Terrain Generation Research

Today’s post will just be a quick collection of links to interesting articles on generating and creating synthetic terrains. My goal is to create interesting and reasonably plausible designed landscapes.

Terrainosaurus: Realistic Terrain Synthesis Using Genetic Algorithms – Genetic synthesis of a terrain based on user-entered constraints and DEM heightfield patches. Seems to be based more on assigning qualitative regions than a ridges and valleys approach.

Interactive GPU-based Procedural Heightfield Brushes – The most basic operations seem to be possible to approximate by painting onto alpha maps of layers generated using appropriate(preferably fairly homogeneous) procedural noise functions. I’d like to try adapting the erosive noise algorithm to planetGenesis(I’d recommend compiling from source. The latest available release is ancient). The one thing I don’t think I can approximate with a noise layer is the directional noise, stretched in a direction based on the direction of the stroke. I’d really like to see that implemented!

River and Coastal Action in Automatic Terrain Generation – There’s quite a lot here. First of all, it has an interesting user-guided system for placing geological features to create a terrain. These features are mountain ranges, valleys, canyons, buttes, cliffs and what it calls periodic hills. Lakes are generated automatically, based on basins in the resulting heightfield. Once the initial terrain is generated, it uses a very simplified model to place precipitation which guides the placement of river seeds. From these, it can generate rivers with varying width, meanders in flatter areas and a delta at the mouth. On the sea coast, this system can generate plausible beaches and headland cliffs. Overall pretty nice, although the terrains are detailed using the somewhat artifacty midpoint subdivision algorithm.

Modeling of ecosystems as a data source for real-time terrain rendering – An ecotope model for placing vegetation. Depending on the needed level of detail, this can do anything from shading for aerial or satellite photography to guiding actual placement of trees, bushes and ground cover shading on closer pictures. It also looks like it could be adapted to creating fairly simple global habitat modeling.

Modeling Landscapes With Ridges and Rivers: A Bottom-up Approach – The described model seems to be a fully automated system for generating a random terrain, but it looks like the ridges-and-valleys approach could be adapted to generate a terrain based on user-generated river and ridge networks. Actually, it looks like a skeleton DEM can be used to guide the process…

Fast, Realistic Terrain Synthesis – Promising. I haven’t gotten a real good look at it, but it looks like a detailed survey of automated patch-based terrain generation.

I hope this will prove useful or at least interesting. Thank you for your attention,
The Astrographer

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