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to x file or not to x file...

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What do you mean? On a very simple terrain engine I wrote it used a vertex buffer for the terrain.
Admittedly, it could therefore only go up to 104x104, but that was because I only used a single buffer...

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please read Articles & Resources / Landscapes & Terrain..
also there''s alot of good tutorials on the net.

I think the most used format for terrains is a heightmap..

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I wrote a tool to export terrain meshes as .X file meshes. I then used X files divided in to an octree to render terrain.

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