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Author Topic: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld  (Read 16253 times)

PTTG

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Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« on: March 09, 2012, 11:13:04 am »

First off, I want to say that I hate you guys for stealing my idea! Seriously though, I have long been interested in procedural terrain generation and often thought that the best way to fill in detail on a limited set of real-world terrain data would be to generate procedural refinement on top of that.

If I might digress a bit into theory, one thing that has always been seen as an obstacle in procedural terrain design is that earth's terrain is far from a perfect fractal. There are areas that are self-similar on multiple levels, like mountain ranges and certain coastal areas, but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Instead, there are large scale patterns that define continents, then smaller laws that define regions, and still smaller patterns that define even finer detail, all the way down to soil creep and rock weathering that gives you the exact shape of some four-foot cliff in someone's backyard. This is totally different from a fractal, which should follow the same rules no matter how deep you go.

This all means that you can't have one equation that defines "earth".  This is where my idea and Outerra/anteworld's seem to have met. We can easily create the small-scale generators (well, more easily than other generators). It's easy enough to write the laws for sand dunes and grass cover and streambed erosion.

More difficult is simulating a few aeons of geological uplift and glaciation, and global climate shifting. However, these large-scale data are easy to extract from real-world data!

I was going in a slightly different direction- using study of earth-like fine detail generation and a crude approximation of large-scale generators to create realistic-seeming alien planets. I am glad to say there might not ultimately be any conflict in this at all- perhaps I might end up using the Outterra engine on my own project!


Now, about the Anteworld game...

EDIT: Looking over the forum, I realize a few things I mention here have been brought up before. Oh well.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the story for the game. However, the more I  think about it, the more I realize that perhaps the interesting part isn't the receiving, it's the telling. I think the greatest selling point of this engine is the fact that it's an entire virtual earth that's detailed down to the centimeter, not an epic quest or mystery.

As Anteworld is at least partially a means of selling the engine, and showing off its best qualities, why not focus on making the world as accurate to the real world as possible, in ways that will seem familiar to users?

The first thing people do when they load up google earth is find their house. Currently, such a thing is not really possible in Anteworld because roads aren't in. You can find the place that matches your local height map, but very few landmarks are present. If roads are there, though, suddenly you don't just have a height map- you have the power to race down your neighborhood street in a heavy duty combat truck.

Now, there are limitations to this approach- house positions are hard to extrapolate from data. You might find a way to interpret some kind of map, but the only data set I can think of that you could find that covers the entire planet would be something like population density and land use. You might even be able to find a 90m scale zoning map if you have access to a good source. Even if you combine all that with the road map, you won't be able to fool people. At best you could hope to put suburban low-density residential houses in a suburban low-density residential neighborhood with some consistency.

So if you want to trick people, you need an excuse. I say turn everything into rubble. Say there was a disaster of something, but it was only a couple decades ago. This is great because then you can plop down notable ruins, like a beat-up golden gate or the crumpled foundation of some Saudi vanity tower. A major city could have a downtown with a few ruined skyscrapers (possibly with internal meshes so we could climb around inside?) and some smaller buildings- enough so that if you're looking where you expect to see some famous skyline, you could see the ruined towers poking up.

As for what that disaster is, since we aren't looking at the entire population vanishing with all the buildings and everything, you have some more options. Maybe it was an asteroid storm or war, or just a plague followed by social breakdown. Maybe solar flares destroyed technology. It simply doesn't matter.

You'd ultimately be able to go to where your house is and immediately get a feel for the terrain. Then, when you go other places, even places you haven't been, you'll take that concreteness with you! The rest of the world will feel more real if you can associate it with a real-feeling place that you started out in or visited.

Going back to the story, as much as I understand the need to justify a lot of the construction and game tropes, but a high science-fiction setting might not be the way to go. If nothing else, it makes little sense to have a truck if your spaceship implies you could have a hovertruck. Why farm, if the ship presumably has all the supplies to keep a crew alive on four or five different alien worlds? If instead there is a lower sci-fi setting, with a few abstractions simply accepted for acceptance's sake, that may ultimately allow people to get more involved in the world. It's a fact of human nature that people would rather ignore buildings popping out of thin air than that a spaceship would carry thousands of people around in stasis for 2000 years and keep them on ice the whole time even though it's ostensibly taking them elsewhere.

Perhaps something more like fallout makes sense- you lived in a bunker while the disaster occurred on the surface, and now you rebuild. If a few truckloads of people need to appear out of nowhere or if it really shouldn't be possible to bootstrap an aerospace industry with nothing more than an iron mine and a crate of tools, well, we can get over that. It's better than wondering why the spaceship doesn't just land and get disassembled if we're really serious about colonizing earth.

Finally some miscellaneous questions:

The Moon? That is, is the moon going to be present as a visible object... and as a separate question, would we be able to, oh, you know, fly to it? Maybe it is there and I just haven't seen it.

On that topic, what about Mars? I don't suppose it would be possible to take martian height data and simply import it, or to invent a terraformed or partially-terraformed set of climate data for the planet either? This is rather more about the engine than the game.

Also, we are going to get freshwater too, right? I was kind of disappointed when I zoomed in on lake Tahoe and found a big grass plains... That said, river courses are going to be tough, because erosion is really hard to simulate...


Anyway, this post got a little long there, but as you can no doubt tell, I'm excited about this project.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 11:17:57 am by PTTG »
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cameni

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2012, 12:21:38 pm »

Quote
So if you want to trick people, you need an excuse. I say turn everything into rubble.
Like that. Except we want to have it turned to rubble by unattended natural decay, much like described in "Life after People" movie and series. Unattended for a period that would leave only rubble of the big cities.

Quote
Going back to the story, as much as I understand the need to justify a lot of the construction and game tropes, but a high science-fiction setting might not be the way to go. If nothing else, it makes little sense to have a truck if your spaceship implies you could have a hovertruck. Why farm, if the ship presumably has all the supplies to keep a crew alive on four or five different alien worlds?
I disagree; the spaceship doesn't imply you'd have a hovertruck, the plans to build a colonizing spaceship in orbit or on the moon can be perfectly (albeit costly) executed without hover technology. And the ship doesn't have the supplies to keep the crew alive on alien worlds: it carries colony pods that carry only the minimum amount of supplies, but are designed to start harvesting resources and converting when deployed to an alien world, defrosting only so many people that can be sustained at given stage of colonization (interestingly, it also explains where from the player is getting his workers fast).

In fact, we don't want to go too far into the future, with all the difficulties of trying to predict it. What if it was known that in 100 years from now humanity and all life on our planet would be eradicated, with no way to avoid the doom? Wouldn't we try to assemble such a ship (or more) that would carry our race to other worlds, with the technology we have at hand, designed to be maintainable and able to grow from a relatively tiny seed (the pod), at any cost it would require?

The point is that we ought to do it because nobody's giving us a warning 100 years ahead, or how many years it would take to construct something like that with all the technologies that it would require.

Quote
It's better than wondering why the spaceship doesn't just land and get disassembled if we're really serious about colonizing earth.
Not designed for that, just as it wasn't designed to launch from the planet. It would require a lot more energy. Besides, the whole thing is basically a frame that carries the pods. They can land one by one, spreading to increase the chances of survival. So, technically it *mostly* lands :)

Quote
The Moon? That is, is the moon going to be present as a visible object... and as a separate question, would we be able to, oh, you know, fly to it? Maybe it is there and I just haven't seen it.

On that topic, what about Mars? I don't suppose it would be possible to take martian height data and simply import it, or to invent a terraformed or partially-terraformed set of climate data for the planet either? This is rather more about the engine than the game.
We plan to add both Moon and Mars, fully explorable, later on.

Quote
Also, we are going to get freshwater too, right? I was kind of disappointed when I zoomed in on lake Tahoe and found a big grass plains... That said, river courses are going to be tough, because erosion is really hard to simulate...
We will not be simulating erosion to find out the water courses. Just as you said in the initial paragraph, one could simulate and generate the stuff separately and use the engine to run it. We'll feed it vector data for the rivers and lakes.
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PTTG

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2012, 12:51:38 pm »

Thanks for the quick feedback!

Obviously you guys have put a lot of thought into the setting, so I won't argue with you over the science/science fiction.

I have to say I'm really looking forward to the climate/biome expansion. In fact, if you don't mind me asking a few questions about that, are you planning to have things like weather? Any thoughts on things like the "dynamic snow" that Skyrim was supposed to have? And what sort of data are you planning to use for these climate maps?
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Jagerbomber

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2012, 01:25:01 pm »

I don't know what the clouds will look like in Outerra, but wouldn't it be cool if you could sync current global cloud and weather data with Outerra?  Yeah it's been done in a 2D overlay of the entire globe (Life With Playstation does it I believe, but I have no idea how often the cloud data is updated), but 3D would be awesome.  Perhaps with IR Satellite data (could that be used to guesstimate cloud thickness?) if that's even attainable.   If it can be done, perhaps Outerra could also be synced with how hard it's raining/snowing and maybe even wind direction that effects the aircrafts and other things.

http://www.goes.noaa.gov/
http://www.eumetsat.int/Home/index.htm
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 01:48:36 pm by Jagerbomber »
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PTTG

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2012, 01:39:56 pm »

That'd be tough, but interesting. It would definitely solve one problem- simulating remotely realistic weather patterns would be tough, but extrapolating vaguely realistic ones from real live data might be easier.

Climate change might be tough though.
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cameni

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2012, 10:08:13 am »

I have to say I'm really looking forward to the climate/biome expansion. In fact, if you don't mind me asking a few questions about that, are you planning to have things like weather? Any thoughts on things like the "dynamic snow" that Skyrim was supposed to have? And what sort of data are you planning to use for these climate maps?
(reusing a fb post) :)
Global eco systems will be created and matched with MODIS world land type database (500m resolution, but will be procedurally refined like the elevation data), and then color-matched with Blue Marble colors.
Weather engine should draw from some rough data, which could be either generated or provided by an external service.
/fb

I don't know what Skyrim's dynamic snow meant to be, but we want to have the snow coverage changing with day of year, computed using latitude, elevation and current sun declination, adjusted by a static differential map that accounts for things like the effect of distance from oceans, oceanic currents and such. Actually, what I just described is about computing the average temperature, but together with precipitation data it will form the snow data.
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PTTG

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2012, 11:40:37 am »

Thanks. To explain the Skyrim thing, Bethesda said there would be "dynamic snow" so that you could watch items left outside get covered in snow particles over time. Of course no one believed it and it didn't happen, but that was what was expected.

I for one am really excited about snow cover being simulated. Will it actually deform the height map in any way?
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SpaceFlight

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2012, 12:11:38 pm »

About Skyrim, they showed seasonal foliage (the first feature shown in the video) and footprints you can leave in the snow (2:46-2:48) in this video:

This is stuff that may come via patch/DLC to Skyrim at a later date (ranged weapon killcam comes with the next patch I think).

Would be nice to have seasonal foliage and footprints your character/car leaves in the snow in OT as well.
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Luishi5k0

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2012, 08:06:16 pm »

I do hope the clouds look very good. Good clouds could take Outerra from awesome to amazing, especially if they cast ground shadows and shift around. They also have to look good as you go through and above them, all while keeping performance good. Sounds like a tall order but at the same time it's important for the game.

Most clouds in other games just look like ass. I can't think of any good real time clouds.

FSX


MF


These look okay, but still doesn't seem quite there.

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Jagerbomber

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2012, 08:45:13 pm »

Yeah, volumetric looks like the way to go, but I hope they can look a bit better than the 3rd video.  They look a little too much like just blobs of white and you can't really see any detail on them.  Is adding detail to the volumetric method even possible?
« Last Edit: March 10, 2012, 08:53:28 pm by Jagerbomber »
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Luishi5k0

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2012, 09:04:10 pm »

I can imagine it is. Just use some sort of fractal to modify them and then apply shadows and whatnot to add detail.

edit: removed img link to malware site

The real trick it to keep them fluffy yet defined. The main problem in that video is they are all just blurry blobs. That is NOT how clouds ever are.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2013, 02:29:57 pm by cameni »
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C. Shawn Smith

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2012, 09:21:37 pm »

One word: Voxels
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PTTG

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2012, 03:13:59 am »

One word: Voxels
One word: We'd have to spend billions of dollars to get a computer good enough to simulate global clouds at a reasonable level of detail using voxels.

Hmm... I guess I went over the limit a bit there. Nevermind, sorry.
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TheSquiffy

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2012, 09:51:39 am »

I think that talking about clouds now is going a little bit OT.  :-X

I'd only like to share and add my initial thoughts about Outerra engine.

We all know we live in a small planet, compared to huge celestials like Jupiter, Saturn and so on, but we're also really small.
So Outerra it's the first simulation where I felt really SMALL, and our planet really big compared to us. Is not the usual planet-toy where you see a few mountains, a few water and snow, and yes, sometimes a some trees also... I tested the legendary sean's project, I seen also in i-novae engine's videos, many blogs attempts, pics and videos and so on. I think those are scaled down "attempts" to make our planet feelings "REAL".

In Outerra I really seen the planet like it should be flying out from ground or approaching a mountain, or watching a valley, exploring the grand canyon isn't a 100 made polygons hole, not a kiddy planet. This is the "plus" I really like of this project.

We all know that there are bugs, there are corrections to be made, but remains a big planet for us to enjoy the exploration. And' compared to other promising, it's now CONCRETE project.

My two cents.
Sq.
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corax

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Re: Initial thoughts on Outerra and Anteworld
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2012, 07:33:52 am »

Hi, I use X-Plane 9/10. You might like to look at them to see how they handle clouds, they differ from each other.
Both use airport weather data as the source for current conditions; XP9 only does local, although the add-on Rexxplane goes more global and with better images; XP10 does global.
I prefer the landforms in XP9 and the weather from XP10, and as I fly canyons, XP9 is used most.

I do like your landforms, and looking forward to the appaerence of rivers.
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