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Fantasy Author looking for World building tools

Started by C.A. Wolcott, June 14, 2015, 05:29:37 pm

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C.A. Wolcott

   I have been exploring World Machine for the last couple days when I just found it and I just have a couple clarification questions from what I have been looking. I am a fiction author, part-time, and my main genres are in a fantasy setting. My current novel is so big I am honestly comparing it to Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. But with such a large setting and world, it really helps to have some sort of visual picture of the terrain, especially when I get into my battle scenes. I haven't been able to find a physical medium to use to picture it the way I'd like (such as LEGOs which just don't work the way I need them too or WarHammer 40K terrains which I can't afford and are rather fixed), so I started looking at computer based world-building tools and came across World Machine and it looks like it will do what I need it to do. But I have a couple questions for clarification.

  1). I am not looking at using this for game development, but I am looking at potentially using this not just to create a landscape where I can plan all my scenes and particularly my battle scenes. I also see myself using this platform to show animation/visuals of battle scenes possible for speaking presentations on how to write battle scenes. Would the free model work for this, or would I need the standard model?

  2). To do animated battle scenes on this terrains, does World Machine have that type of software or what plug-in's would be recommended? To clarify what I am looking at for this, I am not trying to get it down to individual characters/war machines (like Massive, which was used for the Lord of the Rings movies), etc but simple blocks that would represent army units (like what History Channel uses to show army movements). I've tried this with PowerPoint and it just doesn't have what I need to do it, but if I could show army movements (like with red and blue blocks) this would be an awesome tool to use for what I am doing.

  Regardless, I have to weigh whether my computer can handle it (It does have Windows 7, but it is over 4 years old, and has been acting rather slow). I am already thinking of getting a new computer but my current pay rate would make such a purchase very tight on my financially. But I at least want to explore this program more. I am already seeing this as a potential program to recommend to any fiction author for world building and for teaching at writing conferences on how to build their characters, cultures, and worlds. Any advice on how to use this program to fill that need would be great. Thank you for looking at this.


For your case you might want to check e-on sofware VUE, it has many tools for creating vegetation and atmospheric effects. World machine is more for creating landforms, but has no sculpting tools, everything is procedural.
If you want true fantasy style maps check Campaign Cartographer, although it's a cad software and I find it very complex to use.


Another idea would be a World Machine+Unity combo. Vue is a very high-end rendering software which produces amazing quality. The catch is that it is punishing on any computer - especially animations (not to mention, it is EXPENSIVE).

Rather than using Vue, if you simply want to animate blocks on a terrain, Unity (built as an easy to use game engine) allows for animation like this in real time and you can directly import height maps from World Machine and it includes basic editing tools for terrains. Plus, you can use the free edition of World Machine AND the free edition of Unity to test everything out before you even invest a penny. If you like it, then I highly suggest the pro edition of World Machine (for tiling terrains) and Terrain Composer ($100) for Unity, which work together like salt and pepper to create massive environments and automatically generated textures, plants, etc.

This is actually the avenue I went with and I don't regret a penny spent.


Hi, I understand your requirement. Instead of expensive third party tools for rendering and animation, I would recommend Blender3d or Unity game engine (free version). I personally know that world machine and blender3d work fine together, once you get past the complex basics, it's fairly easy combo. I have done illustrations for some books with this combo, but sadly no animation. Hope this helps.

If you can afford it, E-on's Vue software has vue studio versions, which are decent enough for illustrations, but animation module has to be purchased separately.


Btw Campaign cartographer is designed for this specific purpose, as ilbiffi suggested. Never used it though.


Have you taken a look at the Cartographers guild? Just do and Photoshop may become a new friend of yours ;)
If fancy 3D stuff or actual animation is your goal WM is the one to lay down the terrain, Blender can accomplish the rest but is beyond my skills to help out with.




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