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My Terrain/Heightmap Creation Workflow

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    My Terrain/Heightmap Creation Workflow

    So I’ve been doing some experimenting with different work flows for terrain and landscape design. I purchased World Machine (WM) about one year ago, and I have been using that mainly. It’s certainly capable enough, and it seems to be the go to application for heightmap generation and design. I’ve made a couple of discoveries however, at least for myself. Maybe other people are already doing this.

    Well, I looked into a Photoshop plug-in called 3D Map Generator. A tool with a workflow that is optimized for designing maps for mobile games or other similar applications. What I liked about it was that it allowed you to easily extract heightmap data from Google Maps by simply zooming in on the area you want. The plug-in is 21 dollars, and it is a perpetual license (for once…).

    Well the ability to take terrain data from Google Maps has really decreased the amount of time I have had to spend in WM. Instead of starting out with an advanced perlin generator and customizing the terrain from there, I simply combine 2 or more heightmaps from Google Maps and then proceed to customize the terrain. I feel like a big part of putting together your landscape is working in WM, and using data from Google Maps helps to reduce that immensely.

    And then…I started learning how to create terrains/heightmaps in Houdini. I use Houdini as my main DCC tool. I never really considered using it for terrain in the past. My gosh it’s an incredible tool. I really love working in there. In my opinion, much easier to achieve the look you’re going for when compared to WM. However, since I already have WM
    I’ve been using it in concert with Houdini.

    So between WM, the 3D Map Generator Plug-in for Photoshop, and Houdini I’ve been able to create better looking terrain in less time. I don’t have any screenshots at the moment, but when I do I’ll post some. Of course all of these tools cost money (Prices listed below). They have proven to work very well for me so far though!
    I thought I’d just share my workflow with you good folks just in-case it might help somebody. Maybe you, like me, already have WM and Houdini.

    WM: 99 to 250 dollars depending on desired capabilities (Perpetual License)

    Houdini Indie License: 260 per year

    3D Map Generator: 21 (Perpetual License)

    Photoshop: 20 per month (this one is kind of annoying, but I use Photoshop a lot so…)

    As a side note, just in case it comes up, I already looked into any possible copyright issues with using Google Maps data in your heightmaps. From what I read, there doesn’t seem to be any issues unless you advertise that the data was collected from some source other than Google and there data providers.
    Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build
    bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce
    bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning. (Rich Cook)

    #2
    Very nice. I'll share too.

    As I've only just started learning UE, I'm not about to invest in any new expensive software, but wanted a cheap and quick way of getting terrain into the engine to play with.

    So I found an almost free (if you happen to own Zbrush) alternative to the likes of WM that produces amazing results:

    I start with real world height data pulled from http://terrain.party/
    Then I pull that into Zbrush, roughly sculpt in additional details, and run this amazing plugin (Only $2.50!) on it to simulate various types of errosion and sedimentation.
    I then simply export the height map.

    It has a lot of confusing and poorly documented controls, but there are a bunch of presets that give you amazing results.

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      #3
      I like this toy:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fukbnLfT-O0
      | Savior | USQLite | FSM | Object Pool | Sound Occlusion | Property Transfer | Magic Nodes | MORE |

      Comment


        #4
        That sounds awesome! A nice blend between procedural generation with artistic control. I can't wait to get Zbrush one of these days!
        Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build
        bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce
        bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning. (Rich Cook)

        Comment


          #5
          So I too followed a similar arc of terrain generation. I started in World Machine, which is a very fun and interesting program. Regrettably it didn't really hit the spot for me, I wanted to have much more customization. I had grand ambitions. I wanted to be able to see the terrain and edit its corrosion in relation to cliff faces that were separate 3d generated volumes. No there program I could find gave this type of versatility with terrain editing. So Houdini has been my saving grace. Heres my flow structure for terrain generation:

          - Produce a base layout in World Machine with erosion
          - Then import the height map info into Houdini and resize it to the scale I want
          - I resample it to a higher resolution then edit
          - Add volumes across the mountains and cliff walls using the slope degree
          - Break the volumes into separate sections
          - Procedurally generate rock fractures on each volume created
          ........... This is where my flow kind of breaks up ........
          - Usually I go into UE4 build my Mats and apply the result then procedurally add vegetation using a layout generated also in Houdini
          - Pretty much done with the macro processes

          Im probably leaving stuff out but all that to say Houdini is amazing and is a must for those looking for super fine controls with a well valued engine.

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