What's your typical workflow?

Last time I checked Gaea it couldn’t output 16k maps, 40 erosion nodes, it’s hard enough to settle for one when building in WM but I think it can be useful if that’s what someone does all day long.Cool I’ll see what you have in Marketplace.Cheers.

@damaggio I have nothing on marketplace yet, I meant access for “buying” stuff. And maybe uploading some works later on. It’s a blank profile just yet.

Oh , okay, I was just on marketplace looking for you, no worries.

Most of my work in World Machine is done for artwork (though with the hopes of one day doing work in a movie) and is mostly for personal projects, though I have done one professional/paid piece years ago on Fiverr. My main goal is going for photorealism in the final render, which I usually use Terragen for. I’m in the process of learning Houdini, since, from what I can tell, Houdini will work better with water systems than Terragen as far as rivers go. I do landscape/nature photography as a hobby, and my goal is to one day upload a render to my Instagram that is indistinguishable from my photos.

My general workflow starts with less of a solid idea and more of a vibe. I’ll go into World Machine with an idea of the type of terrain I want to do (desert, forest, mountain, canyon, etc) and start from there. The rest of the workflow will be listed in easier to digest “steps” ahaha!

  1. Once I’ve settled on a vibe, I’ll load up an appropriate noise pattern, usually just an advanced perlin, but for craggier terrains I’ll start with a Voronoi noise (if we want to talk favorites, I default to the F3-F2 pattern for most things) and then use distortion input or displacement nodes to sort of coax it into a general shape befitting the style of terrain.

  2. Once the base noise is kinda settled on, I’ll usually hit a terrain with a quick, aggressive erosion, inverse filter to sharpen up the flowlines since I’m trying more to simulate primarily wind erosion from the eons before liquid water existed on the surface of the planet (most of my process is starting with a base noise and trying to simulate the actual physical processes that would lead to that layer of the crust forming into the shape I’m going for).

  3. After the first erosion, I’ll lay in with curves nodes, additional noise nodes to bring back some fine detail in the terrain, slight displacement to account for tectonic movement, and then end the whole filter section with a flow restructure to prepare for water (if needed) or the next round of erosion.

  4. Immediately after the flow restructure node, if the terrain needs rivers/water, I’ll hit it with a create water device (if the idea I have needs lakes, I’ll generally use a distorted shapes device to create a semi-realistic shape, though I’m not nearly as good with that, and feed that into the flow restructure’s “drainage basin” input to preserve the lake for the create water node, though this can get real finicky), then the whole thing gets piped into another erosion node, still fairly aggressive, but a lot more “structured”, if that makes sense. This is where I’ll generally do my channeled erosion as well.

  5. If the terrain has any kind of large elevation changes, mountains, canyons, anything with a gradient steeper than rolling hills, I’ll hit it with a thermal erosion, with water plugged into Talus Removal when applicable. If not, I’m experimenting with using the snow device to lay down a layer of soil with more buildup in the appropriate places. This is sort of a newer step, but one that I’m having a lot of success with. It’s also been working great for putting down sand in desert-y terrains, or on beaches, in a way that feels like sand sitting on top of the bedrock, rather than just smooth bedrock transitioning into rougher rock.

Once all that is done, I move into the texturing phase. Lately I’ve been going really hard on the texturing phase in World Machine despite the fact that I almost never use the textures I create in the final render. Having a solid texture before I leave WM has really helped me out when trying to plan/execute the texturing phase in Terragen, and also has the benefit of being able to export any masks I create in the process, and using those in the final render, even if I don’t use the texture itself.

  1. My current texturing process involves taking several new perlin noises, using a maxed out ramp device, then distorting the hell out of it, then using another maxed out ramp device, and repeating that process a couple times (honestly, this is why I love the idea of a “Loop” device for macros) to create what looks almost like a generic noise like you might get from the add noise device, but it also has kind of distinct bands, that I can colorize and kinda turn into different layers in the underlying rock structure. When layered on top of each other (especially when paired with the strata layers output of a strata device) this can create these really intricate (and beautiful, in my opinion) color layers that mimic real life, and also don’t have their “layers” limited by the elevation of the destination terrain. Especially when I use the same process to generate the mask for the chooser when layering these, it can make patterns and colors that I just feel I could never do on purpose, and brings a good deal of really great organic randomness to it.

  2. Once the texturing phase is done, I’ll export the terrain (usually as a .ter file, as I’m working in Terragen right now), and any masks that I used in the texturing process. I load it all into Terragen, and go through a very basic “baby’s first Terragen render” process on that, as I’m nowhere near as skilled or experienced with Terragen. I’m trying to get better with using their population system for adding in things like grass, trees, etc. I’m also trying to learn their cloud system better to get more dramatic skies, but that’s slow going cause my computer isn’t the greatest. The only real “workflow” things I do regularly is set the output resolution to the same as my camera that I use in real life, and also set up the Terragen camera’s sensor size and focal length to the sensor size of my camera (Sony a6300) and focal length of my lens (usually a 35mm or 50mm).

  3. Once the render in Terragen is where I’d like it, I’ll do a final export in OpenEXR format, then take that render into Photoshop and use the Camera Raw filter on it to do the same style of editing on it that I do with my actual photos. If I’m just not getting the dynamic range I need from a single render, I’ll do like I would in real life (albeit much slower) and render out at a few different exposure values, bring them all together, and use an HDR photography editing process on it.

As you can probably tell, most of my workflow, at every stage, is kind of obsessed with trying to mimic real life as much as possible. Most of it is due to having a fascination with the natural world, and almost using this as a way to understand it better, but some of it is also due to having a brain that really wants to do creative things, but has zero ability to actually do, so I just rely on the concept of “well, the world happened like this, and the world is beautiful, so I just have to copy the world, and I can probably make something beautiful.”


@blattacker May I take a look at your finished works?

@WFab For sure! I don’t really think I have anything to write home about, so to say, but I have an ArtStation with some of my older works (I’ll also work on uploading some of the newer stuff today, I always forget to update it). I’m also adding one in here that I don’t think ever made it online cause I wasn’t super proud of the end result (though I was happy with how I got there, which is why I continued with it).

Initial idea is explained after image

So, living in Michigan, I’ve got all the Great Lakes around me, so this idea sort of started out as like “what if Lake Superior dried up completely?” And I started taking inspiration from the Pictured Rocks area, but then went for more of a generic canyon style texturing because I just could not figure out how to get the look I was going for.

A lot of my other finished works have made it into this forum (Like this one), and then here is the latest one that made it to Instagram:

Still just trying for a good canyon scene


I’ll post some of the work on LOTR at my Artstation when is released, some stuff I did with the tower in the lake is in the trailer 2.


The island you did turned out very nicely, I would love to see that in a path tracing render with the final textures done and ocean also. Your facebook page has a great collection of terrains as well .Congrats Pratyaksh,

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@damaggio Thanks man! Much appreciated!

I’m still working on a good enough blender scene, I’ll link it here once Ive got my first render sorted. Apparently I suck at “lighting” stuff lol!

Yes , please do so when it’s ready for prime time. :+1:

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I will keep it a little shorter but thanks for all your detailed explanations here so far :slight_smile:
So I am using World Machine for game terrains (proprietary engine) that works mostly with heightmaps and texture masks. Since the game’s design (Anno 1800 - My Artstation profile) requires mostly islands, specific rules for the game to work and specific biomes I love to work with shapes. I think I have mentioned time and time again that shapes are my favorite node ^^ I guess it is because of their non-destructive nature which allows me to create art directed, flexible graphs that can be shared among artists and designers and they can design islands with it and they just have to know how the shapes work instead of how the whole graph works. Of course they are welcome to change stuff but when in doubt, they just use the shapes with rules that have been discussed before. I don’t have a specific approach for terrains but I guess I always tend to go something like Shapes → Displacement/Distortion → Combining → Erosion → Texture masking. The output data is used within our in house editor.


Nice team effort in this game Bjorn, your series of images are very nice, must be fun to design those worlds . Well done.

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Yes it’s fun to design those worlds. It would be even more fun if there weren’t those pesky game design rules that dictate stuff like terrain slope for the buildable areas, beach angle, beach height etc :smiley:

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Haha, very true, it’s funny you said that, we all have guidelines or sometimes just bad art direction, I also have to deal with this specially in these big blockbuster movies, that’s why once it’s done I go back and try to do my own version for the Artstation page. Also in film we have to conform to the budget and the shot, but in your world you get to extend and walk around and that’s the cool part I don’t get to do.

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What is a typical resolution of a WM build for that kind of game, I know it must depend on the extend of the world, also you must use tiling feature but let’s say a single island build, what’s the needed resolution?

As you said it depends on the size of terrain I need to make. We are not using the tiling feature because islands are not that huge and a world consists of several islands which can be created seperately but still we use quite high resolution. So a very large island which is 512 gamegrids or 2.048 square kilometers (the game’s scale is stylized) uses a 16k heightmap and 4k splatmaps. At the moment we try to crank a lot of detail out of the terrain which is not optimal to say the least.

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@hamzaaa1988 Those are some really cool landscapes. I can see why you prefer working with shapes node so much, those “features” on your landscape look very strict indeed! Great work overall!

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Yep! Max slope on buildable space is 12% so not that much room to play with. Also since players should be able to build large connected cities, mountains often need to be at the borders rather than in the middle of an island which is kinda unrealistic. So yeah, it’s really stylized and needs to cater a lot to the game’s rules but we still tried to make it look somewhat natural and consistent.

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So am I to assume that no one is using water or meshing data yet? Or even materials, or at least the “layers” device? I mean on a daily basis?

Earlier this week, I was thinking about making specific threads to gather frequent problems about specific parts of world machine (for example: water, meshing, scene output, and materials and associated data), but scratched it in favor of this general workflow topic.

Yeah that is always helpful , haven’t used any water feature in WM yet, just coastal erosion, all the water and and material/texturing is in Maya and Vray.forests too when needed.extracting the right masking maps was my biggest struggle but I think I gotta a good system now and I save my own step by step tutorials. This stuff is easy to forget when you don’t do terrain on every movie job.

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