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Whats lacking from Terragen?

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Whats lacking from Terragen?

Postby dEaThMaStEr » Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:32 pm

Now, I've used Terragen before. Being a user of the Torque Shader Engine, I need a good program to create my terrains like terragen can and so I decided to check it out. Long story short, I was far from impressed. The interface seemed confusing and clunky and things just all round weren't that great. So what I'm starting to wonder is.. What are we missing in L3DT that they beat us at?

After lookin at some screenshots seems to me the only thing would have to be textures. Looking at shots of terragen, it seems their textures are just so more random and different. L3DT's are very smooth and basically the same all round. So I was wondering, could it be possible to get the same texture looks from L3DT as terragen manages? Like maybe just configuring the climate file right?

I'm hopin to see L3DT pull up to terragen's level on this because I find L3DT WAY better then terragen by far and I'd like to see if with it we can really get the appeal up to others as well by showing texture work just as good as Terragen, if not better!

Just a thought. ;)
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Postby demi » Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:34 pm

Before I heard about L3DT, I used terragen. In terragen I have not been able to render a full overhead shot of the map at all. I can only set the camera to take rendered screen shots. The high qulaity screens are astoundingly real but you will never be able to use them to texture a game map at least that has been my experience. The one thing I do use terragen for is the sky box. If someone knows how to texture the entire map using Terragen, they are keeping it a secret.

I have ran off x16 terrain textures in L3DT and they really look good from a distance. Up close they do not look good because loss of detail.
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Postby Aaron » Sat Dec 17, 2005 2:56 am

Hello,

Let’s be fair here: Terragen is not really a terrain generator any more – it’s a really, really good terrain renderer with some basic terrain generation features to get you started. As I understand it, many of the pro users of Terragen get their terrain from other programs (World-Machine, Leveller, Wilbur, L3DT, etc). The next Terragen release (TGD) looks set to reclaim some of that lost ground with new procedural terrain features, but the focus still is on improvements to the rendering engine rather than terrain generation.

dEaThMaStEr wrote:After lookin at some screenshots seems to me the only thing would have to be textures. Looking at shots of terragen, it seems their textures are just so more random and different. L3DT's are very smooth and basically the same all round. So I was wondering, could it be possible to get the same texture looks from L3DT as terragen manages? Like maybe just configuring the climate file right?


Certainly there is a lot of room for improvement in the L3DT climate files. The ones I've provided are quite basic, and the textures for the land-types aren't all that good either. Another improvement might be the provision of bump-mapping for high-res light-maps, but I haven't started work on that yet.

Even so, there is only so much you can do with pre-calculated textures. Terragen makes the texture procedurally at render-time, and doesn't actually have to store them anywhere (which is good, because they'd be huge). The terrain is bump-mapped too, which gives the illusion of greater detail. Probably the only way to get close to this sort of quality is to do similar tricks yourself, in your 3D renderer, using shaders and whatnot.

demi wrote:The one thing I do use terragen for is the sky box.


Same here; I'm more interested in real-time terrain rendering, but it's hard to go past Terragen for atmospheric effects.

demi wrote:I have ran off x16 terrain textures in L3DT and they really look good from a distance. Up close they do not look good because loss of detail.


Oh sure, pre-calculated textures can only do so much, and when you’re at 16x things will look a little washed-out (high-res bump-mapped light-maps could help here a little). When you're looking at that sort of resolution, you need to start thinking about doing your own texture splatting at run-time.

Cheers,
Aaron.
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Postby dEaThMaStEr » Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:30 am

Well personally I think there is way more power in L3DT then people seem to give it. Looking at the Terragen terrains used in TSE, they look great. However I don't see why L3DT shouldn't be able to stand up and do the same or at least close. I think I'm going to begin looking to stuff with this a lot to see if I can really get some good texturing going.
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Postby demi » Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:34 am

aaron wrote:
demi wrote:I have ran off x16 terrain textures in L3DT and they really look good from a distance. Up close they do not look good because loss of detail.


Oh sure, pre-calculated textures can only do so much, and when you’re at 16x things will look a little washed-out (high-res bump-mapped light-maps could help here a little). When you're looking at that sort of resolution, you need to start thinking about doing your own texture splatting at run-time.



I should clarify this maybe.

I am not slamming L3DT at all here by any means. If you look at the texturing at KGE site the one with the sky in it is x4 and look at the detail BEFORE a bumpmap or anything else is applied! The one with the seam in it is x4 but I rendered it with lightmap.

http://www.kaneva.com/publicProfile/pro ... protab=pro

I am owner of TSE and can splatter terrain at run time but under KGE I can't which is a real bummer. KGE gives me ABSOLUTE control on the terrain since I can control every vertex where TSE does not have that capability yet. I can take the LM and NM from L3DT and make a bump map but I can't take the texturing and interpolate it in KGE yet. I can set up 8 levels of texturing in KGE which I am still exploring so still working on it. At distances of 50+ meters even a x4 texture looks really great however at player distance of 0 to 20 meters the texture is streched and blured. Once I can figure out how to make the interpolation work, I can have fantastic terrains!

Demi

edit: I want to also mention that runtime splattering takes a large amount of CPU/GPU. The green textured screen is tiled and the frame rate is ~45 to 60 FPS when the actor is moving where the textured terrain is running ~150 to 160 FPS. Both terrains are similar in size (10K vertex, 19.8K faces)
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Postby dEaThMaStEr » Sat Dec 17, 2005 5:07 am

Working with climate files for some better texturing right now. Getting some possibly interesting results. :D
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Postby Aaron » Sat Dec 17, 2005 7:56 am

demi wrote:I am not slamming L3DT at all here by any means.


Don't worry, I didn't read it that way.

demi wrote:If you look at the texturing at KGE site the one with the sky in it is x4 and look at the detail BEFORE a bumpmap or anything else is applied! The one with the seam in it is x4 but I rendered it with lightmap.


I assume you were using 10m terrain spacing, no? In this case a 4x texture is going to have pixels about 2.5m x 2.5m. That's big. If you want it to look better closer-up, you'll need pixels <10cm, and if you want to use a pre-calculated texture, it's going to need to be monumentally huge (like 1000x). The only way here is splatting, I'm afraid.

demi wrote:edit: I want to also mention that runtime splattering takes a large amount of CPU/GPU. The green textured screen is tiled and the frame rate is ~45 to 60 FPS when the actor is moving where the textured terrain is running ~150 to 160 FPS. Both terrains are similar in size (10K vertex, 19.8K faces)


I agree, splatting is going to chew-up your GPU, but big textures are going to kill your HDD, RAM, mobo bus and GFx mem.

Cheers,
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Postby JavaJones » Sat Dec 17, 2005 8:34 pm

I'm not entirely clear on what you want from either L3DT or Terragen here.

L3DT is a very specialized application that focuses specifically on terrain operations - creating the 3D terrain itself and texturing/masking. It is not a renderer, so it doesn't have any provisions for lighting, atmospherics, etc. And since it's not a renderer, it really shouldn't have these things. Even if Aaron has interest in those things, I think it would be outside the scope of L3DT to include them and if he wanted to experiment with them, that would be best done in another application. L3DTVi2 seems like a sort of playground for that stuff, but it's focused on realtime and as a result it will never achieve the level of quality that a non-realtime renderer like Terragen can do.

Terragen on the other hand is mostly a rendering package. It's designed to make pretty still pictures or animations, pure and simple. It has terrain creation capabilities, but they're basic, and it's really not designed to compete with stand-alone terrain generators like L3DT. If it's primarily a terrain and texture generator that you want, then Terragen is really not the app for you. But if you want to render a nice landscape image there are few better options, especially looking ahead at the capabilities of Terragen 2.

It seems like TG is just not suited for your needs. If someone gave you the impression that it would be, or you know of others who are using it for your purposes, then only they can probably tell you what they're able to do with it. ;-)

It *is* possible to get textures out of TG for use in other apps by doing orthographic renders with all hazes turned down and lighting directly above the terrain, but it's a bit of a pain in the ass, and since it's not a natively supported feature, there is no tiling, so you end up basically with huuuuge bitmaps that ultimately don't look that good on the ground, as a player. To really get good detail out of this method you'd need to setup a Terragen script to render out a whole bunch of tiles of smaller areas of the terrain. But really Terragen just wasn't designed for this - it's a renderer, not a texture generator. Not to mention you lose the bump map when you have the lighting directly overhead, but that lighting angle is necessary to avoid shadows and lighting-specific bump mapping in your textures, so it's a catch-22.

Long story short, despite the use some put it to, I don't think TG is a particularly effective game asset creation tool. For terrain generation there are obviously better alternatives, and for textures, although TG does have a decent texturing system, it's not designed to export them, so it's very difficult to get good results. You're much better off with a dedicated texturing app like Genetica 2, which also creates seamless textures, which is probably also a good idea. As has been discussed texture splatting is really your best bet with realtime. Use slope and altitude constraints if possible to control your textures, and then just use a whole bunch of smaller, higher quality textures intermixed. All the best big games with outdoor bits use this method, there really is no better approach. For skyboxes and background environments though TG can be great.

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Postby dEaThMaStEr » Sun Dec 18, 2005 1:30 am

Well, what I'm doing is making terrain for the Torque Shader Engine. The way this works is to make up your terrain, easy, then your texture which is done by importing a single massive image and converting it to the right format. There are explainations on how to get the full texture out of terragen and so far thats the favored tool of people it seems. While it costs money, it can make some pretty good textures and I've seen some very impressive work exported from it.

With that, people seem to want to stick to that and refuse to think L3DT can match its texturing. I'm simply saying that I think it CAN match it and I'd like to try to set it up to.
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Postby Aaron » Sun Dec 18, 2005 1:37 am

Thanks Osyhan,

That was a good review of the situation, and particularly helpful here since it's coming from the perspective of a TG master. I think I've said all I can on this subject now, but I might answer some of the other issues you raised:

JavaJones wrote:Even if Aaron has interest in those things, I think it would be outside the scope of L3DT to include them and if he wanted to experiment with them, that would be best done in another application.


Oh, I don't think I'd ever want to compete with TG's renderer. That market is full. I might, however, make a realtime renderer plugin.

JavaJones wrote:L3DTVi2 seems like a sort of playground for that stuff, but it's focused on realtime and as a result it will never achieve the level of quality that a non-realtime renderer like Terragen can do.


Yup, a render that takes <0.02s isn't going to look as good as a render that takes hours. The fancy new OpenGL/DX shaders can make realtime look really good, but not 'as good'.

Oh, and regarding L3DTVi2, I'd say development of that program has run it's course. Support has been discontinued by it's author and I'm not really good enough at Delphi to do much more than tinkering (nor am I particularly interested in learning Delphi). The source code is included with the installer, for anyone interested.

For the 3D plugin I would start again in C++ so that I can use a lot of code from L3DT, and probably use a 3D engine like TSE, Irrlicht, etc for the rendering side.

JavaJones wrote:As has been discussed texture splatting is really your best bet with realtime. Use slope and altitude constraints if possible to control your textures, and then just use a whole bunch of smaller, higher quality textures intermixed.


L3DT can save a bit of time here. It exports the 'alpha map' masks used for texture splatting, so you don't have to do your own altitude/slope stuff (let alone curvature, water-table/salinity, etc). You can see it in the tutorial at:

http://www.bundysoft.com/L3DT/tute/tute_ops.php#gen_TX_alphas

Cheers,
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Postby Aaron » Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:26 am

Hi dEaThMaStEr,

I would guess that the method of getting textures out of Terragen is the ortho projection mentioned by Oshyan. Having a bit more of a thinker about this, a texture produced thus from Terragen will have higher-detail than a 'high-res' texture from L3DT because L3DT interpolates the land-types from the attributes map whereas Terragen calculates it per-pixel. This will give better detail close-up.

However, there is no good reason L3DT can't calculate the land-types procedurally during texture-generation, so I'll start experimenting and see what I can come up with.

dEaThMaStEr wrote:With that, people seem to want to stick to that and refuse to think L3DT can match its texturing. I'm simply saying that I think it CAN match it and I'd like to try to set it up to.


Thanks for the vote of confidence, and please feel free to mess with the climate files. As I mentioned in another thread, I've started to write a climate tutorial in the wiki, which might be of some use:

http://www.bundysoft.com/wiki/doku.php?id=tutorials:l3dt:newclimate

However, I think part of the difference might be a technical limitation of L3DT, as explained above, so I'll play around with fixing this up.

Cheers,
Aaron.
Last edited by Aaron on Wed Mar 15, 2006 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby dEaThMaStEr » Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:31 am

Well, I've already been messing around and with very interesting results. It seems a good start is to get some more livly colored textures. The ones originally provided all look basically the same and are kinda of dull in color somewhat.

So far I'm getting interesting things from making the climate files much more detailed. Like, each change making for a different texture. And with all the information given with L3DT such as watertables, you can make for many subtle changes all over. This makes for much more variation and tends to make things a bit more interesting.

And I've noticed the effects already comming from that use of the attributes map. While the changes are common and subtle, patches of change tend to be a big large. I'm assuming this is because of the resolution of the attributes map only being so fine where 1 pixel on that represents several meters in most cases.

Nothing good to post yet though, going to be a while for sure.
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Postby JavaJones » Sun Dec 18, 2005 5:30 am

Sounds like you're doing interesting work dEaThMaStEr. I'm a little surprised to hear people singing the praises of TG for creation of game assets. As I said there are lots of terrain generators that are much better than TG, but in terms of output quality, as well as versatility and control.

For textures I guess there may not be that many good free tools that combine the terrain-centric focus (altitude/slope masks based on a loaded heightfield), and the relatively high quality textures of Terragen. But I know it really wasn't designed with that in mind (there would be a tiling texture output plugin if it were), so from my perspective it seems odd to use it that way. Any frustrations you encounter along the way are IMO really down to the software being used in a way it wasn't intended for. And that's fine, in fact it's great to find new uses for software, and I know the TG authors enjoy seeing novel applications for Terragen. But I do think there may be better tools and I would tend to agree that L3DT either is one of those tools, or *can* be and is close to already being so. Expressing your interest in these kinds of additional capabilities is the best way to get development attention in those areas, so keep it up. :D

In the meantime, you might want to also look at using World Machine to generate your masks and then use either photographic textures from a stock resource like http://www.mayang.com/textures/ or a dedicated texture generator like Genetica 2. If you need something free, there are lots of apps similar to Genetica that, although not as capable, are at least free. I'll dig up some links in a bit if you are interested.

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Postby Aaron » Sun Dec 18, 2005 6:49 am

JavaJones wrote:In the meantime, you might want to also look at using World Machine to generate your masks...


cough...

(http://www.bundysoft.com/L3DT/tute/tute_ops.php#gen_TX_alphas)

...cough
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Postby Aaron » Sun Dec 18, 2005 9:42 am

Hi All,

As promised I've done some work on improving the high-res texture output. Whereas the old algorithm interpolated land-types for high-res textures, the new one calculates them procedurally per-texture-pixel, and this makes it a lot sharper. The first screenshot is in the gallery at:

http://www.bundysoft.com/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=7&pos=3

This image was a 16x texture, and you can see that the grass/rock interface is very sharp indeed (possibly too sharp). There are still a few more tricks to be added, including a weensie-bit of bump-mapping and some (more) perlinnoise into the land-type calculation.

This was a real hack 'n' slash job, so it's going to take some time to clean-up the code. The update will probably be next year.

Cheerio,
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