Is there ever going to be documentation for Terragen?

Started by MutantPixel, April 01, 2017, 10:32:11 pm

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A lot of the stuff can be determined through logic, reading the forums and experimenting....

...and then there's the whole blue colored mathematical section, filled with Fantasialike dancing integer nightmares and completely impenetrable to the average man. Without proper documentation the average user will NEVER understand those.


Quote from: Ethrieltd on April 04, 2017, 08:06:34 am
...and then there's the whole blue colored mathematical section, filled with Fantasialike dancing integer nightmares and completely impenetrable to the average man. Without proper documentation the average user will NEVER understand those.

Actually, this might help if you haven't already seen it:

User AP put together a file of 100  BN  functions and added them to File Sharing section of the forums.  Won't make you a BN guru but lets you start out at a higher level than if you were trying to do this on your own.   To my way of thinking this is a resource that the wiki might have pointed to, instead of relying on an old guy's imperfect memory to bring it up here.


Quote from: masonspappy on April 04, 2017, 08:40:38 am
Actually, this might help if you haven't already seen it:

Yep, I have actually got it and am trying out some things to with them, but a major part of understanding is understanding WHY it works and what all the math means. Granted, most users will seldom use these functions but some instruction on how/when to apply them with a view to what the user wishes to achieve would certainly be helpful. I've got a fairly good grounding in math/physics and they confuse me, I can't imagine what they'd be like to a non science savvy user.


An average user won't need any blue nodes, even to make really beautiful terrains reds will do nicely.


Chuckle chuckle.....
I have one paint program with over 200 free filters for making textures, so many I have to store them out of program directory. These were given freely years ago. When you experiment with these, you can get endless patterns. The possibilities for patterns are endless even with one filter. The developers of these filters do not document the "why" to my knowledge, but I am sure there is one.

I compare creating something in Terragen similar to using those filters. Look at someone's example; examine a shared file. Try it yourself. There are many good tutorials online. Ask questions, nag, nag, nag! Do use the search engine; explore the libraries.

If all else fails, get out of the chair and walk around your dwelling twice and try again! :)


... and don't forget the near-magical, brain enhancement effects of liquor...


April 05, 2017, 01:16:10 am #21 Last Edit: April 05, 2017, 01:17:55 am by Oshyan
Thank you all for your civil discussion of this challenging issue. There is no way around it, documentation for Terragen is indeed lacking, and not properly updated. This is something that weighs on us every day, and I sincerely apologize for the scant or difficult to understand information you are often confronted with in referencing the docs.

I can't offer any easy comfort or quick solution, nor anything new that hasn't been said before, I'm sorry to say. As a number of you have identified, Terragen is in itself a difficult program to document due to its open, flexible nature, and the unique workings of some of its proprietary functions such as cloud shading, terrain displacements, surface shading effects, etc. In addition to that, we are an even smaller team than ever (someone said 3, technically we're 2, with very part-time input from a 3rd person), and only one of those people (Matt, the founder and software architect) truly understands certain things well enough to properly document them. Unfortunately that means either he splits his time between dev and docs, or he focuses on dev and the docs don't get updated in some of the more complex areas (e.g. what exactly do all the v3 cloud settings do).

One part of the  solution is to ultimately hire one or more additional developers, which we intend to do, as well as potentially other staff to handle documentation in a more dedicated way. Terragen 4 has provided some of the foundation to make this possible in a business sense, and I am hopeful we can move in these directions soon.

We have also tried working with a number of educational content developers over the years, but only GeekAtPlay actually came through with delivered content. That has frankly been quite frustrating, but we remain hopeful that the increased ease of use of TG4 and the new Educational License Program will result in greater availability of educational content in the long-run. We're in talks with a couple of content developers to that end.

In the meantime the ideas around user contribution to the Wiki that have been discussed here are indeed how we had hoped it would be used. Unfortunately we had a spammer attack recently and we are still cleaning it up and have had to close open contributions for now. We intend to bring the wiki back to more open access in the near future, after we clean up the spam, and at that point we'll be working hard to bring things up to date for TG4. We're hopeful that some of you will be able to contribute as well with the more specific problem solutions that often come up here in the forums. Structuring that information will no doubt be challenging, but just having the solutions - rather than the entire discussion chain to find it - documented in one place, with reasonable titles, would be a big step forward. We don't assume people will contribute, but we do hope that some will, as the work of documenting all solutions to problems and techniques discussed thus far is too great for us alone, for now.

We want Terragen to be as accessible and easy to use as possible and we recognize it's not there yet in several important ways, including major aspects of the UI and interaction, as well as the documentation. We continue to work on improvements in those areas. Thank you all for your patience, understanding, and support over the years.

- Oshyan


QuoteStructuring that information will no doubt be challenging

Indeed; many solutions have a lot of ins and outs, need discussion, and will undoubtedly be never perfect. Keeping it short may be harder than finding a 'solution'  ;)
Regarding spamming (the wiki); why not feed all input through a trusted channel, like applying to post first (through you, e.g.)? That, on the other hand, may put posters off.....

Anyway, I appreciate your work on TG greatly and would choose for development first. What I need to know, I'll find out somehow.


Thank you for that message Oshyan. Yes, the time constraints are indeed a pain in the back... for all mankind.

However, what I think you could do as a first order of business would be to just fill up the Global Illumination page. This is one of the most important features, in my opinion at least, but it is filled with TBCs.

Once upon a time, there was a magnificent GI reference made by user dandelO which explained the feature very comprehensively in a user friendly manner. Later, he also made a video showing the same stuff. However, it's gone now! I tried to find it but none of his GI-related work is around on the web anymore... I went to check with his YouTube channel but the GI stuff was deleted from there as well. His webpage is also no more.

Anyway, a completed GI section at least would be very, very helpful. I don't know your workload obviously... But you could for instance prioritize some sections on the wiki and fill them up according to the "order of importance" - one step at a time.

Otherwise than that, I could perhaps re-create dandelO's GI instructions because I've been doing it for myself anyway. You could put that on wiki if you like.
"This year - a factory of semiconductors. Next year - a factory of whole conductors!"


If you do not know math (like me) you'll probably never be able to fully utilize blue nodes, but you can go a long way by experimenting. I have more than once dissected clip files(blue nodes) from the forum and used them without fully understanding what they were doing. Granted; you may end up with a crazy node tree, but all that matters is that it works.


In work we've started to use an space in an instance of Atlassian's 'Confluence' as a Knowledge Management System.  It easily builds a tree-view for navigation, labelling pages builds an index (and enhances searches), and its search engine is full-text and fast.

Is it technically feasible to spin up a public instance of it for people to consume, and for a core set of people to add content when they have time?  You can add all-sorts of media.  I'd be happy to help out with adding content.  Creating one massive document is a really daunting task, so if it's broken down into mini-tasks and shared, maybe it's not so bad.

I'm not too sure about the licensing of it, mind you - perhaps a public instance might be prohibitive... unless sign-on credentials were given to license-holders only...

Anyhoo... just a suggestion!


April 05, 2017, 11:22:46 am #26 Last Edit: April 05, 2017, 02:36:05 pm by Oshyan
Quote from: Dune on April 05, 2017, 02:25:06 am
Anyway, I appreciate your work on TG greatly and would choose for development first. What I need to know, I'll find out somehow.

Hear hear, I'm a grade 7 maths expert and I seem to eventually find my way around most problems....granted the forums are a great help but serendipitous discovery has also played a large role so I would also choose for development first...Keep the Faith and Pray for jo's safety down there in new earthquakeland.
something borrowed,
something Blue.
Ring out the Old.
Bring in the New
Bobby Stahr, Paracosmologist


I'm in software development and from experience it is not realistic to complete comprehensive documentation as one big task (unless done by a dedicated technical writer), especially if the software is being actively worked on. I like the wiki format, and I suggest divvying up this gargantuan task into small bits - as suggested above - and doing a little chunk every day. Say one node a day, or even one tab in a node. Just keep chipping away at it, do not put it off, as then it never can get done. If the functionality changes you need to flag that and revisit the affected documentation pages. It is a constant effort. IMHO, you cannot rely on these forums alone for technical help if you want to grow the user base.


Indeed, it is necessary to be a constant effort, as otakar said. And we do not, as a matter of policy, rely on the forums for documentation, although for support they are a large part of the solution, not least because we as staff engage here on a constant basis.

Confluence is, to my understanding, not a whole lot different from a wiki for our purposes here. We don't need project/task management and other features, just content authoring and structuring. The organization is similar to how it works in a wiki, and indeed in the wiki we already have, with categories, nested topics/trees (see e.g. the node reference in the current wiki: ).

We are inclined to continue with the wiki approach because it is inexpensive and we own all the data, and it's easily portable to other wiki systems, HTML, and other formats. I don't know what export options Confluence offers and we'd hate to be locked-in to a proprietary system in the long run (from a brief look I see it exports PDF, HTML, and XML, which is not bad, but wiki still has advantages). For the moment we are on MediaWiki but are considering moving to Tiki Wiki in the future for various reasons... But in any case the open (or approval-based) contribution approach you're talking about is fully possible with the wiki system.

- Oshyan

Mid-Knight Acchan

I am also editing the Japanese version of "Terragen wiki" in Japan.
Although the reference book is the official wiki, updating is discontinued, and every day it is struggling. :'(

Terragen must actually take action
There are also many commands that do not know the result, while verifying each one
It is like finding gold dust in the desert that you understand.

Vue 2016 recently released, 1252 pages of extensive pdf manual was attached.
I have been using Terragen for many years, and it is difficult to understand how to operate Vue.
But each command is easy to understand with manuals.

I hope that many kind power users will update Terragen's official wiki.

Thank you to many wonderful colleagues :)

I started 3D landscape with "Bryce" and am currently editing Japanese Wiki as a Terragen user. I am riding the Kawasaki ZEPHYR1100. I am a reader.