L3DT development blog
Large 3D terrain generator

News for November 2009

November 26

Importing Mars Terrain

Hi Everyone,

Following a user's recent request, I have added a plugin to import terrain from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) mission. The plugin is called L3DTio_MOLA, and is available here. To use the plugin:

  1. Download the MOLA '.LBL' and '.IMG' files from NASA / Wash. U..
  2. Select the 'File→Import→Import MOLA terrain' menu option (note: option will not appear if plugin is not installed).
  3. Select the MOLA LBL file. The plugin will automatically load the associated IMG file.

Further notes on downloading and using MOLA data are provided on the L3DTio_MOLA plugin page.

The results should look something like this:

MOLA terrain, 2D view.

MOLA terrain, 3D view.

Cheerio, Aaron.

2011/01/13 07:35

November 19

L3DT release 2.8

Hi Everyone,

Release 2.8 of L3DT is finally available for download. The changes and improvements in this release were described previously in the v2.8 beta release announcement back in October. If you missed the announcement, or would enjoy reading it again, please find a description of the changes below:

Torque TER exporter

Release 2.8 of the Professional and L3DT for Torque editions include a plugin for importing and exporting Torque terrain files (.TER), for T3D and TGEA. In addition to exporting the TER files, the exporter will also export the terrain texture images, mission files and materials.cs files.

The user guide for this plugin is on-line here, and a start-to-finish tutorial on making T3D terrain with L3DT is also on-line.

As for screenshots, here you go:

L3DT terrain in T3D.
More L3DT terrain in T3D.

Please note that the TER plugin included in release 2.8 is slightly different to that which was included in the three preceeding beta releases. A few additional bugs were found and fixed at the last minute.

I should also note that support for TGE terrain export was intended to be included in this release. Unfortunately, there was not adequate time or beta testing feedback to ensure that the quality of the code met release standards. The TGE exporter may be re-introduced in subsequent developmental builds if there is sufficient community interest.


Release 2.8 includes a filter graph interface for performing custom map calculations called 'ZeoGraph', as announced in July. This interface provides a simple way to connect a collection of simple filters to perform a custom operation. It's like scripting, but with graphics. It all looks a little something like this:

The 'ZeoGraph' user interface.

ZeoGraph in release 2.8 contains just over 40 filters, including map operations such as smoothing, resizing, and combining, as well as file input and output operations. I expect to increase the number of filters for the following release (v2.9), so if you'd like to request any, this is the relevant forum thread.


As announced back in February, the shadow casting calculation has been optimised and is now 10-20x faster than v2.7. This should save a lot of time for users generating large maps.

L3DT version 2.8 also introduces specular lighting highlights. Here is a before and after comparison:

Lighting from L3DT v2.7 (left), and lighting with specular highlights from v2.8 (right).


L3DT now includes a GeoTIFF plugin that can be used to import real-world terrain from, for example, the Shuttle Radar Tomography Mission (SRTM). For more information, please refer to this tutorial. The results look a little something like this:

Central Italy, as loaded from an SRTM GeoTIFF.

Mesh file formats

Due to popular demand, L3DT can now export the heightfield as a textured 3DS mesh file or OBJ and MTL file. The menu options for these are:

OBJ 'File→Export→Export OBJ and MTL'
3DS 'File→Export→Export 3DS with texture'

Sapphire 3D renderer

The Sapphire 3D renderer has picked up a few new features and had a few bugs fixed, including:

  • An 'army man' mouse cursor object to assist in judging map scale (See pic.).
  • Specular mesh lighting when editing the heightfield.
  • Path recording and playback.
  • Various bugfixes and UI tweaks.

User interface

The user interface for L3DT v2.8 is an incremental improvement over v2.7. The main changes that come to mind are the updated map selection tab bar, some menu reorganisation, and bug fixes to wizard rendering when Windows is using non-standard fonts. On the whole, if you are familiar with the L3DT v2.7 controls, then v2.8 should be an easy upgrade.

Bug fixes and annoyances

Release 2.8 includes fixes for a number of bugs that were found in version 2.7. The list of bug fixes is available on the release history page, but some particular highlights include:

  • Bitmap exports (were invalid in some instances).
  • Premature abort of calculation queue.
  • Prevented simultaneous display of welcome message and walkthrough guide.
  • Reduced incidence of crash during shutdown on Windows Vista / 7 (still some more work to do, unfortunately).
  • Fixed bug in design map resizing.
  • More error checking in Image drape window to guard against common user mistakes.

Additionally, I've been working on smoothing over some of those little annoyances or omissions that make life for the L3DT user a little more difficult than it needs to be. For example, L3DT now automatically loads new resources (climates, materials, and scripts) that are placed within the resources directory (see blog post), so the user doesn't need to manually import the files using the climate, material and script managers. Little changes like this should hopefully make L3DT just that little bit nicer to use.

How to download?

  • Users of L3DT Standard Edition may download the update from the Standard Edition downloads page.
  • Users of L3DT Professional Edition may download the update from the link provided in their sales/registration receipt e-mail.
  • Users of L3DT For Torque Edition may download the update from their profile page on the GarageGames site.

If you have any problems accessing this update, please e-mailing sales@bundysoft.com.


Many users contributed greatly to this release by providing excellent feedback and suggestions. If you downloaded and tested a developmental builds or beta releases, please accept my most heartfelt gratitude for your time, patience, enthusiasm and expertise.


If you find any bugs, please report them in the bug reports forum. If you would like to make any comments or suggestions, or ask questions, please do so in the announcement thread.

Best regards, Aaron.

2011/01/13 07:35

November 3

In the mean time...

With L3DT release 2.8 due in two weeks time, and hopefully all the debugging now sorted out with v2.8 beta 2, I now have some time to indulge in working on fun stuff for the next major release (v2.9). Just now I've been tinkering with the networking plugins for running calculations in a render-farm environment. I started work on this way back in April of last year, but ran into a few problems with packet loss somewhere in my asynchronous TCP socket plugin. I am pleased to now say that the asynchronous TCP socket plugin has been fixed and finished, and the network calculation client and server plugins are now nearly ready. The plugins run the texture and normal mapping calculations correctly over the network, but I have still to automate synchronisation of project settings and climates between server and client. I'll let you know how it goes…

Cheerio, Aaron.

2011/01/13 07:35
l3dt/2009/nov.txt · Last modified: 2017/08/31 05:50 (external edit)
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