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Greason Wolfe
11-03-2009, 11:30 PM
After waging a battle with myself over whether to enter this month's challenge or not, I've broken down and decided to enter. Hopefully I've got enough of a start on this that even should things become hectic at work or at home (November and December are busy months on both of those fronts), I'll still have enough time to finish this map up. The good news is that I've already finished up the basic landform and cycled it through a bit of erosion to give it some "flavor."

The foundation for this map comes from the area in which I grew up. A year or so ago, I snagged some topographical information for said area as reference material for a short story (well, maybe more like a novella) that I was (still am) writing. With the decision to enter the challenge made, I spent a few hours developing a contour map based on part of that information and set it up for a bit of modifying in Wilbur before sending it to Terragen for an initial render.


The original topographical information I snagged covered an area of approximately 1035 square kilometers. Trying to detail that by hand in the form of a contour map would have taken me the entire month, so I'm only using a small portion of that area, approximately 67 square kilometers, centered roughly between the two lakes I spent most of my boyhood years fishing and swimming in so that I can include some of the finer details and, hopefully, get the "destruction" to show through. If and/or when time permits, I'll build up the more expansive form of the map such that the entire area (of the story, that is) can be depicted.

The only real problem I face now is in figuring out how I'm going to show the destruction in the form of the map rather than having to describe it with some form of text. As to the nature of that destruction, I'll get to that in the next couple of posts. For now, I wanted to get something up and running, so to speak. My only real concern with these initial results is that the elevations are a bit too exaggerated and giving the mountains/hills too sharp of a look. That, fortunately, will be an easy fix. I may also need to work in a bit more blur as there are still some areas that are looking a little too terraced and/or sharp for my tastes. I'll try another render with a more constrained height range as I watch the new "V" series premier and see how things look after that before anymore blurring, though, as it is possible that a change in the height range will fix the terracing/sharpness issue.

GW

### Latest WIP ###

wormspeaker
11-04-2009, 09:22 AM
At this scale the destruction is going to have to be pretty severe in order to show.

Greason Wolfe
11-06-2009, 10:29 AM
I'm not sure if it is a matter of how severe the destruction is as much as it is being a matter of the nature of that destruction. My goal with this map isn't to show the actual destruction zone per-si, but rather to show how survivors on the outer edges of the destruction zone are dealing with the changes that have been wrought on their environment. As I am still thinking on how, exactly, I am going to depict those changes, let me, in brief, explain the premise of the map . . .

Think "Alternate Universe" with Sol having at least one companion star that, in a cyclic fashion moves closer and closer with each pass until it draws in close enough that gravitational acceleration slings it back out to an extreme distance. With a pattern that is measured in the 10s of thousands of years, it creates major astronomical events during it's closest pass that result in extreme tidal forces on our alternate Earth. This, in turn, causes the eruption of the Yellowstone or Yosemite Calderas. Significant ash circulation in the atmosphere induces a volcanic winter and the ash fall, itself, really does a number on the terrain in an almost "heavy snowfall" type of way on a global level rather than a local level.

Of course, this would be an Extinction Level Event with a few species adapting to the new environment and spawning new genetic mutations. But mankind, as is often his wont, will make every attempt to adapt the new environment to his needs.

And yes, I realize that this premise probably rests well outside the realm of physics reality, but I didn't want to fall back on the whole asteroid impact scenario as that is already being used for another map in the challenge. In the end, I may end up having to do what some of the other participants are considering and include some sort of "before" inset so that the "destruction" is more readily identified. I'll have to wait and see what happens as the map progresses. For now, however, I did manage another render with a more constrained height range and, in my opinion, it looks a bit better than before. The ridges and peaks aren't quite so sharp and the overall effect seems to suggest a more gradual slope development than what I had before. I'll be dropping in the major water bodies with the next render then working up the vegetation and what not to see where things stand.

GW

Greason Wolfe
11-09-2009, 06:16 PM
So I've been working diligently on this map, mostly experimenting with textures and distribution masks. One of the difficulties has come in the form of "realism" in the sense of making sure that the more heavily forested areas stand out from the base vegetation. With that in mind, I rendered two versions of the map, the first with a basic surface texture while the second uses a texture overlay. At this point, I'm not sure which version I like better as both have their merits, although, I am leaning slightly towards the second version. It is most unfortunate that Terragen doesn't play well when rendering RGB based textures against sloped land forms. If the texture overlay showed better definition against the slopes, I'd have no qualms about which version to use. Still, the results aren't entirely bad, but I'll have to continue playing with the settings a bit to see if I can neaten things up some.

The other major difficulty had to do with getting the dunes in place and giving them a bit of vegetation as well, just as they do in the real world for this particular area. I think I've managed to settle that issue, but, like the forested areas, it may still need a bit of tweaking. Beyond that, I've yet to lay in any roads or structures. I have, however, started an initial road lay-out and am fairly confident where the structures are going to go.

The only other thing I'm not 100 percent happy with is the creeks and streams. At this point, they seem, at least to me, a bit bloated. It's likely that I'll have to play with the distribution mask just a bit, but, at least in general, I'm happy with the water placement as a whole and, as far as I can tell, it is following the "rules" of geography. The plus side of this is that, at least for the inset portion of the map, I probably won't have to make too many adjustments as it will be fairly small, what with it being intended strictly as a point of reference.

The next major task is going to be setting up the "destruction" of the area. As I stated before, this may prove to be the most difficult part as I'm not attempting to show the immediate destruction, but rather how survivors on the fringe of the destruction zone are coping with life in the aftermath of the cataclysm. I've got a couple of ideas that I'm going to play with, and I'll just have to wait and see which approach works best. One thing I may do to help show the "destruction" is to play with the atmospheric effects a bit. With the colder, ash-laden climate, I may be able to enhance things just a bit as far as that goes. Again, I'll just have to wait and see. For now, here are the latest versions of the map, sans roads and structures. One of these will (or at least a later version of one of them) will appear as an inset in one corner of the map in an attempt to make the "destruction" a bit easier to identify.

GW

### Latest WIP ###

Redrobes
11-09-2009, 06:27 PM
Very nice.

Its veeeeery hard to get auto fluid calc doing thin rivers if it also allows you to do non single pixel ones like lakes as well.

Its pretty realistic texturing. The blue on the water is a bit strong. From a realism point of view water looks mosty grey / black from above.

Greason Wolfe
11-09-2009, 06:33 PM
Duh, I suppose I should upload the second version, yes? Too little sleep, not enough coffee!!!!!

GW

Greason Wolfe
11-09-2009, 06:36 PM
Very nice.

Its veeeeery hard to get auto fluid calc doing thin rivers if it also allows you to do non single pixel ones like lakes as well.

Its pretty realistic texturing. The blue on the water is a bit strong. From a realism point of view water looks mosty grey / black from above.

I actually set those rivers up by hand.

As it turns out, I used the wrong distribution mask for the water as a whole. I had set up two masks, one for the water, itself, and one for the shorelines. I didn't particularly like how the double masking was working out and, when I went back to using a single mask, I accidentally picked the wrong mask. It's no big deal, just have to reload it in Terragen and run a new render.

In relation to the color of the water, I'm still fiddling with the rgb overlay for that. Trying to get it to that darker level without destroying it too much. It's kind of a touch and go thing, one little tweak at a time. I am glad to hear, though, that the other textures are looking realistic. I was a bit worried about the "forest" texture as it looks more like grass to me. But when I did the second render, besides adding in the rgb forest overlay, I fiddled with a few other settings and may have hit on a better way to get things where I want them.

GW

Greason Wolfe
11-10-2009, 11:29 AM
Another round of rendering this morning, and a bit of experimenting with the inset as well. As Redrobes suggested, the water needed a darker coloring and it is much closer now, but still might need a bit more darkening. I have, for the most part, solved the "bloating" problem I mentioned earlier as well. For the time being (basically until I decide on better way to render them) I've dropped the more heavily forested areas, but did add in the roads. Oddly, however, instead of showing up in black, as they were supposed to, they came out as a very dark blue, nearly matching the water. I'll have to look into that. I may also have to dial down the noise on the dunes or, as an alternative, create a vegetation mask for them. In any event, here's the latest render with a smaller insert for size testing purposes.

GW

P.S. It seems my connection is being a bear today, so I'll have to try uploading the latest WIP again a little later on and hope that I get a better connection, or resize it a bit. I really really really REALLY hate working on dial-up.

P.P.S. Ah, a much better connection this time.

### Latest WIP ###

wormspeaker
11-10-2009, 12:55 PM
Looks interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing what the finished project looks like.

Greason Wolfe
11-16-2009, 04:47 PM
Some more work accomplished, but, I'm not 100 percent happy with the way the ash and/or soot is turning out. Still, I let it render through and slapped together a rough of what the final map should look like as far as layout goes. I'll work a bit more with the ash and/or soot and see if I can get something better. If not, I suppose I'll have to slap some labels on this, drop a few more details in the "legend" space and, if time permits, maybe toss in a few of the remaining/rebuilt structures.

GW

### Latest WIP ###

Greason Wolfe
11-17-2009, 05:24 PM
I spent a bit of time, last night and this morning, thinking about the previous render. Besides not being happy with the way the ash and soot looked, I felt there was still too much vegetation and, for some odd reason, I was getting way too much noise in the dunes areas. This led me to re-constructing the surface maps from the ground up. It also led me to a somewhat different approach as far as those surfaces went.

Given the premise that the area depicted in the map is on the outer edges of the blast zone from the Yellowstone Caldera, it seemed reasonable (with a bit of magic wand waving) that it would suffer not only from ash/soot fall, but from the heat blast as well. But I also had to keep in mind that there needed to be enough left in the aftermath that survivors of the blast would have a realistic chance of, well, survival. That got me to looking through the few dozen surface files I have for Terragen, thinking, perhaps, that something along the lines of a "badlands" or "barren" type of surface. What I found (and had completely forgotten about) was a "volcanic" surface file that, for the most part, gives the impression that molten lava has covered the surface and cooled to the point of becoming black rock. With just a tiny bit of tweaking, it became a "scorched earth" surface and served as the foundation for pretty much everything else save the dunes, the roads and the water.

Since this area is well to the east of the Yellowstone Caldera and is, at least in part, sheltered by both the Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges, it seemed fairly reasonable to assume that it would be mostly the eastern slopes that had been scorched. With this in mind, I loaded the terrain into Wilbur and created a selection based on the western slopes. After a bit of selective editing, blurring and the application of some cloud noise as an overlay, I came up with a surface distribution mask that I could use for vegetation against the western slopes and those low areas that were somewhat protected from the initial heat wave. To this, I added those areas along the edges of the lakes, creeks and streams as a means of showing how things were beginning to recover in the time that's passed since the eruption.

While still in Wilbur, I grabbed a quick selection based on elevation. With all the fine particle ash still in the air and less sunlight getting through to the surface, I needed to be able to show that the snow levels had dropped considerably. I could have done this using the elevation and slope constraints in Terragen, but those results always look odd to me. Again, a bit of selective editing, blurring and the application of some cloud noise as an overlay let me create a nice "random" looking distribution mask for the higher peaks of the area.

With all of these in place, I was able to lay in the ash/soot surface such that it gave a better impression of being what it was supposed to be. A couple minor tweaks for the roads and a few minor tweaks in the other surfaces gave me the results below, and I have to say that I am much happier with them now than I was before. One of the things I'm particularly happy with is how, after all the editing and what not, the creeks and streams have bloated slightly, giving the impression that they aren't quite as deep as they were before, but still passing along the same amount of water flow.

At this point, I'd still like to add in a few structures (shelters) to show where the survivors have gathered and how they're managing their limited resources, but with the annual Thanksgiving Family Gathering fast approaching, I'm not sure if I'll have the time. At a bare minimum, however, I will, at least, get the main labeling done and, if I get the structures in place, a simple legend to finish things off.

GW

P.S. As a side note, I still have no clue as to where all the noise came from in the dunes areas during the previous render. I used the same settings for this render, but the noise has, much to my pleasure, disappeared. One of these days, I'll have to take a closer look at that surface file and see if I can figure it out.

### Latest WIP ###

Steel General
11-18-2009, 09:00 AM
Neat stuff here GW!