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Large Terrains, Day-Night shading process?

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I am currently at the start of a project, and I am trying to figure out exactly how I am supposed to go about designing this. My desired results are,


Large Open Terrain, featuring a large amount of instanced objects.

The world will have a day and night cycle.

And also water with faked rivers(naturally).



If my knowledge is correct, Shadow Maps are only usable, for static worlds. Should the lighting change then the Shadow Maps would look incredibly unnatural. I tried looking up some processes of how this was circumvented but no luck.


For bodies of water, I figured I could just simply cheat the lighting process by treating the bodies of water as a voxel volume, assign a transparency, and distort the surface with a shader. Still a concept with an un-located rogue pointer... 



But for the life of me I couldn't figure out what I am supposed to do for the land or sky.


For terrain, Shadow Volumes seems like a decent approach, but I think that will become incredibly demanding with more objects that are in the scene. I tried looking up dynamic Shadow-Mapping, but results were inconclusive.


And for the skydome. My best guess is simply an unlit sphere with several animated shaders. And several planes for clouds.


Any suggestions?

Edited by Tangletail

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Shadow maps absolutely - and when one shadow map isn't enough use cascaded shadow maps. 




[edit] when you feel that you have achieved everything, you can look into FarCry tech docs, they explain how to implement ambient lighting with day night light cycle. 

Edited by kauna

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