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3D Terrain - Design Considerations

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Hey peeps. Im new to game design and programming, however ive been planning and roughing out and idea for a project. Background: The game concept is sub aquatic and although im not initially planning something complicated, eventually i hope to implement a nice 3D Terrain mapping of the seafloor, possibly from real bathymetric charts and data samples. Im currently in the planning and early concept mapping phase and am looking for information specific to methods of terrain rendering. I hope to eventually have 3D ship models which will be rendered in the space above the seabed. The perspective will quite possibly be fixed RTS-like style or limited to a top-down or isometric like view. The Problem: Im looking for information and free resources on 3d terrain mapping and height mapping techniques, and also advice from anyone that may have done something similar. I have read articles from GameDev and Gamasutra websites, and some from Eberly's Engine Book. Some of the better examples ive seen have been from Morgan McGuire et al[1][2], and his demo is possibly the best ive seen, but im still trying to soak up as much as possible on the subject. Also Hughes Hoppe's article [3] was interesting. I dont currently have access to any periodicals or journals that im aware of, so free resources are appreciated and book recommendations would also be nice.

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