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.