This is my first time working on a large open terrain-type level (not skyrim large, just bigger than any indoor scene would ever be) and I'm struggling to find the right way to do the terrain visuals.
My game is low-poly, handpainted textured (WoW style sort of). At the moment I'm using a standard heightmap based terrain with an RGBA mask that stores texture-splatting weights. This is an easy enough approach (and is the one that is favoured by my physics engine - the game is very reliant on physics). This approach seems to incur the following limitations (please correct me if I'm wrong here):
1) restrictions on level geometry (e.g I'd like to have a rock arch, some sharp ledges and a hollowed-out volcano)
2) wasted vertices on areas that need less detail (e.g flat beach)
3) texture splatting means restricted texturing detail. Increasing the vertex count would help this but would be bad for rendering and bad for physics.
So instead, I'm thinking of going for something more akin to the mario galaxy type levels: (http://images1.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/Super-Mario-Galaxy-Screens-super-mario-galaxy-815698_1280_720.jpg)
Using regular models for the terrain would solve the first 2 problems above (I think?) but I'm not clear how it's best to texture such a level. Obviously a lot of the texturing needs to be repeated tiles (before I was only using 4 256x256 textures). But at the same time, if you want the model to have the right texture coordinates in order to repeat a small texture many times, you need those extra vertices! So it seems to be a bit of a trade-off.
Thanks in advance.