Monday, March 14, 2011

Building - Basic Terrain Manipulation

For private world owners, manipulating the terrain is very simple and can go a long way to adding character to virtual landscapes and scenes.  Terrain editing used to be a caretaker-only right, but as of Active Worlds 4.2 Build 1015 can be given to users through the World Rights list. Public worlds also have limited terrain editing abilities, and rely on bots such as Demeter to allow builders to manipulate terrain on their property.

This tutorial explains simple terrain editing for users who can edit terrain directly.  Terrain in Active Worlds is manipulated at the intersection of coordinate grids.  You can view the coordinate grid by pressing F10 in Active Worlds.  This is the easiest visual way to distinguish between different areas terrain, especially if they have the same terrain texture or are on the same elevation.

Right click on the terrain, and this is what should appear:
The red line represents 1 coordinate grid.  The coordinate grid (F10) is invisible here.
When you select a terrain cell by right clicking, notice that the selected cell becomes outlined in red.  If you have the cell grid enabled, you'll notice that the default color is green.  In this selected cell also notice that the area to be manipulated is further highlighted by a yellow square.  A new window also appears - the 'Edit Terrain' box.  This box has several helpful options for manipulation, which I will list below.

Function Keyboard Shortcut
Paste Texture:
Paste Elevation:
Rotate Texture Left:
Rotate Texture Right:
Ctrl + Z
Ctrl + C
Ctrl + V
Ctrl + B
Page Up
Page Down

Personally, I am able to edit terrain much quicker by using the keyboard shortcuts.  I can quickly copy one cell, for example, and apply its texture or elevation to nearby cells simply by cycling through the the cells with the arrow keys.  The other things to notice about this window are the elevation, texture, and hole options.
Not much to it, really.
  • Elevation controls how high or low terrain goes.  Terrain cells in Active Worlds are, unfortunately, rather large, and extreme changes in elevation are very noticeable unless appropriate textures are applied.  This is because textures become distorted as the geometry of the terrain becomes distorted, which can lead to nasty spikes or walls of distorted textures if careful editing isn't done.
  • This can be mitigated through the use of appropriate textures.  With access to the object path, terrain textures can be added by naming them terrainX, where X is a number.  Paths such as Alphaworld's or Megapath come with pre-existing terrain textures if you do not want to create your own.
  • The hole option is useful if you would like to connect builds underground or if you would like to create an environment where there wouldn't be a ground, such as a scene in outer space.  Each terrain cell has a check box where you can select the hole option.

This should be enough to get started editing terrain.  It isn't very complicated and learning the keyboard shortcuts can be very helpful for saving time!  If this isn't enough for what you need, below are some helpful bot resources that can aid in terrain editing:

Helpful Bot Tools:

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