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The Prestine Landscape (Terrain Works)

Started by Lowkee33, September 14, 2010, 08:37:29 AM

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Lowkee33

Hi all, This will be where I show my terrain projects :).


The thing that got me interested in making terrain mods was finding that the Weather Exemplar is functional.  After tweaking it to display all moisture levels I found that existing terrain mods are not totally cohesive.


I start this by editing the Terrain INI to make CP's (Cycledog's) textures simulate seasons.  A good picture of the end result can be found Here.  If you would like to test this out, please send me a PM.  Feedback is the only requirement.

Now I work on making my own textures.  The start of this project is Here.  The conversation is ongoing, so feel free to join in :).



I will be working on a new terrain mod for everyone to enjoy.  The reason for this is that the CP terrain mods do not consider/modify the weather in SC4.

Terrain Textures are decided by two factors: Temperature and Moisture.  Not altitude.  We see snow at high altitudes is because it is colder up there (and cold is where CP put those textures).

There are quiet a few weather properties that can be tweaked, and I am trying to understand them.  I have moisture pretty much figured out, but as the mod gets more refined I will learn about temperature.

The most exciting thing about this is that we can have texture that can drastically change from winter to summer (in fact, it is possible to have a texture change every week).

I have found a good balance of the weather properties ad now I am making the texture map.  These are two pictures I have so far.  The first is in Winter (wettest) and the second is in Summer (driest).  They are the same map with the same mod:
Winter:

Summer:


The reason I chose this picture was that there was talk about making glaciers.  Here we can see that the glacier has dried up during the year.  This was a choice I made, and the glacier could be year round.

I decided to post this because I want some input from all of you.  My biggest interest is snow right now.  Snow generally takes up about half of the terrain on a CP terrain mod.  Do people like this?  There could be more or less.

One thing that I have made happen is snow on the warmer temps (lower altitude) that melts during the year.  This effect can happen anywhere.  What is the lowest that people want to ever see snow?

Another piece of help would be more terrain textures.  All I know of are the CP no3 and 4 texture packs.

Thanks

editfish

I think this is a great idea!   &apls  I've held off of installing snow mods as I do not want them year round.   :-\

However, with regards to your question, I would be surprised if there would be unanimity on the amount of snow.   ::)

This may be thinking too far ahead, but depending on how the parameters are modified, is it feasible that the end user could choose how much snow they wanted during install of the mod (ie: dusting, mild, average, heavy, blizzard)?

Editfish

TiFlo

Wow, there is something new! Like editfish, I've held off snow mods so far, but this may now change is the future. As for levels where snow appears, I'd be tempted to go as far as sea level, so long as you can make it completely disappear for a least half a year.

Lowkee33

There will eventually be multiple mods to suit different tastes.  The end user already has the option to make snow appear anywhere.  See the tutorials I posted for info on how to do that.  There are variables for how much moisture there is and how much it changes.

I can make snow (or any other texture) appear in lengths of a week.

An interesting variable is hills/wind.  Wind blows on one side of a hill and make it drier by a variable amount.  The slope that makes something a hill is variable, and there is also a hill moisture boost variable.  Finally, where two hill slopes meet there is a "valley", and this has a variable moisture boost variable.

In my first post I forgot to mention Gizmo's rain mod.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it basically makes rain and fills pond-type terrain slopes with water.  The downside is that use it too much and you raise the whole sea level.

Well, this is because it increases moisture.  My idea is that the reason it does not save is because when you load a game you run the moisture simulation and thus loose the moisture you added with rain.  I am looking in to being able to have the moisture simulation make rivers for us!

There is also a variable that appears to be how much game water effects the surrounding moisture levels.  I have not seen it do anything, but I hope that an Oasis type feature could be possible.

wouanagaine

You should try to contact Ennedi, when I got some relief from RLS, I'm pretty sure it will share all he knows about terran mod

New Horizons Productions
Berethor ♦ beskhu3epnm ♦ blade2k5 ♦ dmscopio ♦ dedgren ♦ emilin ♦ Ennedi ♦ Heblem ♦ jplumbley
M4346 ♦ moganite ♦ Papab2000 ♦ Shadow Assassin ♦ Tarkus ♦ wouanagaine
Divide wouanagaine by zero and you will in fact get one...one bad-ass that is - Alek King of SC4

cogeo

I think the c.p. terrain mods are weather-sensitive actually (change seasonally). As far as I can remember both the Meadowshire and Italia terrain mods change seasonally. But I may be wrong. Could someone verify/falsify this please?

Lowkee33

#6
I have a feeling that when Ennedi gets back these textures are going to be obsolete.  There is no reason why we can't understand the Weather Exemplar though.  Right now it is wet in the winter and dry in the summer, and I believe that if we could load other texture maps than Tropical we would find different weather patterns.

All of the terrain mods have some season change to them, but none of CP's change the default weather pattern.  In all of my tweaking I still have not been able to see the coldest and driest texture.  Wet is no problem (back to the Tropical theory).  Now that I think of it, I don't think I have seen the 2nd driest column either.  I wouldn't be surprised if we have never seen a quarter of the possible textures because of this.  The default moisture changes are just so low.

I have made the 32 layer texture map.  All of the rows have the same texture so that moisture is not a factor.  For this I was just drying to get a feel of what I thought would be the warmest temps to the coldest temps.  It will be the template for the viens of seasonable textures that will go through.  Let me know what you think.



There is a Maxis texture there too.  It is the darker rock texture.  The rock textures will be spotted to places that make sense.  The following is a picture of a coldest layer test.  This layer is important because of the TempRange.  Ennedi can explain it better, but basically the TempRange changes the speed that textures change.  When the altitude gets to the limit of that change the coldest temp texture is used.  If your MaxHeight is much higher than that limit you will have a whole lot of that one temperature row.

   

In the winter this is all solid white snow.  I am going to have to figure out how to fit cliffs in, but for now I am focused on the weather pattern.

Snow at sea-level land:



The reason there is snow here is because the side of the hill is so moist.  This snow can be removed with one click of a mayor mode terrain tool.  The snow lasts from December to March.  This is a picture of July, the driest month.



Theoretically it would be possible for the game to show 512 textures throughout the year.

cogeo

#7
As for moisture and sea level, I don't think these relate in any way. Moisture is higher near shores, but this is due to water proximity, not the sea level. The Sea Level (a property) is a global setting, and this has two (at least) adverse effects:
- Prohibits having water at any elevation above the "sea" level. Mapmakers know how hard it is to make rivers (often you have to lower the whole area near the banks, otherwise slopes would be insane). I made a map containing two lakes which in reality have a different surface elevations, and I had to perform quite a few tricks (incl deformations) to overcome the water level issue.
- Makes it impossible to differentiate between salt and fresh (or "surface" if you prefer so) water. SC4 seems to make no distinction, it has no salt or fresh water, just water.

Interestingly though, there are some properties that prohibit placing water structures at a distance longer than the specified limit, from "salt water" and "fresh water". These are both unused in the ingame water pump, so you can place them even on top of a hill or mountain, or in an area with 0 moisture. I have never tested these, but it might be really interesting, one could make the water pump possible to be placed only near freshwater, and a "Desalination Plant", possible to be placed only near saltwater (such BATs are already released on the STEX). So someone would have to figure out first how to make the game regarding a certain area as "freshwater" (it was your post that triggered this idea  :)).

Lowkee33

#8
It would be real neat to see the output of a water pump be related to the moisture level.  Going through SimCity_1.dat it seems like they had big plans for water that never panned out.  Rivers were defiantly one of them as they talk about water from a river changing the color of the water it flows into.  There are also hints to erosion that could happen in-game.  I guess it wouldn't be fun if your downtown got washed away :)

Edit:  Sometimes I wonder if some members of SC4D actually helped develop this game.  I don't mean to offend anyone by saying "they" as if "they" failed at something.  If you helped develop this just just know that in my opinion you have made the best game out there. (Patrician 3 and X-3 Reunion are pretty sweet too)

Also, I could see moisture levels effecting farm desirability, although for realistic times of the year farms should probably be set to like dry areas.  Seasonable jobs would be cool.

Andreas

I'm pretty sure Maxis had quite a few plans that they had to cut back eventually when releasing the game, or the add-on. I haven't looked at all the stray files in detail, but I also noticed that there are properties for different climatic zones and such. Unfortunately, many of those things are probably EXE-controlled, and while we were able to unlock a few of them (rain tool, dirt roads aka. ANT aka. RHW), others will be locked forever. But it's great to see someone else poking his nose into those files, and who knows, maybe you'll discover something that nobody noticed before. Good luck with that! :)
Andreas

Lowkee33

Thanks Andreas.  Part of me wishes I was around for the ANT days.

I have to correct myself.  There are only 255 possible textures.  The grid is 16x32, but we input the last two digits of the TGI...

Anyway, It seems impossible to ever have the first two (the driest) columns show up in-game.  I was able to make winter dry and summer wet though by making the Ambient Temp a negative number.  Maybe these Terrain Map choices can be a .DLL.

Well, its late here.  I will put this on the shelf tonight.

cogeo

#11
Did a little research, and figured out how the thing with the water proximity works. Water utilities have a property named Water Source, which specifies where they get the water from. In all three SC4 utilities this is set to 2 (Aquifer) an underground source of water. It is assumed that... drilling anywhere in your city would always find you water. So... you can place them where you like.

Other possible walues for Water Source are 0 (Fresh Water) and 1 (Salt Water). These must be placed "close" (well!) to surface water bodies. This is specified by the "Fresh water pump reach" and "Salt water pump reach" (in the Utilities Simulator exemplar), ie the max distance from fresh/salt water, pumps pumping fresh/salt water can be placed at. Default values are 0x100 (=256), which means that the feature is effecticely "dsabled", even for large cities (they city only needs to have "some" water anywhere. So this exemplar must be modded too. I tried small values (a few tiles). The game doesn't prohibit the player plopping them more afar, but in such a case the pump won't be providing any water (and you will have to bulldoze it). So you must place them close to water. Aaah, and in some... magic way, water is regarded as both fresh and salt! That is both types can pump the same water. Just the two "pump reach" properties affect their corresponding pump types only.

So for a realistic-looking city, you could do the following:
- Place your Water Towers preferably at some decent elevation.
- Place your (normal) pumps preferably near the base of a mountain or tall hill, or in some depression. If elevation is really low, you can even dig a trench or small canal and place the pumps around it.
- Mod the Desalination Plant (make it a real saltwater one) and place it close (ashore) to what is considered "salt water" (sea or saline lake).
- Make a new "Fresh Water Pump" BAT or Lot (mod it as such too) and place it close to what is considered "fresh water" (lake, pond, river etc). You could even use the ingame pumps here.

Lowkee33

#12
Cool find there.  There is also a "Fresh water distance loss" property that is set to %100 by default.  I noticed a difference between fresh water and sea water also.  My pump was set to sea-water and my tower was set to fresh-water.  I set the "fresh water distance loss" to %50.  With no game water both pumps had %0 output.  When I made water (both terraform and rain tool) the pump went to %100 and the tower went to %50.  The aquifer is always at %100.

Water related simulation seems like a huge thing that Maxis took out at the end of development.  The Terrain INI talks about the player turning rain off so that we can see how the things we have placed effect moisture.  I really want to see a river formed from the moisture effects I am doing, but that is trial and error process while I test my texture placements.  It seems like the function always gives a percent while the river is waiting for a 1.

As for water utility placement.  A pump at the base of a hill would be the most effective as far as moisture goes.  At that point the moisture gets a boost as it is considered to be in a valley.  We know in real life that the best place for a water tower is the top of a hill.  In-Game though, this is the second driest place (first being the side of a hill that the wind hits).

The things I am doing to moisture are not exactly realistic right now, but mostly I am trying to get the most texture changes.  I am still figuring out two of the moisture variables.  There is Moisture Variation and Moisture Variation Factor.  It seems like moisture variation changes the moisture level four times a year.  The amount is the variable we can plug in.  The moisture variation factor seems to make the land drier and drier in between these four times of the year.  The variable there too is by how much.

These variables are a little off balanced right now.  I made the lowest (hottest) terrain level today, and my biggest concern was making it so that flat land is never snow.  I am also trying to make flat land change every month, but sometimes the texture is annoying to see repeated constantly (such as yellow flowers).  One setting I had did flat land pretty but it was lost as I tried to balance the snow.  Oh well, here are two pictures of the first terrain levels.  The first is winter and the second is summer.  Now, maybe I haven't been very realistic (the hottest/driest place should be desert), but for now it just needs to blend.  I am beginning to learn these textures by Instance...

Winter:


Summer:


(I haven't been able to get winter to make my GPU colder :))

The side of the hill looks a little too green in the winter, but changing it would mean loosing it in the spring.  This again gets back to balancing the variables.

My favorite is September, but it looks pretty much the same as July right now.  I am trying to get the more colorful textures to be spotted in the terrain, but they are distracting when they exist on flat land.  You can see the "flat land test" on the left side of each picture.

Please tell me what you think.  Remember, this is just the first of 32 layers of textures.  Perhaps we all need to see more to tell how it all fits in.  Perhaps the hottest layer never gets snow or lush grass. 

     

Lowkee33

My look at fresh/sea water was not very exact.  I forgot to change the reach of the sea-water-pump.  No real conclusion to come to.  I guess the main thing is that Moisture levels have nothing to do with it as the fresh-water-tower did not change output at all even though it was on a tile that went from very dry to very wet.

One variable that I don't understand yet is the SeaModerationRadius/Factor.  I would imagine that it effects the moisture coming off of a "sea", but my testing has not shown any changes in moisture yet.

About the terrain mod, the hottest layer (#31) is not very noticeable when using the default MaxHeight.  I think the Mod will have to make the MaxHeight much higher, which is easy enough.  I would also like to drop the sea-level, but most of the maps we can download use the default sea-level as a base.  I also don't know the height that our LEX mapmakers like to make things.  As I get closer to a complete mod I will have to talk to them about the way they make maps, or perhaps them starting to use a dropped sea-level.  I think snow should be year round at the height that it is on Earth.  On Earth there is also a tree line, but that gets into tree controllers.

The whole other thing is the Tree Controller.  I think Maxis trees grow by themselves, and I would like custom trees to grow by themselves as well.  I have noticed the c.p. terrain mods have the flora exemplar in them, and the settings they are at will plant maxis trees and eventually crash SC4.

There are two properties there.  Basically they are the amount of random trees planted, and the time it takes.  c.p. has these set at x01 and x18.  Could someone test this by running a blank map for a couple years?  I believe there will be Maxis trees planted (even with a tree controller).  I thought these setting were very interesting, but when I tested them a xFF and x01 I received a crash within 2 months.  Even a setting like x01 and 0x01 eventually crashed (the patterns of trees was interesting before the crash though).

I am at school today, so no level #30 update.

Andreas

My knowledge about tree controllers is somewhat basic, but I know that Maxis basically has three sets of trees (deciduous, pines, and shrubs) with five different models each (small tree, large tree, two trees, group of trees etc.), which will be planted based on elevation. Those trees can serve both for God Mode and Mayor Mode via the various properties in the exemplar files.

When Cycledogg created his set of tree controllers, he expanded the number of different trees hugely, but each tree controller holds the very same set of exemplar files, which allows us to switch between them without crashes. However, once a CP tree controller has been used, you need to keep it, even if you switch back to Maxis trees (hence the "Maxis" variant that is included in the set). Different tree planting patterns are controlled by a different layout in the kSC4FloraPreferencesProperty, and if you don't want a certain tree, you simply zero out any of the 256 REPs.

Since I didn't like all the trees that were growing with a certain tree controller of my choice (there were still a few Maxis pines and such), I browsed through the whole set of exemplar files and changed the model ID in the Resource Key Type 1 property, pointing to a different tree model. My SFBT Tree Replacement Mod that changes all Maxis trees to Cycledogg trees (also the Mayor Mode and God Mode ones, but only using the Maxis exemplar files) works the same, and thus, replaces the tree models "on the fly", without the risk of crashing that might occur by adding/deleting/changing the ID of the exemplars.
Andreas

Lowkee33

#15
Interesting.  I can say that the trees that a controller places in January are different than the trees it will plant in July (you will get more in Jan).  The reason for this is moisture, and that windy side of the hill is going to be much wetter in the winter (even with default settings).  The direction of the wind also changes during the year.

Progress is very slow on the mod.  I was able to make a good first layer, but I have to change my strategy to make the rest.  My best idea right now is to make clump-type-things, which are basically have a cool-yet-out-of-place texture in the center which is surrounded by blending textures.  Then it is a matter of blending the clumps together while maintaining a somewhat temp-moisture level realistic-ness.  It just seems like they all have to be placed perfectly and at the same time.

I was able to get the two driest texture levels today with some crazy variable settings.  Here is a picture of the re-vamped moisture data view at the time:



You can see  I have the driest (desert) and wettest (snow) within ten tiles of each other on FLAT LAND!



I hope I can get the dry textures without craziness like that.  The good thing about it is that with the right settings I may be able to get three temp levels with all 16 moisture levels at the same time.  I think it will help the mod process.  With these settings I have also been able to set the TexTileFactor to .6 which is 3x the crispness of the cp terrain mods.

Lowkee33

Last post I was a little overwhelmed with the scope of this process.  Yesterday I managed to get past that and focus myself at one texture at a time (now sometimes 2 or 3).  Basically I open SC4, copy the screen into paint, switch a couple textures, and repeat.

I am making some good progress with an ETA at about a month, but I want some feedback.  I have three questions for you all about this picture:


1) Do the textures change to fast?
2) Do they match each other?
3) Does this look like the hottest and driest area? (I could use desert, but I want to make these textures that you would not mind seeing at sea-level.)

Thanks

Girafe

Good research and job here  ;)

I come back a little bit on mountain areas. I am interested by this area due to lot of works about pines, skilifts and moutain items.

I post again a picture where you spoke about glacier:



The common area for a glacier is in the red areas however a glacier is not snow (it's important a glacier drains rocks etc so it's much darker than snow without speaking winter/summer differences).

Lot of modders who made terrain mod forgot "morraine" and we speak a lot with Orange about this for the PTM. The result was a transition between eternal snow and "green land". It's the green area I made on paint. It's impossible to forget it because it's all the rocks drained byt the glacier. Moreover the transition is good (with or without glacier) it's what we call screes. Often there are small lakes in these areas.

PTM from Orange:


For me the 2 types of screes in the PTM are very goodand well worked. However I don't like the texture of "full rocks" after the screes.The rock textures before it is so good for morraine I think.

I stay to mountains with another mod from Orange which is interesting too. I don't know if he released this one. It's how look like peaks



This one is awesome even if there is a problem because it replaces all rocks textures in the map (so in plains is not appropriate  &mmm).

For me it's important now to make mayor mod flora items in relationship with the terrain mod (for glacier, same rock textures etc)

Which concerns plains I am not so good to help you but I think it's interesting to consider flora items for developing areas and textures. Indeed under forests, textures are not the same than in the plains or whatever.

I don't well understand but the mod is seasonal and you are working about how to switch from winter to summer with good textures ?

For my taste, even if there is plains textures small rock texture could fit good but all these are only ideas  ;)


The Floraler

This is the end, hold your breath and count to ten, feel the earth move, and then...

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    * 

Sam Johnson

At first I have to say, I'm not able to contribute anything like knowledge about modding terrain mods, tree controllers or knowledge how a terrain mod should look like. 
But I have to say, I'm amazed that after 7 years still such discoveries are possible and we are still having a great community who spends hours of free time to make this game better and more realistic.  :)
I really hope, your future researches and results on this will be successfull  :thumbsup:

Lowkee33

#19
Thanks for the replies.  It is important for me that everybody at least has the chance to give opinions.

@ Girafe: I have put the high altitudes on hold for right now.  There are so few textures to choose from that making a realistic mountain top is relatively easy compared to the 300+ other texture spots.  The more textures there are the better.  Are those screes "rocks" game wise, or do they have there own instance number?  Can you point me to a download link?  I will have your ski lift in mind as I finalize the snow. 

   Your ski-lifts happen to change textures at the same time I have winter to exist.  Excellent!  I did not see a seasonable tree lot after I installed.  Here are two quick pictures of the concept:

Winter:


Summer:


Of course the terrain is still being worked on.  Do you have plans to make those trees into a seasonable lot?  Same timing would be perfect, and I will certainly make this mod to fit them.


   I do a little flora testing every now and again.  Flora is a big concern that will need to be dealt with.  Most of our custom trees look very strange as textures change.  I was happy that the "standard" seasonable lots change rather reasonably with my set-up right now.  I also use the "pasture flora" in various places.  There is a property that stretches textures (the reason why new textures should be made 1024x1024) and I have found that when there are so many different textures there does not need to be as much stretching.  Without stretching, all types of flora look much better.

   I took the flowers out of the picture I showed before.  It looks much more "dry", plus I can use them in other places, while the dry grass doesn't really blend with much else (and therefore gets a corner slot).