I would like it if World Machine had ambient occlusion built into the light-map-maker node, or as a separate node, since currently making AO within WM requires very long build times, and it requires many light-map-makers to build. If WM had AO within, it would save quite a lot of time and be useful for things such as rendering.
That’s pretty easy to do in the target rendering apps, isn’t it? For example, in blender you literally just have to add an ambient occlusion node in the shader.
World machine is a terrain modelling app. A crevice map would be more useful, which can be further edited into an AO map as well. Otherwise, these things are easier to implement in the final renderer. Or even better, in post.
I agree that World Machine’s primary focus is the creation of terrain, but being able to directly have a good render of your terrain without the need to export it would be a massive workflow boost, as it allows for easy and fast sharing of concepts without the need for a 3rd party application but still having a somewhat decent render.
The Light-Map Maker device does a really good job but indeed falls short when coming to AO, which would be nice for small details like rocks, giving that little “umpf” to your render’s realism.
A workaround would be to lower the resolution of the now required Light-Map Maker devices, to save CPU power and RAM.
I do like the idea of being able to calculate an AO map in WM! Most likely as an extension to the Lightmap maker. It can be really handy to calculate with the asset, whether for final results or even just for look development within WM, to get a better sense of what your final results will look like while in WM.
With that said, since AO can often be created in the next stage of your pipeline, it’s tough call whether it makes sense to dedicate effort to creating it in WM when that effort is mostly duplicitous of your render stage…
You can create a crevices/AO-ish map by using the Convexity selector (often with a blurred input) to pick out recessed detail.
IMHO not needed. Rendering is better to do in applications meant for rendering. For env art some raytracer.