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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Water bodies

There is a good reason why I have postponed doing water. It is not because I consider it particularly difficult. Water is bound to simpler rules than other systems I have already looked into. I had a different reason.

Water is less dense than buildings and terrain. A damn or a mountain will determine where water goes. In my mind, the heavy stuff must be there first, then comes the water. You may say water does have a significant effect in terrain features. It is true, but as you will see in my next post I think there is a way around that.

Anyway I wanted to have a better idea about my buildings and terrain. I did not want the water solution getting in the way. I think I have reached this point now, it is time to look again into the water generation.

This is about generating large water bodies like rivers and lakes. This is not about water flowing downhill. I think I will have two different systems for this. Even if the water looks the same, it will be handled by different parts of the code. Ideally you would like to make no distinction between a lake and water inside a bucket. In reality it is all the same, but sadly our hardware is eons away from that. As usual we need some clever hacks.

I am trying this system now:

You start from a heightmap. Your terrain does not have to be heightmap based. It could be full voxel with caves, overhangs, etc. The heightmap defines the surface visible to the water simulation, it must register with the terrain volume. This heightmap looks like this:

Nothing fancy here, this is your run-of-the-mill heightmap. But how you section this work is important. I chose to generate tiles approximately 50 km wide at once. That means all the rives and lakes will be enclosed in that tile. You won't have a river going for 100 km with this approach. If you want that, the tile size would have to be bigger. In my case 50 km was a good starting point.

The next step is to add some water sources to it. You do not do this everywhere, just where the terrain is high enough. For a 50 km tile I add around 200 points.

Then you find the closest path from each point to a lower plane, which you can consider to be the ocean level. You can use any path finding algorithm, like A-star. This gives you rivers, which show in blue below. You can see ocean water in a darker blue:

The red points show the water sources. As you can see the rivers follow the path of least effort over the terrain, always looking for the ocean.

I also wanted to have lakes, but did not see a simple way to add them. That until one day I was debugging the river path-finding. To find that bug (which I already forgot what was about) I chose to highlight the exploration the river algorithm was doing before selecting a particular course. I noticed the path-finding would spread its search whenever encountering flat surfaces. It was behaving pretty much just like water.

Once I added the areas where path-finding searched, I got lakes!

I liked how lakes could appear at different altitudes. Also if you notice the heightmap values in the lake shore, you will see they do not diverge by much. This means the lake surface is mostly flat. In real life often lake surfaces are not entirely flat. This is because the lake actually flows.

I will finish this topic in my next post, where you will get to see how to come up with the actual water surfaces. Also how you find out where waterfalls should go. You got to have those waterfalls.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cow business

The past few years have been an incredible ride for me. I got to see what started as a hobby grow into a business.

Setting up a company is tricky. Now you must worry about many other things, it is not just writing cool programs anymore. One of these things is getting a logo. Since I have developed all this in public, I thought I could ask how you guys feel about our potential new logo. Here it is:
Yes, it has a red cow. We are considering this slogan to go with it:

"Don't be square"

You can leave comments as usual, but if you want to help us the most here is a form so you can vote and leave your feedback.

EDIT: I want to thank everyone for the feedback. We will do a new iteration on the logo and slogan.