A Landscape Generation Wizard for Terragen
Supervisor: Prof Ken Turner
Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of
Master of Science in Advanced Computing
Department of Computing Science and Mathematics
University of Stirling
Terragen is a widely used tool for creating stunning landscapes and even planetscapes. It is
the fourth iteration of the Terragen rendering technology. With each new version, it becomes
more powerful and more flexible. However, one disadvantage also appears. With so many
checkboxes, buttons and options, the tool is very complex to use. It is easy to make a small
mistake in a setting, resulting in a meaningless image.
The objective of this project was to build a higher-level, human-oriented way of describing
landscapes (Landscape Generation Wizard). For example, the user can choose the depth of
lake to be shallow, rather than set the value to 100, which is too detailed and unhelpful. A
Java based application was created to provide users a clear and easy-to-use interface without
complicated landscape terminology or settings.
The first step was to learn how to use the complicated Terragen tool with the help of an
online tutorial and the help contents of Terragen itself. During the learning process, some
key requirements were gathered. According to these requirements, a simple GUI was
designed. Then, research was carried out to try to manipulate Terragen-readable project
files. The format of Terragen project file (with the extension of TGD) is XML-based.
Therefore, Xerces2 (a common XML Java Parser) was introduced into the project in order to
modify and create the TGD file. Constant unit testing was performed to assure every part of
the application functioned accurately. In addition, usability and functionality testing were
performed at the end of the implementation stage. An iterative method was behaved
throughout the whole project.
A simple and easy-to-use Java application has been successfully achieved, which meets all
the initial requirements. Users can manipulate a great landscape project with only several
clicks quickly. Another file format - Terragen Wizard (TGW) - was created later, dedicated
to the Terragen Wizard (TerraWiz) itself. Moreover, other features were added such as
language and mode switching.