LEX File Exchange
EA Support Files
SC4 Wikipedia
Network Addon Mod
Welcome to SimCity 4 Devotion. Please login or sign up.

July 07, 2022, 10:22:58 AM

Login with username, password and session length


Abajo del Mar: Update 8

Started by ldvger, February 17, 2010, 04:13:58 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Abajo del Mar


Abajo del Mar is Spanish for "under the sea" and, for those who don't speak (or read) Spanish, it's pronounced "ah-BAH-hoe del MAR".  In Spanish, the letter "j" is called "jota" (pronounced "HOE-tah") and is usually equivalent to a somewhat breathy "h" sound in English, like the "h" in "horse".  I don't know how to help other folks who don't speak English translate or pronounce "under the sea"...English and Spanish are the only two languages I know and I am the first to admit my Spanish leaves much to be desired.  I was raised in Southern California and took Spanish in school every year from the 4th grade through graduating from high school (a total of 8 years) and was once fluent in speaking, reading, and writing Spanish (although I was never very good at conjugating verbs), but I've rarely used the language in my everyday life, so when trying to decide what to name my new region, I had to use an online English/Spanish dictionary to remind myself of the word for "under". 

So, Abajo del Mar is, as you have probably figured out, under the sea.  Or rather, it is a region created from a map I found of an undersea area.  The region itself is not actually would I build on it if it was? 

I've had an avid interest in creating maps for playing in SimCity from way back in the beginning of my personal SimCity journey, which began in 1992 (hard to believe it was almost 18 years ago).  I had just purchased my first personal computer with money I recieved for cashing out my profit sharing share from a job I had quit on April Fool's Day of the same year.  After agonizing over the PC/MAC decision, I bought a new Tandy 486 PC, along with a 13" color monitor and a dot matrix printer.  The set up cost me my entire profit sharing check, $1300.  The computer came loaded with Windows, Microsoft Works, and Solitaire.  I was unemployed at the time, collecting unemployment, and living rent free in exchange for cooking and cleaning for a good friend, Donald, and he thought I was crazy to spend my money on such a frivolous thing.  I must have agreed with him to some degree, because I felt a little guilty about the purchase. 

I soon became bored of playing solitaire and so one day went into town (we lived in a small farming community in northwestern Washington State named Conway, look it up on Google Earth) and stopped by the local Egghead Software store (remember them?).  I walked out an hour or so later with SimCity, what we now call "SimCity Classic", after being warned by the store clerk that the "game" could be addictive and he hoped I had a LOT of free time on my hands.

I started making my own very first custom map that very same evening and have never stopped playing SimCity or making maps since.  As the years have rooled by and the maps (and game) become ever more sophisticated, my mapping skills have not kept up, so nowdays I depend heavily on the map gurus who have kinda specialized in that area of the game,  this map of Abajo del Mar included.  I would dearly love to open the Pandora's Box of skills that would allow me to become an expert map maker, and I truly try from time to time, but I keep getting distracted by the maps themselves.  Once made, for some strange reason, I want to build on them. 

It was during a time of trying to make a new map that I found the map of what has now become Abajo del Mar.  I don't remember exactly how I came across the underwater map, but it immediately caught my attention and I downloaded it and saved it.  It had been sitting dormant in my My Documents folder for a couple of years when I decided a couple of weeks ago to dust it off and see if a game map could be made of it.  My desire to upgrade my mapping skills was once again rekindled, so I immediately posted a thread here on SC4 on the Mapping Tutorials forum asking for help.  The name of the thread is "Like a Bad Cold" and if you want to follow my efforts to create this map myself, and read the helpful hints those who know mapping better than I do posted, that's where to find them.  I won't recreate the thread here, except to say that in the end, I did not create the map and my efforts to do so failed rather miserably.  A mapper by the name of toja found the thread and was able to both find a better map data source than what I had, then turn it into a file one could load into either Terraformer or Mapper (or both).  I gratefully downloaded toja's map, manipulated it in TF and Mapper, and this is what I finally settled on (drumroll, please):

So, welcome to Abajo del Mar.

In RL, this is a section of seafloor just east of New York and New Jersey.  This is the submarine end of the Hudson River Valley, formed during the last Ice Age.  The region is comprised of 140 large city tiles, 10x14.  Despite having been derived from RL scaled data maps, Abajo del Mar is not accureately scaled, either in area or height...SC4 doesn't have the capacity to display a map the size of the RL data set nor can it display the wide range of elevation differences, so the RL map has been semi-randomly comnpressed in size and height to be able to display in game. 

So what are my plans for Abajo del Mar?  I'm not really sure, other than I want to build on it.  I have some vague ideas and am gaining more as I work along.  First, the high plateau in the NW corner of the map will probably be entirely agricultral and rural.  This is where all the food for the region will be grown.  Second, as much as all cities and areas need industry, I hate it and so am going to stick it way out on SE edges of the region.  Yes, I know that area is all ocean and no I am not going to create underwater industrail areas.  Instead, I think I am going to borrow a page from the book of Dubai and create artifical islands out to sea upon which to concentrate the region's industry.  I'll link the islands to the mainland via bridges.  It'll work, I promise.

Other than that, I'm still thinking.  I have to decide on a climate, but am tending towards warm, because I want to have lots of pretty beaches along the shorelines.  I don't know yet if the region will be plopped or grown or a combination of both.  Most likely a combination of both.  I need to settle on a terrain mod and a water mod.  I'm liking the idea of mostly deciduous trees (including palms) and fairly clear blue water.  I'll probably want a rock mod, too.  Right now the entire region is rendered in Maxis Plain Vanilla and I'm not digging it too much.  There is so much flat land, I am thinking of trying to find some prairie-like terrain mod, so I can have extensive grasslands.

I am very process-driven, so this MD will likely be long on text and short on pics for a while.  Right now I am going city tile by city tile, giving each unlimited funds (I'm broke in RL, don't want to worry about money when playing), assigning each an alpha-numeric name, and taking a data view generic snapshot of each for use in future mapping and current planning.  I'll map out first where all my above sea level water features are going to be, then I'll build those.  I'll need to figure out where to build my major and minor population centers, then how to beuild a transportation network to connect them to each other.  Most likely I'll build the transportation before I build the towns and cities themselves, but I may experiment with letting things grow organically. 

At all points, input, advice, collaboration will be welcome.  Like my sig says, I'm just a bozo on this bus, so help driving along the way will be most appreciated.



Looks good Lora! The map looks great; It'll be interesting to see what you do with the cliffs.

               -Jordan :thumbsup:
I'm the one who jumped across the Grand Canyon... and lived.


Alright, this looks very promising, and I for one, am all for alot of text.

The map itself looks great, and looks perfect for development. The river, the flatlands, even the hills in the north, all types of development can happen.


i am thrilled you got the map you wanted, and eagerly look forward to further progress.
NAM + CAM + RAM + SAM, that's how I roll....


A lovely introduction to your newest MD, Lora.

Sad to see that this means that, unfortunately, RSF is leaving us. But, I find that's okay, it certainly would have been too daunting a task for me, and I could easily see that situation for anyone. Anyway, I have been lurking in a lot of your help threads for what turned out to be a wonderful map, and I am very pleased that you were able to end your quest. I had looked at it on Google Earth after seeing your requests for this area, and Google's wonderful terrain details for the sea floor showed me how varied this area is. I'm guessing that this area of the ocean floor must be at the 'drop-off', and where the shallow Hudson River bed carves it's way down to the floor of the Atlantic. Is that correct?

As nedalezz mentioned above, I am eager to see a lot of text, I know that sometimes I certainly can give a lot of text (like this reply) and I can relate to the feeling. As for your ideas of a tropical area, I think that would suit this map perfectly, despite it's real world location. For a terrain mod, I would suggest possibly the Cumbres by Eblem. Or the Missouri Breaks by Brian (if you are willing to open up the folder and remove the Olympic Beach mod.) I'm not aware of any tropical water mods, although I guarantee there are some out there. I know that both Dogfight and Mas71 have some less-known water mods on the LEX, I haven't taken a look inside them, though. So, I'm not sure whether there are tropical ones in there. Finally, for rock modds, I would suggest Adam (Ennedi)'s Sandstone rock mod, or the Aubrac rock modd. One of Pegasus' or one of the ones from the 3RREX. I think the idea of industry on artificial islands is an interesting, but yet very inventive idea.

Hope to see some more from you soon, Lora. It's really great to see you back.



Great to see you back!  Nice choice of maps, that looks like the edge of a continental shelf to me.  I've always loved how those areas look with the huge dramatic undersea canyons.  You've translated it to the surface very effectively.  I'm looking forward to seeing what you have planned for this MD. 

My only initial suggestion would be to extend a shallow riverbed from that dramatic canyon to the edge of the map somewhere.  It looks like a great spot to have a lot of fun with a plopable water river through that feature! 


Fantastic introduction. I saw your 'Like a bad cold' thread and I'm glad that you are able to get this map. It looks fantastic, and I'm sure whatever you do with it will be just as great as the region itself.

This is certainly an MD that I'll be following and I look forward to seeing how this develops.


Tomas Neto

Hi Lora!!! Nice start again in your new MD!!!  :thumbsup:


Abajo del Mar

Update 1 2/19/20


First of all, I feel I must warn folks that I may not always get around replying to replies and when I do, I may not respond to ALL replies.  It doesn't mean I don't appreciate your comments, your time, your stopping lack of individual responses to readers each time I post is not in any way a slight to whoever chooses to visit, read, or comment.  Because I DO appreciate visitors and comments...I just don't now and may not always have time to get back to all every single time.  That being said, I do have time this evening  :)

canyonjumper/Jordan:  Are you REALLY a canyon jumper????  I had a boyfriend many years ago who was an avid fan of Evil Knieval and drove over to the Snake River Canyon to watch his attempt to jump that canyon and (maybe) we all know how that event turned out.  Myself, I'm not terribly comfy with heights, so I leave canyon jumping to others.  Still, good to see you here, I've seen your posts over at 3RR, where I hang out now and then.  As for the cliffs, I really don't plan to do much with them except, well, let them be cliffs.  They seem to be very, very good at doing that particular job and my motto (or at least one of them, anyways) is: If it's not broke, don't fix it!  In reality, I'll probably sneak a few roads up the the shallower cliffs, along with at least one highway and one railroad, but mostly they will be left as wild spaces.  I'll tree them and create some plop water streams but really, the terrain is too steep to do much with.

nedalezz:  Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you can get into the text side of an MD, because I am a chatty lady.  And yeas, I think the region has a lot of potential for interesting development, too.

mightygoose:  Welcome good buddy, always good to "see" you again and thanks for stopping by.  Yes, getting a map of this region was a challenge and without lots of help it would never have happened.  Well, maybe not never, but it may have taken me months of dinking around trying to figure out how to do it myself.  I hope you stay eager, because further progress may be a bit slow (as further reading will reveal).

ecoba/Ethan:  Good to see you again,'s my favorite student doing these days?  I hope your new MD isn't stealing time from your studies!  As for Recreating San Francisco (one of my other MDs, for those who don't know), it's not going away, just taking a vacation.  And yeah, it was a daunting task.  I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew.  I love big, long, time-consuming projects, but I have the problem of either underestimating the time and effort required and/or overestimating the time and energy I have available.  This carries over into my RL, too, which is why with my knitting projects I only allow myself to have one going at a time. 
QuoteI'm guessing that this area of the ocean floor must be at the 'drop-off', and where the shallow Hudson River bed carves it's way down to the floor of the Atlantic. Is that correct?

Give the man a gold star!  Yes, this is the Hudson River Valley as it runs undersea out from NYC/New Jersey.  Scientists are studying it to determine, among other things, how all the garbage that the river washes out to sea affects the local marine environment, which is part of the reason the area has been mapped in such detail.  If you or anyone else is interested, you can go to the NOAA web site and search for Report 2004-1441 and read all about it.

QuoteFor a terrain mod, I would suggest possibly the Cumbres by Eblem. Or the Missouri Breaks by Brian (if you are willing to open up the folder and remove the Olympic Beach mod.)

Great minds work in the same direction, don't you agree?  Cycledogg's "Missouri Breaks" was one of the first terrain mods that came to my mind when I started thinking about them, but we'll get into more about that later, along with water, beach, and rock mods. 

Battlecat: I had hoped you would find my new MD, it just wouldn't be the same without you.  Thanks for stopping by, I hope you come by often, and yes, it is the edge of the continental shelf.  And I am indeed planning to run a major river down through the main Hudson Canyon, but have not yet decided how to "source" it at the upper end.  I could just continue it off the map, but I am thinking maybe a lake up there might be nice.  I was going to use that upper plateau almost exclusively for agriculture, but I've given the matter further thought and now am undecided.  More on that later.

Connor:  Welcome and thanks for stopping by!  Your vote of confidence in the region and my abilities to develope it are much appreciated.

Tomas Neto:  And yet another familiar face!  Glad you found my new effort and let's hope it's longevity outlasts RSF, eh?

Update 1:

Well, first of all, everyone gets the opportunity to learn a hard lesson the easy way, due to my folly.  The lesson is: save often and always create a backup of your region!  Here's why...

Just because I haven't posted in a couple of days it doesn't mean I've been sitting around twiddling my fingers.  I've been busy and I've been busy working on the region, so much so that I'm sure many folks who are used to seeing me in other games I play must think I've died. 

First of all, there was the necessary but very tedious task of going tile by tile to name the cities, give them money, and take a snapshot of the blank data view map for latter archives and piecing together of an overall regional data view map.  Then comes the equally tedious task of cropping each one of the 140 data view maps down to 256x256 pixels using Photoshop and then ever so carefully matching them up with each other.  All the cities got named, monied, and photo'd and I got the entire "A" row of tiles smooshed together into the beginnings of the overall data view map.  Then I got bored doing that and decided to start looking at terrain mods that might fulfill my vision of what I want this region to look like.

The first one I tried was cycledogg's Missouri Breaks.  My test area was the very convoluted area of cliffs at the upper NW corner of the map, then I also tested it on the lower part of the river canyon and then again on the shore.  It's a beautiful mod, but it has snow in the upper elevations and this region doesn't want to have any snow at all, period.  It's also quite dark, to my tastes.  So then I tried his Italia mod.  Again, very nice, but this one had very heavy snow in the upper elevations.  Both mods are beautiful across the lower parts of the region but don't work well for the upper parts (upper and lower referring to elevation as well as top/bottom region locations). 

With those two mods scattered semi-randomly across test tiles in the region, I then started out experimenting with tree controllers.  Cycledogg's Missouri Breaks and Italia controllers won't plant anything at all across the cliffs and upper parts of the map, which really bums me out, because I really like the Missouri Breaks controller other than it has pine trees at the wrong elevations for my region.  The Italia controller had the wrong kinds of trees and planted too heavily all across the region (well, in the lower parts anyway), so I'm pretty sure I've eliminated that one.

At this point I got an email from my good buddy Heblem who I had written to earlier to request his help with making the map, back when I was still being "like a bad cold".  I was over at "that other web site" looking at terrain mods and came across a couple he had made, one called "Bajio" that I thought might work for me, so I downloaded it and gave it a whirl.  While at ST, I also came across a tutorial by Heblem explaining how to create your own terrain mod and illustrated a new mod of his named "California", so I downloaded that one, too.  Then I emailed Heblem back and asked if maybe he would consider making me a custom mod for this new region.  He said he would, so along with covering my region with 4 different terrain mods and as many tree controllers, I've also been in conference with Heblem over the new mod, which he is naming "Rocky Prairie".  He completed it this afternoon and I gave it a whirl right away.

So my region, as of this afternoon, had 6 terrain mods displaying (including the Maxis default) and as many tree controllers.  In short, it was very much of a mess and I decided that if I was going to come to a reasonable decision, I needed to go about the whole process a little more scientifically.  I decided to restore the region to all Maxis default, but I didn't want to have to reload the entire region from scratch, so I did something foolish. 

I obliderated a city tile.  Then, I lowered the terrain and re-raised it up to get rid of the trees, so I would have a bare naked tile again.  Big mistake, BIG mistake.  When I saved and exited to region, the tile was sunken below it's adjacent tiles.  I tried a couple of bubble gum and duct tape fixes, none of which worked.  Just as I was getting ready to start over from scratch, I found a little yellow folder on my desk labeled "Hudson1" and found inside it 140 rendered new naked city tiles.  I opened it in Region Census and sure enough, it was the freshly rendered backup copy I had been smart enough to make a week or so ago.  So, I pulled the Hudson1 folder out of my game's region folder and slipped A COPY of the backup in and guess what?  It worked.  Mostly.  All the cities are once again un-named and have no money, but that's OK.  Disaster averted.  And really, this early on, it wouldn't have been a true disaster, just a royal pain in the hind end.  But it serves to remind me...and by extension, all of careful about creating backups of your work.  This game doesn't have an "undo" feature and one never knows when one is going to inadvertently do something stupid and ruin untold hours worth of work. 

So, terrain mods.  I've tried 6 now: Maxis, Missouri Breaks, Italia, Bajio, California, and Rocky Prairie.  All have good points and all have drawbacks.  I wish I knew more about how this game works and/or could understand Heblem's tutorial, I'd try to make a terrain mod of my own, probably by combining what I like best of the various mods listed. 

And I've come to the conclusion that I'm probably going to use different tree controllers for different areas of the region, because none of them populate the region with trees and plants the way I envision.  I have no idea how tree controllers work, so trying to make one of my own is not feasible.  Maybe I should start a thread somewhere and maybe draw in some of the modding experts to help. 

But my plan now is to go ahead and find an area across the region where I can take snaps of the various terrain mods and then post them here to see what reaction folks have to them (if any).  In the meantime, if anyone has any interest in trying either a terrain mod or a tree controller, here is a little schematic I made to show what it is I am envisioning:

And yes, for those of you who know me, I did draw this in AutoCAD, saved it as a PDF, then opened it in Acrobat and saved it again as a JPG.  Seems Imageshack won't upload PDFs. 

That's the only picture, but I'll post a couple of links to web sites I've visited over the past few days trying to solidfy my vision:

This is an excellent site run by The Nature Conservancy and explains the importance of prairies in the ecosystem and thier efforts to restore a teensy part of the over 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie lost between 1830-1900.

Another excellent site, this one by the National Park Service.

An amazing site cataloging the incredible biodiversity of the tallgrass praire flora.  Lots of pictures of plants, incuding descriptions of Bluestem, a grass that grows to 6 feet tall and has roots up to 9 feet deep, the primary grass of the tallgrass prairie.

A short essay by (I think) a student at Radford University summarizing the importance and history of America's prairies, tallgrass, shortgrass, and intermediary. 

The American Prairies have always had a bit of a siren call to me.  As a young girl, I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, among many other stories of pioneers coming across the nation, and I woed the fact that I had been born 150 years too late to ever see the prairies as they were before "we" came.  My mom's dad's family homesteaded in Dakota Territories back in the 1870's, fresh off the boat from Prussia (now Germany and Austria), and I can't help but wonder what that vast sea of grass, stretching for hundreds of miles in all directions, must have looked like before a plow ever touched it. 

Abajo del Mar has much in common with the American midwest in more than just my imagination.  The midwest was, not so very long ago (in geological time, anyway), abajo del mar...under the sea.  There was a vast inland sea that stretched from the base of the Rocky Mountains almost all the way to the Appalachians.  The Mississippi River drains that great basin the retreating sea left behind. 

I didn't think about this much when I began this project, but it has been simmering away in the back of my mind for a couple of days now.  An MD, unless it's a virtual recreation of a RL place, needs a story to hold it together, but how was I to write a story about land that is underwater?  How would I go about developing both the region and the story that was sure to evolve as I built on it?  And I think knowing and learning the history of the American prairies could be my starting point, my inspiration.  Pretend this is a new frontier, or a small piece of it.  I'll have to think about it more, to be sure, and before there are humans, there will be lots of plants and animals and lakes and rivers.  The land was there, long before human eyes ever saw it.



Hey, Lora!

    No, I don't actually jump canyons, as exciting as that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion I wouldn't make it to the other side ;D.
About the cliffs, that's exactly what I meant. I was just curious how winding the roads would be. I've deleted tiles before, but in my case, I stupidly forgot to make a backup, y'know, in the rare event that I would mess up. At least you had a back up, and didn't have cities on it. I'm looking forward to seeing the new terrain mod Heblem made you.

               -Jordan :thumbsup:
I'm the one who jumped across the Grand Canyon... and lived.


Well, you are certainly going for BIG. My regions are always 4x4 large city tiles, anything bigger and my old computer would probably just give up on me.
The map looks good and is something quite different to the land based maps we see in most MD's. Your approach in planning future development is again unique. And your love for large and time consuming projects seems quite obvious first with RSF and now this.
I wish you best of luck with achieving what you are aiming for and I look forward to see how you will develop this MD further


I'm okay, Lora. No, my MD certainly isn't affecting schoolwork, we have surprisingly little at the moment, but exams are in two weeks, so that will certainly cause a little break.

I feel that I share that habit of underestimating time and overestimating my ability. There have been many, many projects that I have approached with full confidence and come out with less than satisfactory results, at least from my standards. I think that the creative freedom that comes from not doing a recreation will certainly be good for your playing styles. Oh, RSF is just in hibernation? good. That's a relief, but any project you show us I'm sure will be excellent.

The scientific studies of the garbage deposits is very fascinating, I think that I will have to open up that page and read it. For some reson, I become really interested in this type of stuff really quickly and really thoroughly. I'm surprised I haven't started blogs in the past on similar subjects that have drawn my attention.

As for terrain modds... I personally love all of them, in their turn... but,I definitely have to agree that one of Eblem's customized terrain modds, or good ole' Missouri Breaks will suit the region perfectly.

That schematic of te soil types and growth in the region I think is absolutely wonderful, I know that Brian (cycledogg) has made some small pines that would suit the upper areas perfectly. (The Pinyon, Shore and Junipers, to be specific.) Anyway, that diagram might really be helpful in showing what terrain modds could be suitable, I have a region with similar terrain heights and after rendering it with Eblem's California Terrain Mod I achieved a look that somewhat achieves what you are looking for. I know that the Aubrac Rock Mod, (the one David uses in 3RR, and many other players in the community also use) combined with the California can create a very interesting combo, yet it looks great.

Glad you were able to find that backup, too!. Keep up the good work, Lora.



Backups are great to have!  I make them fairly regularly now of both my plugins and region folder. 

It's going to be interesting to see what this terrain mod turns out like!  As always you've put a lot of thought into planning this out!


Sounds promising, hope to see alot soon!


Abajo del Mar

Update 2 2/21/10


canyonjumper/Jordan:  Well, besides being sure to back up our work, another lesson I learned from this last, er, error, is to make sure you know what your backing up with.  More about that later, but leave it to say I am going to have to devise an organizational system better than what I have now. 

As for how winding the roads up the cliffs will be, well, I guess we'll see.  Street and roads should be too much of a problem as they are semi-forgiving of even semi-steep slopes and I do have the slope mod I can use, too.  The problem is going to be highways and rails.  Being as how I want to use the upper plateau as my primary Ag zone, those good, once harvested, have to make it to market and I don't think flying stuff out is going to be economically feasible for either the farmers or the residents of the lower plateau who will be dependent on those goods.  So, There will need to be at least one interstate quality highway and at least one rail line.  I've kinda picked out the slope to the immediate west of the Hudson River Gorge as the slope to tackle for both.  In RL, humans have created some pretty amazing highways and railroads across steep slopes and I've driven my share of them, but getting the game to cooperate could mean some major engineering of the slope.  Time will tell...

Oh and gald to hear you don't really jump canyons...

kwakelaar:  Another familiar face, welcome to my new MD.  If you have followered all three of my MD's, you know that each one had gotten progressively smaller than the last one, so while it may be true that you can't teach a new dog new tricks, it's certainly true that if you beat the dog over the head with a bone often enough, eventually the dog will begin to understand...something.  Bad analogy, I know, because I would never beat a dog (or any animal, for that matter) and would be horrified if anyone else did. 

ecoba/Ethan:  Just remember that if I see you posting here to often, I may run you off back to your studies...just kidding!  Today's update is about terrain mods, so read on for more thoughts and ideas about them. 

Battlecat:  Read on for more about backups.  And, my plugins folder is a disaster, I wouldn't even begin to know how to go about cleaning it up and organzing it.  Are you volunteering????  I do have a separate flder called "SC4 Mods) that I store plugins not in use in and if my Plugins folder is a mess, the SC4Mods folder is even worse.  And then there's all the stuff on my desktop, semi-organized, but not really.  You'd think I'd have a better system in place, being as fanatic OCD as I am, but I don't.  I'm working on it though, little bits at a time.  I finally have all my water mods in the same storage place now, and same for the terrain mods. 

marsh:  Welcome and please, don't be holding your breath!  I'm not fast at building, I thnik things through very thoroughly before I start into a region and this one is brand new, so it may be some weks yet before anything really starts happening.  I hope you are patient and stop by often.

Update 2:

I'm still getting into harness with this new project, figuring out how to make it easy for me to tracj stuff anf be productive with my time.  I decided this update would be all about terrain mods I am considering, so I started out by reviewing the Maxis default terrain, taking maybe 20 pics across about 5 different city tiles with a good variety of terrain challenges.  Then I decided to install c.p.'s Missouri Breaks and render the exact same tiles, comparing them both, Maxis and MB, side-by-side.  This effort was complicated and slowed down some due to the fact that the region was my backup, newly rendered, and backed up BEFORE I had named all the tiles.  The game (at least MY game) doesn't display and entire large city tile from corner to corner, so I've been using region census for those views.  However, I learned that Mapper (or Terraformer or the game itself) doesn't assign generic NewCity designations in any descernible order.  NewCity1 may be in the SE corner, NewCity2 may be in the middle of the region, NewCity3 may be the NW corner, etc.  With a small region this wouldn't be such a big deal, but with 140 city tiles to look through to find the right one, slowed me down and kinda pissed me off.  About half way through photographing the MB tiles, I just noted down the region census map number and continued on. 

I also wanted to get a good feel for what MB would like like across larger areas of the region, so I went ahead and rendered all of the non-ocean region in MB, saving as I went.  This is what it looked like when I was done (if I can find the photo):

Now before anyone oohs or aahs, scroll back a little and look at the original pic I posted of the region in the Maxis default mode.  Notice any difference (besides the terrain mod) between the first pic and this one?  Shall I make this a contest, to see who figures it out?  Nah.  I'll point it out, because it plays to backing up files, a lesson I hope you all learn from me.

While I was rendering some of the off shore areas in MB, I finally noticed my little island was missing.  And, while I had been searching through all the Region Census cities, there seemed to be a lot more ocean tiles than I remembered.  Finally, late at night, a little lightbulb went off in my head.  Maybe my oh-so-precious backup file was the one I made BEFORE I loaded the maps into Terraformer, before I lowered the sea level 100 meters, before I decompressed the elevations.  I got a sinking feeling in my stomach as I opened Terraformer and loaded the backup file into it, to see what I could see.  Sure enough...this was the backup I made before I manipulated the map and rendered it to the image in the first post.  That was enough to take the wind out of my sails for the evening, but it was already past midnight, so it was bed time anyway.

So yesterday, I redid my backup map in Terraformer and overwrote the older backup.  Now the entire region had to be rendered all over again.  Sigh.  So, to prevent this from happening again in the future, I am going to back up my region with EACH and EVERY update I create and save the backup with the update, so the most work I can ever lose (unless the computer itself blows up) will be one update's worth.  Take note, folks!  Don't let these kinda bookkeeping errors ruin your work!  BTW, did you know "bookkeeping" is the only word in the English language with 3 double letters in a row?  I learned that a long time ago (helps me remember how to spell it) and I think about it every time I use it.  Just a bonus little factoid to wow your buddies with sometime when your all really bored.

So, OK, I now was faced with re-rendering the entire region, AGAIN, so I decided to make a showcase of the various terrain mods under consideration while I did so.  It was actually kinda fun and much less tedious than doing all 140 tiles in the same mod all at once.  I tried out a total of 7 mods, including the Maxis default.  Here is the first pic:

Imageshack (or my computer) is being really slow tonite, so while the photo uploads, I'll continue. 

Now, isn't that a bizarre looking region?  Didn't you know stripes are in this year?  From left to right, the mods are:

1.  Heblem's Abajio
2.  Heblem's California
3.  Heblem's (new) Rocky Prairie
4.  c.p.'s Missouri Breaks
5.  c.p.'s Italia

(BTW, are c.p. and cycledogg the same person with different screen names?  I'm kinda confused...I thought MB and Italia were cycledogg creations?)

And now, here's the second photo:

Only two new mods here, both to the left of MB (which is second from the right side, so that makes the 2 new ones, 3rd and 4th from the right, respectively).

The 3rd from the right is PEG's MTP (Mountain Theme Pack) mod and is really a tweak of the Maxis default in that I don;t believe it contains any new or custom textures at all, it just expands the defaults upward and outward a bit, allowing more textures at higher elevations and lighter textures near the coasts.  The differences from the Maxis default, which is the 4th mod from the right, are subtle but visible if you look closely.  I actually kinda like it in terms of overall color distribution.

But I have to admit I am really torn, because none of them is exactly right for what I want.  I love the deep detail and many layers of vegetation in c.p.'s mods, but both of them are just too green, too lush, for the terrain I envision.  Helbem comes closer with his color schemes, especially the California, but the lack of detail and the simplicity of his schemes, while gorgeous, leave me wanting more. 

So now I am tempted to see if maybe I can figure out how to either tweak one of these mods to suit myself OR borrow textures from all of them, kinda like a Chinese menu, and create one of my own, or just create my own from scratch.  It seems like a daunting task for someone like me who knows next to nothing about how to go about this process, so I emailed c.p. last night to see if maybe he would help me out if he had time.  I also re-read Heblem's tutorial over on ST to see if maybe I could make sense of it yet and did gather that I might need to download a couple new software tools and learn thier use.  Today I downloaded FISHman, which is supposed to help folks create textures.  I've had Reader for a long time but have never been able to figure out how to use it, but today I think I made some progress.  Using Reader, I opened a couple of .dats and looked inside them, seeing if I could puzzle out what all the numbers meant.  I was able to open and view 2 BSC texture packs stuffed full of texture files that are dependencies for c.p.'s terrain mods and found a couple I loved and would like to use.  I also opened one of c.p.'s controller files and looked that over and found a couple of things that looked like they could be changed to do things to my region I would like to have done, like wider, shallower beachs on the shore side.  I didn't change anything...just looked at stuff to see what was what, but I think tomorrow I may dive into seeing how all these various files interact with each a little experimenting. 

And don't worry, I'll back up everything BEFORE I start! 



Wooh, had a scare there for a moment, thought that the region had gone berserk. But, actually it's okay.

Maybe it's just the varied elevations on one side of the map, but c.p.'s (who is the same person as cycledogg) terrain mods are very striped in the upper elevations. Also, one more terrain mod comes to mind at the moment. Alex (Tarkus) has made one terrain mod. Yet, it is unreleased. I do know for a fact, though, that an Alpha of it is attached to the bottom of one of his posts. (This is in his NHP creations thread.) It might be a little too dry for what you are looking for, but I would still give it a try.

I definitely like Rocky Prairie and California the best out of all the terrain mods. The only thing is, it looks like there are maybe 4 different textures. I also do not like how the changes in these textures are not subtle, they don't seem to have a transition. I also think that Pegasus' mod looks okay in the higher elevations, but not so much lower down. I think we may have to do some terrain mod tweaking, Lora.



Oh, you really don't want my help cleaning up a plugins folder!   ::)  Mine is pretty messy as well, I just burn the whole works to a DVD on occasion as insurance against a computer crash since my system is starting to get old. 

For the terrain mods, I'd have to say the CP textures just don't work as well for high flat areas, I think any one of Heblem's mod would work quite nicely.  It'll be interesting to see what you choose!


I'll just confirm what Ethan (ecoba) said. c.p. and cycledogg are the same person. I like Heblem's new mod, it looks cool. But whichever you pick, I'm sure it will look great ;D
I'm the one who jumped across the Grand Canyon... and lived.


Abajo del Mar

Update 3: 2/27/2010


ecoba/Ethan:  I found, downloaded and installed Tarkus's terrain mod and this is what it looks like:

The new terrain mod is the one on the far left edge of the region.  It's quite nice at closer zooms, but seems a bit bland for my tastes and for how I envision this region.  Still, the tip was useful, as you will see further along.

QuoteI definitely like Rocky Prairie and California the best out of all the terrain mods. The only thing is, it looks like there are maybe 4 different textures. I also do not like how the changes in these textures are not subtle, they don't seem to have a transition.

Yeah, the lack of detail is one of the problems I have with them, too, as well as the lack of transition zones. 

QuoteI think we may have to do some terrain mod tweaking, Lora.

Ahem.  "We"???  Is that the royal "we" or the pregnant "we"?  Or are you volunteering to help with the tweaking???  "We" are going to need help, that's for sure, as *I* know little or nothing about modding.  But...I am learning.  Read on.

QuoteFor the terrain mods, I'd have to say the CP textures just don't work as well for high flat areas
There's a reson for that, I'm finding out.  I haven't figured out how to change it (yet), but I'm working on it.  C.P.'s mods have height limits set in the INI file that is part of the terrain controller .dat and those values can be modified.  I've been experimenting around with them a bit, but read on to learn more.

canyonjumper/Jordon:  I agree that there are some great colors and textures in Heblem's new Rocky Prairie mod...they look especially good at close zooms, which I have not yet shared with anyone here.  I may "borrow" some of those texture files and use them...tease tease.

Update 3:

So, it's been a long 6 days since the last update and I have lots to share.  This business of chossing a terrain mod for my new region has unleashed the ever hungry curiousity beast within me.  Ecoba's tip to check out Tarkus's terrain mod paid off some very big dividends (thank you, Ethan!).  While Tarkus's original thread was old, I posted a question for him there, hoping he might still be stopping by from time to time and, lucky for me, he was.  He answered my post with a link to a tutorial written long ago by Thalassicus explaining how to create custom terrain mods.  I followed the link, which took me to a download on the STEX.  The download turned out to be a multi-sheet Excel worksheet full of tables and numbers and terrains that I couldn't make head or tails out of and, unfortunately the text portion of the tutorial which I assume explained how to use the tables appears to have long ago vanished into the cyber-ether.  Still, there was a lot of information in the spreadsheets that someone had obviously taken a lot of time to compile, so I saved it with hopes of maybe finding it's explanatory text sooner or later. 

In the meantime, I reviewed a couple of other tutorials, Heblem's especially, and tried to puzzle out how to tweak the existing terrain mods I have.  I downloaded FSHman and installed it, because it seemed a tool I was going to need.  I found iLive's Reader in my program files and created a shortcut for it on my desktop, becuase that seemed like another tool I was going to need.  I didn't know how to use either tool, but figured I'd try to find out.

My hope was to learn a couple of things: 1.) how to create new textures 2.) how to modify or change existing textures 3.) how to substitute my "new" textures for existing textures in existing terrain mods  3.) how to tweak existing terrain mods to cover my region better than they currently did. 

So, I spent a long evening capturing photographs off the web, looking for high resolution pics with grasses in them, thinking I could crop out little sections and turn them into new texture files (which I had learned by this time where called FSH files).  The next night, I perused texture packs for SC4 from at least a dozen different fan sites, downloading a few and also downloading some other cool goodies I found along the way that I may use some day.  And, while looking for FSH files to download (to save me the hassle of making my own from scratch), I came across a new software tool for use with FSH files created by none other than my old friend rivit.

Now, for those of you who followed my RSF project while it lasted, you may remember rivit jumped in to help me with recreating the extensive mudflats found at the shallow ends of San Francisco Bay.  He's been into creating textures for SC4 for quite some time.  He's also a very knowledgable man when it comes to computer code, so besides being a true sweetheart of a fellow, he's also a handy guy to have around when a dummy like me runs into obstacles she doesn't have a clue about.  I had actually been thinking about him over the days previous and seeing his new tool posted on the STEX finally motivated me to email him and see what he was up to these days (and of course, ask him if he wanted to help with with my terrain mod challenges).  And surprise, surprise, he emailed me right back and jumped right in with both feet.  I told you he is a sweetheart!

So since then, he and I have been unraveling terrain mods the way I often untangle yarn my cats have gotten into.  An awful lot of it is over my head, but not as much now as it was several days ago.  Let me share with you what I have learned so far.  It's very likely that, because I could not find a thorough tutorial for making terrain mods, I will end up writing one myself, because slowly but surely, with rivit's patient help, I am figuring it out.

First and foremost, the primary secret to cracking the code appears to lie in the INI file.  We started out by looking at the INI file for cycledogg's Missouri Breaks terrain.  And while this may be meaningless mumbo-jumbo to  most of you (it was [notice the use of the past tense, there] to me, too. 

I was just going to open Reader and copy/paste the contents of the INI here, when I realized that, because c.p. modified it from the original SimCity_1.dat, maybe I should ask his permission before I open his coding up to the general public.  I'd rather err on the side of caution, so instead I'll show you the INI from the SimCity_1.dat:

; This file contains tunable parameters related to terrain.

; This is the pool of miscellaneous textures. A texture in this group can potentially be used
; in multiple terrain types

; The following sections list information corresponding to specific terrain types.
; The terrain types we currently have and their ids are as follows:
; 0 - Desert
; 1 - Temperate
; 2 - Arctic
; 3 - Tropical





;Different lines correspond to different temperatures. They are listed in the order of
;increasing temperature(i.e., coldest to warmest)
;Items within a line correspond to different moistures. They are ordered from dryest to
; mapping table




; Enable/Disable terrain simulation

; This specifies how much the terrain is raised/lowered each time the player clicks.

; Number of erosion passes performed each time the player issues a "do wind erosion"
; command

; Number of wind erosion iterations performed in each sim month
;If the angle of a face relative to the horizontal plane is greater than this, then, erosion
;occurs. The angle is measured in degrees.
;This parameter controls the rate at which erosion occurs.[0-1000]

;Number of water erosion iterations performed each time the player invokes global water

;How far (in cells) we let water flow from its starting place when we do a global
; water erosion pass.

;The amount of surface water at a cell should be at least this much for it to be
;visible. Otherwise, it is assumed to evaporate.

;If this parameter is set to 1, then rain water gets ignored in hydrology simulation;
;so, the only sources of water will be the ones that have been placed by the user. Setting
;this to 1 allows to clearly see what happens to the water that starts at a particular

; Number of hydrology simulation iterations performed in each simulation month.


;-----The settings below control cutting erosion for initial terrain generation-----

;Weather layer's 1 unit of rain is taken to be these many units of rain for hydrology
;This sets the starting strength of the erosion

; Specifies how much sediment can be present in unit volume of water.[0-10000000]

;Erosion rate changes with the slope of the terrain as follows:
;                             _________Max erosion rate
;                            /         
;                         /
;                          /
;   min erosion rate _____/


; On terrains having this much or lower slope (measured in degrees relative the
; horizontal plane), "min erosion rate" is used.

; On terrains having this much or higher slope (measured in degrees relative the
; horizontal plane), "max erosion rate" is used.

;This parameter controls the rate at which the sediment contained in water gets
;deposited on the terrain causing the terrain altitude at the point to

;end erosions controls-------------------------------------------------

;This determines the speed at which sediment spreads in the sea. Specifically, this factor
;specifies how much of the sediment can flow to a neighbor in each simulation step.
;[0.0 - 1.0]

;The sediment deposit rate for seabed.

;When a river joins the sea, because of the force of incoming water, the
;flow of water continues a little distance beyond the point where the river mouth.
;This aspect needs to be considered for the desired erosion to happen at river mouths.
;To get this effect, we use the following hack: for the purpose of hydrology
;simulation, we take the sea level to be a little below the actual sea level. So,
;the water at river mouths continues to flow a little distance as if the sea
;hasn't been reached.

; Minimum amount water flow needed for a border vertex to be considered as lying
; in a river

;Maximum river depth at border vertices.

;How muddy the water looks at a spot is determined by the alpha value assigned to
;the "mud color" at that spot. The alpha value is computed as
;  alpha for mud color = sediment per unit volume of water * SedimentInfluenceOnWaterColor
;However, the alpha value won't be allowed to become more than the value of
;"MaxSedimentAlpha" parameter below.

;Maximum alpha corresponding to sediment. Higher this number, more influence does
;sediment have in determining the color of water

;red component of sediment color [0-255]

;green component of sediment color [0-255]

;blue component of sediment color [0-255]

I's a lot of gobbledegook, even though most of it is written in plain english.  What rivit and I are most focused on right now are the 4 tables contained within the INI file.  They are labeled Arctic, Desert, Temperate, and Tropical.  It was rivit who figured out that the Tropical mapping table is the game default active one...scroll back and notice the other 3 tables have (drumroll please) a semi-colon in front of thier titles but the Tropical map title is in [brackets].  I would never in a million years have noticed that or thought it had any significance. 

Some things the table tells us:

1.) the game assigns textures according to two variables, hence the tabular format.  The two variables are temperature and moisture.  There are 32 lines in each table and they represent temperature from coldest at the top to warmest at the bottom.  There are 16 columns in each table and they repesent mositure from driest on the left hand side to wettest at the right hand side.  Thus we have a total of 512 combinations of temperature and moisture available in the game and those combinations are what determine which textures go where.  The default assumption of the tables (so far as we have discovered so far, in the tropical table) is that a region's terrain is warmer/wetter near the coasts (or, at lower elevation/altitudes) and become drier/colder as the elevation increases.  The tables found in Thalassicus's spreadsheets hint that it may be possible to tweak that general trend and even reverse it. 

2.)  The entries in each of the 512 cells of the tables are hexadecimals that co-relate to one of the 8 default Maxis terrain textures.  I just learned that a number in game code that starts with 0x means that the numbers after the "x" are in hexadecimal.  Yesterday I learned that all texture files (FSH files, remember) are in hex format, with the last two numbers being the texture file number itself, while the 3rd to last number in the hex string is the zoom level, numbered 0-4 to represent 5 zoom levels.  Also, to the best of my current knowledge, those are the ONLY 3 numbers in the hex string for FSH files.  All FSH files are numbered 0x0000XXX, where the terminal X's are numbers corresponding to zoom and an FSH file.  So, the first entry in the tropical mapping table above, 0x32, tells the computer to use texture #32 wherever the temperature and moisture conditions for that cell occurs in the game. 

*Important*  All FSH files actually have 3 sets of numbers associated with them: Type, Group, and Instance (or TGI...I'm showing off my new lingo).  The hex I am talking about above is the INSTANCE number only.  From my explorations so far, all terrain associated FSH files appear to all have the same Type and Group numbers, only the Instance numbers are different. 

3.)  Rather than having 512 textures in the game for each and every variable combination of temp and moist, the tables above assign one texture to a range of similar conditions.  This is also important to grasp...8 textures to cover 512 conditions.

So, at it's simplest, it's possible to switch out the 8 default textures and substitute your own.  I haven't learned how to do that yet, but rivit has explained to me how to use his software tool to accomplish this.  I haven't tried it, because so far I have nothing to switch.  Notice I far.

Also, we have found that the assignment of the ranges can be varied, as well.  So, if you want a lot more of, say, texture 34, you can change it's range in the table to cover more cells. is not limited to 8 textures.  Theoretically, one could use up to 512, one for each cell on the table, because it also doesn't matter what the hex number in the cell is, so long as it conforms to the expected parameters.  How do we know this?  By looking at c.p.'s INI file.  He used 47 textures in Missouri Breaks and they all (well, almost all, anyway) have alpha-numeric designators. 

You can perhaps see the doors opening on this magic box of custom content.  Today, rivit sent me a new terrain .dat that he had made as a teaching tool to help me understand how temp and moist play a role.  He created 8 new textures, each one comprised of 4 blocks of solid color placed opposite each other and representing warm through cold and wet through dry.  He used cyan-red for warm to cold and yellow-blue for wet to dry.  Using the default table and texture numbers, he then switched out the Maxis textures and plugged in his new ones.  I installed the .dat in my plugins file this evening and WOW!  Talk about a great illustration!  I haven't yet taken any picyures of it, but I am thinking I may render the entire region with this new dat, just to get a better idea of how the game is going to assign textures where.  Time will tell, because I have a couple of other terrain things on my mind.

However, I'm running out of time this evening, so I guess this will have to carry over to the next update.  Lots of other cool things to share, like how I have learned to modify existing texture files in Photoshop, how I am learning to use rivit's new FSH tool, and how we, rivit and I, may be able to bring the other 3 terrain mapping tables in the default INI into play.  Right now, only the tropical mapping table is in use, as far as I know.  Rivit thinks that Maxis never completed the exemplars for bringing those tables into use, but he has not shared with me yet how he came to that conclusion.  Maybe the exemplars are missing, maybe they are in the game but empty files, like placeholders.  I don't know.  But, I'm going to see if I can activate the temperate mapping table and see what happens.  If I can get it to activate, it will be interesting to see how it maps terrain differently from the tropical table. 

I still have lots to learn.  I use the word "exemplar" and know it's a type of file, but I don't really understand how they work. 

So, some of what is coming up for this MD may bore some folks to tears, especially if they are looking for lots of pretty pictures.  I'm pretty sure now that I am on the road to creating my own terrain mod and it may take more time than I had originally thought.  Sooner or later, though, Abajo del Mar will have a terrain and then the next phase of the fun will begin...water! 

I hope folks stay tuned. 



Okay, this update was a little bit complicated. I really tried to read it, it just didn't completely get through. I'm not sure what 'we' it is, I guess it's somewhere in between, if I can get a texture program to work on my computer I could try to help, but if not, I'd be glad to suggest textures and ideas. But, that's if we do that.

Anyway, I think I have had an idea. I think that the abrupt texture changes are caused by abrupt change in the elevation 'level'. (Or, the colours on the greyscale, if it's a greyscale...) Maybe if the 'edges' were smoothed a bit then there wouldn't be such an abrupt change. If this was the solution I would have to go with one of Heblem's terrain mods. If not... I wouldn't know.