Chapter 7.1 Introduction to Landscape, Landscape Materials and Editing Tools

Landscape is Unreal Engine 3's new terrain system currently in development. It is a heightmap-based system that makes use of Unreal Engine 3's content streaming features to allow for more efficient use of resources, while at the same time providing increased functionality and features over previous terrain system available in the engine. Landscape is intended to replace the old Terrain system, which will be deprecated when Landscape is has reached feature parity.

Creating Landscapes - Creating and Importing new Landscapes and Converting old Terrains. Landscapes can be created in a few different ways. The editing tools provide the ability to create a completely new landscape, import a heightmap created previously in Unreal Editor or through external tools, or convert existing terrains created using the previous terrain system in Unreal Engine 3. Using external tools to create a base to work from can be a good way of speeding up the landscape creation process. That base can then be imported and cleaned up or modified using the editing tools inside Unreal Editor to customize the landscape and make it fit into the world and desired gameplay. Obviously, being able to convert legacy terrains to landscapes makes it possible to salvage existing maps containing terrain and allow them to make use of the new system and tools. This conversion process is fairly painless as it is mostly automatic. 

Landscape Materials - Setting up materials to be used with landscape terrains. While any Unreal material can be assigned to a Landscape terrain, the Material system in Unreal Engine 3 does provide some Landscape-specific expressions that allow for blending multiple material networks based on the weighting of the layers of the Landcsape and controlling the UV coordinates mapping those networks to the Landscape. In addition, the full resolution normal map of the Landscape is available. These features make it advantageous to create materials specifically for the Landscapes used in your levels.

Editing Landscape Terrain - Landscape terrains can be edited directly inside of Unreal Editor using the Editing section of the Landscape Edit Dialog. The Editing section allows a landscape to be selected from all landscapes within the level to be edited and provides access to the Editing Tools, Brushes, and Target Layers. These all work together to make editing the landscape simple and intuitive. The tool determines what action is to be performed on the landscape. The brush determines the area of the landscape affected by the selected tool. The target determines what aspect of the landscape is affected by the tool, which can either be the heightmap or a texture layer.

TerreSculptor / UDK Pipeline - TerreSculptor fully supports Landscape's Heightmap and Layer (Weightmap) file formats. TerreSculptor has been designed for use with video game engines and includes a setting where you choose the target game engine and it automatically configures its world units and scaling to match.  This provides artists and level designers with a WYSIWYG viewport match between TerreSculptor and the target engine.  For example, choosing Unreal Engine 3 in the Units Presets will configure TerreSculptor to 1 world unit = 2 cm, and defaults the terrain to drawscale vertex spacing values of 256, which can be adjusted as required.  Note that TerreSculptor's world is actually four times the size of Unreal Engine 3 so the creation size of heightmaps should be planned accordingly.

Tutorial: Importing Detailed Terrain from Google Earth
This tutorial will show you how to extract heightmaps from locations on Google Earth and then import them into Unreal Ed for use in a level.

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