What's your typical workflow?

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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I’m experimenting with water meshes for Terragen while I learn Houdini, but so far any issues I’ve been having with it have been on the Terragen side and not the World Machine side.

The layers device I’ve definitely been using, though. Mostly in my texturing phase. It was a very welcome release from just chains of combiners feeding into each other. The only real struggle I’d say I’ve had with it was that it was not immediately clear what order things should be in. As my primary layer experience is with Photoshop, in my head the layer on the top of the list should be top of the hierarchy, but after using it for the very first time, it took all of about 5 seconds to realize why that wouldn’t work in this case and how I should be thinking about it.

Water devices in World Machine are definitely used daily for me, though I rely completely on the “Flow Restructure → Create Water” workflow, and it’s primarily to inform erosion/thermal erosion. I tend not to mess around with custom rivers much because, to be frank, I’m not good at them. Though if they ever get a setting where a custom river’s meander setting can create oxbow lakes right in the device, I’ll start practicing with it more.

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I have been using the layer device but I still have to get used to it but it definitely makes things easier with less combiners. I surely want to try working with materials because it would allow me to get a better feeling of how the materials we are using ingame would work together with the terrain, already in world machine which comes closer to a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach. I still have to find the time to test it though ^^

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@blattacker Yeah terragen sucks for any kind of mesh data, except for plant population. By default, Layers device is set to “Top=Inside layers, Bottom=Outside layers”, using landscape lingo. Reverse of photoshop layers if that’s more your speed. I prefer building materials the way they are layered in the real world, so mostly the default wm order works for me.

That said, the device is actually independent of the order, as each layer can be marked to appear under or over. That’s one thing that used to be very cumbersome to do with choosers earlier, especially if you made a mistake during any complex texture creation project.

The best strategy in most cases imho, is to use the natural landscape formation logic. Build in the order that the materials are formed in nature, top-bottom (inside material, mostly hard rock material, goes first). If you’re layering more than one type of any one element (for example, 5 different grass materials), put them in any order. You can fine tune anything wrong afterwards, using node properties to layer under or over.

@hamzaaa1988 and @damaggio : In general, creating materials in world machine itself helps solve a lot of issues down the line, for both use cases. Elaborating a bit below, ignore if you’re already aware of the benefits, I’m going to oversimplify anyway.

1) Landscape development for use in a game engine:

If you create your mockup material first in world machine, you can figure out the “weights” for each element during material creation process, and you can export clean masks right there (splatmap friendly), if you use a single “Layers” node for for the whole material graph. Also, you can try out mixing and matching different materials. Then you can use same materials procedurally in your game engine, using clean weights right from the get go. Cleanup phase in-engine, gone! Trying out different textures for a specific look, partially gone (lighting may change stuff down the line, but still a lot of the initial trial and error load gone still). For projects with strict specs, there are a lot of other “gotchas” solved this way, but not going to bore anymore with details lol!

2) CG terrains in a typical film production pipeline:

For one, a physically correct single mega-material helps the guy doing look dev tremendously. Clean masks, clean and correct openGL normals already tested, a material mockup ready to cut up and modify, for dailies and previz etc. Of course, the final look will be decided elsewhere, but cleaner data masks etc should help everyone down stream. Everything tested for any baked gamma curve issues, and corrected. Everyone using your asset later, will be thankful.

Secondly, you can create multiple ready to use PBR materials, for presenting your asset in a better light to leads and directors. Easier to do it in the environment you created your terrain in, I’ve personal experience with this. I’ve been creating megatextures to go with comissioned terrains for years, easier to sell than a plain grayscale AO or wireframe overlay on the drab grey opengl renders. Been doing it using simple RGB textures and choosers since wm 2.2 days. Of course your material or texture will be discarded down the line, but helps cut precious time pushing iterations. Libraries help further, with this “saving time” thing, and reducing clutter if you need to make corrections to the terrain character over and over (daily feedback adjustments are easier to do when terrain and materials are a separate graph, linked through an intermediate baked library). I’ll have to make a tutorial someday, it’s a very convenient workflow if you get into a habit using it.

About water:

I haven’t made a single terrain where I didn’t use flow restructure and create water nodes, since those nodes came about. They make all kinds of erosion so much more “nature friendly”! It’s my second most used feature, after libraries. Water tools in general are very cool, and very functional, but need a lot of improvements to be a watertight feature (pun intended). For example, automatic rivers need a floodplain, meanders, and more artistic control over the character. Manual rivers need to work more integrated with other water tools.


Since our materials we use in the game will probably be created in Substance Designer it would be so cool to have a Substance plugin/integration for WM! Maybe something @Stephen can think about :wink: But yeah I guess for now I would do it like you described. Either import materials we already have or create the material in WM as a mockup and set everything up in a way that it resembles as closely as possible how the game engine would take the splatmaps (although splatmaps with channels is a little inaccurate, the engine just takes basically a bw mask for each material and the materials are height blended - I think WM materials can height blend too, right?). Really looking forward to play around with it more :smiley:


@hamzaaa1988 Yep, two heightblending modes are present in the layers device (heightblend replace, and merge). And with the materials node, you can create procedural, as well as image texture based materials. Substance materials will need to be baked to textures if you want to use them right now, though that is a legit workaround. You can tile them using “instance tiling” node.

There’s a lot that’s yet unexplored, I’ve only used image based textures so far. This version of the material was created just to test and stress out the first iteration of the materials node. Everything is so much more polished and feature complete now.


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