Plugins should work fine on the unregistered version. Most of the current plugins require the "TGPGUILib". There should be a link to it on the FEO home page. Make sure it's installed correctly, and also that FEO is not in a subdirectory of the TG install dir (it should be in the root TG install dir). Let me know if you're still having trouble after that.
The banding you see is what I meant when I said "The Terragen format is one of the more accurate ones that WM exports". .bmp and .tga only contain 8 bits worth of info (256 levels) in the gray channel where the heightmap is stored. So that's why you're getting banding: limited accuracy of the export format.
Besides the Terragen .ter format, WM exports 2 other formats that are higher accuracy - 32 bit floating point raw .r32 and POVRay's TGA16. The latter appears to be a semi-proprietary format, at least in as much as few other apps besides POVRay seem to use it. The raw format is generic, but few apps deal with 32bit raw images. So your best bet is still probably to export to .ter then try to find a geometry export type in FEO that Maya will support. Remember that any time you convert to an 8bit format you'll be losing accuracy and will likely get banding or "stairstepping".
Yeah ive been experimenting with exporting BMP and TGA files from WM and using different methods in maya for doing the Displacements. its all good on the end of things, but ive noticed that there is a lot of banding in the images themself that are exported out of WM, it looks like a tree bands in the area where its sopose to be smooth. im not sure what is causing that. but ill try and export to terragen and then export to maya
If you think Terragen's native rendering output is the kind of look and level of quality you're looking for, then I definitely suggest rendering the landscape portions through it, and compositing in the Maya elements to get the final effect. You can do this either through dedicated compositing software, or in Maya itself using front projection of the rendered Terragen image onto the scene.
The biggest challenge in this approach will be matching the Terragen and Maya cameras, especially in an animation. There may be existing utilities out there that do this (I'm not aware of any however), but if not it could prove frustrating. You may have to write your own script to handle the conversion. Fortunately Terragen's scripts are plain text and the units are based on the number of points in the terrain, so it should be fairly easy to write a conversion.
The other option, if you feel it's worth your time, is to get the terrain into Maya and create all atmospherics, ground textures, etc. there. Maya is certainly capable of some nice effects in this area - I know it has good volumetrics for use as clouds, for example. And of course it has a very powerful texturing engine, which should easily be able to handle the needs of landscape texturing. However, unless you have an existing landscape-experienced texture artist and/or workflow in Maya, it's likely that Terragen may be a quicker route to your goals.
In either case you'll need to get the World Machine generated landscape into Maya, as you said. There are a couple options here. If Maya has a heightmap object of any kind, that is ideal for this purpose. You could just output in .tga or .bmp and apply the image to the heightmap object. You may also be able to use a displacement shader to do the same thing, using the exported .bmp or .tga image as the displacement source.
Failing either of those 2 options, you'll have to use another tool to convert to an actual geometry format before loading. Depending on what Maya supports, this may prove troublesome. Terragen has a plugin called "For Export Only", written by Jo Meder. It can export to .dxf, .obj, and a few other formats. If it works for you, that's probably your best, free option. Simply export as a .ter from World Machine, load the terrain in Terragen, and use FEO to export in your desired format. Otherwise, you'll have to find another application that can convert to geometry that Maya can read. Leveller supports quite a few 3D formats, but it's $100 (a great terrain editing tool in its own right, but a bit expensive). There may also be other converters available, but I'm not aware of them.
For FEO and other Terragen-related resources, see Terrasource. The Terragen format is one of the more accurate ones that WM exports, so if you can use it as one stage of the conversion process out of WM, you probably should.
Would anyone suggest the best way to include world machine into a maya based workflow. I would like to use this software for a commerical project that we are working on. Would you suggest getting terragen too and render through that, or exporting maps and creating displacements in maya or is there a way to save out of world machine a format that could be converted to maya? What would you suggest? thanks alot