Procedural Landscape (WIP)

Goal

My objective for this project is to delve deeper into procedural generation for landscapes. While I’ve gained some experience with terrain generation and creating the foundational landscape in Houdini, I aim to elevate my skills by integrating it into Unreal Engine and achieving real-time functionality. Additionally, I’m eager to expand my knowledge of shaders specifically tailored for landscapes.

Development

In my approach, I’ve segmented the landscape into distinct sections, such as lakes and mountains, each generated at different stages. However, they are interconnected, leveraging information passed down the chain to ensure seamless integration and prevent any potential issues. Moreover, I’ve meticulously configured parameters that can be controlled and adjusted within Unreal Engine, providing flexibility and ease of management..

Make the Lake

To achieve a more precise lake shape that seamlessly integrates with the landscape, I employed a method involving boolean operations with the terrain. This initial step provided a rough outline, which I then fine-tuned to ensure accuracy and optimization. By refining the shape in this manner, I was able to achieve the desired result of a lake that conforms closely to the landscape contours.

HDA

Utilizing the Houdini Digital Asset (HDA) within Unreal Engine, I’ve enabled real-time terrain manipulation. Through features like the ‘blur’ parameter, adjustments such as smoothing out hill heights become instantly achievable. Conversely, toggling the ‘reset erosion’ button triggers a simulation reset, allowing for dynamic alterations to terrain layers. This seamless integration empowers on-the-fly modifications, enhancing flexibility and creative control.

Note: With there being so many parameters i wanted there to be a hint box that gives a little insight into what it does, they can be explained in the tool documentation but it would be a nice QoL feature to have them at hand.

My next objective is to populate the landscape with various elements such as grass, trees, and foliage. While I could choose to accomplish this task directly in Unreal Engine, I’ve decided to leverage Houdini for its integrated approach. By generating foliage within Houdini, any subsequent modifications made to the landscape will automatically propagate to the foliage, ensuring consistency and coherence throughout the environment.

Shader

With the bulk of the layer work completed in Houdini, the primary role of the Unreal shader is to access and utilize these layers effectively. Initially, I simplified the shader to flat colors, serving as a troubleshooting measure to ensure seamless integration of all layers. Moving forward, the shader’s focus shifts to incorporating additional effects and details as necessary, leveraging the groundwork established in Houdini for a streamlined development process.

While I can’t showcase every individual parameter, it’s worth noting that every aspect of the landscape is customizable, right down to the finest details. From adjusting textures to fine-tuning the tint emitted by cliffs, every element of the terrain is meticulously controllable. This comprehensive level of customization ensures that the landscape can be tailored precisely to meet specific artistic or environmental requirements.

Foilage Population

To introduce foliage, I’ve begun utilizing the masks generated in Houdini. By employing the land layer as a reference, I’ve ensured that foliage, represented by trees and grass, spawns exclusively on suitable terrain. Implementing a heightfield scatter technique, I’ve fine-tuned parameters to prevent the unnecessary loading of grass and trees at the mountain peaks, maintaining a more realistic distribution across the landscape.

My next endeavor involves enhancing the visual appeal of the landscape by introducing a greater variety of trees and additional foliage. By diversifying the tree species and incorporating more foliage elements, I aim to create a richer and more visually engaging silhouette. This approach will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also contribute to a more immersive and dynamic environment.

These screenshots showcase the landscape adorned with additional foliage, featuring a plethora of variations in size, rotation, and shape to enrich the overall visual composition. With this foundation established, my focus now shifts towards incorporating finer details such as falling leaves or wind trails. These subtle touches will further elevate the immersive experience, infusing the environment with dynamic elements that breathe life into the scene.

Tool Set-up

This is a quick demo of the HDA, i have premade heightfield masks, but they can be changed and different ones can used.

The concept behind this tool is to streamline the workflow for artists by automating various tasks while providing ample creative control. Artists can focus on designing masks and shaping the terrain to their vision, while the tool handles tasks like foliage generation and lake creation. Additionally, a wide array of parameters is available for fine-tuning the terrain to achieve desired effects. The curve input serves as a bridge, automatically triggering lake generation once masks are integrated, ensuring a seamless and efficient process from design to implementation.

Thanks to the multitude of parameters available, the tool offers virtually limitless possibilities for terrain creation. Even without altering the masks, users can generate thousands of unique terrains by adjusting parameters to their preferences. This versatility empowers artists to explore a wide range of landscapes and design variations, unleashing creativity without limitations.

After finalizing your creation, you have the option to save your Houdini Digital Asset (HDA) and seamlessly transfer it to Unreal Engine. The HDA encapsulates not only the terrain design but also includes pre-made shaders, foliage, and the lake feature. This streamlined process ensures that your entire landscape, complete with all its elements and details, is readily available and integrated into Unreal Engine, ready for further development or immediate use.