work) of trying to ramp this map up in GIMP (or Paintshop) using RobA and Torq's tutorials. I may fiddle with that idea today and see where it goes.

GW

Greason Wolfe
08-19-2009, 11:16 AM
As Steel mentioned, there was a bit too much "empty space" between the mountains, and I fully agreed with him. He also mentioned adding in more terrain variation/transition between them. Sadly, however, that variation already existed, it just wasn't showing through as well as it should. In light of that situation, I took some time to think about the best method to solve this problem.

One option would have been to rebuild the entire mountain group. That is something I'll have to do eventually as the current mountains aren't the only ones in existence in this particular region, but, I felt it was more important for the time being, to square away how they were displayed. So this option, at least for now, is out.

The second option would have been to try to tweak the Terragen surface maps as they existed at the point of the last render. The problem with that is the fact that the only real tweaks I can make to a basic surface is based on elevation, slope, "coverage," noise, bumpiness and how closely they mimic the terrain. All these tweaks would have been very straight forward and applied across the full of the elevation and slope ranges involved. While this might have worked to some degree, I don't think it would have solved the "problem" as a whole.

The third, and best option as far as I could see, was to use distribution masks in the surface mapping file. These I could base off the same masks I am using to develop the elevation model as a whole. Because they are rendered on an independent level (unaffected by elevation and slope constraints) they would appear exactly where I placed them. An added benefit to this approach is that I can apply child surfaces (and additional distribution masks if I so desire) within the distribution mask, and these, in turn can have elevation and slope constraints applied to them for greater variety. The only downside to this method is the rendering time. That, however, is negligible as I can set things up to render while I am at work rather than having to actively sit at the computer.

So, after about an hour's worth of work to rebuild the surface maps and a couple of small scale renders to make sure things were going to work out the way I hoped, I set up this latest render and headed off to work for the night. It's still not "perfect" as I would like to see a bit more contrast between "vegetation" and "bare rock," but it is, IMHO, much closer to what I am looking for than where I was at before. I still have a long ways to go on this map, obviously, but my overall process is becoming more and more refined. My only real concern at this point is the "perception of scale." As mentioned in an earlier post, this map covers an area of approximately 175 miles north/south and east/west. As it stands right now, I'm not quite "seeing" that, but it could just be me. Too, the perception of scale might change once I start placing some of the more specific features such as forests, lakes and rivers.

So here's the latest render. As you can see, the "empty space" between the peaks and/or ridges has been filled in and looks a bit more mountainous. As always, I'm open to thoughts, suggestions and criticisms.

GW

Greason Wolfe
08-19-2009, 11:14 PM
Very brief post here, and not really an update.

I wanted to get an idea of what things would look like at full resolution (I'll never be able to post the full sized map because of size and time outs), so I zoomed in by a factor of 4 and rendered another 12 by 12 version of a more localized region. It details an area of approximately 44 miles north/south and east/west. It is, for the most part, a fairly close approximation of what the map should look like, sans the extra features, once it is rendered at full size and printed (intended to be 48 inches by 48 inches).

I've played with some of the coloring, trying to give the "bare stone" a darker look, as well as trying to add a bit more variation to the snow caps. I'm pretty happy with the "bare stone" look now, but may tweak it just a tiny bit more at some point. I think, though, that I'll have to do a bit more work with the snow caps as they still seem just a bit too "solid" in some areas. I may be able to adjust this with some slight alterations in coloring along with a few more "highlights."

I did this render mostly to get a better idea of what the "players" will see when the map is laid out on the table, so to speak. As before, I haven't added in any extra features just yet (i.e. forests, lakes and rivers), and I have as yet to rebuild the mountains.

In terms of rebuilding the mountains, not only is it my intention to add to those that already exist, but I'm also aiming to get a better transition from low to high elevations. As it stands right now, too many of the existing mountains appear to have overly aggressive/steep slopes. While this would be fine for a few of the mountains, it is a little too frequent at this point.

All in all, though, I'm just about satisfied with the "base" look of the map as far as coloring goes. I'll probably tweak the base "vegetation" at some point so that forests, plains and barren lands (including deserts) stand out fairly well, but that won't happen until I've started masking them in.

GW

Coyotemax
08-20-2009, 12:05 AM
About the only comment I would have besides "nice progress" ( :) ) would be in terms of the snowcaps - but I see it's already on your to-do list. I'm not familiar with the prog you're using, so I don't know specific techniques or limitations, but in terms of look I would suggest a bit more of a transition if possible, they go straight from bare rock to solid snow.

Nice work though!

Greason Wolfe
08-20-2009, 12:13 AM
Right now, the snow caps are being handled by elevation and slope constraints only (internal Terragen features). Eventually, I'll do a distribution mask for them to get better control of where they appear, then lay highlights over the mask based on elevation and slope constraints.

That's one of the downside to using Terragen. While it includes both "fuzziness" and "noise" sliders for elevation and slope constraints, it's really difficult to get a nice transition without adding in several surface layers. Additionally, those elevation and slope constraints are applied to the entire file based on elevation and slope rather than being applied to specific regions, but that's where the distribution masks come in handy, even though they drastically increase the rendering time.

GW

Greason Wolfe
08-20-2009, 01:19 AM
Just a quick and dirty experiment to see if I could "loosen-up" the transition between bare rock and snow through the use of a distribution mask. The process worked out fairly well, but I'll have to refine it a bit. Still, better than the crisp/sudden transition from before. I'm definitely going to have to play with the coloring a bit to give it a nicer look, but wanted to get an idea of how the process was going to have to work before heading off to work myself.

While it isn't much progress on the actual map, it is progress on the technique, which is equally important where this project (and future projects) are concerned. And it's giving me ideas about how I'll approach the development of forests and other terrain features, so it's all good in my book.

GW

Coyotemax
08-20-2009, 01:48 AM
Yes that's a lot nicer looking, for sure. Hopefully the technique doesn't take too much extra rendering time for the full one.

And I hear you with the process improvement for the future - more work now playing with settings could save a lot of time in the long run ;)

Steel General
08-20-2009, 07:38 AM
You've brought it along quite far from the image I initially commented on, the transitions from one mountain to the other are much better now.

Jykke
08-20-2009, 07:42 AM
looking pretty nice.. first I saw just snowy holes in the ground.. had to stare it for a while to see the snowy mountaintops. :)

Greason Wolfe
08-20-2009, 10:36 AM
Yes that's a lot nicer looking, for sure. Hopefully the technique doesn't take too much extra rendering time for the full one.

The snow portion didn't add too much time. The real time hog is when I crank the extra blending and ultra sub-pixel smoothing up. The last full render (at 12 by 12) took a little over 5 hours to complete. I imagine that when I go for the full sized version of the map, I'll be looking at roughly 15 to 20 hours, unless I stick with simple fast sub-pixel smoothing.


You've brought it along quite far from the image I initially commented on, the transitions from one mountain to the other are much better now.

Like I mentioned before, the transitions were there as far as elevation went, it was a matter of getting them to show through on the basis of coloring.


looking pretty nice.. first I saw just snowy holes in the ground.. had to stare it for a while to see the snowy mountaintops.

That's probably due to the lighting source. I've got the sun set for a mid afternoon render from a slightly southern point. We've had this discussion about a couple of other maps and, or so it seems to me, most maps that include shading are "rendered" with the sun to the east rather than the west and, again so it seems, from a more northerly point. In any event, lighting sources from unusual angles do that to me regularly as well. Add to that the fact that, sometimes, I'm half-blind, and you can imagine how badly it messes me up. :lol::lol:

GW

Greason Wolfe
08-21-2009, 05:21 AM
So, now that I have the basis of the coloring worked out for Terragen, I've been spending little bits and pieces of time re-working the mountains to include some exceptional peaks and fill in some of the "empty" areas that existed in the map as a whole, thus designating those areas that might be barren or desert-like. I have, however, hit a bit of a snag.

There is one area that I would like to make a plateau out of as a means of helping to define a gorge-like area. This could prove difficult base on the way I am building the height field. I have a couple of ideas regarding my approach to this particular task, but I think it is going to come down to using Wilbur, selecting the area in question, flattening it, then sending it back to the graphics editor for the building of other elevations on the plateau. Alternatively, I may be able to select based on elevation in Wilbur, save the selection and use it as a pseudo-mask to build on. Regardless of how I approach the process, it's gonna mean a few extra layers in the height field build which, in turn, may push my system resources a little too high. Guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

To that end, it may be a day or two before I manage to post a real update as I try to wrap my head around this problem and come up with a viable solution given the software I'm using. I'll try to post an update without the plateau depending on how things go with trying to build it. In the mean time, I'm open to other thoughts and/or suggestions on how I might approach this particular task.

GW

P.S. It just hit me. The whole select by elevation in Wilbur is the way to go. All I'll have to do is flatten the selected area to the lowest elevation of the selection, save it as a separate .png file, then load it as a separate layer so that I can magic wand the area in my graphics editor and do a quick fill before continuing the build. It will still mean a few extra layers, but not as many as I was originally thinking.

Jykke
08-21-2009, 05:29 AM
Building a terrain is a hard job, especially when you try to set it up in a particular way.

Greason Wolfe
08-21-2009, 05:43 AM
It most definitely is, and I've been building this one from the ocean floor up. But it's all good and helping me define processes and techniques that I was struggling with earlier.

GW