Saturday, March 21, 2009

Using terrain mods to level ground for buildings

One of my pet peeves for quite a while is that most of the buildings in the game stand on uneven ground and have the terrain poking through their floor. This is an effect of the way we use Mercator to create a dynamic terrain, so that it's never guaranteed to be any level area in it.
And that's where the terrain mods come into play. By using terrain mods we can alter the terrain at specified areas. There are a couple of different types of "mods" we can apply, and for this problem the "level mod" seems most suited. It will make sure that the terrain specified is altered so that's it's leveled to a specified height.
There are two ways of specifying this height. Either we use a fixed height, telling the system for example that the area should be leveled to a height of 20 meters. Or we use a offset height, so that the height specified is relative to the position of the entity to which the terrain mod is attached. For this case the latter is more suitable, since we want the terrain to be leveled to the same height as the entity.
The clip below shows how this can be done in real time on the server. We first create a house, which when positioned on uneven ground will have the terrain poking through the floor. By adding a level terrain mod, with an offset positioning of 0 meters, the terrain will be altered so that it's level under the house. As we move the house, the terrain mod is moved as well.

Higher quality version here.

The level mod has one disadvantage however in that it will both raise and lower the terrain to the specified height. In this case, we would want it to lower the terrain, but not always raise it. It would be nice then to have floor functionality, so that terrain that is higher is lowered, but lower terrain is unaltered. The current terrain mods available don't allow for this yet however. If we would implement it it would also need a change in the terrain mod interface in the Mercator library, since the TerrainMods currently doesn't know about the existing terrain.

Switching topics, I'm glad to announce that for the second year Worldforge was accepted to the Google Summer of Code. The last year we had three students who all performed splendidly, and the whole program was a great experience. I'm really looking forward to this year. We're now in the phase where we're accepting students' applications. If you're a student which would rather spend your summer getting paid for writing FOSS code for virtual worlds than turning hamburgers or digging ditches, please take a look.


Anonymous said...

I'm following the Worldforge project since more than two or three years now. Honestly, I think it really lacks a decent user experience to attract more people... I'm not speaking about users only but also developers and designers. I'm really happy to see that Ember starts to really get a great tool for designing virtual worlds now. Maybe - if time permits - I'll try to get part of the community sometime :)

Anyway... What I wanted to write: Keep up the great work!

Erik Hjortsberg said...

Yes, it's true that we've not always been able to provide a good user experience. Much of my latest work has revolved around making the interface for both normal users and authors easier. I focused especially on authors since without a good world, it doesn't matter how good the end user interface is. But we'll definitely work on the end user interface too.