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Use of ‘World Machine’, Virtual Landscapes

and Production Pipelines

A Practice Based Exploration of Procedural Terrain Mesh


Generation Through The Use of The ‘World Machine’
Engine For Use In Video Games.

Gareth Hughes

University Of Salford
School of Arts & Media

Supervised by Dr. Umran Ali


Table of Contents

Use of ‘World Machine’, Virtual Landscapes and Production Pipelines 0

Abstract: 5

1.0 - Introduction: 6
1.1 - The Inconvenient Truth: 6
1.2 - Questioning my Dissertation (Starting again): 6
1.2.1 - The Original Question: 6
1.3 - My Role: 6

2.0 - Background & Context: 8


2.1 - 2nd Gen: 8
2.2 - 4th Gen: 8
2.3 - 5th Gen: 8
2.4 - 6th Gen: 8
2.5 - 8th Gen: 9
2.6 - The value: 9
2.6.1 - The growing complexity of games production: 9
2.6.2 - The effect of hardware, software & technological advancements: 10
Fig. 1 - ‘The Worst Game Ever’ 10

3.0 - Literature Review: 12


Fig. 2 - Screenshot - ("Artificial Terrain Tools & Software Packages", 2018) 12
3.1 - The Importance of Landscapes within Video Games: 13
3.1.1 - What is an ‘Open World’ game? 13
3.1.2 - The growth of ‘Open World’ games: 13
3.1.2.1 - Why use ‘Open World’? 14
3.1.3 - Gameworlds main aspect ‘Massive Environments’: 14
3.1.4 - Need for a variety of landscapes: 14
3.2 - Game Design: 14
3.2.1 - The History of Game design: 15
3.3 - Game World: 15
3.4 - Level Design: 15
3.5 - Architecture: 15
3.6 - Landscape Architecture: 16
3.6.1 - Landscape architecture: Why do this? 16

4.0 - Case Studies: 18


4.1 - ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’: 18
4.1.1 - What is ‘Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’? 18
4.1.2 - Why have I decided to look at the ‘The Elder Scrolls’ series? 18
4.2 - ‘Super Mario Bros’: 18
4.2.1 - What is ‘Super Mario Bros’? 18

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4.2.2 - Why have I decided to look at the ‘Super Mario Bros’ series? 19
4.3 - ‘Minecraft’: 19
4.3.1 - What is ‘Minecraft’? 19
Fig. 3 - Mob Grinder 20
4.3.2 - Why have I decided to look at the ‘Minecraft’? 20

5.0 - Current Perceptions (Pre-Assumptions & Expectations): 21


5.1 - Research: 21
5.2 - Terrain Mesh Generating: 21
5.3 - Texturing: 21
5.4 - Additional Assets: 22

6.0 - Aims and Objectives: 23


6.1 - Aims: 23
6.2 - Objectives: 23

7.0 - Results/Practice: 24
Fig. 4 - Node Tree: 24
Fig. 5 - Screenshot-Desert Canyon-Node Editor: 25
Fig. 6 - Screenshot-Desert Canyon-Worldview: 26
Fig. 7 - ‘World Machine’ ‘Layout Generator’ Node Interface: 26
Fig. 8 - ‘World Machine’ Advanced Perlin Editor 2: 27
7.1 - The end result: 27
Fig. 9 - Desert Mountain Render Image 1: 27
7.2 - Renders: 29
7.2.1 - Views of Terrain Mesh – 1: 29
7.2.1.1- Reflection - Terrain Mesh 1: 30
7.2.2 - Views of Terrain Mesh – 2: 31
7.2.2.1 - Reflection - Terrain Mesh 2: 32
7.2.3 - Views of Terrain Mesh – 3: 33
7.2.3.1 - Reflection - Terrain Mesh 3: 34
7.3 - The Artist's Guide to a Basic Landscape: 35
7.3.1 - Artist’s Guide and Process Pipeline: 35
Fig. 10 - ‘World Machine’ Startup Screen: 35
Fig. 11 - ‘World Machine’ Node Editor button: 35
Fig. 12 - ‘World Machine’ Node Editor Window: 36
Fig. 13 - ‘World Machine’ Hierarchy Sidebar: 36
Fig. 14 - ‘World Machine’ Toolbars: 37
Fig. 15 - ‘World Machine’ Preview Window: 37
Fig. 16 - ‘World Machine’ Perlin Editor Window: 38
Fig. 17 - ‘World Machine’ Bake Processing Buttons: 38
Fig. 18 - ‘World Machine’ Baked Nodes Comparison: 39
Fig. 19 - ‘World Machine’ Terrain Mesh View: 39
Fig. 20 - ‘World Machine’ Output Nodes: 39
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8.0 - Methodology and Research Strategy/Methods: 41
8.1 - Research Strategies: 41
Fig. 21 - ‘World Machine - Resources’: 41
Fig. 22 - ‘World Machine’ Basic Videos: 42
8.2 - Methods: 42
8.3 - ‘World Machine’: 43
8.3.1 - ‘World Machine’ Node Tree Editor: 44
Fig. 23 - ‘World Machine’ Startup Screen: 44
8.4 - ‘Geoglyph 2’: 45
8.5 - ‘Blender’: 46
Fig. 24 - Example Render - 1 46
8.6 - Personal Research: 46
8.6.1 - What have I done? 46
8.6.2 - What am I going to do? 47
Fig. 25 - ‘Smart Survey’ - Start For Free: 47
8.6.3 - Where now: 48

9.0 - Discussion of Findings & Analysis including Reflection on Process and Creative
Artifact: 49
9.1 - ‘World Machine’: 49
Fig. 26 - Desert Landscape Render Image 1: 49
9.1.1 - Reflection: 50
9.2 - ‘Blender’: 50
9.2.1 - Reflection: 50
9.3 - ‘Photoshop’: 51
9.3.1 - Reflection: 51
9.4 - Collecting Data On The Landscapes: 51
9.4.1 - Reflection: 52

10.0 - Recommendations for practice: 54

11.0 - Limitations of Study: 55


11.1 - Very Complicated Software: 55
Fig. 27 - Screenshot-Desert Canyon-Node Editor: 55
11.2 - Limited Time Constraints: 56
11.3 - Limitations of Experience: 56
11.4 - Lack of Funding & Resources: 57
11.4.1 - Funding: 57
Fig. 28 - ‘World Machine’ Licence Page: 57
Fig. 29 - ‘Smart Survey’ Licence Page: 58
11.4.2 - Resources: 58

12.0 - Conclusion: 59

13.0 - Further Questions: 60


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13.0.1 - How can more advanced Node arrangements be used to generate the
terrain meshes? 60
13.0.2 - How do you texture the terrain meshes in ‘World Machine’ using nodes? 60
13.0.3 - How can you use ‘Geoglyph 2’ and ‘World Machine’ together to create more
realistic terrain? 60

14.0 - Appendix: 61
14.1 - Post-Gameplay Questionnaire: 61
14.2 - Reflection: 66

15.0 - Bibliography: 67

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Abstract:
The purpose of this study is to identify an effective production pipeline as well as develop an
artist and game developer guide for the production of a basic landscape for use in video
games and animation. From the early days of gaming with games like ‘Pong’ consisting of
two platforms and a square ball, to the wide open, cinematic landscapes of ‘Skyrim’,
videogames represent an ever expanding aspect of the media, dwarfing the combined music
and film industries.

The majority of this study will be looking at the terrain generator known as ‘World Machine’
and its operation. This document begins by looking at the surface level history of video
games and their development, before continuing on to consider the importance of
landscapes in video games and their effects. Following on from here, there is a brief look at
additional software ‘Blender’ and ‘Photoshop’, before providing an artist's guide to the basics
of working with ‘World Machine’, and a number of rendered artefacts showcasing some of
the potential of ‘World Machine’. This will culminate in covering my findings, conclusions and
recommendations for the audience.

Whilst experimenting with the industry recognised landscape generator known as ‘World
Machine’, I identified an effective workflow and pipeline for the production of computer and
videogames. From this I have created an artist’s guide aimed at aiding others in
understanding the basics of generating simple but effective terrain meshes using the
advanced node editor, combining noise based generators with filtering variables in order to
generate a believable landscape and terrain mesh.

From this terrain mesh, five panoramic renders have been produced to convey the look and
feel of the world space. Members of the course have then critiqued these generated
landscapes, resulting in the collection of quantifiable data which can be used to improve the
outcomes of future projects in this field. Overall the thoughts of the participants closely
matched those of my own.

I found that ‘World Machine’ has a lot that it can offer to any environment artist, regardless
as to the purpose of their terrain use and the level of custom terrain management in ‘World
Machine’ allows a high degree of control, that is dependent on the abilities and skill of the
operator.

To close, I think that the ease with which you are able to export files in to other software like
‘Photoshop’ and ‘Blender’ makes ‘World Machine’ more practical as it adds flexibility to the
production process, particularly whilst the user is gaining experience and becoming more
familiar with the wide range of attributes this software has to offer.

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1.0 - Introduction:

1.1 - The Inconvenient Truth:


Video game landscapes can be anything from a very simplistic and abstract representation
of the game world, to a highly accurate representation of a real world location making use of
very detailed and high poly assets. Due to this, the processes used to produce these
immersive environments and landscapes can be incredibly time consuming.

This dissertation is a practice based research project looking into the pipeline processes of
producing a series of high quality terrain meshes as well as the practicality of using a
specific software known as ‘World Machine’ in order to complete this process. You will be
introduced to the project and the questions that led me to it, as well as aiding you in
understanding what it is that I aim to discover and the products that I wish to produce as a
result.

1.2 - Questioning my Dissertation (Starting again):


Whilst researching the process pipeline for using the ‘World Machine’ terrain generator I
returned home for Easter. During this period, I was speaking with my parents about the work
that I had done and the subjects that I had covered pertaining to virtual landscape
generation. During this discussion, my mother raised a series of questions which helped to
highlight where I needed to go into more detail about the subject and the history of that
subject. This was the point when I realised that I was probably covering ‘too big a field’ for
this project. Not only this, but I started to wonder whether I was effectively covering the
question that I had decided upon.

1.2.1 - The Original Question:


Can you use a landscape generator like ‘World Machine’ in order to produce a realistic and
believable alien landscape?

On reflection, I decided to restart with a narrower focus. During this questioning process, I
chose to revise the scope of this dissertation to concentrate on the practicality and usability
of ‘World Machine’ for producing high quality terrain meshes for use in computer and video
games, as well as the practicality of incorporating 3D modeling, and image editing software
in to the pipeline process.

1.3 - My Role:
I am a Computer and Video games student at the University of Salford. During my time on
the 3 year course, I have had the opportunity to work across a variety of computer and video
game mediums, genres and styles as well as work with a number of different workflow
processes and methodologies enabling me to further develop and refine my skills and

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understanding. During the course, I have been able to work in teams of artists and
programmers based on industry standard pipeline production roles. As such I have an
understanding of the various roles and disciplines required within a Video game production
team. I am a Digital Artist and 3D Artist primarily serving these roles within the teams; this
has allowed me to experience the challenges of working on producing assets for use within
computer and video games which have been optimized in order to make use of a number of
different artistic styles. Over the last three years I have gained experience producing a
variety of asset types ranging from characters and weapons to vehicles and architecture, but
the main area of asset production which has demanded the largest amount of my time has
been contributing towards the expansive amount of environmental assets required for
populating the world space and creating a realistic and believable world, consisting of assets
such as rock formations, foliage ranging from trees to low level shrubs, grasses, scattered
debris, and ruins.

In this dissertation I will be researching and investigating the ‘World Machine’ terrain
generator. I will be using what I learn during this investigation in order to create a series of
custom terrain meshes. Whilst doing this I will be looking to identify the most efficient
production pipeline process in order to create high quality terrain meshes.

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2.0 - Background & Context:

2.1 - 2nd Gen:


During the early 1980s ‘Micro’ computers were launched and would eventually become the
blueprint for the modern day ‘PC’. During this period the UK would go on to lead the world in
computer game design especially on platforms such as the ‘Acorn’ and ‘ZX’ range of
‘Sinclair’ computers.

2.2 - 4th Gen:


The games industry would truly hit its stride with the release of the first home game consoles
and entertainment systems such as the ‘Super Nintendo’ and the ‘Sega Genesis’. This would
mark the point where games would start to become accessible to the masses in the comfort
of their own home with an ever expanding library of games available to the players. This is
the point where landscapes start to become important, as well as becoming possible, due to
the step up in processing power, with games like ‘The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past’,
‘Super Mario Kart’ and ‘Super Metroid’ on the ‘Super Nintendo’ and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ on
the ‘Sega Genesis’ all boasting immersive and expansive landscapes for the first time.

2.3 - 5th Gen:


During this period of the games industry’s development, we saw the rise of the 32 bit
consoles such as the ‘PlayStation’ (‘Sony’s’ attempt to claim their part of the video game
market), as well as the ‘Nintendo 64’ bringing ‘Nintendo’s’ earlier titles into the realm of low
poly 3D. Once again this was a pivotal point for the importance of landscapes within video
games as you now had a whole other axis to work with allowing the games to truly surround
and immerse the player in the world. At this time, some of the companies who had been
competing to maintain their area of the market lost the battle, resulting in former game
hardware companies reverting back to software developers. An example of this would be
‘Sega’ now responsible for managing a series of smaller companies and game publishing.

2.4 - 6th Gen:


This generation of console and games development represents the same developments as
in the 5th generation, but with a greater emphasis on getting more out of what was available.
The poly count of game assets increased throughout this phase resulting in higher resolution
games and better animations as well as more fleshed out and populated landscapes and
environments. Games were also starting to get more mechanically complicated by placing
more emphasis on the landscape interactivity and having more to do within the game space.

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2.5 - 8th Gen:
We are now in the 8th generation of games consoles with companies like ‘Sony’ and
‘Nintendo’ leading the console market with ‘Microsoft’ struggling to hold on to their lead from
previous generations; reasons for this are believed to be varied but the majority believe that
it is due to the lack of a varied game library on the ‘Xbox One’. In a recent web article, Ollie
Barder explains the problem to be historical ‘the PS4 now has a growing library of games,
from not only Western studios but Japanese ones as well, the ‘Xbox One’ is clearly
struggling in that area’ (Barder, 2017). On platforms such as ‘PC’, ‘Mac’ and ‘Linux’,
distributer platform ‘Steam’ is continuing to thrive despite the increasing number of personal
distribution browsers like ‘EA’s’ ‘Origin’ and ‘Ubisoft’s’ ‘Uplay’ continuing to operate.

2.6 - The value:


The UK games industry is growing in size on an annual basis, and in 2017 the UK games
industry was reported as growing with a global audience of ‘between ​2.2 and ​2.6 billion
people’ (Supporting the UK's games and interactive entertainment industry, "The games
industry in numbers", 2018) with the global software market estimated to continue growing
from ‘​$116 billion in 2017 to an estimated $143.5 billion by the end of 2020’ (Supporting the
UK's games and interactive entertainment industry, "The games industry in numbers", 2018).

2.6.1 - The growing complexity of games production:


In the beginning, video games were limited to university campuses where the only
computers in existence were accessible to a select group. Here, simplistic games with very
simple game mechanics were displayed using devices such as oscilloscopes in place of
screens. Students at institutions like ‘MIT’ (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) were
responsible for starting this trend which would eventually develop into the idea that one
person in their bedroom would be able to create their own video games from scratch and a
minimal budget. This led to the rise of the ‘'Indie'’ bedroom developer. These were talented
students and young adults with an understanding and an ability in programming;
consequently developers working on these projects had to take on the plethora of different
roles from being designers, artists and programmers for all aspects. This is the main reason
for the limited graphical potential of these games, though it was not unheard of for some
games to push the limits.

This trend would start to repeat itself in 2010 with the release of the game ‘Minecraft’
produced by a man by the name of ‘Notch’.

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2.6.2 - The effect of hardware, software & technological
advancements:
The very first games were developed in 1952, using oscilloscopes in order to project what
was occurring in virtual space. Due to the limitations of the technology these games tended
to be ballistically based games; the first being a game named ‘Tennis for Two’. The next big
breakthrough occurred in 1962, when computers made their way into academic institutions,
where students and lecturers were more willing to experiment with the hardware and
eventually developed one of the first recognisable games, ‘SpaceWar!’.

During the 1970s, we saw the rise of arcade machines allowing the paying public to access
games such as ‘Pong’ for a small fee. These types of devices were very large and incapable
of displaying colour, but they captured the public's interest. In the early 1980s problems with
the US video games market had started to reveal themselves, although the nature of these
problems remains unclear. By 1982 and the release of ‘ET’ for the ‘Atari 2600’ games
console, everything came to a head resulting in the crash of US games industry. A large
number of people claim the ‘ET’ licenced game by ‘Atari’ to be the cause of this due to the
low number of copies sold versus the large number of copies produced. I feel that it is more
likely that ‘ET’ was was made a scapegoat for the failings that had been building for some
time. It has been said that the ‘ET’ title was notorious for the regularity in which the player
would have to change between locations and map tiles leading to people becoming
disoriented and confused. This can be seen in the Youtube video ‘​Creating the Worst Video
Game of All Time’ ​(Great Big Story, "Creating the Worst Video Game of All Time", 2016).
The video link can be found below ​Fig. 1​.

Fig. 1 - ‘The Worst Game Ever’


(Console Classix Home Game List Download App Manage Account Our Favorites "E.T. The
Extra-Terrestrial 1982 By: Atari" 2018)

The Link:​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXs_pI4Tcmk
(Great Big Story, "Creating the Worst Video Game of All Time", 2016).

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By the end of the 1980s games such as ‘Pacman’, ‘Donkey Kong’ and ‘Dig Dug’ emerged
onto the scene in full colour display; this helped to solidify the Japanese games market’s
hold of video games.

By the late 1990s, 3D rendering had become fairly common within the games industry, even
within the consoles of the time, from the ‘Nintendo 64’ to the ‘Playstation’. Games were now
capable of delivering a more immersive experience without having to worry too much about
the processing requirements on the console itself. This would lead to the production of
games like ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ allowing for a more expansive poligonal
world space. Eventually we would see the emergence of arena games and the (FPS) first
person shooter genre in the form of ‘Unreal Tournament’ and ‘Quake III Arena’ in 1999. The
reason for these games existing was down to the progress that had been achieved in the
development of the hardware... as a result, the fast paced action of these games didn’t mean
that you had to sacrifice on the graphical quality any longer.

By the time game consoles like the ‘PlayStation 4’ and the ‘Xbox One’ were released on to
the games market, the hardware had become less of a limitation on what games are able to
do as well as the number of polygons that the game can process in a given frame. This
marked the point where the consoles of the day are now on a similar level to the PC
platforms, and is a huge step up from the 512MB of the ‘Xbox 360’ and the ‘Playstation 3’ to
the 4GB consoles of today.

This being said, with virtual reality (VR) making its return, there is every chance that we will
continue to see situations of hardware and software limitations becoming an issue due to the
sheer demand on technology to render the world in 360 degrees.

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3.0 - Literature Review:
Having looked at a couple of the many different terrain mesh generators that are available
for download online, I have found that the majority are free to access but a large number of
these appear to be low quality. These generators have been produced for the purpose of
generating landscape formations and terrain mesh data and textures which can be used in
video game and animation production. Fortunately I was recommended ‘World Machine’ by
my course lecturer, Umran Ali, as a point of study. The advantage of this is that ‘World
Machine’ is an industry recognised terrain generator for its good design and powerful series
of terrain editing tools.

The screenshot in Fig. 2 shows a small number of the softwares available. As you can see
some of the images look very convincing but others do not.

Fig. 2 - Screenshot - ​("Artificial Terrain Tools & Software Packages", 2018)

The ever increasing demand for more complex and immersive environments and landscapes
in video games can be observed by the increasing quality and number of assets which
appear on screen in a given frame. In large companies this intensive design can be achieved
by a large team of environment artists resulting in a heavily hand-sculpted and customised
landscape. This allows for a lot of control during the landscape creation process and the
results seen in the final version. However, for smaller companies, these costs are prohibitive
and terrain generators are likely to be more cost effective. To remain competitive, these
generators must produce high quality landscapes.

For smaller teams working to create a complex and developed landscape I feel that the use
of terrain generators is a highly beneficial practice allowing the artist to control the placement
of terrain elements affected by noise generators. This pipeline process allows a small team

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to create a large, varied and detailed landscape but decreases the amount of control that the
artists can have over a smaller area. The noise seeds are a form of stand-in for the lack of
team members, the use of procedural generation has become a more popular form of terrain
creation in recent years. This is likely due to the replayability factor without having to design
and build intentional landscapes, procedural landscapes are different every time the game is
loaded.

3.1 - The Importance of Landscapes within Video Games:

3.1.1 - What is an ‘Open World’ game?


To answer the question ‘What is an ‘Open World’ game?’, we need to look back to a time
when games were very simple in design and construction, and the hardware of PCs and
games consoles were of an equally low performance quality. Games of the late 1980s and
early 90s were relatively simple in design, usually with gameplay consisting of get from point
A to point B whilst collecting object C and eliminating or avoiding any or all enemies. All of
this takes place within a single squarespace which may or may not make use of side or
vertical scrolling; this represents the scale of the players freedom in its entirety. This is the
definition of linear gameplay as you, the player, are required to work your way down a step
by step hierarchical list in a specific order. This is where the ‘linear’ title comes from;
examples of this type of game would be ‘Call of Duty - Modern warfare’ or ‘Castlevania’.

An ‘Open World’ game, on the other hand, refers to games where the player has the choice
between missions and/or objectives, which may or may not be directly related to one
another, and as such do not necessarily rely on one another to be at a particular point of
progression so as to allow the player to progress through the game. This allows the player to
create their own narrative to some extent. Games like this tend to fall in to the RPG (Role
Play Game) genre as character stats tend to lend themselves well to this type of game. This
mainly comes down to the fact that you are able to backtrack through the game and return to
locations. Examples of this type of game include ‘The Elder Scrolls’ franchise as well as
‘Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest’.

3.1.2 - The growth of ‘Open World’ games:


The concept of ‘Open World’ has always been the end goal of game designers but has never
been feasible until recently. Historically this has been due to the limitations of the hardware
of the time, before graphics processing units (GPUs) were commonplace and affordable to
the masses. I believe it is now possible to foresee how the future of ‘Open World’ will
develop, potentially resulting in limitless possibilities.

The use of GPUs has proven to be a breakthrough for the games industry and has led to the
emergence of full 3D graphics in the form of games like ‘Bioshock Infinite’ and ‘Call of Duty’.
In recent years the power of computers and games consoles in their ability to render these
wide open vistas has continued to increase, resulting in ‘Open World’ games becoming more
achievable on a scale never seen before. This has been seen in games like ‘Monster Hunter:
World’ where an expansive fantasy world seemingly comes to life before your very eyes,

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populated with virtual monsters to slay, as well as a plethora of character customization
systems which shift the balance of player and monster stats. This pattern has occurred
multiple times over the past 50 years, now being governed by the hardware of the modern
games consoles, due to a reduction in the number of big title games being released for PC.

‘Open World’ makes up a large part of the current games industry’s thinking, with positive
elements visible in many games ranging from the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ franchise to 'Indie'
games like ‘Minecraft’. However, some gamers feel that ‘Open World’ has started being
pushed into games with a more linear focus, which suffer as a result.

3.1.2.1 - Why use ‘Open World’?


‘Open World’ games are a great addition to the games market as it allows game genres,
such as adventure and role play games RPG, to develop richer world experiences. This
allows the game creators to move away from the traditional linear game narrative in order to
pursue a more realistic and dynamic game experience, where missions and objectives can
be encountered at random allowing for a more unique experience as well as varied replay
value.

3.1.3 - Gameworlds main aspect ‘Massive Environments’:


The main aspect of an ‘Open World’ game system is the wide open feeling of the world
space, as well as the immersive, interesting and believable nature of the environment; a
reason for this is that the world space needs to feel like it exists separately from the player
and not simply a sandboxed world for the player (‘Gaming Bolt’ 28/04/2018) in short. The
game world should feel like it has always been there and the player is simply trying to find
their place in it. Games like ‘Minecraft’ and ‘The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’ have managed to
achieve this in my personal opinion, this is due to the amount of information and diversity of
assets within the world space. This is something I am looking to attempt in future projects, I
would also be looking to incorporate a sense of continuity which these games also manage
as the world components feel as if they originate from the same time and place.

3.1.4 - Need for a variety of landscapes:


Variety is an important aspect of a large scale 'Open World' game; this mainly comes down
to the fact that it is easier to convince the players that the world is bigger and that there is
more to do if they can actively observe the form of the terrain and the type and placement of
the natural assets changing along with the biomes. Variety of landscape is important for
reasons such as maintaining the players interest in the world and keeping the player
involved and immersed.

3.2 - Game Design:


‘Games design’ is the practice of producing a game type product either within the digital or
physical mediums. A practice that is ‘​more art than science​’ (Umran Ali (26/04/2018)) the
process is built more around the trial and error methodology, due to the ever more complex
nature of modern day video game products. The field of game design has remained hidden

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for hundreds of years and only now has it been recognised as a specialist subject. The
reason for this I believe is down to the rapid increase of products produced by the digital
games industry which has recently surpassed the combined music and film industries for
their research and development budget and ability to generate income.

3.2.1 - The History of Game design:


In the early days of video game production the roles of designers and artists did not exist
and in fact an entire game could be the product of a single skilled programmer responsible
for everything, ranging from the art, design, the gameplay as well as other functionality.
’​Programmers were the one stop shop‘ of game creation; they were the ones responsible for
designing, producing, and finishing products​’ (Blezinski, 26/04/2018). The reason for this
was due to the limitations of the technology at the time. Video games of this time usually
consisted of a limited number of assets which were no more complicated than a collection of
pixels positioned on screen, as well as a limited amount of gameplay functionality due to the
demand on the computers and other platforms operating with far less memory and slower
processors.

3.3 - Game World:


‘Game World’ is the name given to the virtual space within which a video game takes place.
It has been questioned by many as to what goes in to the production of a ‘Game World’.

The term ‘Game World’ is used when referring to the virtual space in which the game takes
place, and is the responsibility of the game designers. This not only means that the game
designers are responsible for the design of the world space but also the experience of the
player and the interactions that the player may encounter within the world. This ranges from
the characters, to the graphical depiction of the world space, as well as the sounds and feel
of the world and the effect that has on the player.

3.4 - Level Design:


Level design is the practice of designing a world space, everything from the aesthetics to the
mechanics to any additional functionality. Level design is not a scientifically anchored field
as the combination of the games nature as well as the mechanics mean that the design can
easily vary from game to game and even between levels within the same game. The level
design process and those working on it should make an effort to produce a level
environment that makes full use of the game mechanics that are active at that specific point
during the gameplay.

3.5 - Architecture:
Due to the limitations of the technology in the early days of the games industry, it was rarely
possible to create a game in which a landscape could be accurately represented. As a result
games tended towards the platform aesthetic, in which all levels were comprised of some
form of ‘platform-like’ plane which the player would be able to navigate. Eventually game

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designers would realise that the game levels that they designed had a large amount in
common with architectural designs and floor plans.

Game designers started treating level and world designs as architectural designs, due to
architecturally-based plans being relatively simple whilst adding a level of realism to the
game, maintaining the players’ interest and engagement throughout the world space. This
methodology will continue in to the future designs of more organic worlds as it helps to
communicate the more complicated geometry of the world space through a more simplistic
design style. Consequently, game environments and landscapes will continue to become
more complex and immersive.

3.6 - Landscape Architecture:


Realism is an important element of any video or computer game, for some games the
landscapes are more important than in others. This may depend on whether the landscape
is used for the mechanics or gameplay itself. In the majority of cases, the landscape of a
video game simply exists in order to give the actions of the player or the characters of the
game context or a point of reference. This kind of interaction can be found in games such as
the corrupt and crime ridden cities of ‘Grand Theft Auto’, to the bombed out landscapes of
‘Call of Duty’ and the mythologically inspired ‘The Elder Scrolls’ series’ where the
landscapes do not have or serve any interactactive or functional purpose, and instead help
to convey the circumstances and condition of the world space that the player and narrative
occupy; this helps to immerse the player into the world and helps the player to empathise
with the protagonist as well as the other ‘NPCs’ (Non Player Characters) of the world.

Landscapes in other games are capable of playing a more gameplay and mechanic
orientated role by creating a landscape in which the challenge is created by or extended to
the player having to navigate or problem solve their way around the landscape. These styles
of landscapes can be found in games ranging from the simplistic geometry of the platformer
style gameplay of the ‘Super Mario’ games and the sidescroller type games of ‘Never Alone’
and ‘Limbo’ to more gameplay oriented landscapes such as ‘Minecraft’ and ‘Terraria’ in
which the landscape is made of objects used in the mechanics of the game. This results in
fully destructible and craftable worlds which are a staple of the ‘Sandbox’ type games of
recent years.

In this project I aim to identify, define and document the production pipeline methodologies
and processes required in order to produce a basic quality landscape for use within
computer and video games. I will be going through the process in its entirety from start to
finish.

3.6.1 - Landscape architecture: Why do this?


Landscape architecture is a recent addition to the games industry and has only really been
seen in games created over the last 5 - 15 years. Landscape architecture is a way of
considering working practices which will be familiar to architects​. ​The method became a
popular process for designing the landscape environments of video games as it helped in

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the design of a simplistic and linear world space accurately. This method also proved to save
time and due to the similarities between the practices of architects and the practices of game
designers of the time, this is now considered a valid workflow methodology and pipeline
process for the design of computer and video game environments and landscapes. This is
further backed up by the sentence ‘both use similar tools to conceptualise virtual buildings
with a user centric approach in mind — except of course, one has the intention for it to be
actually built in real life.’(Stylus, "The Art of Video Game Architecture – Scriba Stylus –
Medium", 2017).

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4.0 - Case Studies:
In this section I will consider the landscape designs of other games and the way in which the
landscape affects the gameplay experience. The way in which the gameplay can or has
affected the design and the aesthetic of the landscapes within the game world space will
also be considered.

4.1 - ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’:

4.1.1 - What is ‘Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’?


‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ is an RPG taking place on the Planet ‘Nirn’. ‘Nirn’ has been
styled on the earth only with a medieval fantasy setting, with its snowy mountain peaks and
its expansive scrubland plains and swamps. Newcomers to this game franchise would be
forgiven for thinking that they were playing a game set in the Earth’s distant past. Having
said this, clues are available in the game which hint towards this alien concept, for example
during the night phase of the day/night cycle two planetoids can be seen orbiting ‘Nirn’,
these are the moons of ‘Masser’ and ‘Secunda’ which play a big part in the lore of ‘The Elder
Scrolls’ series and especially for the race known as the ‘Khajiit’.

4.1.2 - Why have I decided to look at the ‘The Elder Scrolls’ series?
The ‘The Elder Scrolls’ series is interesting as it shows how even alien environments can
feel so very familiar. The landscape of ‘Skyrim’ is lush and prosperous for the most part
broken up into pockets of grassland valleys and dense woodland, separated by the
occasional snowy mountain range or marshy swamp, and connected by narrow roads and
rivers which cross the map. The landscape is populated by small towns and hamlet
settlements each with their own unique sense of character and atmosphere, and thousands
of random location encounters from ruins and caves to shipwrecks and ritual sites. Elements
which stand out are the countless number of ore deposits which can be found around
‘Skyrim’ as well as the gatherable plants and ingredients located along every roadside and
randomly throughout the landscape, these are the few barely interactable elements of the
landscape. The different areas of the map have variations in architecture, climate and AI
(Artificial Intelligence) creatures as well as differing ore deposits and plant placements
leading to a world space which feels varied and rich, resulting in an immersive experience.

4.2 - ‘Super Mario Bros’:

4.2.1 - What is ‘Super Mario Bros’?


‘Super Mario Bros’ is a side scrolling platformer game released in ‘​September 1985’ (Google
16/04/2018), created by ‘Nintendo’; this game would go on to become one of the most
successful game franchises of the video game world with its use of simplistic game
mechanics and family friendly aesthetics which in later decades would become 3D and high
resolution, but little gameplay would change between instalments.

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The original ‘Super Mario Bros’ was a game produced with a limited asset palette spread
over a number of different world spaces and themes. Despite this the gameplay focused
heavily on the use of the platform and obstacle placement in order to create its difficulty. This
has resulted in some very interesting level and environment design and though the narrative
of the game is incredibly simplistic, it’s complemented by the levels which the player is
required to traverse in order to save the princess.

4.2.2 - Why have I decided to look at the ‘Super Mario Bros’ series?
I have decided to look at the art style of ‘Super Mario Bros’ as this game is a good illustration
of how the limitations in software and hardware of the time required the game to play in 2D,
as a result that has had the effect of the game designers and artists having to design the
game landscapes with a side view abstract depiction. The wold space of ‘Super Mario Bros’
is an abstract world made of platforms set to a fixed tileable grid layout. This has made it
easier for the designers to create a consistent level of difficulty through the navigation of the
world space as well as maintaining the pace of the game. This is a good example of the
correlation between the game world design and the game mechanic implementation
resulting in the challenge, whilst still allowing for an immersive and engaging world and
story.

4.3 - ‘Minecraft’:

4.3.1 - What is ‘Minecraft’?


Minecraft is a massive 'Open World' sandbox game. ‘Minecraft’ is a game where the player
is dropped into an 'Open World' with no obvious direction to go in. The player will quickly
realise that the world is made up of a large number of varying blocks, of which most are
easily breakable; this results in a world which is very stylized with any structures or
landscape elements in the world appearing to be heavily terraced. This is a very good
example of a video game world which has been shaped by the game mechanics while still
attempting to conform to a believable depiction of reality. The reason for the use of blocks
stems from the requirement for the player to terraform the landscape in order to gather the
various materials needed to progress through the game. The use of block is a good solution
for allowing the player to do this without requiring complicated terrain editing mechanics.
This system allows for any block to be interchangeable with any other type of block unless
the physics of the new block conflicts with its position. An example of this would be blocks
such as sand or gravel which are affected by a primitive version of gravity causing them to
fall if not supported. This mechanic offers the player the greatest level of freedom to create
anything of their choosing whilst also adhering to some limitations.

These functionality-based mechanics in ‘Minecraft’ work well on their own but together result
in unexpected progression of processes or outcomes. This has allowed players to take
advantage of unintentional game mechanics to create modular multi component structures
within the world space to achieve an otherwise unachievable outcome. Examples of this can
be seen in the earlier versions of ‘Minecraft’ (Minecraft 1.0.0, 2011) when players would

19
place ‘Fence Posts’ below farmed dirt blocks resulting in ‘Farm Blocks’ which would fail to
revert back to ‘Dirt Blocks’ after use. Other examples, which are now commonplace, are
‘Mob Farm’ or ‘Mob Grinder’ type structures (​Fig. 3​), where players use the environmental
mechanics in order to kill large numbers of creatures with the desire to collect resources
and/or experience points. These are a couple of ways in which the fanbase has managed to
take advantage of the creator’s oversights in order to increase their productivity and alter the
way the world space operates.

Fig. 3 - Mob Grinder


(u/Milk07, "r/Minecraft - After some feedback from ya'll I fixed up my Mob Grinder a bit. If you
saved my previous isometric, please replace it with this one!", 2013)

4.3.2 - Why have I decided to look at the ‘Minecraft’?


‘Minecraft’ is a game with a landscape which is abstractly depicted as an endless sea of
varying blocks which allow the player to freely explore. This is due to the choice of game
mechanics which are based around the practice of mining and crafting, or breaking and
replacing. In other games which have appeared since the release of ‘Minecraft’, destructible
worlds have been tricky to work around, because the newer games allow the player to
remove and replace volumes of materials in a non-fixed quantity. This has resulted in some
interesting and immersion breaking landscape formations being created by players due to
the lack of control. This is why I feel that ‘Minecraft’s’ method of terraforming works far better
in the long run, particularly when mods appeared which allowed the player to create smaller
and smaller block pieces, allowing them to depict more detail in structures.

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5.0 - Current Perceptions (Pre-Assumptions &
Expectations):

5.1 - Research:
I feel that I will be competent when it comes to performing the various elements required to
complete my research and develop my skills and understanding of the different software and
various tools within the software. I believe that I may encounter problems or issues which
need solving or working around as it has been some time since I have had to carry out
research to this extent, however these will be tackled professionally.

5.2 - Terrain Mesh Generating:


I am aware that ‘World Machine’ is a powerful tool when it comes to generating terrain
meshes. The ‘World Machine’ tool operates through the use of editing nodes which the
operator will be able to connect and alter in order to create the final product. I have
experience of working with nodes and node tree constructs from previous projects, as a
result I feel that this should aid me in understanding how the nodes operate. There is a
possibility that some additional problems may be encountered as node functionality can vary
between software.

I feel that ‘World Machine’ has the potential to be a very useful tool in the game industry for
the purpose of creating landscapes and terrain meshes. Currently I have no experience of
using ‘World Machine’ but from what I have seen on ‘Youtube’ and with my experience of
working with node based editors in software like ‘Blender’, I feel like I should be able to get
to grips with ‘World Machine’ fairly quickly. I feel that I should be able to produce a number
of different landscape elements such as mountains, valleys, canyons and craters.

I am aware, from using similar software, that the texturing may be an area which could
cause problems as the number of nodes in use at any one time could lead to the node tree
becoming a complicated web very quickly. During my research, I will look to gain a better
understanding of how the node tree terrain generator works by creating a series of simple
landscapes such as, a lone mountain or a simple river. Once I have achieved this goal, I will
look at combining landscape features in order to generate more complicated landscapes.
This feels like a logical way of progressing through the use of ‘World Machine’.

5.3 - Texturing:
I am aware that a large part of the production of landscapes and terrain meshes is the
texturing of the therrain. I am also aware that there are a number of nodes within ‘World
Machine’ which exist solely for the purpose of adding or incorperatin textures in to the terrain
mesh within ‘World Machine’. I hope that I will be able to make use of these elements of the
landscape and terrain mesh generator as the images I have seen on line for this product

21
look very realistic. If I am unable to do this, as I am aware that the node tree setups can get
very complicated, I am considering whether it would be worth using ‘Photoshop’ as a
replacement to this process. I currently feel that this is a reasonable response to such a
situation as I have plenty of experience working with ‘Photoshop’ and have created a
number of terrain textures in the past through this pipeline process.

5.4 - Additional Assets:


Assuming that all goes well, I am currently considering creating a collection of ‘Low Poly’
populating assets for the landscapes, as I feel that this may help to show what the terrain
meshes would look like were they used in a game and populated with environment assets.
These could range from simple rocks to various types of plant life and foliage, as well as
many other possible objects which you may be expected to find out in the wilderness of an
adventure game. This is just a thought and will depend on the time available, as a result I will
most likely have to keep this section simple as it is not the main focus of this study.

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6.0 - Aims and Objectives:

6.1 - Aims:
I aim to produce a guide for artists and video game developers to use as an introduction to
the ‘World Machine’ world generator. ‘World Machine’ is a powerful terrain editing and
generating tool, it allows the user to generate a variety of widely varied terrain base meshes,
whilst allowing the user to add custom sections and features to the terrain mesh as they see
fit. This should allow for the artists involved to create a unique and immersive experience for
the viewers while maintaining a level of believability and continuity to the final product.

I aim to outline a suitable workflow and pipeline process for the production of custom terrain
meshes using this process. I will attempt to draw the attention of the artists to any issues that
I encounter during my experimentation with the goal to aid others in avoiding similar issues. I
will also be creating a collection of showcase renders from the resulting meshes of the
experimentation. From this I will create a series of recommendations for environmental
artists to follow based on my experiences, successes and failures. My hope is that my efforts
here will succeed in laying the foundations for me and others to use to create quality
landscapes.

6.2 - Objectives:
I will:

1. Determine a practical methodology(s) for producing a high quality terrain mesh in


‘World Machine’.

2. Explore the various ways you are able to apply textures to the landscape with the
goal to identify the best method.

3. Aim to identify any issues or problems that may be encountered by the operator
during the use of the ‘World Machine’ generator, or when transfering to other
software.

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7.0 - Results/Practice:
I have created a series of test terrain meshes using the terrain mesh generator ‘World
Machine’. ‘World Machine’ has made it possible for artists like myself to be able to quickly
and realistically produce a customized landscape before converting it to a terrain mesh. I
have been using ‘World Machine’ for the past 12 weeks and over this time I have been
developing my understanding of the software and the process pipeline for the production of
the terrain meshes to the best of my ability, but I feel that more time is required in order to
truly get to grips with this powerful tool.

The image in ​Fig. 4 shows how the node tree used for the generation of terrain meshes can
evolve over the course of a terrain meshes development. I hope that this image can show
how complicated the node tree arrangements can become: this is by no means the most
complicated that I have seen, but I feel it still conveys the complexities involved. These
issues are made more difficult for those who are less familiar with the individual nodes as
data can not always be passed from one node to another, this can result in additional nodes
being incorporated in to the tree to allow the transfer of data to occur.

Fig. 4 - Node Tree:


("Raindrop: Re-hydration Log # 2 news", 2013)

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The screenshot in ​Fig. 5 is one of the node trees that I have created during the testing and
experimentation I have done using ‘World Machine’. This is an example of a later attempt to
create a terrain mesh, and as you can see it is still some way off the complexity of the other
node tree setup from the above image.

Fig. 5 - ​Screenshot-Desert Canyon-Node Editor:

The image in ​Fig. 6 shows a screen capture of the generated terrain mesh from the node
tree construct in the screenshot above (​Fig. 5​). The ​Fig. 6 image depicts an attempt to
create a landscape terrain mesh reminiscent of a canyon type layout. I have managed to do
this through the use of a ‘Layout Generator’ node.

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Fig. 6 - ​Screenshot-Desert Canyon-Worldview:

The ‘Layout Generator’ node is a very practical node for the creation of landscapes as it
allows the artist to generate a terrain mesh through the use of a shape based editing tool.
These shapes are used to represent features on the landscape that the artist has placed
within the world space.

In the ​Fig. 7 image you can see a series of ovals placed almost vertically within the
boundary box, I created these ovals with the intention of using them to represent the region
of the terrain that I wanted to have depressed, this would make up the formation of the
canyon which I have combined with the ‘Use Breakup’ modifier. The ‘Use Breakup’ modifier
had the effect of adding a level of noise deformation to the shape of the canyon, this shape
can be seen in the screenshot below.

Fig. 7 - ‘World Machine’ ‘Layout Generator’ Node Interface:


Screenshot-Desert Canyon-​‘Layout Generator’ Editor​:

The greatest challenge that I have encountered during this project and the production of the
dissertation is simply due to the sheer complexity of the ‘World Machine’ software. Looking
back at the issues I have had to solve, they seem to come back to the number of possible
inputs and variables within the individual nodes.

The screenshot in ​Fig. 8 shows an example of the number of possibilities within the
‘Advanced Perlin’, node which is a node typically used from the beginning of the node tree.
This node is what gives the terrain mesh its natural looking form based on a number of
generated seed inputs and noise values which are adjusted through the use of sliders.
These can be easily seen in the window for the ‘Advanced Perlin’ node.

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Fig. 8 - ‘World Machine’ Advanced Perlin Editor 2:

7.1 - The end result:


I have produced a series of final renders using the landscapes to the highest quality that my
current ability and experience will allow. I have learnt how to use the ‘World Machine’
texturing nodes and node tree setups, but I have been unable to advance beyond the point
of exporting texture mask images from ‘World Machine’ to ‘Photoshop’, where I would be
able to combine texture images together to generate a texture for the terrain meshes.

I discovered a tutorial video on ‘Youtube’, quite early on, which explained this process but
unfortunately I am unable to cite this source. I attempted to save the file to my ‘Dissertation
folder’ but this did not occur. Since then I have attempted to relocate this video but have
been unable to do so.

Fig. 9 - ​Desert Mountain Render Image 1​:

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As you can see from the render in ​Fig. 9​, I have created an alien mountain which is visually
interesting but unlikely to be common here on Earth. I have attempted to add some scattered
rock assets to the surface of the terrain mesh in order to create some variation of detail. I
feel that this works well from a distance as you can not see the lack of detail in the meshes
but if I was to do this again I would spend more time creating a higher poly collection of
scattering rocks and debris.

So far I have been unable to make use of the texturing aspect of ‘World Machine’ as I am
unsure how some of the key texturing nodes function. To maintain progressI have attempted
a temporary fix by exporting different mask layers from ‘World Machine’ to ‘Photoshop’
where I have used custom textures created from ‘Google Maps’ screenshots to texture the
landscape. You may be able to see that the texturing does not look all that appealing or
believable. I believe that this is due to the texture that I created being too low quality for the
size of the terrain mesh and UVs.

At this time I find myself further behind than I would like and as a result I do not think that I
will have the time to attempt a fix for these issues. Despite having created a vast collection
of video game environmental assets, I will not be replacing the scattered rocks due to
optimization issues and the demand on my PC. I believe this to be down to the number of
polys in the terrain mesh, to which I think there is probably a better way. The texture will be
something I look to solve in future projects when more time is available and more of that time
can be dedicated to learning how to use the node system in ‘World Machine’.

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7.2 - Renders:

7.2.1 - Views of Terrain Mesh – 1:

29
7.2.1.1- Reflection - Terrain Mesh 1:
I am quite happy with how this landscape has turned out. Looking at this render I would point
out that it does not look in any way realistic, but is a good simplified and abstracted
landscape form. I think that the reason for this lies in the number of subdivisions that I added
to the plane before deforming it with the terrain mesh data. This has resulted in a low poly
look to my first landscape test, I will look to improve on this in future test.

The texturing of this terrain mesh is of a very low standard; this is apparent from the above
renders. I believe that this is due to the resolution of the texture image that was created for
this purpose, as well as the scale of the generated terrain mesh used. Due to time
constraints, I do not believe that I will be able to rectify these issues, but will simply make a
note of this for future projects.

I feel that the collection of rocks that were created for this project were of a very low quality,
though this was intentional as I believed that optimization issues may result in limited
experimentation time. This would further decrease the number of tests that I would be able
to conduct during this time. I also chose this option as I am focusing on the terrain mesh and
the production processes, and not the quality of the other landscape asset. So for now, I am
thinking of these as placeholders.

In order to populate this landscape with the rock assets I have used a hair particle system. I
think that this has worked well to create the look of a rough and hostile landscape. My
original intention was to create a look of rocks that had relocated due to gravity on the
landscape. I feel that this has not worked as intended as in Images 3, 4 and 5 the rock
placement does not look natural. In Images 1 and 2, the rocks you see in the valleys are a
fortunate result of my texture painting and are slightly more believable.

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7.2.2 - Views of Terrain Mesh – 2:

31
7.2.2.1 - Reflection - Terrain Mesh 2:
I feel that this canyon landscape has turned out quite well. I believe that I have managed to
capture a more realistic depiction of a weathered and worn landscape. The reason for this, I
believe, is due to my use of a number of different erosion processes for this mesh. On top of
this the canyon formation has resulted in some interesting shapes appearing in the terrain
aiding in maintaining the viewers’ interest.

There are still clear issues with this terrain mesh. The most obvious being the fact that you
can see the subdivision grid on the surface of the mesh. This is most evident in the
foreground of Images 4 and 5. This, I feel, has the effect of breaking the viewers’
engagement. Having had time to think about this problem I think that I may be able to solve it
through the use of a normal map which I can apply. I hope this will smooth out the sharp
edges as well as add details where there currently are none.

The texture used in these renders has been made using the same textures as the previous
terrain mesh as I have not had the time to attempt a fix. I am unable to say if I will have the
time to fix this issue before submission.

For this landscape I have used a simple physics simulation for the placement of the various
rocks. Using a plane positioned above the terrain mesh I have generated a collection of a
thousand rock models which I have allowed to fall under the simulated gravity. This has
helped to randomise the locations of the rocks. This combined with the collisions with the
terrain mesh has created a realistic clustering of the rocks throughout the landscape. This I
feel is closer to the more natural look and placement that I desired from the rocks.

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7.2.3 - Views of Terrain Mesh – 3:

33
7.2.3.1 - Reflection - Terrain Mesh 3:
For this final landscape I have decided that I want to focus on the terrain mesh and making it
look higher detail and more realistic. I have attempted this by using the exported mesh ‘.obj’
file created in ‘World Machine’, I feel that this has worked well as the mesh appears to be
more detailed but also less demanding on my PC. I have also implemented my plan for
using a ‘Normal’ bitmap image in order to help smooth out the polygons in the terrain mesh. I
think that this has worked, though the effect is limited as I am unable to export files bigger
than 2K resolution. As a point of comparison, the desert texture on the terrain mesh is a 4K
texture image; even this is not all that detailed. This is due to the free version of ‘World
Machine’ I am using.

As mentioned, there is little to no improvement in the textures of the landscape, but I feel my
time has been well spent with the improvements to the form of the terrain being easy to see
in this new file.

For this landscape I have used the same method to populate the landscape with rocks as it
worked well the previous time. I think this helped to emphasise the erosion channels of the
landscape making the form of the terrain more noticable. I have attempted to make this
landscape look bigger by decreasing the scale of the rock assets. I am unsure as to whether
this has worked as I would probably need to increase the number of rocks in order to get the
desired effect. This landscape just feels a bit more empty than the previous one.

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7.3 - The Artist's Guide to a Basic Landscape:
Note:
Due to time constraints the images used in the Section ‘7.3’ are without annotations or
illustrational aids. I recognise that a number of the different screenshots used throughout this
document are of a blurry condition or too small to see easily. If additional time was available
I would have considered increasing the quality of the blurry images as well as using a series
of coloured boxes and guides to aid in the use of screenshots.

7.3.1 - Artist’s Guide and Process Pipeline:


1. Open a new ‘World Machine’ project. You will be met by the screen in ​Fig. 10​.

Fig. 10 - ‘World Machine’ Startup Screen:


If the screen in ​Fig. 10​ is not visible, click on the node setup button, located on the ‘Toolbar’.

Fig. 11 - ‘World Machine’ Node Editor button:

2. Remove the ‘Default World’ box located along the top ‘Toolbar’(​Fig. 11​).

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3. The image in ​Fig.12​ is of the work space for the node editor. The large dark area is
the space where you will be constructing the node tree arrangements using the
various node components. The node components are the building blocks which
contain nearly all of the functionality of this generator. These are what tell the engine
how to construct, generate and texture the terrain mesh (More on this later).

Fig. 12 - ‘World Machine’ Node Editor Window:

On the left hand side of the screen you will find the project ‘Hierarchy’ (​Fig. 13​), this will
allow you to see what is effecting what, as well as the overall structure of the node tree.

Fig. 13 - ‘World Machine’ Hierarchy Sidebar:

36
Along the top of the screen you will find the ‘Toolbar’(​Fig. 14​), This will allow you to change
project settings as well as navigate the screen views from the world viewer to the node tree
window, as well as allow you to bake the ‘node tree processing’ in preparation for exporting.

Fig. 14 - ‘World Machine’ Toolbars:

Below the top ‘Toolbar’(​Fig. 14​), you will locate the ‘Node Toolbar’ (​Fig. 14​). This is the
space where you will be able to access the library of various nodes used for the construction
of the node trees. They are located under a number of tabs from ‘Tools’ on the far left, to
‘Flow Control’ on the far right.

And in the top left of the screen, you will find the ‘Preview Window’ displaying your terrain
mesh.

Note:​ The ‘Preview Window’ displays a preview of the terrain based on which node you
currently have selected as well as the effects of the nodes which come before, this can be
very useful when you want to know what a node or group of nodes are doing to the mesh.
See the ‘Preview Window’ in ​Fig.15​.

Fig. 15 - ‘World Machine’ Preview Window:

4. Click on the boxes in the ‘Node Tree Window’ and then click and hold to move them
through the ‘Node Tree’ space. Arrange them in a manner that you find organised.

37
5. Once you have done this, we will be ready to edit the first node. Double click on the
‘Advanced Perlin’ node. You should see the window in the image below pop up (​Fig.
16​).

Fig. 16 - ‘World Machine’ Perlin Editor Window:

6. This is how any and all changes to node specifications, parameters and variables will
be made, in a window that looks similar to this. Work your way through these
variables until happy with the results seen in the ‘Preview Window’. You should
already be able to see your changes taking effect in the ‘Preview Window’

Note:​ I would recommend using the sliders where possible as manually typing in the value
can result in ‘World Machine’ acting up.

7. When you have finished click the ‘OK’ box to confirm.

8. Once done, you are now ready to bake the terrain mesh. Head to the ‘Toolbar’ at the
top of the screen and click on the green button (​Fig. 17​), shown below. This will start
the baking process.

Fig. 17 - ‘World Machine’ Bake Processing Buttons:

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Note:​ You can tell if a node has been baked or not based on the coloured box in the lower
left hand corner next to the node name. If the box is green then it has baked successfully, if
the box is yellow then the node is either partially baked or is only a projection and if the box
is red then the node is not baked and is having no effect on the mesh. See below images in
Fig. 18​.

Fig. 18 - ‘World Machine’ Baked Nodes Comparison:

9. Once baked, you can now go and look at the mesh in its completed form. This is not
fixed, you can alter the node tree arrangement as well as the node variables at any
time, and as many times as you want or need to.

Note:​ Remember to rebake the mesh after any changes, this will allow you to see the mesh
with all its detail (​Fig. 19​).

Fig. 19 - ‘World Machine’ Terrain Mesh View:

10. When you are happy with the results of the terrain generation there are a number of
possible output nodes available depending on what you want to do with the
generated mesh (​Fig. 20​).

Fig. 20 - ‘World Machine’ Output Nodes:

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In ​Fig. 20​, you can see the three different forms of output that I have been using during my
experimentation. Before you will be able to use any of these nodes you will have to double
click on each of them and specify a save location for each of the files, as well as the save file
type. When done click on the ‘Write output to disk!’ button to export each of the files.

11. Now you have your files you can use them as you wish, import them in to ‘Blender’,
‘3Ds Max’, ‘Unity’ or ‘Unreal’.

12. Continue to develop your skills and understanding of ‘World Machine’ by watching
tutorials, on either the ‘World Machine’ website or on ‘Youtube’ and continue to read
documentation to learn more.

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8.0 - Methodology and Research
Strategy/Methods:

8.1 - Research Strategies:


I am going to begin by checking on the ‘World Machine’ official website for documentation
and tutorials. I feel that this will be the best place to start looking as if anybody is going to
know about this software it would be the creators. I have had a look on the website for
‘World Machine’ and I have found a page dedicated to tutorials and documentation as shown
in ​Fig. 21​.

Fig. 21 - ​‘World Machine - Resources’:


World Machine Software LLC. (n.d.). Resources. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from
https://www.world-machine.com/resources.php

As you can see on the left hand side of the screen (​Fig. 21​), there are a collection of
different page links e.g. ‘Tutorials’ and ‘Workflows’ - here you are able to find and access a
sizeable pool of resources and help. ​Fig. 22​ shows the ‘Tutorials’ page. I have not had
enough time to go through all of these assets due to the time limitations, but based on the
videos and guides I have seen, they appear to be high standard and in depth guides. This
has allowed me to access the basics of ‘World Machine’s’ functions.

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Fig. 22 - ‘World Machine’ Basic Videos:
(World Machine Software LLC, "Basic Videos", 2018)

8.2 - Methods:
I will use the various sources that I find ​online, particularly in places such as ‘YouTube’ and
‘GDC Vault’ combining them with the years of experience gained through my education to
compile the required information to convey informed practices and methodologies to the
reader(s).

I am going to be doing this as I know from previous learning tests that I have participated in
that I am a primarily visual, audible and kinesthetic learner, these are my prefered learning
and researching methods as I am better able to understand what is happening through the
use of visuals and audible communication.

I will be referencing past work in order to convey my processes as well as trying out new
methods and techniques that I come across during my research, if I deem the method to be
of use or a viable and effective solution to the issues raised (such as a method for producing
a series of texture images outside of ‘World Machine’ for use with the generated terrain
meshes in other software like ‘Unity’).

The method referred to in the above paragraph uses the same video that I mentioned was
lost during ​‘Section 7.1​ second paragraph’.

I have had a look on the ‘World Machine’s’ website and have discovered that they have a
page dedicated to tutorials and documentation on how to use the ‘World Machine’ terrain
generator. I will be working my way through the various tutorials that are available, then I
will recap what has been covered and review what I now know.

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I have watched all of the beginner tutorial videos that are available on the ‘World Machine’
website and feel that I am more confident in my workflow within the ‘World Machine’ engine.
I have used this opportunity to experiment with a couple of the more basic nodes of the
software and have generated a series of terrain meshes (These nodes consist of the
‘Advanced Perlin’ node for generating a realistic terrain noise images and the ​‘Height
Output’ ​node which is used for exporting some of the final texture maps). I feel that these
experiments have been beneficial as I have already begun to understand what results in a
higher quality of terrain mesh. Of the terrain meshes generated using ‘World Machine’ I have
a ‘Mountain’ mesh as well as a ‘Canyon’ mesh.

8.3 - ‘World Machine’:


‘World Machine’ is a powerful terrain mesh generating software which makes use of a
unique node based editing system, allowing the operator to generate a wide variety of terrain
formations. A number of the nodes come with the option of using preset parameters like
‘Alpine’ and ‘Canyon’ which allows for a quick workflow and for the user to be able to
produce a realistic landscape with only a limited amount of experience. In the full version of
the software you are able to generate texture maps up to 16K resolution and of near
unlimited scale, This gives ‘World Machine’ great potential for use either generating small to
extremely large video game terrain meshes or for use in animation terrain meshes. I am
going to be using ‘World Machine Basic’ as it was easily accessible and free to use. I feel
that this version of ‘World machine’ has access to many if not all the same features as the
full version of the software and will allow me to work quite freely in order to learn and
experiment with it.

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8.3.1 - ‘World Machine’ Node Tree Editor:
When you start up a new project in ‘World Machine’ you will be met by this screen (​Fig. 23​).

Fig. 23 - ​‘World Machine’ Startup Screen:

The boxes visible in ​Fig. 23 are not required in order to have this node tree function but are
an effective way of managing your nodes. You are able to group nodes in this fashion and
this is a good working practice for beginners or anyone who is new to ‘World Machine’.

As you can see from the above screenshot (​Fig. 23​) of the ‘World Machine’ node tree editor
the project opens with a series of node groups. This layout of the groups should work quite
well for any newcomers to ‘World Machine’ as it aids you in understanding the structure of
the node tree. The first group is the ‘Terrain Creation’ group containing an ‘Advanced Perlin’
node. This node is capable of generating a random terrain mesh based on a series of
predetermined input values.

The second node group named ‘Filters’ is where the artist should place the desired filter
nodes, the node tree in ​Fig. 23 has a ‘Terrace’ node placed within this group space; this will
have the effect of adding a degree of terracing to the landscape at set height marks. This
node can be very useful when constructing a landscape, especially when combined with
mask layers so that the artist is able to control where and when terracing will occur within the
landscape. This is also the part of the node tree where the user should add any kind of
erosion nodes that they may want.

The third node group is where the user will be required to place output nodes depending on
what the user wants out of this software and what terrain textures the artist may require

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either to generate a high poly texture for use in software such as ‘Unity’ or ‘Unreal’ or if the
Artist wishes to export a generated mesh from ‘World Machine’.

8.4 - ‘Geoglyph 2’:


‘Geoglyph 2’ is a separate piece of software that works in addition to ‘World Machine’
allowing a higher level of detail to be added to the generated terrain meshes, as well as
adding more photorealistic texturing within the generator engine. I have attempted to install
and run this piece of software in order to carry out experiments with the software and its
range of included tools. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate any documentation or
tutorials which pertain to the software I was able to access through free trial. This also
extends to the installation of the additional tools and software required to run the application
which meant accessing unsafe web pages and downloads. As a result I decided to abandon
this line of research and return to focus on the base ‘World Machine’ terrain engine. In
addition, monetary costs also need to be considered as some of the software I did find
ranged in to the hundreds of pounds, and one in to the thousands, examples of this can be
seen in ’​Section​ ​11.4’.

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8.5 - ‘Blender’:

‘​Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite​’ (Foundation (Blender), "About", 2018)
managed by the ‘Blender’ Team. This is a powerful tool for 3D artists allowing them to
produce highly detailed and vast 3D models for use in CAD, animation, 3D printing as well
as many other applications. I am using this software for a number of different reasons, the
first being that this is the 3D modeling application that I am most familiar with. This will allow
me to progress with my studies as I already have a good understanding of working in
‘Blender’. The second reason for this is that this software is more reliable when working on
my own PC, where I will be doing most of my work to produce the collection of terrain
meshes. My hope is that this will reduce the number of unexpected delays due to software
not working as intended, as I am working to a tight deadline already and can’t afford any
additional delays.

I am looking to produce a ‘Blender’ project where I will be able to import terrain meshes from
‘World Machine’ and textures from ‘Photoshop’. This will result in the production of a high
definition and high poly landscape which I will then be able to populate with simple
placeholder rock and plant assets. I feel that this should allow for a quicker turnover which
should allow me to produce more terrain meshes, and allow me more time to experiment
with the ‘World Machine’ engine. See the results of this in ​Fig. 24​.

Fig. 24 - Example Render - 1

8.6 - Personal Research:

8.6.1 - What have I done?


By this point in my experimentation with the ‘World Machine’ generator, I have produced a
collection of terrain meshes. In addition, I have imported them in to ‘Blender’ and combined
the textures created using ‘Photoshop’. Based on what I have achieved in this test, I believe
that I have significantly improved my ability to generate believable terrain meshes with
‘World Machine’. Having said this, I recognise and believe that I still have a way to go before
I would call myself a competent user of ‘World Machine’. I would like to progress to the point
where I am able to use the in-engine functionality of ‘World Machine’ to texture the terrain

46
meshes, and be able to generate more complex landscape formations. I hope this will make
the landscapes more interesting and immersive.

8.6.2 - What am I going to do?


Now that I have a collection of renders of terrain meshes, textured and populated with basic
placeholder assets in ‘Blender’, I have used the ‘Cycles’ rendering engine to produce the
resulting landscape images. I need to see what others think of the results of the testing that I
have done. In order to do this I will need to show my final renders to viewers before
gathering data and their opinions about the specific aspects of the landscape pieces.

I have been using a web based questionnaire website called ‘Smart Survey’ (​Fig. 25​),
Originally this looked like a very useful website due to the idea that it would collect the data
and lay it out in a manner that you could easily interpret. Unfortunately this has not worked
out as these features are only available in the purchased versions, however I have
discovered that it is possible to export the data to ‘Microsoft Word’ for review. This data is
available in this document, located in ​‘Section 14.2’​.

In future I would like to spend more time comparing the various resources available to me so
can make better use of them and use the more appropriate tool set for the collection of data.

Fig. 25 - ‘Smart Survey’ - Start For Free:

Pricing | SmartSurvey. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2018, from


https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/pricing

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8.6.3 - Where now:
The data that I have managed to collect in my survey is of a reasonable standard and I
believe could be used in the future. I would be looking to continue to use ‘World Machine’
and use this data to inform my decisions about what I should be considering when I am
generating these various landscapes. This data will also be able to inform my decision
making with regard to where I need to focus on developing my abilities and what new skills I
may want to incorporate into my methodology. One specific area of my ability was
highlighted by the survey as needing improvement; this was my texturing process. I agree
with this statement as areas of the final product suffered quite badly due to the lack of detail
in the textures used. I look to work on improving this in future projects.

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9.0 - Discussion of Findings & Analysis
including Reflection on Process and Creative
Artifact:
Discuss the outcomes of your practice, reflection, inc what other people think and other
comments and feedback

9.1 - ‘World Machine’:


During my research I have discovered that any nodes which contain an input slot along the
lower edge will treat any input offered as a form of mask layer data; because of this I was
able to have filters and generators affect specific areas of the mesh whilst leaving other
areas untouched. This allowed for a potentially more natural and varied look to the
landscape as the effect did not simply span the terrain in its entirety, as is so easily achieved
with computer generated content.

Fig. 26 - Desert Landscape Render Image 1:

You might be able to see in the above render (​Fig. 26​), I have managed to combine areas of
harsh erosion and areas of terracing. I feel that this has worked well as it has created a
varied and dynamic looking landscape that has been subject to radically different forms of
erosion and sculpting processes.

I have attempted to replicate this workflow and process pipeline throughout all of the terrain
mesh production processes. I feel that my current process pipeline is working quite well, and
that my efficiency of generating terrain meshes with ‘World Machine’ is slightly less than I
would want. I think that this is more likely down to my lack of experience and familiarity with
the software.

I am now coming towards the end of the allotted time that I have in order to produce this
dissertation, but would look to continue using ‘World Machine Basic’. I will now be looking to
expand upon what I have done so far by creating some additional terrain meshes using what

49
I have discovered from the resulting artifacts of these experiments. I will look to try using
higher resolution textures in the next mesh; I hope that this will have the desired effect of
creating a more realistic and immersive landscape. I will continue to attempt to use the
texturing nodes in order to texture the terrain mesh in ‘World Machine’.

9.1.1 - Reflection:
I feel that these tests have worked out for the best, I have experience of working through a
handful of pipeline processes, from this I now have a better understanding of which methods
do or are more likely to produce the desired effect and result in a higher quality product
being developed at the end of the project. There are more methods available which I will be
able to work my way through, some of which I now believe show great promise of working to
produce the same result or better. Having said this there are still plenty of nodes I am unsure
about how to use and I have not yet figured out how I would begin combining more detailed
and characterized elements of the landscape in to the mesh; things like towns or mines as
well as other noticeable terrain based structures or formations.

9.2 - ‘Blender’:
Following my work in ‘World Machine’ I have decided to import the terrain meshes into a 3D
modeling application named ‘Blender’. My reason for choosing ‘Blender’ comes down to the
fact that ‘Blender’ runs better on my PC than other applications such as ‘Autodesk’s 3Ds
Max’. I have been using ‘Blender’ in order to transform a plane mesh through the use of a
‘Subdivision Surface’ modifier as well as a ‘Displacement’ modifier, This should allow the
plane to mimic the terrain mesh at a higher poly count (Warning: A powerful PC is
recommended for this aspect of the pipeline process).

The ‘Subdivision surface’ modifier is a modifier which you can apply to any 3D mesh which
uses the existing topology of the mesh in order to calculate a best guess at where to position
a series of additional Subdivisions throughout the mesh creating a higher polycount 3D
model. The ‘Displacement’ modifier allows the user to project a texture image on to a mesh
and have the mesh deform so as to take on the data from the texture image, usually in the
form of height data. The ‘Displacement’ modifier is able to take advantage of the ‘Subdivision
Surface’ modifier allowing for infinitely more detailed information to take place.

The advantage of this process is that it allows the mesh to depict a higher level of detail
through the geometry itself. I feel that this has resulted in some success, as if I look at the
terrain that is further from the camera it starts to appear more realistic though it’s clear to see
that the mesh foreground could do with some additional polygons.

9.2.1 - Reflection:
Looking back at my pipeline process for working in ‘Blender’ in order to convert a subdivided
plane from a flat mesh to a high resolution 3D representation of the ‘Terrain Mesh’ that was
generated in ‘World Machine’. I feel that this worked well during my initial testing, but as I
progressed, my meshes become more complex; this demanded more processing power and
put more stress on my PC. Since then I am of a mind that the exportable mesh from ‘World

50
Machine’ is probably better optimized, and capable of higher levels of detail, once it has
been transferred into ‘Blender’, especially when combined with large scale normal maps.

9.3 - ‘Photoshop’:
I have been working in ‘Photoshop’ in order to create a series of texture images for use on
the terrain meshes. The reason for this is due to a lack of understanding on my part for how
to operate the texturing functions available within ‘World Machine’, as well as the difficulty of
finding resources, guides and tutorials online. I have discovered a number of tutorials on
‘Youtube’ showing how others have resorted to using ‘Photoshop’ in order to get around this
issue; I will be using this same method to maintain the momentum that I have created. One
of these videos (uncited video referred to in Sections 7.1 & 8.2) stands out to me as it
worked to generate assets that I feel are suitable for my use.

9.3.1 - Reflection:
I do not feel that this method of making seamless textures, before combining them into a
complete terrain mesh texture using ‘Photoshop’ is the best way of going about this. I feel
that in future projects it is worth me trying to combine seamless, tileable textures, created
using ‘Photoshop’, in ‘Blender’ using mask layers to determine their position on the terrain
mesh. I believe this would result in the production of higher quality textures for terrain mesh
use, as well as providing another method for texture production.

9.4 - Collecting Data On The Landscapes:


Limited sample size:

A large limiting factor for this survey was the small sample size of people who have
participated in the survey. This could have been improved if the survey had been started and
carried out sooner as when I was working on it a lot of people from my course were unable
to take part.

Questions - 1, 2, 3:

1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Gender:

For the first question, I have asked the participants for their name, I do not feel that this
information is important for this research. As I am asking my classmates to critique the
landscapes that I have produced, I feel that this could be useful in aiding me to keep track of
who has participated.

The second and third questions relate to the age and gender of the participants. I feel that
this information could be useful to this study as it helps to illustrate the opinions and beliefs
of specific demographics. As well as this, we are able to understand the gender and age

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weighting of this group of participants, from the data we can see that this pool is primarily
male, close to 90%. We can see that the age of this pool is similarly weighted with all
participants falling between the ages of 19 - 25 years.

Survey layout:

From this point on the survey followed the order of a multiple choice question followed by a
text box where the participant is able to leave any additional information or opinions that they
may have. This would allow for the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data. This
should result in a useful collection of feedback for both me and this study to work from.

Question - 4:

The fourth question focuses on how the participants found the quality of the resulting terrain
meshes. In this example I was curious to see how the terrain meshes created using this
process would compare to modern (AAA) video game landscapes. I have decided to
compare these terrain meshes against that of (AAA) game titles because I am attempting to
create realistic looking terrain meshes, and I feel that a lot of people will automatically
compare these terrain meshes against those of (AAA) game titles.

Question - 5:

For the fifth question, I wanted to find out whether the participants were interested in the
terrain meshes. At the end of the day, the main purpose of the landscape is to interest and
immerse the player in a realistic world; a landscape that is incapable of doing this will result
in a very bland game and player experience, and ultimately will not achieve its end goal to
sell the game. This is why I wanted to know where my terrain meshes stood and what I could
do to improve them.

9.4.1 - Reflection:
Due to the limited amount of time available to create this survey, I feel that I could have
phrased some of these questions in a better manner and a more focused and targeted form.
Next time I would be looking to create a higher quality render of the final landscape terrain
meshes as well as a more focused and constructive series of questions for participants to
answer. I would also look to increase the number of participants who take part in the survey
as a larger number and broder demographic would result in more accurate and inf data.

I feel that my attempt to collect usable data through the use of this survey has been
successful. Despite the time limitations, I believe that I have successfully created a valid and
coherent survey which asks the relevant questions to collect the meaningful data.

The gender weighting of this survey, despite the limited sample size, in my opinion, is a fairly
accurate representation of the gender balance on my course. I hoped that this method of
creating landscapes for use in video games and animation would be recognised; based on

52
the results it would seem that from this small sample size the majority agree with this
sentiment.

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10.0 - Recommendations for practice:
1. Use the ‘World Machine’ Terrain Generator:
Use the ‘World Machine’ terrain generator in order to create your terrain meshes and
landscapes as it is a very well made and in depth terrain engine. This will bring a realistic
looking and immersive environment to your project.

2. Using ‘World Machine’ on a budget:


Download the limited but free version of ‘World Machine’, allowing you to gain experience
and understanding of how to use before spending money on the product.

3. Use ‘Blender’ for rendering the world space:


‘Blender’ is a powerful and professional open source 3D modeling and animation software
that is free to use in a hobbiest fashion. There is a large amount of community content that is
available on sites like ‘Youtube’. ‘Blender’ is the result of many years of development and a
number of different software types coming together, resulting in ‘Blender’ having a similar
tool set to software like ‘3Ds Max’, ‘Maya’, ‘MudBox’, ‘ZBrush’ and more.
.
4. Use ‘Photoshop’ for texturing:
Photoshop is an invaluable tool for the purpose of image editing and manipulation of images
for use as textures as well as compositing your renders once complete. ‘Photoshop’ will
allow you to fix most problems with your product.

5. Node produced mask layers.


Create precise mask layers in ‘World Machine’ using terrain mesh data like slope angle,
height and deposition. These mask layers can allow you to customize the terrain in a realistic
fashion.

6. Collect reference and picture the landscape you want to create.


Before starting the process of creating a landscape, collect as many reference images of the
types of landscapes that you wish to produce so as to have an idea of the types of features
you wish to recreate in your mesh. Consider terrain shape and formations as well as rock
shape and foliage.

7. Realistic weathering and erosion.


‘World Machine’ contains a wide selection of realistic erosion nodes which you are able to
incorporate in to the terrain in order to make it feel more realistic. This process helps to age
the landscape.

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11.0 - Limitations of Study:

11.1 - Very Complicated Software:


‘World Machine’ gives the operator the option to make the terrain generation as complicated
as they wish. From the tutorials that I have found there seems to be no limit to the number of
nodes which can be used in conjunction with one another and the number of processes that
‘World Machine’ can be required to work through in order to generate a terrain mesh. This is
very useful for anyone looking to create a highly detailed and complex terrain mesh model.
For the beginner this can lead to a wide number of problems from not knowing which nodes
to use and the order to use them in, it is easy to get confused and lost in a maze of
overlapping node tree connections and unfamiliar node names. I hope that the image in ​Fig.
27​ illustrates the points raised.

Fig. 27 - Screenshot-Desert Canyon-Node Editor:

This node tree doesn't look to be too complicated, but this represents the most complicated
‘working’ node tree that I have managed to create. More investigation is needed to discover
why other node trees did not work as intended.

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11.2 - Limited Time Constraints:

Time constraints were always going to be a limitation for me during this project as this is my
first time writing documentation at this level and to such a high academic standard. I felt from
the very beginning that my limited experience would lead to me holding an unrealistic sense
of workload and time scale for its completion. As a result I started this project with too large
of a question which could have easily been broken down into a series of smaller questions.

Approximately 6 weeks before the submission date I felt that I was dissatisfied with the
quality of the question that I had posed, and the resulting work that had been completed.
Following this reflection I decided to restart the project. From past experience I expected that
this would be necessary, but had hoped that this would occur earlier. The reduced timescale
has had an effect on the final quality of the document and the artifacts. However, I believe
the final outcome is much better than it would have been, if I had not chosen to restart.

11.3 - Limitations of Experience:

I have always had an interest in the production processes and pipelines for creating terrains
and landscapes. Primarily I have taken on the role of asset production and texturing artist
when working within a team to create games for my university modules. As a result I have
limited experience of landscape modeling and sculpting, particularly when it comes to terrain
mesh generation. I, therefore, used this opportunity to expand my knowledge and
capabilities and is the reason I decided to limit my research to a small collection of software
consisting of ‘World Machine’, ‘Blender’ and ‘Photoshop’.

I spent a lot of time during this project looking online at resources for completing various
aspects for this type of document and the processes required to operate the software and
collect data. Although, this has taken up a lot of the allotted time, ​the experience gained will
speed up completion of these processes in future, allowing more time for research and
development for the research topic.

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11.4 - Lack of Funding & Resources:

11.4.1 - Funding:
There are a number of different versions of ‘World Machine’ ranging from the ​‘Indie’ ​(World
Machine Software LLC, 2018) licence for the price of ​£119 all the way to the ​‘​Studio  Site 
License​’ ​(World Machine Software LLC, 2018) at a cost of £1,999 (​Fig. 28​). Fortunately
there is a ‘World Machine Basic’ version which is available as a kind of trial. This is the
version that I used and from what I have seen the only real limitations to this version is the
amount of detail that can be extracted from the terrain maps as well as the amount of
hardware that can be utilized by the software.

Fig. 28 - ‘World Machine’ Licence Page:


Screen shot:(World Machine Software LLC, 2018)

‘Smart Survey’ is a web based survey and questionnaire creation site. You are able to use it
for free using a free account and signup, and this will allow you to create a number of
surveys and/or questionnaires. Based on my experience there are no limitations on the types
of question formats that you are able to use in your surveys whilst on a free license. The
problems arise when you come to look at the data that you have collected and/or attempt to
convert and export the data in a visual format such as a graph or a diagram, as these
functions only come with the payed licenses starting at a cost of ​£​22.50 a month. This can
be seen in ​Fig. 29​.

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Fig. 29 - ‘Smart Survey’ Licence Page:
(Smart Survey, "Make Smarter Decisions", 2018)

11.4.2 - Resources:
There have been a number of occasions during this project when I have been unable to find
any reference, documentation or tutorials for elements of software. This is particularly true
for the more complicated node tree arrangements for ‘World Machine’ which seemingly do
not exist. Presumably this is due to the limitless number of ways in which the nodes can be
combined in order to generate a variety of different results, depending on what the creator
wants to use them for.

As a result, I have had to resort to looking at the non-professional audience in places like
‘Youtube’ and on ‘Pinterest’ in an attempt to figure out what others have done to try and
solve these problems. I have had limited success in this regard. The reason for this is that
you can not see the variable inputs that have been used within the various nodes. This has
been circumvented through the use of ‘Photoshop’ and ‘Blender’.

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12.0 - Conclusion:
In conclusion, I feel that ‘World Machine’ is one of the best, most in depth pieces of software
for the purpose of generating high quality, realistic and immersive terrain meshes. Having
only had enough time to experiment with the most surface level aspects of this software, I
found that ‘World Machine’ has a lot that it can offer to any environment artist, regardless as
to the purpose of their terrain use. Whether it is for video game terrain or for animation,
‘World Machine’ should meet all requirements. The level of custom terrain management in
‘World Machine’ allows a high degree of control, that is dependent on the abilities and skill of
the operator. That said I have produced a guide for artists and video game developers to use
as an introduction to the ‘World Machine’ landscape generator as a starting point.

Based on a number of different images seen, I am convinced that given enough time and
practice anyone can produce high quality landscapes and terrain meshes, as well as texture
maps, whilst maintaining a level of believability and continuity to the final product and
providing a unique and immersive experience for the viewers. I think that the ease with
which you are able to export files in to other software like ‘Photoshop’ and ‘Blender’ makes
‘World Machine’ more practical as it adds flexibility to the production process, particularly
whilst the user is gaining experience and becoming more familiar with the wide range of
attributes this software has to offer (​Section 9.1 - 9.3​).

During this dissertation I have demonstrated and described a suitable workflow and pipeline
process for the production of custom terrain meshes using ‘World Machine’ and drawn
attention to issues encountered during my experimentation to aid others in avoiding similar
situations (​Section 7.3​).

Based on the results of the survey (​Section 9.4​), I have discovered that the majority of
participants agreed that ‘World Machine’ shows good potential as a landscape generator for
use in the games industry, but recognised that further research was needed to reach its full
potential. This confirmed my reflection findings that some aspects still lacked a feel of reality.

To conclude, I have generated a number of recommendations (​Section 10.0​) for artists to


follow and I plan to continue using ‘World Machine’ for future projects, whilst continuing to
develop my skills and understanding of the various aspects of the software.

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13.0 - Further Questions:
13.0.1 - How can more advanced Node arrangements be used to
generate the terrain meshes?

If more time was available, I would do specific research in to the more complicated node
systems that are included within the ‘World Machine’ terrain generator. This was not
resolved within the research timeline and has resulted in me not being completely
comfortable with the simpler nodes within the software.If continued, I feel that this question
would work well as a dissertation in its own right.

13.0.2 - How do you texture the terrain meshes in ‘World Machine’


using nodes?

This is an aspect of this study that I wish I could have answered and developed further:
again similar to the previous question, due to the scale of the ‘World Machine’ generator I
feel that this would make its own dissertation.

13.0.3 - How can you use ‘Geoglyph 2’ and ‘World Machine’


together to create more realistic terrain?

The original idea for this dissertation was to compare these two different pieces of software,
‘World Machine’ and ‘Geoglyph 2’, however I had difficulty thinking how I would answer this
as ‘Geoglyph 2’ makes use of the ‘World Machine’ engine in order to generate the terrain
meshes.

I’m disappointed that I had to give up on this aspect of terrain mesh generation because I am
unsure as to how ‘Geoglyph 2’ even fits in to the dynamic with ‘World Machine’ let alone how
or where to find the various resources required in order to run ‘Geoglyph 2’, as mentioned
earlier in this document. Due to this, I was unable to successfully resolve the question
originally posed. However this line of investigation into ‘How ‘Geoglyph 2’ fits into the
dynamic with ‘World Machine?’ is still worthy of some investigation.

60
14.0 - Appendix:

14.1 - Post-Gameplay Questionnaire:


1. Name:

Response Response
Percent Total
1 Open-Ended Question 100.00% 11

1 03/05/18 10:26AM Morgan Clark


ID: 81758241

2 03/05/18 10:44AM Joel Lawton


ID: 81762640

3 03/05/18 11:37AM Damiano Schirinzi


ID: 81797767

4 03/05/18 12:21PM Matthew Jarvis


ID: 81804843

5 03/05/18 12:31PM Sam Richmond


ID: 81831482

6 03/05/18 2:01PM Katie


ID: 81885136

7 10/05/18 10:56AM Thuheed Khan


ID: 83187913

8 10/05/18 11:37AM Mindaugas


ID: 83194684

9 10/05/18 11:49AM Matt Everest


ID: 83198167

10 10/05/18 11:51AM Matt Donnelly


ID: 83199102

11 10/05/18 12:10PM Michael


ID: 83201763

answered 11
skipped 0

2. Age:

Respons Respons
e Percent e Total
1 13-18 0.00% 0

2 19-25 100.00% 11

3 26-30 0.00% 0

61
4 31-40 0.00% 0
5 41-50 0.00% 0
answered 11
Analysi Mean: 2 Std. Deviation: 0 Satisfaction Rate: 25 skipped 0
s Variance: 0 Std. Error: 0

3. Gender:

Respons Respons
e Percent e Total

1 Male 90.91% 10

2 Female 9.09% 1

3 Other 0.00% 0
4 Prefer not to say 0.00% 0
answered 11
Analysi Mean: 1.09 Std. Deviation: 0.29 Satisfaction Rate: 3.03 skipped 0
s Variance: 0.08 Std. Error: 0.09

4. How realistic did you find the terrain meshes?

Respons Respons
e Percent e Total
1 1-Not realistic at all 0.00% 0

2 2-Not realistic 18.18% 2

3 3-Don't know 18.18% 2

4 4-Realistic 63.64% 7

5 5-Super realistic 0.00% 0


answered 11
Analysi Mean: 3.45 Std. Deviation: 0.78 Satisfaction Rate: 61.36 skipped 0
s Variance: 0.61 Std. Error: 0.24

Why is this (Please answer if you can)?(100 Characters)

62
Response Response
Percent Total
1 Open-Ended Question 100.00% 10

1 03/05/18 10:26AM terrain was formed in realistic locations


ID: 81758241

2 03/05/18 10:44AM I don't feel that terrains 1 - 3 look or follow any real geographical data. Terrain 4 better
ID: 81762640 resembles a natural terrain. Textures are too reflective.

3 03/05/18 11:37AM I feel like i can walk on it


ID: 81797767

4 03/05/18 12:21PM I can understand that it is a desert terrain however it look super smooth
ID: 81804843

5 03/05/18 12:31PM from a distance it looks very realistic but up close not so much
ID: 81831482

6 03/05/18 2:01PM I see some inspiration from the Great Canyon within Terrain Mesh 2
ID: 81885136

7 10/05/18 10:56AM blurry


ID: 83187913

8 10/05/18 11:37AM some parts of the environment looks really realistic, this is probably because the
ID: 83194684 pictures taken have bits of finished and polished parts that look great, but when I see
the unfinished (low poly) pieces it ruins the illusion of it being realistic.

9 10/05/18 11:49AM The stones are a bit too regular and slab sided, but overall it conveys what you want
ID: 83198167 to show well

10 10/05/18 11:51AM Terrain has depth and character.


ID: 83199102

answered 10
skipped 1

5. How interesting were the landscapes?

Respons Respons
e Percent e Total
1 1-Really not interested 0.00% 0
2 2-Not interested 0.00% 0

3 3-Indifferent 18.18% 2

4 4-Interested 81.82% 9

5 5-Very interested 0.00% 0


answered 11
Analysi Mean: 3.82 Std. Deviation: 0.39 Satisfaction Rate: 70.45 skipped 0
s Variance: 0.15 Std. Error: 0.12

63
Why is this (Please answer if you can)?(100 Characters)

Response Response
Percent Total
1 Open-Ended Question 100.00% 8

1 03/05/18 10:26AM the shapes varied wildly but all look realistic
ID: 81758241

2 03/05/18 11:37AM The cliffs were very geometrically surprising


ID: 81797767

3 03/05/18 12:21PM I like the variation of heights (cliffs/ straight) but it still maintains the same theme
ID: 81804843

4 03/05/18 2:01PM They're all different and all have some form of mystery from them
ID: 81885136

5 10/05/18 10:56AM the shape of the sculpture of the terrain is appealing to look at
ID: 83187913

6 10/05/18 11:37AM If this was in game I would definitely try to climb it, actually if it was real I would already
ID: 83194684 be jumping around those cliffs.

7 10/05/18 11:49AM It would be interested to play around in them in a sandbox game


ID: 83198167

8 10/05/18 11:51AM Environment looks fluid and natural.


ID: 83199102

answered 8
skipped 3

6. How did you find the texturing of the terrain meshes?

Respons Respons
e Percent e Total
1 1-Very poor 0.00% 0

2 2-Poor 18.18% 2

3 3-Neutral 27.27% 3

4 4-Good 45.45% 5

5 5-Very good 9.09% 1

answered 11
Analysi Mean: 3.45 Std. Deviation: 0.89 Satisfaction Rate: 61.36 skipped 0
s Variance: 0.79 Std. Error: 0.27

64
7. Do you think that this method of terrain mesh generation is a valid method for
producing video game terrain meshes?
Respons Respons
e Percent e Total

1 1-Yes 63.64% 7

2 2-No 0.00% 0

3 3-Don't know 36.36% 4

answered 11
Analysi Mean: 1.73 Std. Deviation: 0.96 Satisfaction Rate: 36.36 skipped 0
s Variance: 0.93 Std. Error: 0.29

Why is this (Please answer if you can)? (100 Characters)

Response Response
Percent Total
1 Open-Ended Question 100.00% 8

1 03/05/18 10:26AM it creates realistic looking terrain that is very effective


ID: 81758241

2 03/05/18 10:44AM Not familiar with the method of terrain mesh generation. What is the method?
ID: 81762640

3 03/05/18 11:37AM It can generate terrain in a very fast and efficient manor
ID: 81797767

4 03/05/18 12:21PM Yes (However lower poly games)


ID: 81804843

5 03/05/18 12:31PM has a lot of promise but would need a lot of work to look clear
ID: 81831482

6 03/05/18 2:01PM I don't know because I don't have any images of how the other way of producing
ID: 81885136 landscapes are like

7 10/05/18 11:49AM I don't know what method you used


ID: 83198167

8 10/05/18 11:51AM This allow large volumes of terrain to be created in a small amount of time, optimizing
ID: 83199102 the design process.

answered 8
skipped 3

65
14.2 - Reflection:
Due to the limited amount of time available to me in order to create this survey, I feel that I
could have raised some of these questions in a better manner and a more focused and
targeted form. Next time I would be looking to create a higher quality of rendered of the final
landscape terrain meshes as well as a more focused and constructive series of questions for
participants to answer. I would also look to increase the number of participants who take
part in the survey as a larger number would result in more accurate data.

66
15.0 - Bibliography:
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No building should be designed without considering the landscape it is a part of.
2.
Art Station. (n.d.). World Machine tutorial - Basic shapes, Iri Shinsoj. Retrieved May 10,
2018, from ​https://www.artstation.com/artwork/world-machine-tutorial-basic-shapes

3.
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4.
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5.
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6.
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from ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXs_pI4Tcmk

7.
Foundation, Blender. “About.” ​Blender.org​, ​www.blender.org/about
. Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite.

8.
Frade, M., De Vega, F., & Cotta, C. (n.d.). Modelling Video Games’ Landscapes by Means of
Genetic Terrain Programming. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from
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9.
Great Big Story. (2016, December 15). Creating the Worst Video Game of All Time.
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10.
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11.
Oxford Brookes University. (n.d.). Reflective writing: About Gibbs reflective cycle. Retrieved
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12.
Oxford Brookes University. (n.d.). Reflective writing: About Gibbs reflective cycle. Retrieved
from ​https://www.brookes.ac.uk/students/upgrade/study-skills/reflective-writing-gibbs/
Gibbs’ reflective cycle encourages you to think systematically about the phases of an
experience or activity, and you should use all the headings to structure your reflection.

13.
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15.
Stylus, S. (2017, April 27). The Art of Video Game Architecture – Scriba Stylus – Medium.
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16.
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Retrieved May 17, 2018, from
https://medium.com/@GetScriba/the-art-of-video-game-architecture-180685b972ca

Using Minecraft, they created the kind of spaces and structures that they would like to see in
their community which the team then considered when designing the new public spaces.

17.
Stylus, S. (2017, April 27). The Art of Video Game Architecture – Scriba Stylus – Medium.
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https://medium.com/@GetScriba/the-art-of-video-game-architecture-180685b972ca

both use similar tools to conceptualise virtual buildings with a user centric approach in
mind — except of course, one has the intention for it to be actually built in real life.

18.
World Machine Software LLC. (n.d.). Basic Videos. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from
https://www.world-machine.com/resources.php?page=tutorials

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20.
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https://www.world-machine.com/purchase.php
the PS4 now has a growing library of games, from not only Western studios but Japanese
ones as well, the Xbox One is clearly struggling in that area.

21.
UK games market grows 12.4% to a record £5.11bn in 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from
http://ukie.org.uk/news/2018/02/uk-games-market-grows-124-record-£511bn-2017

22.
UK games market grows 12.4% to a record £5.11bn in 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from
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23.
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With the global games audience estimated between 2.2 and 2.6 billion

24.
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bit. If you saved my previous isometric, please replace it with this one! Retrieved May 23,
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d_up_my_mob/

69