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Arden Tree Controller Help Desk

Started by vortext, June 01, 2011, 06:42:21 PM

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Beautiful picture  &apls  Distinctly your style which is something I'm sure many people would like to see more of, even if they don't say it. Luck, as well as lurking, has a lot to do with getting replies--my own experience tells that the posts I'm most excited about can get less replies than work I consider a teaser or a continuation of a project already shown. And with my MD I've noticed that there's a decent number of SC4D registrants that I've seen view my MD over and over, but have never decided to post. And I think it took me more than a year to post outside of the various NAM development threads. Long story made short, nothing to worry about when a "show us your" post fails to get a response  :)

About the T21ing projects. I've been really wanting to figure that out for a couple networks, diagonal TIA being most urgent, but haven't had the time or expertise to make anything happen yet. Here's an example of an area that would benefit from some trees, bushes, or barriers beings T21ed into the tram area of the network (click):

Suggestions on where to start? Or better yet, is it something you have an interest in?   ::)


You're kinda ahead of me as far as the updates are concerned Noah! But what the heck, now is as good a time as any I guess.

A very, very early look at what I've dubbed the Comprehensive Cobble Stone Mod, encompassing tram, tram-in-street, tram-in-avenue, besides regular street and avenue of course.

It is at a very early stage really. More like a conceptual phase still. That is, trying my hand at creating new textures and figuring out the best way to create curves, curb stones, transitions to other networks etc. Though I did extract all the necesarry textures recently (boooorinnggg  :P) and collected a bunch of props a while ago (lightposts, fences, banners, etc). My intent is to create a fully wealth and zone dependent override for the GLR and related networks, designed to fit European city centres. So yes, that's something I'm interested in ;)

Anyhow, a few pointers if you want to get started yourself. If you don't have any experience T21 modding, do some reading up over here and here. Both threads combined cover pretty much everything there is to know. And as is the case with the tree controller, T21s aren't that intimidating. That said, diagonals are the hardest to get a handle on so my suggestion would be to start with orthogonals. 
time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


Quote from: vortext on July 16, 2012, 11:58:51 AM
Some street geek info; the palm trees are still around because I'm slowly working my way up towards an entire T21 mod for the city instead of tackling it all at once. In this case I had finally figured out how to do nightlights for T21s. In addition there's one really weird texture visible which I forgot to take out. Still a mystery why it showed up in the first place since I haven't been able to replicate it.


I see you figured out the technique I use for the LRM. It looks absolutely wonderfull :thumbsup:
Lurk mode: ACTIVE


Wow - love the early glimpse on the cobblestone mod!  I'm a sucker for good European mod work, too.  Keep up the good work here.


@MandelSoft, sure did  ;D

@Gobias, glad you already like it  :)


I'd originally planned for the second tree controller post to be online right about erhm, well, yesterday  :-[

Things were a little crazy at work though and I was too tired to finish it, I'll get around to it this weekend. In the meantime, why not enjoy another (less worked upon) night pic?!

time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


Beautiful scene again  &apls  I'm quite curious to see the area during the day  :thumbsup:


Very nice scene indeed! The lights are so real, it's incredible!
I'll take a quiet life... A handshake of carbon monoxide.

Props & Texture Catalog


@Arthur, thanks so much, I happen to like it as well  ()stsfd()

@Noah, I'll have to see if a decent daytime pic exists, as the area is undergoing redevelopment currently I can't go back for one.


Today the second installment of the tree controller trilogy which deals with ensembeling an enitre controller. While this seemed easy enough at first, it turned out to be quite a challenge because of various reasons. For instance, each brush must be tuned to its specific placement, since brushes developed on flat ground offer no garantuee they'll work on hillsides, let alone in mountainous terrain. Quite a setback after having churned out a half dozen or so. Apart from that I'd also dissected CPs controllers and each one contains 701 exact same flora exemplars. Rather obvious why since it would be quite tedious to make new exemplar files for each controller. However, I was well on my way doing just so. Finally, determining which brushes look best at which spot is as much a technical issue as it is related to esthetics. For now I'll focus on the technicalities involved and leave you with a couple of pics so you can judge esthetics for yourself.

As mentioned previously brush placement is set with the kSC4FloraPreferencesProperty. This is basically a table consisting of 16 rows which represent height and 16 columns which represent moisture level. The two combined make for 256 available slots, in theory at least. In practice however the highest altitude isn't used as it would cover everything up above the maximum height set in the terrain controller. So in the end there're 240 available slots. Still a respectable number, though I don't intent to make individual brushes for each slot, obviously.

Another thing to know is each slot can hold one brush and one brush only. Of course one brush can be used at multiple locations. In addition it's worth mentioning only the first item of a brush needs to have FloraPreference set as the other items follow suit according to the Cluster Type. This also means a brush can be split over multiple locations. In this very basic chart below item 1,2,3,4 constitute a proper brush at position1. However item 3 and 4 will also show at position 3.

     p1  p2  p3  p4
i1   1     0   0    0
i2   0     0   0    0
i3   0     0   1    0
i4   0     0   0    0

Likewise it's possible to 'merge' a number of different brushes, though I only stumbled upon this recently while experimenting to see if the ClusterType could point to multiple items (nop, it can't). What I'd done accidently, however, was point the last item of brush1 midway to brush2 and surprise surprise, items from brush2 showed at the location of brush1. This had me puzzled for a while but after finding the cullprit and giving it some thought, it caused me to rethink my approach. Up untill this point I'd regarder brushes to be stand-alone products so to speak. This little mistake of mine made me realise though brushes can be build upon each other, which is especially usefull for making nice transitions.

Now for the controller itself; all that needs be done is determine the proper place for each brush which entails, you guessed it, going back-and-forth only about a gazillion times ::)

A more stressing issue, however, is how to keep track of each brush. The Preferences table is simply a table with 256 digits seperated by a comma and can be best worked upon in a notepad document, like so.

As you can imagine, it's quit hard to see where one brush is relative to another, let alone see the overall structure. It took me a while to figure out a way which allowed me to actually see what I was doing. The best I could come up with was to migrate the placement for each brush into a main table. This isn't perfect because every change to brush placement has to be reflected in the main table as well. Very easy to forget and/or neglect this but I've learned to do it after every session otherwise next time I spent a good amount of time retracing my steps. And to a lesser degree the same goes for changes made to items. The righthand side of the (outdated) screenshot below shows different brushes that go into the shoreline for the River controller, which I've started working on first for no other reason I had to start somewhere.

*click pic for full size*

From left to right, tab RKT contains all the flora items, tabs Deciduous, Firs & Shurbs contain brushes and tabs PT are the Preferences Tables

So with a reliable set-up I could finally begin ensembling a controller only to encounter another issue; looks. In and of itself reason for endless debate since there's no accounting for taste, however, it's complicated even further because of the seasons.   

Looks all right to me

Eww . . looks like someone eat some bad flora and couldn't hold it in. .  $%Grinno$%

In this case I threw out these brushes and made new ones. But as things start to come together sometimes only one or two items need to be replaced, or maybe it's just enough to rearrange the ClusterType to get the desired look. Either way, the brush has to be recalibrated once again and of course the changes made must be recorded.

Now just for fun, there's one last thing to take into consideration when dealing with placement. Unlike height, moisture levels aren't spread out even over the terrain. Or to put it on other words, moisture levels are dependent on the landscape itself. So in order to judge how everything looks it's neccesary to try the controller in mutliple tiles, preferably in different regions.

All in all it's still pretty daunting, especially because some things aren't clear to me yet. I'll deal with those in part three. For now I'll leave you with two mosaics showing the upper altitudes for the River controller. Enjoy!

*click pic for full size*

*click pic for full size*

time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


Wow, those are a lot of numbers. I think I have to abandon the idea of making my own tree controller.  %confuso

But your results are getting better and better. In the pictures the trees are placed very sparsely. I mean, no large continuous forests. Is this the look you are going for?
I find it ok that way, because when I want a large forest I can fill it up, but sometimes a controller that places more trees would be handy, too.
My name is Raphael.
Visit my MD: Empire Bay (My old MD: Santa Barbara County)


@Raphael, yes this is the look I'm going for as far as the River controller is concerned. The Coastal controller wil have dense forests.

With the benefit of hindsight a somewhat funny story on the side; this placement pattern was in part inspired by CPs Meadowshire which out of all his controllers I like best. Turns out, however, it's also the hardest to achieve.  &sly So I suspect the Coastal controller will take less time to develop since there're already numerous brushes to pick from, a workflow has been established and I actually know what I'm doing.   $%Grinno$%
time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


Nice work again on the mod--the progress is looking nice, although the numbers have me in a little over my head  :D  Have you done something crazy to your shadows?


@Noah, first the water, now the shadows. . you just want to accuse me of doing something crazy, don't you?!   ;)

@Raphael, something like this?

Though I missed a few spots, it's basically a matter of ignoring moisture levels and focus on height exclusively. Like I said, a lot easier   :D

time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


Vortext... its all very good and really promising... anticipating to get to enjoy this in my own cities... it does justice to what CP has done with terrain mods... this will just take it to the next level... I hope this finds its way onto teh LEX and doesn't get lost along the way... so back-up, back=up and then do it again... its all very good  :thumbsup:


Quote from: vortext on July 23, 2012, 12:18:43 PM
@Raphael, yes this is the look I'm going for as far as the River controller is concerned. The Coastal controller wil have dense forests.

With the benefit of hindsight a somewhat funny story on the side; this placement pattern was in part inspired by CPs Meadowshire which out of all his controllers I like best.

The Meadowshire Controller is my favorite, too. The great thing about it is, that it does not place trees on buildable (eg rather flat) areas. This way, you can quickly see how a tile can be developed after placing the trees.

The picture of the coastal controller looks great, too. Good to know that there will be both choices. :)
My name is Raphael.
Visit my MD: Empire Bay (My old MD: Santa Barbara County)


You have a lot of interesting stuff here. This is my first visit, but I will surely be back!
See the all-new National Capital Region!:

NEW! Come check out the Official Schulmania Website! ... includes a blog as well!


@Jack_wilds, thank you for your kind words. I'm looking forward to see it on the LEX too because that'll mean it's finally finished! And yes, I make back-ups on a regular basis.

@Raphael, spot on about the Meadowshire. Though I'm flattered you already like the coastal controller, it was more a proof of concept than anything else really. And there'll probably be some additional options for each controller to choose from as well which I'll discuss in the upcoming post. 

@Schulmanator, great to see you around here, really like your MD. Or should I say meuove your MD?  :D


A little while ago, woodb3kmaster asked me about the current status of the Dirt Streets. A rather good question because I wasn't too sure about it. Turns out things weren't in too bad a condition so I compiled a beta kit for him to use. While doing so, I got excited about using it myself which up untill now I haven't really done to be honest. For starters I've implemented timed carriages, just like the animals previously, so they come and go during the year.

Secondly I figured it also provided a good opportunity to finally develop a decent street tree mod which includes the latest seasonal flora from CP & the VIP team. I'm developing it along the lines of the SFBT mod. So with each passing season a different tree shows up at the same spot, which provides for nice variety in appearance but also means models sometimes overlap for a while. This in contrast to my earlier tree mod where trees remained stationary throughout the year, which I personally like better but it was also the reason why I needed so darn many T21s.   ;D

Rather large trees for rural zones already in place  ()stsfd()

It's nowhere near complete but something to look forward to as well.  :)
time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


Double post  :P


Today the third and final part in the tree controller series. There isn't much of a theme or anything but rather a number of seperate issues. First up are some rather annoying problems, some of which I'm still struggling to get rid of. The second half focusses on a number of ideas I'd like to hear your thoughts on. Lets get going though with said annoyances.

# 1 small trees
Hard to explain so I'll let a pic do the talking.

See how in the area outlined in red there're predominantly small trees? It only happens with firs and it's as if that particular area doesn't have enough space for the larger models, while it sure does seem like there's enough room. I've tried many different times with many different settings but I just can't get larger models to show up there.  &mmm

# 2 brush boundaries
I've showed this pic before but it provides a nice illustration of the problem at hand. Have a look again at the areas outlined in red and notice how there aren't any items near the vicinity of the trees.

This is weird because the trees and grassland are next to each other in the Preference table but it seems they don't get along well. It's somewhat of a mystery why this is because I've seen this happen in one spot but not in another. Again I suspect it has to do with the terrain and I really hope it can be resolved eventually.

# 3 waterflora
Items which are placed at the outer right moisture level show up at the wettest areas. However the presence of water isn't necessary so cattails and the like will also pop up inland.

One could argue it's somewhat realistic, as if the area is prone to flooding or something. And if those wet spots are worked upon a bit with say, for instance, the smoothing tool, it's in fact possible to get rid of them. So out of all the annoying issues mentioned, this is actually the least pressing. Still, I don't particulary like it but there isn't anything really that can be done to prevent it from happening.

Now with that out of the way, I'd like to float a couple of ideas and hear your thoughts on them.

# 4 the winter shadow problem
Avid users of seasonal MMPs undoubtly know what I'm talking about, otherwise have a look below.

erm yes well you see, the sun doesn't know there aren't any leaves . .  $%Grinno$%

This has bothered me for quite some time. In fact right from the very moment I started using seasonal MMPs, well before making them myself. When I started doing so, however, the cause became easy enough to understand, as did the solution. As already mentioned, the Resource Key Type 4 holds all three models for each flora item. The downside of the RKT4 is SimCity will only cast shadows for the first entry, in this case the autumn model. So in order to get the proper shadows to show in winter, all it takes is a duplicate set of exemplar files which has the winter model as the first entry and presto, gone are those pesky shadows.

Now this presents another problem in itself, which is suddenly all the autumn models are replaced with winter models. Or to put it in other words, unfortunately it isn't possible to get both autumn and winter models and their respective shadows in one picture, unless with a little photoshopping. That said, I'm entertaining the idea of creating a small patch file for cosmetic purposes only to go along with the controllers. Good idea?

# 5 meadows
While I've created a number of different meadows I'm somewhat hestitant to actually implement them. For one because it adds another, signifcant amount of items which may slow things down even further. In addition I don't like how some items look at the larger zoom levels.

Click pic for full size and notice those bright pixel like spots.

Now I know there's the AppearanceZoomsFlag property which controls at which zoom level each item shows. That said, I haven't been able yet to figure out which values correspond to which zoomlevels. If anyone does, please let me know!

Apart from that I was also thinking to include meadows as a seperate option, especially for the River controller since the 'central area' shown in the pic above is left empty at the moment. I'd like to implement continuous grasslands which would stretch from top to bottom, pretty much like CPs Italia controller has. I haven't done so because of the aforementioned performance and zoom issues.

# 6 waterflora
Yet again, though this time a bit different. When a flora item has the property kPropertyID_WaterFlora present it can be plopped into the water a bit. Though it only works when the water is extremely shallow, it makes for nice, thick shorelines.

Normal shoreline

'Waterflora' shoreline

However, the downside of this property is it overrides the height specified in the Flora Preferences which means the 'waterflora' will be all over the place, like so.

So this property basically renders the controller pretty much useless except for use on flat land. Though once again I'm entertaining the idea of making a 'waterflora' version for each controller so with a little extra effort, you can have best of both worlds by switching to the normal controller once the shoreline is in place (or the other way around of course). Too small a benefit to add or a nice little option to have for you control freaks out there?!  ;)

So this concludes the tree controller series. Though keep an eye out for a little something extra. In the meantime, please don't hestitate to leave your ideas, suggestions and critism below.
time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana


nice. I like that neat idea of the shore flora  :thumbsup:


@gn_leugim, thanks.


Last post of this month being of special interest and it's been really enjoyable, despite interest seemingly lacking the last week or so. Must be the holiday season as the entire forum is a bit sluggish.

Anyhow, two more things today. First of all, I really wanted to have at least one tree controller complete by the end of this month. While I succeeded in doing so, it's not finished yet mainly because I just know it can be better; both in terms of behaviour and variety. Coincidentally, I also just happen to know it'll take some time and effort so I hope you can practice some more patience. In the meantime, I've got two more mosaics ready showing the lower half of the River controller, besides two overview pics to get an idea of the bigger picture (up to the seasonal firs, that is).

*click pic for full size*

*click pic for full size*

*click pic for full size*

*click pic for full size*

Now secondly - yes there were two more things for today, remember?!   ;)

As I said earlier, this month has been a lot of fun and it has, in fact, given me something to think about as far as a MD is concerned. However, before I start anything I first want to develop the region a bit more, as it's basically just one city as of yet. Moreover, between writing these updates and compiling the tree controller it has been somewhat neglected, so if you don't mind I'll be enjoying myself with the LotEditor for the next couple of weeks. Besides actually playing the game of course.  :)

I'll check in here again when there're new developments, of whatever nature. In the meantime, here's another mosaic of Enseade which shows the current state of affairs. Enjoy!

*click pic for full size*
time flies like a bird
fruit flies like a banana