Terraforming Tips & Tricks + A Free Quad-Region Terrain File

Following up on our previous post, Terraforming Tips and Tricks, we decided to write a little about creating terrains for a quadregion. The process is similar, it just takes more planning and thought.

There are some tools we mentioned previously, that we’ll list again, here:

  • Free applications:
  • Not free (but also not required, just useful – a free close equivalent is GIMP):

If you do not have a Windows computer, don’t despair. We’ve found that creating a terrain entirely on a Mac, whether for a single region or a 4-sim megaregion, is definitely doable. The image files from Photoshop or GIMP can be re-imported into Backhoe to produce RAW files again.

Method 1:
USING BACKHOE

There are several methods of creating single-region RAW files, as we discussed in a previous post. This time, we’re going to play a bigger game – a 4-sim megaregion. The standards we outlined in our previous post still apply, and the results will be four RAW files, laid out in a 512 square pixel configuration, like so:

Quadregion, Post-edit

BACKHOE TO PHOTOSHOP/GIMP

Backhoe only outputs RAW in a 256×256 pixel size, so we would have to create four separate files and go into Photoshop/GIMP, create a new 512×512 image file, arrange them into the four quadrants as appropriate, then try to match the terrain heights at the seams where they will be joined (Alternatively, you could create one RAW file, then resize it in Photoshop to 512×512 pixels and edit that – we got quite good results). Below, you’ll see what the four Backhoe terrain files look like after piecing them together, but before we started editing in Photoshop.

Quadregion, Pre-edit

While we could skip the Photoshop step and upload the four RAW files from Backhoe directly in world, then edit the terrain to smooth the places where the land borders meet, we found this quite time consuming, and the terrain still wasn’t quite to our liking – for example, we could see ridges where there should be smooth slopes, as shown below.

Backhoe, Ridged Terrain

Now, we’ve got a single 512×512 image. We cut that up again into four equal parts, each 256 square pixels, then go on to the next step. But first, let’s talk about another, easier, method of getting to this point – Terragen.

Method 2:
USING TERRAGEN

We used a tool that is better suited for creating megaregions: Terragen. It’s free and available for Mac and Windows. Even better, we can create all four terrains in one 512×512 pixel file. (We could have created four 256×256 files, but then we wouldn’t end up with a nice set of seamless sim terrains.) We had ours ready within minutes and saved the result as an image file to edit in Photoshop. We didn’t do much, just a little smudge and a bit of blur to smooth the landscape and even up the heights where we wanted, especially at the seams/sim borders. We cut that up into four equal parts and output either Terragen terrain files, or image files – we created Terragen files. And now, we’re ready for the next step.

NEXT STEP: BAILIWICK

Bailiwick is an excellent tool for checking our heightfields, and outputting our files in a RAW format that can be uploaded in world. While this application is only available for Windows, Mac OS X computers are Bootcamp ready, which lets you run Windows on your Mac. We have Bailiwick on our Mac under Bootcamp/Windows XP Professional. If you are unable to use Bailiwick, you can re-import your image files into Backhoe and save them as RAW files for uploading.

In Bailiwick, be sure to set your water level and your minimum and maximum terrain heights for each of the four files. Adjust either the raw multiplier or the vertical scale on the first quadrant file you bring in until you are happy with it, then use those same levels for the other three quadrants, and save the results as four RAW files.

Backhoe - Heightfield Too High Backhoe - Heightfield Too Low Backhoe - Heightfield Correct

We noticed some interesting results with various heightfield settings:

Backhoe - High Heightfield Backhoe Mid-height Heightfield Backhoe - Lower Heightfield

We were pleased to find that both processes generated lovely, smooth terrains.

METHODS WE TRIED:

1. Resized Single 256×256 Backhoe File

  • Created the original 256×256 RAW file, saved it as an image file. PNG works well.
  • Brought the file into Photoshop, resized it to 512×512, smoothed as needed with blur filter, cut it up into 4 equal 256×256 files, saved each as BMP files.
  • Tweaked the BMP files’ heightfields as needed in Bailiwick and saved as RAW files, then uploaded.

2. Created Four Files in Backhoe for Direct Upload

  • Created 4 original RAW files in Backhoe, then simply uploaded and terraformed in world.

3. Created Single 512×512 File in Terragen

  • Used Terragen to Create 1 Terrain File, Exported to Image File.
  • Opened in Photoshop, cut into 4 equal sized quadrants and output to four image format files, like BMP or PNG.
  • Opened in Bailiwick, converted to sim raw files, uploaded.

CAUTIONS:

  1. Take care when designing your megaregion, that parcels don’t span sim borders.
  2. Watch minimum and maximum heights; a good rule of thumb is no lower than -100m and no higher than 100m.
  3. Be consistent with your vertical scale / RAW multiplier for each file in a megaregion.
  4. When creating multiple regions from Backhoe one at at time, try to make the heights along the interior seams as similar as possible.

In our previous post, we shared a free, single-region RAW terrain file that we made for you (scroll to bottom to get, if you didn’t yet).

Today, we’ve got another free download, a set of four (RAW terrain files for a 512 square pixel megaregion. This set is an original creation by =IcaruS=. Note there are four files, named with the direction of the quadrant corner where each file belongs.

Here are some in-world views of the free quadregion download.

Aerial View Ground View 1 Ground View 2 Mini-map View

Just in case you don’t have it, here is our single region RAW file:

Do let us know if you experiment with them – we’d love to see what you do!

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