Professional Edition Progress

Those who aren’t in the Alpha team probably haven’t heard too much lately about what I’m up to.

The good news is, quite a bit 🙂

The Professional Edition of WM 1.x, which initially was going to be a rather modest expansion of capabilities to serve the game development/demanding artist market, is shaping up to rather profoundly change how you can interact with World Machine. With massively tiled terrain input/output supported, multithreaded builds and explorations, RGB device support, and other enhancements, there’s already alot there. But by far the coolest new feature is Layout Mode.

Layout Mode will eventually trickle down to the Standard and Basic edition releases as well. It’s ultimately something that is fundamental — it changes how you work with WM. Currently it’s really quite difficult to place specific terrain features in specific locations. Sure, you can hack together a network of Radial Gradients and other geometrical shapes to guide your feature placement, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Up till now, the only real solution has been to create your guideance masks in Photoshop or another app and then load them into WM, which definitely works but is not ideal.
Layout Mode fixes this problem, and lets you graphically design your terrain using vector-based drawing tools. You can create a layout in order to restrict the application of a filter in your pipeline. Or even more importantly, you can use it to create (or augment) your terrain shapes. By working with simple shapes, such as boxes, circles, polygons, spline paths, etc, you can create a resolution-independant specification in world space of the shapes of your terrain. Layout mode then applies fractal breakup algorithms to the shapes you have created to produce realistic looking edges. The output of all this can be used to guide the fractal terrain devices in WM to give them naturally bound edges. Sometimes, you don’t even need to do that — you can run the output from layout mode directly into the Erosion device and get a good looking result!

This is all done in a Google-Maps-style environment of a fixed overhead OpenGL camera that shares a core and terrain data with the Explorer mode. Even in the development mode WM is currently in, Layout mode has quickly become my favorite way to get a quick sense of what the terrain I’m developing looks like, as unlike Explorer you have a God’s Eye view of the terrain. You can then duck into Explorer from Layout and descent from your “place in the clouds” to fly through the world from that point.

The UI for Layout mode is currently embarassingly basic or else I’d post a screenshot. There are several testing cycles with the Alpha test team soon to come that will begin to refine the operations and usability of Layout (and everything else) in Pro. After it reaches a certain feature-complete level, the Beta test will open up.

The Beta test will contain a larger set of people. Included will be game developers, artists and studios, and serious hobbyists, who comprise the essential target market of WM Pro.

The Beta team still has slots open on it; if you’re interested in helping betatest the Pro edition, drop me an email and we can talk further. I’m looking for most likely around a dozen people or so to participate in the testing.