Dinosaur Island terrain displayed in false colors.
Above is a view of Dinosaur Island with the different terrain types displayed in vivid or ‘false colors’. Below is a view of the same terrain types displayed as a transparency over the elevation map of the island.
The terrain of Dinosaur Island displayed as a transparency over the elevation map.
Terrain type legend.
The color legend of the different terrain types is at left.
This is exciting news! Well, it is for us on the team because it means that we now have the tools to rapidly create islands and ‘paint’ with the different terrain types. This should be exciting news for you, too, because this means that users (like you) can create your own Dinosaur Islands, too!
So, what’s next?
We will be adding the interface so we can start ‘planting’ vegetation around the island. Every plant grows only in certain terrains. Now you know why we had to create the ‘terrain map’ of Dinosaur Island first.
You know what happens after we add the plants? We start adding the dinosaurs that live on the plants!
Building a swamp on Dinosaur Island.
Today’s post shows a screen shot of the process of building up a swamp on Dinosaur Island. The dark blue area is salt water. The alternating brown and yellow bands are sandy and swampy areas. This process was automated by using a “flood fill” algorithm that is now built into the Dinosaur Island program.
Building Dinosaur Island: a look at how terrain, elevation and environmental models are built.
This is the first peek behind the scenes where you can see how we are building Dinosaur Island. This will be either really cool, or really boring, so hang on. If you’re a nerd at heart and want to learn how these types of programs are written then today’s post is for you. If this is the kind of thing that bores you to tears you should probably go check out the Dinosaurs in the News section; lots of cool stuff there.
We have been writing M&S (Modeling & Simulation) programs since the mid 1980s. M&S programs are used to model very complex environments and behaviors. For many years we have been working on high-end wargames and emergency disaster simulations for the U.S. Department of Defense, DARPA and other government organizations. While Dinosaur Island doesn’t seem like an M&S program, it really is. In fact, we are modeling Dinosaur Island in greater detail than any of the programs that we’ve done in the past.
For every square meter of Dinosaur Island we need to know:
- The elevation (in meters).
- The type of terrain (swamp, forest, fresh water, etc.).
- The vegetation (every plant and where it is in its life cycle).
- Any dinosaurs (or considering their size, any parts of dinosaurs in this particular square meter).
This, obviously, is a lot of data. So, one of the first tasks in creating a very large M&S project like Dinosaur Island is to first create the tools that facilitate entering all this data. In the picture at the top of today’s post is a screen shot of the Dinosaur Island editing software. This allows us to read in bitmap files (BMPs) that are 2,000 x 2,000 pixels, convert them to height maps and use the data to display the resulting landscape. Next, we can start adding different terrain types (in the above picture, we’ve just added the salt water and fresh water areas on the island).
We traditionally make these editors available to the users (that’s you) to create their own models and environments. How would you like to make your own Dinosaur Island?
As we discussed in a previous post, Dinosaur Island will be 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers. We have also decided to let the users (that’s you!) create their own islands! Ed Isenberg, who has worked with me since 1986 on numerous computer games, has created the first ‘maps’ for Dinosaur Island and then has rendered them in 3D. We are using a standard 256 grayscale bitmap, PNG or GIF file as the ‘map’.
Dinosaur Island (Version 1) by Ed Isenberg
And this is the 256 levels of grayscale ‘map’ that Ed created from which the 3D image (above) was rendered.
Below is Ed’s idea for a volcanic Dinosaur Island.
Volcanic Dinosaur Island created by Ed Isenberg.
And the 256 gray scale map that Ed created from which the 3D image, above, was rendered.