To See the Wizard

This post has nothing to do strictly with Pro Edition. It does, however, have alot to do with the Standard and Basic editions that will come out following Pro.

One common problem when people first pick up WM is that, frankly, they’re not quite sure what to do. Some people learn by the “Columbus Method” — they just start clicking and exploring their way through the software until they’re proficient. I learn this way, and I know a lot of people who also do — but there’s also quite a few people who can’t or won’t do this. Maybe they don’t have the time to learn mastery over an app, or maybe they just don’t learn that way.

Whatever the case may be, newbies to WM often end up rather lost.
One possible partial solution to the problem that I’ve been thinking about over the last few days is implementing a New Terrain Wizard. Now, let me first say that I’ve never been a fan of Wizards in the apps I use. They are linear, constricting, and to me feel like they are just “handholding” you through a dumbed-down process.

With that said, I can see ways in which a new Terrain Wizard could guide a newbie through the rough terrain creation process. Imagine the following wizard steps scenario when a new user opens the program and wants to create a terran:

How would you like your terrain to be distributed?

  • Endless terrain everywhere
  • Islands in the Ocean
  • Continents
  • (I’ll handle my own distribution)

What kind of dominant terrain would you like to create?

  • Mountains
  • Buttes and Mesas
  • Desert Dunes
  • (I’ll handle my own terrain shapes)

What kind of overall erosional effects you would like?

  • No erosion
  • Lightly eroded
  • Heavily eroded

How would you like to output the terrain?

  • Use a Heightfield
  • Use a 3D Mesh
  • Use both
  • (Checkbox) Output a normal map for this terrain

Obviously this wizard could never account for all the types of terrain that people might want, or that could be envisioned. However, it gives people a starting point that is going to be hopefully not terribly far off from what they want. If each main “step” of the wizard is eperated into its own functional block (see last blog entry) to keep things organized, I think it might even be quite helpful as a learning tool for newbies to see how things are hooked together to do something.

And after a user gets proficient enough to find the wizard lacking, they’re probably proficient enough to be able to make their own terrains from scratch.

Anyways, this isn’t any kind of guarenteed feature, but the more I think about it the more I like it. What do you guys think?

10 thoughts on “To See the Wizard”

  1. Interesting indeed! So the wizard would wire together devices based on some presets or rules, and pre-set some settings based on these choices? I think it could be pretty cool if it was implemented right. You seem to have a knack for good implementation, so I say go for it. 😉

    – Oshyan

  2. I never liked the wizards… But as a learning tool for WM, I think it is a great idea. If the text of their functional blocks explains the block well enough, it can be excellent.
    Some users have problems to understand how WM works, and this wizard could be what is missing for them to understand the basics…

  3. Don’t forget the “don’t show this again” option :)..
    My thoughts about wizardry is that they tend to become a “modus operandi”.. I mean, If you created something without effort, will you do it the next time by hand? What makes you leave the trusty and reliable wizard, to actually go do things for your self?.. That would work if you *wanted* to learn.. but If you are using WM for the first time, and also are trying to figure it out, and seeing what it does, I think that the wizard start to be a pain in the neck, and afterwards you start thinking WM won’t do anything right, when in fact it’s the wizard’s fault..

    I would favour a learning wizard, like a built-in tutorial or so, that would force the user to do things by him-self. The next time the user wants to do it again, he knows it must be him doing it.. So that way he will have a greater need for learning it through..
    This would mean some sort of interactive tutorial integrated in the help menu or so.. Don’t know..

  4. There are alot of users that still are turned off from using the Node Interface so this would indeed help alot… i do like Fils idea as well about having drop down menu tutorials in a interactive guide and this guide should be educational as well… abit of a lesson in geology could never harm anyone so within the context of the tutorial wizards there should be small photos of real places in the geological world that can realate to the specified selection of each wizard that the user is intreasted in and it can be a simple local terrain about 250 Kilometers or so or a more complex and larger continental scale terrain complete with the 4 Regional Land Types for a more involved user who wishes to get into the advanced stages of terrain creation… Also with Rhalph’s idea of having a explanation of each terrain in the colored boxes shown in the last post as that would work well also… I do like the idea of the wizard being in the help menu rather then it popping up during the program starting as that gets annoying all to often… There should be two types of terrains per Wizard option… One for rules-based real world terrain and one for the more other-worldly more exagerated alien terrains…………………..

  5. Also what would be nice in the wizard steps having the option to mix both light and heavy erosion like in the real world.

    *Use Light/Heavy Erosion Mix

  6. Criss, that all sounds great. The big question is who will create all that instructional content? 😀 Personally I’d rather see WM Pro, etc. come out sooner without that stuff. Seeing as how Stephen is probably the one who’d be creating any of that content, it would surely mean a notable delay in release to include anything more extensive than a wizard. Seeing how few new tutorials have been made recently I don’t have confidence that this even more involved approach would be feasible.

    However, something that might be cooler, and tie into more useful (in general) tech, would be a totally generalized scripting system, and the inclusion of customizable “always on top” text boxes. Using such a system any regular user could record a series of actions and then play it back, pausing whenever they wanted to make a comment. Comment boxes should include the ability to use pictures, maybe even audio. This approaches the level of a generalized screen capture/tutorial making utility, but specific to WM, and the effort is probably at least the equivalent of putting together one or two of said tutorials. The difference is that at the end of it you have a tremendously powerful and most importantly easy to use system that makes “tutorial” writing essentially automatic, and allows you to create “lessons” much, much more easily in the future.

    – Oshyan

  7. Yes! I love the idea of having something like Photoshop Actions as that would work very well… i like that idea alot………… 🙂

    You have to excuse my post… i think to much………. 🙂

  8. Yep- absolutely agree with Oshyan. As I was reading Stephens blog I was having a few identical ideas. 😀 imo The Wizard should serve as a long term code commitment to a generalised system. The Wizard here could be so much more than the usual ‘bolt-on’. I think we could be seeing the beginnings of a paradigm shift for WM, and it’s VERY exciting.
    WM could be like a shader engine (or something- I’m not a programmer). You can have your higher levels of functional generic blocks, but you can also get under the hood with the individual devices if you want to write your own. This setup would address Fil’s concern about dumbing down.
    I also agree with Criss’s idea of the move to real-world geologies: this is one yellow brick road which we’re following:) World Construction Set, and to a greater extent ZBrush, have tutorial writing built into the apps. I think this should be an eventual goal. If a scripting interface or whatever was provided for writing tuts, then users would be empowered to go to the lengths of including photos, etc in their wizards/tuts/macros or whatever, without Stephen having to spend valuable dev time on that.
    It’s great to see a dev like Stephen who is open to quite fundamental changes/modifications. I mean you can have all the features you want: that will give you a powerful car, but the dev is the guy driving it. Very cool!

    monks

  9. Yep, you guys are on it. This is exactly what I’d like to see. And I think the generality of it fits in very well with the typical WM paradigm of “give them the box and let them play in it”, rather than “build your users a sand castle”.

    – Oshyan

  10. why not have it as a option in the pro version as well? If you are trying to learn this program at a company that uses it, it might be helpful for them people like that as well (me).

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