Terrain experiments using Instant Terra Pro

General / 04 June 2019

*Full disclosure, the following is strictly my opinion on my short time with Instant Terra Pro. No one is compensating me or nudged me into doing this post.*

I recently had the opportunity to take Instant Terra Pro https://www.wysilab.com/  for a test run so I figured I'd share some of my experience as well as post some of my experiments here for anyone interested.

Instant Terra Pro uses a node-based system to generate and conform your terrain's topography.

In order to get a decent base starting point I went to this site https://terrain.party/ and looked up Mount Rainier. I honed in on section with interesting elevation and then exported out this height map:

For the purposes of these experiments I ONLY wanted to use the above height map as my masked source. Instant Terra Pro allows you to paint your own height map in the software itself, obviously the painting tools aren't as robust as your Photoshop options however they are suitable enough to get a decent starting base going.

My typical node graph looked something like the image below. Amidst further experimentation I got a little more complex but it's mostly just blending previous nodes with new ones. If you're familiar with Substance Designer or Unreal Engine's material editor you should be pretty familiar with this workflow.

Here is what I would call your "standard" example with some hydraulic and mountain erosion:

Here is an example of something a bit more stylized, heavy on the mountain erosion node:

On this sample I'm using a curve on the mask to flatten away the edges and create an interesting layered effect:

This is an example with exagerrated cellular noise forming peaks and valleys:

Here is a more subtle sample mixing all three available erosion types:

This is a delicious oatmeal cookie? using a half-sphere slope to control the elevation perimeter:

Here is a sample blended using a Difference node which essentially flattened all my elvation:

Lastly here is a sample where I inverted my mask and made things look like a stylized crater:

Once you have something you're happy with you can export the mesh, mask (height map), normal and color texture if you desire, that way you can either implement exactly as is in your game engine or import your height map info to properly tesselate in your desired engine's terrain tools.

Among some minor gripes, such as not being able to control light direction in real-time and lack of proper 0-1 UV unwrap on meshes, my biggest gripe would probably be with the color map output. It is essentially an altitude based gradient color. There are some handy presets for different themes (arctic, desert, etc.) that you can customize. Still it would be handy to be able to generate a mask at the very least from the 3 available erosion nodes, (hydraulic, rock and mountain) to give you a bit of a start when creating a material or painting the mesh. 

Fortunately they have an official forum where they are open to suggestions so if you decide to try it out and have some gripes feel free to let them know so they can make the best possible product!

...and here's me quickly throwing a mesh into Unreal Engine with a LUT for a beauty shot:

If you have a free moment and want to play around with Instant Terra (they have a one month free trial) check them out here:

https://www.wysilab.com/

They also have an educational version for schools/students and feature very easy to follow videos and documentation for total noobs to it like myself and a responsive forum in case you have burning questions.

Thanks for reading if you've made it this far! Keep making art!

-Alexander Alza-

Bonus content: