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  • 1. New World Designer


    Bryan
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    The World Designer is a tool within Gaia to (semi-) automatically create larger terrain shapes for your world without having to stamp every mountain and valley manually. It allows you to create single terrain tiles but also multi-terrain scenes as well, including utilizing Terrain Loading (Gaia Pro).

    There are two major workflows / ways to use the World Designer. You can create a completely random world by letting the Designer randomize all input parameters, or you can input a certain terrain shape that you want the World Designer to adhere to when creating the world.

    Beginner - Creating the first complete random world

    To follow along with this guide, open a new scene and bring up the Gaia Manager again (Ctrl + G or Window > Procedural Worlds > Gaia > Show Gaia Manager). The default settings for a Medium terrain should be fine, but make sure to switch the workflow mode to “World Designer (Random Generation)”

    image.png
     

    Click the “Create World Designer” button. Gaia will open the world designer tool for you and will show you a terrain preview that matches the world size that was previously selected in the Gaia Manager window.

    Please Note: You can make very large worlds with the world designer (within the limitations of the Unity Engine). For larger worlds, the world designer has additional features that make it easier to work with the preview and estimate the generated result better from the preview. Please see "Larger World Sizes / Multi-Terrain in the World Designer" in the Advanced Topics below for more.

    image.png

    The terrain shape is random, so your terrain might look different than what you see in the screenshot above. The very easiest way to use the world designer is to click the “Randomize All” Button. If you click this button, most settings of the random generator will be shuffled, and a new terrain will be generated. Per default the world designer creates an island, so you should get a different island each time you press the “Randomize All” button.

    image.png

    If you see a terrain shape that you like, press the “Generate World” button, and confirm the popup.

    image.png

    Gaia will now take the preview shape that was displayed before and will create a full unity terrain out of it and spawn the textures from the selected biome:

    image.png

    From this point on you could continue now and fully spawn the biome and create the runtime setup for lighting / water on this terrain. This works just like in the manual workflow using the Gaia stamper. This would be the absolute minimal way to use the World Designer: Use the “Randomize All” button until you see a shape you like, and then generate the resulting terrain. 

    Intermediate - Generating a world with a specific shape & look

    With the designer in view click the “Clear Stamps” Button to clear the stamps that have been created during the last generation run.

    image.png

    You should see now a mostly featureless terrain shape in the preview.

    image.png

    What you are seeing there is the so-called “Base Terrain”. The world designer works by taking such a basic terrain shape as input and then enriching it by placing multiple stamps on it to create interesting shapes.

    So when not doing the full randomized approach via the “Randomize All!” button, the workflow in the World Designer is as follows:

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    A  Set up your World Size (which is taken over from the Gaia Manager initially)

    B  Set up your World Shape / Base Terrain

    C Set up settings for your World Details / Stamps

    D Spawn random stamps on the base terrain

    E  When happy with the results, Generate the World and turn it into full unity terrain(s)

    In the next steps we will follow this workflow to generate a terrain based on a certain base terrain shape.

    image.png
     

    Begin by opening the World Shape panel. For the sake of the tutorial select “Generator” and “Water” and adjust the settings there that all influence the base shape of the terrain.

    The most important settings are:


    Shape Input type – Allows you to switch between generating a shape from Noise (Generator), using an input image or an already existing terrain.

    Border Style – Allows you to force the borders of your world to be Water (to create islands), Mountains or nothing specific.

    Height Scale – Influences the overall height of the base terrain but also of the stamps that are placed on it.

    Base height – lifts the entire shape up on the y-axis.

    You can find more information about all the remaining settings by clicking the “?” icon in the World Shape Panel. Try to create a bit more interesting base terrain shape that would still be somewhat recognizable when the stamps are spawned, e.g.:

    image.png

    Next we can take a look at the World Detail settings which control the stamp spawning that will take place on the base terrain.

    image.png

    There are 4 general settings on the top that apply to the way the stamps are being spawned on the base terrain:

    Stamp Density: Controls the number of stamps that will be placed on the terrain. You can drag the slider around to see a preview visualization of the stamp areas (each circle represents one stamp that will be placed). There is also a checkbox in the scene view panel to activate this visualization permanently.

    Stamp Jitter – controls the randomness in stamp placement – at a Jitter of 0 the stamps will be placed in a grid-like fashion, at 100 they are shuffled around in position to make that pattern less recognizable.

    Stamp Width – controls the width of the stamps that are being placed. Again, the visualization in form of the blue circles pops in when you change the value here so you can review the stamp sizes and positioning.

    Stamp Impact – Controls how much Impact on the base terrain shape the stamps will have – A high impact means that the imprint of a mountain will be rather high, and the imprint of a valley would be rather deep. High Impact means that the stamp features are more visible which can make the terrain more visually impressive, but it is also possible to overdo it so that the stamps become unnaturally distorted.

    Please note: These settings can have a huge impact on your final result, and spawning more stamps does not necessarily mean “better results” for these settings. Please see "World Size vs. Stamp Density vs. Stamp Width" in the Advanced Topics further below.

    Following these stamp spawning settings are the individual entries for the different stamps that the world designer can use during generation:

    image.png
     

    You can activate those features with the checkboxes, and you can change the distribution for those features with the sliders (left = less, right = more).

    Similar to the spawn rules in a regular Gaia Spawner, you can unfold each of these rules to display more settings for how and where these stamps will appear on the base terrain:

    image.png
     

    The feature type choses which kind of stamp will be chosen – note that this selection is linked up to the Gaia Stamps directory – this means you can add your own stamps by adding them to the appropriate directories. Note that you can also add additional spawn rules for new feature types at the end of the list.

    The remaining settings are:

    Spawn probability – This is the same slider as in the list display and influences the overall chance that a stamp of this feature type will be selected. 

    Height probability – how the height of the base terrain will influence the chance of the stamp to appear (left side of the curve = minimum height, right side = maximum height). Note that you can activate the visualization with the eye icon to see the impact of this setting directly in the preview:

    image.png

    It is recommended to run the visualization against the base terrain without any stamps being spawned, since this would be the height that is relevant during the spawning process. 

    Stamp Height Modifier – controls how the underlying height of the base terrain at the spawn spot will influence the height of the spawned stamp. For example, if a mountain stamp would be drawn for spawning at a beach, it should receive only reduced height to not fully destroy the underlying base terrain shape.

    Invert Chance – Chance the stamp will spawn inverted (A valley instead of a mountain)

    Width Range – the possible width for the stamp when spawning (100 = one full terrain wide)

    Mix Height Strength – Stamps are spawned using the “Mix Height” operation to blend in well with the already existing stamps. This slider controls the minimum and maximum strength for this operation according to the Stamp Height Modifier above)

    Mix Height Midpoint – another setting from the “Mix Height” operation. This setting controls whether the features found on the stamp should be elevated above the terrain, or rather should cut down into the terrain. 

    The more the slider range is to the left, the more this operation will use the stamp to elevate features above the terrain (Which you would want for mountain-like stamps) The more it is set to the left, the more it uses the features in the stamp to lower the terrain (Better for valleys, rivers, lakes).

    You can fine tune these settings if you want, but for your first experiments the existing default settings should suffice, you could concentrate on altering the spawn probability for the different feature types first.

     With the base shape and the stamp spawning settings all set up, we can look at the controls for the World Designer that start the stamp spawning process:

    image.png
     

    “Randomize Stamps” will keep your base shape and will spawn stamps according to the stamp probabilities you set up. This is the button to use to generate a terrain that sticks to the base shape and where you can try out how it will look like e.g. if you decide to increase the mountain probability.


    “Randomize All” will create a random base shape and will also randomize the stamp probabilities. This button is suitable if you want a mostly random terrain. (This is the button we used earlier in the guide to create the completely random terrain)


    “Clear Stamps” will clear all spawned stamps so you can see the base terrain shape again.

    “Reset To Defaults” will reset the Settings to sensible defaults according to your selected World size.

    “Generate World” will turn the currently viewed preview into a real unity terrain. After the generation you can treat this terrain like a terrain that you shaped manually with the Gaia stamper and run (Biome) spawners on it and create the runtime setup for lighting, water, etc.


    To complete your terrain generation on a base terrain, click the “Randomize Stamps” button. You should see stamps appear on the base terrain that you created initially.

    image.png
     

    If you continue clicking the “Randomize Stamps” button, you should get a different result, but it should still stick to the base terrain shape. 

    You can also alter the probabilities for the different stamp feature types to force a certain look, e.g. only using Mountain Stamps:

    image.png
     

    Please Note: Depending on your settings, the generation result can stick more or less to the original base terrain shape that you use as input in the world designer, up to the point where the original shape is not recognizable anymore at all. If you run into this issue, please see "Choosing Settings that keep the input shape intact" in the Advanced Topics below.


    The last thing to do when you found a terrain shape that you are happy with, is to click the "Generate World" button. Gaia will warn you that it will remove all existing terrains from the scene to export your new terrains. When you confirm that, the generation starts and your terrains will be created. As with any other terrain generation method within Gaia, you can just continue using your terrain just as if you had created it with the manual stamper workflow before. You can go back into the Designer anytime to start a new export if you are not happy with the result.

    Pro Tip:  The settings for the World Designer can be saved and loaded again via the “Advanced” Panel. In this way you can quickly apply the same generation settings in different scenes or projects.

    image.png


    The Gaia settings object also has a slot for the default settings that should be used for the world designer – if you make a setup that uses all your favorite stamps, you can configure Gaia to always use those settings instead when opening the world designer:

    image.png


    Advanced Topics


    World Size vs. Stamp Density vs. Stamp Width


    The amount of stamps you spawn in your world and their size settings can have a huge impact on your final result, and “more” does not necessarily mean “better” for these settings. For example, here is a generation result with high stamp density, high width and high impact:

    image.png
     

    Not a very good result – this happens because too many stamps are placed on top of each other and all are overlapping each other multiple times. The result is an unrealistic mountain with barely recognizable features left, it is mostly just noise remaining at that point.

    The other extreme is too little, too small stamps that do not overlap with each other:

    image.png

    Again, not a good result – the featureless base terrain is mostly visible and the stamps are not connecting to a cohesive landscape. What you should aim for is that the stamps are overlapping a bit, but that the individual stamps have enough room to imprint their own features on the terrain:

    image.png

    This is a better result – the individual stamps are connected but have still enough “breathing room” to display the actual features of the stamp.

    The world size, the total available heightmap resolution and scale also play into this – if you are creating a multi-terrain scene with 10 x 10 terrains with 1024 x 1024 meters each, that is a lot more space and total heightmap resolution than just a single terrain. You would usually want to place more stamps to fill this space with multiple interesting features than you would on a single terrain.


    Choosing Settings that keep the input shape intact


    Depending on your settings, the generation result can stick more or less to the original base terrain shape that you use as input in the world designer, up to the point where the original shape is not recognizable anymore at all. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, this can be no problem, but it can also quite counterproductive if you need the world generation to stick closely to the input.

    The problem is that there are two conflicting goals: On the one hand you want the World Designer to enhance your terrain with interesting features such as Mountain Ridges, Rivers, Dunes, etc. On the other hand, these features can alter your original input shape so much that it turns into a completely different design overall.

    As a rule of thumb keep the following in check to get a result that sticks close to the base terrain size:

    Rather more, smaller stamps than wider ones – Wide stamps tend to destroy the original shape more, because e.g. a mountain creates an island outside the original shape, or a wide valley destroys the original coastline of the base terrain.

    Less Stamp Jitter – Due to the shuffled placement from jitter it is more likely that two stamps will intersect more to create an unexpected feature that did not exist in the original shape.


    Less Stamp Impact – Stamp Impact makes the features of the stamps appear stronger on the base terrain, but that of course also alters the base terrain in the process. This is a trade-off situation – you want the impact of the stamps to be visible of course, but when you are overdoing it, it diverts too strong from the original shape as well.


    When creating an island, avoid / reduce Rivers and Valleys – Those tend to dig into your original shape too much, so that it diverts more from the original shape. 


    Larger World Sizes / Multi-Terrain in the World Designer


    In theory there is no size limit in the world designer – if you increase the amount of terrain tiles in the world size settings you could generate very large worlds with it. To assist you better when creating large worlds, the world designer displays some extra controls in the scene view.

    •    When working with multiple terrains, initially the world designer will only display the stamp spawn result on a single terrain tile like so:

    image.png
     

    This is done to keep the preview of the resulting stamps somewhat responsive, when spawning 100s of stamps it can take a bit to calculate the full preview. You can preview other terrain tiles by changing the X/Z tile coordinate in the panel in the scene view, or by dragging the white box cursor around. The preview should update to the new spot automatically after 2 seconds. To see the full preview, you can click the “Render Full Preview” button. This can then take a bit, depending on the total amount of stamps, but will display a full preview of the terrain when finished.

    •    The preview can only display a total resolution of 4097 heightmap pixels for technical / performance reasons. This means that you can create a world that can have a much higher terrain heightmap resolution what is currently displayed in the preview. The scale and size of the preview will still match with what is generated, but you would not see every detail in the preview due to the lower resolution. If you want to take a look at the actual resolution of a single terrain tile, you can do so with the “Zoom In” button. This will Zoom in the preview to a single terrain tile which is then rendered at the correct heightmap resolution.

    image.png

    •    When looking at the preview, it can be difficult to estimate the scale of the resulting terrain correctly. A small world can take in the same amount of screen space than a large world depending on how far you are zoomed in. Then when generating the world you suddenly discover that the world does offer too little / too much space or your mountains are much smaller than you expected from the perspective of the player. To combat this, the world designer features the size graph at the borders of the preview. The numbers printed on here are world space unity units / meters measured from the center of the world at X=0 / Z=0. This helps you to get an impression how much space there would be in a certain area.

    image.png

    •    If you scroll in closer to the center of the preview, you will also notice that there are a few sample objects being rendered in the scene. These can help you to estimate the scale of the terrain features much better. This mountain ridge might seem massive at first glance:

    image.png

    With the sample scale objects – not so much anymore, the character up front could scale this ridge quite quickly:

    image.png

    You can activate handles for these objects in the scene view settings panel, this allows you to drag around these objects on the preview to test different locations for scaling.

    Depending on what you are trying to achieve, this can be no problem, but it can also quite counterproductive if you need the world generation to stick closely to the input. As a rule of thumb keep the following in check to get a result that sticks close to the base terrain size:

    Rather more, smaller stamps than wider ones – Wide stamps tend to destroy the original shape more, because e.g. a mountain creates an island outside the original shape, or a wide valley destroys the original coastline of the base terrain. 

    Less Stamp Jitter – Due to the shuffled placement from jitter it is more likely that two stamps will intersect more to create an unexpected feature that did not exist in the original shape.

    Less Stamp Impact – Stamp Impact makes the features of the stamps appear stronger on the base terrain, but that of course also alters the base terrain in the process. This is a trade-off situation – you want the impact of the stamps to be visible of course, but when you are overdoing it, it diverts too strong from the original shape as well.

    When creating an island, avoid / reduce Rivers and Valleys – Those tend to dig into your original shape too much, so that it diverts more from the original shape. 

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