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Contour maps to in-game terrain

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As part of a project of mine I want to create a small landscape. One of my pet peeves is that I always feel that terrain in games is too dynamic. That is, too many hills, too many cliffs, too many areas unaccessible on foot. It could just be in my head, I won't pretend to be an expert on terrain contours. So I did some research and found this contour map on Easter Island, which looked like a decent landscape to copy into my project. Maybe do at 1/8 scale or something similar. What would be the best way to turn this contour map into something I could use in a game?

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recently I had to do something similar for a client in regards to a golf course, to get the result I vector traced each contour in Illustrator with white being the highest point and black being the lowest and layed the shapes on top of eachother, this will give you a layered cake effect if you stopped now. I then rasterized the shapes then with some blurring and imagination I smudged and blurred the shapes together

[Edited by - Spater on January 28, 2006 1:21:12 PM]

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An alternative is to treat each contour map as a polygon. Start with the tops of the hills, and tesselate them into polygons; vertices around the fringe. If you have vector data, the vertices are given.

Then, move out one, and generate another band of triangles from the current polygon out to the next contour. You may have to generate irregular triangles (i e, not strip-ordered) to generate the "best" triangles; i e each segment along a contour connects to a vertex such that there is no angle blunter than, say, 90 degrees.

Keep going until you've filled your space.

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Quote:
Original post by hplus0603
An alternative is to treat each contour map as a polygon. Start with the tops of the hills, and tesselate them into polygons; vertices around the fringe. If you have vector data, the vertices are given.

Then, move out one, and generate another band of triangles from the current polygon out to the next contour. You may have to generate irregular triangles (i e, not strip-ordered) to generate the "best" triangles; i e each segment along a contour connects to a vertex such that there is no angle blunter than, say, 90 degrees.

Keep going until you've filled your space.


that does seem a bit tedious, but more accurate, the heightmap solution works for the down and dirty

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I would suggest doing a heightmap/displacement (as Spater suggested), then modelling the landscape yourself using the displacement mapped object as a reference/template if the geometry from the displacement object isn't satisfactory. That way you'll have the final say on geometry and topology, while having to do minimal height interpretation from the map to the 3D landscape.

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It worth pointing out that many games use cliffs and hills to reduce draw distance - spend your polys on the immediate environment rather trying to draw it all and getting a crap frame rate. This is an integral part of any careful level design. If your not going to consider draw distance when designing your level, you'd better have a good LOD system!:) Or be prepared to have your immediate environment looking much lower res, or (and we all hate this one), the dreaded 'fogging'.

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I'm preprared to have a relatively low immediate detail level in favor of long draw distances. If anyone's ever seen or played with Noctis, that has a similar effect to what I'm after (though I hope I can go a little higher detail).

Really I'm pretty basic in what I know about 3D programming in general, so I'm hoping by setting up some goals up front I can learn the technology to get what I want, sacrificing and compromising to get something playable.

I'm hoping by sacrificing on detail and technology (billboarding for instance) I can achieve my goals of realistic vistas and terrain.

I'll try what you guys suggested and post back if I have any trouble.

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