Artificial Terrain Tools & Software Packages
The primary emphasis of these packages is on artistic, synthetic terrain,
although many of them have at least some limited ability to import real-world
- Freeware terrain editor built on the Ogre3D engine.
- Realtime editing. Brushes for shaping terrain and painting texture.
Trees, grass, water, buildings.
- Offers a "open source C++ scene-loader class" for using the
output terrain, as in game projects.
- Several years of development as of 2012.
- As of 2015, it is $20 from DAZ Productions
history stretching back in the 1990s, very popular for many years with a
large user base of hobbyists.
- Although primarily meant for creating abstract, arty landscapes, some later versions did import DEMs.
- see Bryce mentioned also under clouds
- There is very little plant functionality.
Built-in objects include 14 trees, a cactus, and 5 other small plants, not
very detailed. Their better trees use their proprietary volumetric
textures, which aren't exportable. It is difficult to distribute
and "plant" trees on the terrain.
- in mid-2005, DAZ took this old software (previously Corel, etc.) and
gave it a fresh release
- $50 for Windows
- Realtime 3D heightmap editor and painter, makes 'maps'
up to 4k*4k, with freehand tools for raise/lower/smoothing, freehand painting
of terrain color and up to four detail textures. User interface is
very fast and smooth.
- Outputs to its own ascii map format, 16-bit PNG, or .OBJ. Imports
from image formats.
- Fractal Terrains
- $40 from ProFantasy Software, or $145 if bundled with their main product,
Campaign Cartographer (CC2 Pro)
- the application's main purpose is creating maps for games
- "Starting from a random world, real-Earth data, or a flat plain,
you can 'paint' altitude or climate adjustments"
- includes river networks, a scripting language, and (surprisingly for
a artificial game-oriented software) 25 map projections
- exports to "an image, animation, icosahedral, or VRML"
Grome ("Ground Modeling Environment")
- €540 standard, €190 for small developers
- Procedural creation of geometry using fractal algorithms and natural
erosion, procedural textures, creates shadowmaps, distribute objects including
- UI looks quite powerful and complex; oriented towards game developers
- It has a closely-related middleware,
Graphite Renderer, based on D3D
by Aaron Torpy
- Generates artificial heightfields, including surface materials and water.
- High-level control: Sea vs. Land, Flat vs. Mountains, Rolling vs. Jagged,
Wet vs. Dry
- Heightfield brush tools for finer control
- Freeware for Windows, with Professional versions for $35/$150
- Imports and exports and very large number of formats, including BT,
TerraGen, HFF (L3DT), bitmap, and JPEG, with export to 3D model formats
.obj, .b3d, .3ds, .X, GLScene and others.
- Includes a realtime viewer.
- A small amount of geo-support allows it to import SRTM.
- The pro version handles really big maps, up to 131,072*131,072 for heightfield,
2M × 2M for the texture with a paging system.
by Florian Bösch
- Open-source GPU driven terrain generator, to create and export material
textures and heightmaps.
- The terrain algorithms are implemented as GLSL fragment shaders, operating
on floating point textures, which allows realtime modification of the terrain.
- PnP TerrainCreator
- tool for creation of terrain, manually as well as automated/randomized
terrain generation including heightmaps, texturing, vegetation, seas and
rivers, static objects and environmental sounds
- For Windows; free version available with limitations; €45 / €170 for
- a popular non-commercial raytracing package, which some people use for
- GT is a GUI for using
The Genesis Toolkit,
which works with heightfields and vegetation for POV-Ray scenes
T.ED Terrain and
- simple heightfield editor, $21 for Windows
- up to 1024*1024 heightfields, texture by height and slope, painting
of layered textures
- export to B3D and .X
- creates and saves shadowmaps, also claims to produce overhangs
/ Terragen 2
- Fractal landscape generator/renderer from Planetside Software,
$200-$700 depending on use
- Classic version did nice
clouds (2D layers) and good sunsets, and import heightfields up to 4097x4097.
- Version 2 added full 3D volumetric clouds and
unlimited terrain size, up to a full planet.
- Version 3 added a new DEM system, to natively load and georeference
a large variety of elevation formats.
- Emphasis is on non-realtime rendering with beautiful lighting, gets
a lot of use in movies etc.
- Has it's own
file format, as well as supporting standard image formats
- Has a large community of enthusiastic users, producing beautiful images,
and sharing elevation files.
- $120, for Windows
- "Create large voluminous terrain meshes... create overhangs, caves,
or an endless labyrinth of tunnels with a few mouse clicks."
- Exports to mesh formats (FBX, OBJ, 3DS, DXF, DAE), DDS volume textures,
and raw voxel data
- A line of software from E-on
software, from $100 to $600 depending on product
- Attractive non-realtime landscape renderer
- Volumetric clouds, nice height-map editor with sophisticated erosion
tools, simple interface
- Plants are very realistic, up to 50 of them are included depending on
- One drawback: i was unable to get it to import any USGS DEM in 2000,
although it is probably fixed later (2006). The product literature
doesn't distinguish between "DEM" and "2D import",
which implies that they don't handle geographic coordinates at all.
- In 2010, they produced a version of Vue + CityEngine (for $300) but
this later disappeared, probably when CityEngine was bought by ESRI.
- Makes landscapes, with "semi-scientific erosion algorithms"
and extensive artistic control of the process.
- The demo videos show powerful-looking terraffectors for vector paths
- This is the latest version of the older package called 'GeoControl'
- €150 'Indie' version, €500 for Enterprise.
- $180 standard / $500 pro version, from
Digital Element, although apparently no longer sold directly.
- Can read DEM, handle terrain grids up to 4000x4000.
- Very beautiful output rendering, supports multiprocessor.
- "Geomorphic smoothing of landscape surface, simulation of water
- Automatic and manual road generation.
- Plants ("over 100 L-System generated 3D vegetation specimens")
look good, placement of grass well done. The L-System language
is built-in and specific to WorldBuilder, so the set of possible plants
is not easily extended. Individual species are sold for $40 each (!)
- Water system includes options for ripples, varying color dependent upon
water depth and refraction
- World Construction Set
- $500 from 3D Nature
- landscape creation and rendering with rock, trees, vegetation, moving
water and evolving clouds (volumetric clouds, cloud shadows animated on
- Terraffector™ technology lets you change the terrain by drawing
vectors directly onto the landscape.
- Sun and moon, moon phases, tides.
- Always renders true spherical terrain.
- Can drape satellite imagery, import DLG for major roads, streams, railroads,
- LightWave and 3D Studio MAX scene import/export
- For working with real places or serious GIS data, 3D Nature offers a
more professional product, Visual Nature Studio, listed on
- A terrain heightfield generator, for Windows, $90 Standard / $180 Pro
- Uses an interesting graph-based visual design approach, connecting a
series of operations (noise, erosion etc.) in a easy-to-use visual manner
- Imports/exports to Raw, TGA, BMP, Leveller, and Terragen
- 2D & OpenGL views, many Perlin Noise generator styles, weathering
and fluvial erosion, real-time previews of all adjustments
Older / Historical
- Was $85 standard / $1200 for commercial use, free for non-commercial use,
from iLuaC software (France)
- generates and does realtime rendering of strange alien terrain, with
- unlike most of the other programs of its type, the rendering is full
quality in realtime
- appears to have been updated up to 2003
- Alias Maya / Terraformer
- apparently 'Terraformer" was a powerful module, for creating
terrain with water and vegetation, once bundled with Alias Power Animator,
not later mentioned on the Alias site
- later, Maya contained a module 'Artisan' which allowedyou to "paint"
and "sculpt" terrain surfaces, even non-heightfields like caves
- open-source project which focused on simulating artificial life, but
does so in an environment with terrain simulation features: flowing rivers,
water currents, cloud formation and rain, and reproducing plants that grow
in real time
- built with Delphi and GLScene
- apparently was active from 2002 to 2003, now dormant at version 1.0.1
- was at www.dreamlands.to (Tanzanite Software); apparently gone as of
- generates "a variety of heightmaps and texturemaps"
- free for small output; $100 or more for large output
- also generates lightmaps and normalmaps, and can produce spherical output
- formats are .raw and .bmp, and .3ds for model otput
- was $30 for Windows
- create and edit heightfields up to 2048*2048, paint with textures, cast
shadows, place 3D models, distribute plants, procedural roads
- import and export of heightfields is via "BMP, 8bit RAW, 16bit
RAW and 32bit RAW", or export to a number of 3D model formats (3DS,
OBJ, X, etc.)
- strongly OpenGL-based
- Gscape Real-time Procedural World Editor (2002-2004)
- includes a GUI editing environment and a DLL which can be used by other
- both are free for non-commercial use
- features include blending of surface textures, attractive water, procedural
and billboard vegetation that casts shadows, and sky colors by time of day
- does not import or export any kind of data, so it is not meant for use
with actual terrain
- the DLL does not provide direct access to the heightfield, so it is
not possible to work around the lack of an import feature
- website at www.gscape.com vanished by 2004
- MojoWorld (1990s - 2012)
/ $200 academic, from Pandromeda, Inc., for Mac or Windows
- generates beautiful artificial landscapes, at any level of detail from
whole planets to tiny details
- interactively fly freely around a subsample of the landscape, then render
a full-detail image on demand
- extra modules like MojoTree ($70) and MojoMove ($100) add features,
e.g. trees and animation
was a a free experimental volumetric rendering engine, interfaced as a plugin
- produced photorealistic, painted-like, and completely abstract images
of clouds and isosurfaces
- a collection of rendering, math, and texturing functions that "grow"
3-D planets, and vegetation
- claims "true reflections, realistic trees, zero distortion terrain
- $215 license for the source code
- the great-grandfather of non-realtime terrain rendering programs, from
the mid-1980s, which has gone through many different hands, although the
UI looks much the same as it did in 1990
- Apparently still had a user base as of 2004. At one point in 2005, it
was $50 from a company called VendorNation.
- Similar to Bryce, WCS etc. but less sophisticated and now very cheap
- reads only single DEMs and image formats, capable of decent water surfaces
- Voxel World
- a small freeware terrain and volumetric atmosphere/cloud rendering program
by Dmytry Lavrov
- did 3D light and 3D fog in near-realtime (software rendering)
- the author explains: despite the name, "actually voxelworld doesn't
do any caves, only fog is voxel and landscape is just heightfield."
- interface and docs are very minimal
- a non-commercial project, begun 1997, to produce a number of fantasy
worlds, with open-source servers and clients
- 3D clients included XClient (Linux, Win32) and Geosil (Linux,
Win32, BeOS, Mac)
- didn't have much world creation software