Can Terragen export images or heightfields useful for cartographic projections?

Started by inoshiro, September 26, 2009, 06:24:08 pm

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I'm looking for a terrain generation application that can output views useful in cartography, for the production of maps of fantasy worlds. Terragen looks fantastic, and runs on a Mac, which most of the other applications I have looked at do not.

Fractal Terrains Pro ( is designed to do what I'd like to do, but the results are relatively poor compared to what is possible in Terragen. Can I get similar results from Terragen? How?



A difficult sort of question to answer really.  The only cartographic projection that TG2 can do is an orthographic projection (bird's eye view).  There is no support for the myriad cartographic projections possible and no support for taking a globe and creating a flat map based on a specific projection.  TG2 also is great for producing procedural terrain data but perhaps not all that great at custom heightfields.  For that sort of thing you would probably want to look toward geocontol2 or world machine perhaps but these don't really create full worlds of data (as far as I am aware anyway).


Thanks for the quick reply.

That's what I suspected, shame. My hopes were raised when I saw that Terragen created a whole planet, and I thought "Great! Surely it's possible to unwrap the planet and project it onto a plane or other 2D shape." Ah well. A future feature perhaps, or a plugin? I live in hope.



When the "SDK" is released (probably not anytime soon, but eventually) I am really hoping someone will create a plug-in like this as well.


Seems to me your looking at this from the wrong end. If your not actually going to wrap the created image back around a sphere why dose it matter? Its only got to "look" like a map. If that's the case then Terragen could produce some stunning fantasy maps by using orthographic renders with suitable lighting. Mostly it would be down to your "photoshop" skills, adding in rivers, lakes (maybe) and towns etc.
Just a thought

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You might want to stop by the Middle Earth DEM Project and read some of the articles there. We've been trying to tackle the creation of whole fantasy worlds in high detail for several years now. ;D

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Some good pointers there, folks, thanks. I'll certainly have a look at the Middle Earth project, wasn't aware of that.

Cyphyr - yes, I have followed that approach, but it has a few drawbacks too. I'm creating these worlds for a Sci Fi setting, so having the map on a sphere (perhaps to create a spinning globe animation) is a requirement as well as creating planar map projections. While it's possible to create realistic terrain by hand in, say, photoshop, it can be tedious without procedural assistance of some sort.

Maybe you're right though, I should start with a plane, in World Machine or similar, and then wrap the result around a sphere. I understand that if the flat map has a 2:1 aspect ratio then it is possible to wrap it around a sphere in a 3D program without too much trouble. That seems to be the approach taken over at Natural Earth III ( which I stumbled across last night, and that looks stunning.

Thanks for the advice, guys, most helpful.


It certainly depends on what exactly it is you need. A whole world map? Well, that's easy. Remember that the world is 70% water. Just render  a few continents, fill the rest in with ocean and you're done.

Take the various genesis, whole-world, fractal world, etc. .tgds posted in here and render out a continent or two you like. The cool thing about the fractal approach is that if you ever need a part of the world in more detail, you just go back and render it from a closer POV.