More a pre-alpha, in usability, concept and naming

Started by cajomi, December 24, 2006, 07:02:01 AM

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I am vey disappointed, from this TechPreview:
At all it seems, as long as you are working in the direction, the developers thought, this software is a hammer. Incredible features.
But, the first time, you try to go a way, which is standard in all 3D applications, and I mean in all: Bryce, Vue, Carrara, Maya, 3DS max ......., you are getting into heavy trouble.
So far, TG2 is the first 3D package I know, where a mask can not be used as a alpha channel for shader distribution. (May be there is a hidden way, but is it sensful to hide such elemetary functionality?)
There is a preview, but where is the camera to set, with which the preview is rendered. Again, this is absolutly brand new for a 3D application: No Top,Side, Front, Back view. I have tried to build one myself:
First add a new camera, here orthographic. Then found, that you have assign a renderer for each camera, ok, assigned the renderer. But where the hell is the menu, or button, or whatever, to simply set the camera, with which the preview is rendered. I do not know, how I get the preview to render with the orthographic top view camera, but it did. But in this view, I was not able to move the rock population. But, you need this view, to set the position of the rock population. After that, I was not able to get back to the first camera for the preview......

The whole concept is not convincing:
A shader is a shader or isn't it? Here not. I really do not know, what here the name shader stands for. The water shader, is it for generation or for shading? The crater shader, shader or what???
I would understand some of them, if they would be called functions, but some are functions some not. Some shaders have colours, others not..... Some have a displacement channel, some are displacements, some are fractal breakups???

If a renderer has only two inputs, one for camera one for cropping, and so you can assign to a renderer exact one camera, why the hell two elements: It would make more sense, to put them together, so that every camera holds it own rendersettings. A bit node confusing here.

I am totally missing a clear concept: Planets or not. If TG2 is build up on planets, oh wow, not one world, but a world system. Think big, why not. Well, but not big enough to simply load a heightfield for the planets surface. So, use the intern generation or .......

This felt more like a pre-alpha, if you look at the usability , concept and naming. Basic functionality is missing all around.
Developer of GeoControl


Hi Cajomi,

This release was called a tech preview and not a beta for a reason. To me a tech preview is a demonstration of what the engine is capable of and an early chance to have a play around. The UI at this stage is a first draft if you will, there will still be changes made. It sounds to me like you would be happier if you waited for a beta release or maybe even the final release. At this stage in development you can't really moan to much about the UI, camera controls etc, this stuff will come later. The most important thing is to get the engine working and get some stability, which granted is not that great atm, but this is being addressed.

A lot of people have managed to create some fantastic images, sure there's some frustration with the bugs and instability but you have to take it for what it is, a preview of what's to come.

Look at this way, if you find something you don't like, or feel is missing make a suggestion post about it and there may be a chance it's implemented by the final first release.



And there is a difference between not finding a certain functionality and not having it at all. And TG2 doesn't mean to be a general purpose 3D program. If you read this page you'd know that.


Cajomi I understand your frustration and from a usability standpoint there's a ways to go for TG2, that's certainly true. The most important point - which others have made - is that it's fairly early on for the product in terms of the UI and a lot of work will be done yet.

TG2 is a complex application and it tries to do some things that few other applications have fully succeeded at. If you look at other programs that rely this heavily on displacement and work in a planetary context, they are often difficult to work with as well (MojoWorld). We have actually had several Mojo users expressing appreciation for the UI improvements in TG2, so that's an interesting thing.

There are many areas for improvement in TG2 and work will be done in all of them to improve the ease of use and control. In the meantime I would suggest reviewing the available documentation. If a feature you are interested in is not yet documented, ask about it on the forums and be patient for an answer. If the answer doesn't immediately work don't assume it doesn't work at all - almost everyone gives answers here based on personal experience and what they are telling you probably worked for them.

You say above that masking doesn't work but I know from personal experience that it most certainly does, and once you understand how it works in TG2 it's not terribly difficult to use, either. It's also much more powerful and versatile than SOPack ever was in TG 0.9. You posted this thread after I gave a basic explanation of mask usage in another thread, yet you claim it doesn't work. I understand that with the other bugs in the program you might assume it is simply broken right now, but in general the majority of functions in the program are working just fine. I would not give you advice on how to do something without testing it myself and ensuring that it works. If my instructions were too vague to help I apologize, but all that is needed is more detail, asking further questions, experimenting.

I hope that if you continue to use the Technology Preview you will do so with patience and with documentation in hand. However ultimately you may want to wait for the final release if things are too frustrating right now. You are not losing anything by not working with this early version. The final will be much more stable, easier to work with, and fully documented. It's up to you.

Now to answer your specific questions.

First, regarding alpha and masking, there are a number of ways to use masks in TG2. You can load images into a couple different shaders - Default Shader and Image Map shader in particular. The Image Map shader gives you generally more control for this kind of thing and is probably your best bet. You load your image, set the projection to Plan Y, and increase size to around 1000. If it's connected to the main trunk of the Shaders tree you should now see it on the terrain. To use it as a mask plug it in to the Breakup Shader input of a Surface Layer and increase Fractal Breakup in the Shader's settings *or* plug it in to the Blend Shader input of a shader that includes one (Power Fractal for example) and turn on Blend By Shader. That should give you the beginning results to experiment from. If you have any further questions let me know.

To switch cameras just open the settings for a renderer attached to the camera you want to view and click the View Camera button twice. I will certainly agree that this is not terribly intuitive and not at all obvious! :D Rest assured that camera control and switching will definitely be improved in the future.

As for the rest, keep in mind that nodes can be connected to multiple other nodes. The whole system is designed with versatility and power in mind, so sometimes you will see seemingly unnecessary duplication or separation of functionality. It was desirable to allow multiple renderers to be attached to a single camera for example, so that's one reason why the renderer nodes are separate.

- Oshyan


Thank you for your long explanation. Hopefully I will now get the masking work.

I have paid for this tech preview. I also have paid for the Vue6 pre release, but I was forced to do  a test render for the new masking features of GeoControl in my old Carrara 5 (I am also tester of Carrara 6, which also does not work for a simple mask testing, same as Vue, other reasons).
Well, that is a way, things should not go.

I am coding myself, and one rule for me is, that every new implemented feature should be usable. That is the only way, to give the testers the really chance, to test it. The best test is using! And yes, creating a new power function is hard work and fun, a challenge. Creating the GUI for the function is only hard work. No fun at all. I expect from a professional coder, that he is willing to spend also time in usability then in power functions. That is, what I am missing here a bit.
I would be satisfied as tester with this version, and I would spent a lot of time with critic for the way, it is to use. But here I am not tester, I am user.

In the moment, when TG2 imports objects and can shade them, it is a general purpose 3D application. What do you think, that all the coders of all the other 3D applications were idiots, or the Matt is creating the wheel new? He is not alone in the world, and so is TG2. It is not a sign of weakness to look what others have done, and learn from it, it is the opposite. And I am afraid, this TG2 is more like Mojo World.
Developer of GeoControl


If it was a general purpose 3d tool it would have a sort of modeler implemented which isn't the case so I think it's intended only to importing things you'd like to use rather than create those yourself.


3DSmax has a modeller, for polygon modelling, like many others, Vue and Bryce have modellers for terrains, as TG2.
It is not necessary to compare TG with typical, polygon modeller orientated packages, but it should stand a comparison with Bryce, or Vue, or Carrara.
They have, of course, because it is a absolutly important basic feature, defined main views. You need those views for modelling as well as for arranging. This arraging possibility is one of the great differences between TG2 and Terragen.
And in all of these packages you get a continous view, while rotating or panning, in opposite to TG2.
Developer of GeoControl


I use Maya and Lightwave as well as other programs and there is no way i would be comparing TG2 with a 3D modelling app, TG2 is a landscape/Planetary modelling app. to me Maya/max/lightwave etc and TG2 are 2 very different things. Terragen 2 is exactly what it says it is and does very very well what it says it does. Ive been going at this program a lot since release and i must say i love it even in its early state. Ive really been one of the lucky ones and had probably 3 or 4 crashes at most at this point, the interface and node system is easy to use and ive the only thing i can really complain about is those stinky render times :( grrr, i know this will be worked on before final  release but it does slow learning down somewhat while you have to wait for renders.. I purchased the TG2Deep + animation and love it to bits :) merry xmas all


I would agree that this area of software is a bit of a mess at the moment and so is all of 3D really. but I think TG2 has a chance of coming through well, especially based on the fact that it is capable of very realistic renders now.

This type of landscape software, being procedurally based, needs to be edited via node graphs. All 3D software is going that way but landscape generators are based on almost purely procedural techniques. Because of this we might as well get straight to a graph when we open the program which TG2 does. This is good. I'm not too concerned about options elsewhere to hook cameras up to renderers etc. It's all in the graph. The shaders may seem messy but I can see how each may be used. To compare with Mojoworld, we open that program and are confronted with a "standard UI" with myriads or navigating required even if you want to only use node graphs. You can't see everything in one graph. Connecting the separate graphs together in any way is a nightmare of UI navigation. In TG it's all in one window unless you have internal networks which are immediately accessible with a right mouse click and so are all your nodes. It's easy. We can save nodes as clip files which Mojo can't do and we can simply copy and paste nodes which even Mojo can't do - again you have excess of UI navigation to simply add a node. I'm not so familiar with Vue but I'm sure you don't have a whole lot of options in it's node editing. You can navigate the nodes graph in TG2 with similar controls as navigating the preview and you can resize the whole thing. Then you also have the bookmarks system.

As for multiple viewports like standard modeling programs, It's nice but not necessary. We have a preview and a top view. It's best to concentrate on getting the guts of the program working in an app like this.

The problem is, how do you make a program like this easy to use for both beginners and people who are seriously into the details? Catering for as many people as possible obviously helps the app because it will generate more sales. TG has it's shaders so you don't need to build node networks from scratch. Mojo has it standard UI. These are the wallpaper over the underlying functions. Mojo's UI system is a lot more cumbersome than TG2's. However Mojo is much more powerful from a point of view of getting in and editing nodes. It has more features so can do more editing of the procedurals than TG anyway, however this is not the only thing. It is easier to experiment with making shaders. I feel locked out of TG2. The shaders appear to be hard coded and we can't study internal networks. The strength of this upgrade is that we can get at the engine yet we have no info as to how to start using function nodes. In Mojo you just jump in and experiment which is cool. So you learn. You can see how everything works behind the standard UI but not so in TG2. This is a big weak point in my opinion and more info about editing function nodes needs to be supplied or better still some examples.


Quote from: efflux on December 27, 2006, 05:04:05 PM
I feel locked out of TG2. The shaders appear to be hard coded and we can't study internal networks. The strength of this upgrade is that we can get at the engine yet we have no info as to how to start using function nodes. In Mojo you just jump in and experiment which is cool. So you learn. You can see how everything works behind the standard UI but not so in TG2. This is a big weak point in my opinion and more info about editing function nodes needs to be supplied or better still some examples.
I agree with a lot of that and am looking forward to seeing more info on nodes and more examples.

speaking of examples, there was a great user-submitted tutorial posted within the last 24 hours which I think you'll find interesting: - Building a Terrain from functions.


Thanks for pointing me to that Calyxa. This is exactly the sort of info we need. I guess somebody had to spend hours of trial and error to get that working. I was trying to work out how to utilize that voronoi which is obviously used for the fake stones. It shows exactly what I mean. The shaders don't show us how they work. Of course you could simply use fake stones but I'm sure people will find interesting ways to hook these functions up on root level and understand what is going on.


Quote from: efflux on December 27, 2006, 05:04:05 PM
I feel locked out of TG2. The shaders appear to be hard coded and we can't study internal networks. The strength of this upgrade is that we can get at the engine yet we have no info as to how to start using function nodes. In Mojo you just jump in and experiment which is cool. So you learn. You can see how everything works behind the standard UI but not so in TG2. This is a big weak point in my opinion and more info about editing function nodes needs to be supplied or better still some examples.

my p.o.v. is different.  i knew before downloading the app for free that there existed no documentation, knowledge bases, faq's etc etc.  the fact is right before me every time i open the app.

under that situation, i've taken it upon myself to just start hooking stuff up to other stuff.  there's a ton of options, and i won't learn if i don't try.  don't know a vector from a scalar from a normal?  wikipedia has it all :).  i know, i searched.

the wiki-style documentation that has been put into place was an excellent decision by the planetside team, and is already substantially fuller.  my hearty thx to all contributors.

developer provided shaders shouldn't be opened up, the coding and algorithims are proprietary.  they're for sale.  try to see what's inside mental ray's dielectric shader.

mho is that this thing is going to kick some serious but.  participants in the tp have been excellent bug identifiers so far, combined with promised multi-threading and network rendering, planetside's future is bright, the present though is hard work  :D.


I think they should give some pointers about using the function nodes. After all if great art gets created that's the best thing for selling the program. The rest of the program is easy to work out even without any documentation. Although we have documentation for that. The shaders in TG2 simply use the nodes provided. There is nothing fancy or secret about the algorithms except maybe the Alpine fractal but that doesn't get opened up anyway in a node. The way the nodes are designed to be used needs some simple explaining.

However at last I'm getting somewhere. After seeing that explanation, I used the voronoi but I sent it through a log node to smooth it and that was then driving the high colour on a fractal breakup. I also hooked a multiplier after the log on one. The possibilities with the maths functions are probably very high even although no curve graph.


looks really impressive the texture!!!

Top view: Do you mean this extrem small top view, when you have selected a heightfield?

For explanation: I have never used Mojo and will not use it. I am not looking for a landscape solution to play around, but for fast solution for given concepts:
Example: A canyon like terrain, with a far landscape in the background, should look like Mars a bit. There, on a rock, which is modelled in a 3D modeller, a man will walk along, high above the ground of the canyons.
The animation of the man will be done in 3DSmax, not my part of the workflow. But the camera has to be synchron, and so the background and the rock.
With this preview, it will take much time only to place the rock, where it has to be. You need a top view, with zooming in, to place it in the horizontal plane and then you can use the perspective preview for setting the altitude of the rock. With this view, there will be a lot try and error, a lot of moving the camera, because of missing zoom. No one will pay that extra time you need for simply placing a rock.
Developer of GeoControl


Yes, the small view when you select a shader is our only top view.

Vue is the easiest program to do this kind of stuff in. It may be possible with TG2 but it's not going to be easy. For example we need a tool that drops an object onto the land surface but we don't have that yet. However TG2 is capable of very realistic scenes so in that sense it could look very real. I haven't done any work in trying to incorporate stuff from landscape programs into other work. It could be possible to composite it but I'm guessing you want to take the whole scene out of the landscape program and into another program. I don't know much about what the best programs are for that except that Vue handles this type of thing.