Ok, so now I have a more or less working copy of scened.
After tinkering a bit I have some thoughts:
First of all, I think things like layers for textures and height and other complicated stuff can wait. The texture/height editing interface is too simplistic for lots of tasks, and height in particular doesn't have enough features for even doing basic stuff.
It's kind of obvious from looking at it that you've never made a map before, and it seems like you've probably never even used SME.
The way the texture brush looks is very cool. The solid green circle and the feint appearance of the texture overlayed on it looks very good. It seems to only have one fuzzy circle brush though, no size control for the brush, no scale control for the textures (which may or may not be needed, but is nice to have), and no control over blending strength. It also seems to perform well, although with large brushes and large maps all the programs I've used tend to slow down, so who knows.
Also, undo/redo doesn't seem to work for texture paint, and it might even be good to have seperate undo/redo stacks for each mode (ie texture paint, height, unit/feature placing, etc), although that requires having clear modes that you can shift between and know what will be undone/redone.
Height needs way more controls (brush size, height scaling, mode), the ability to use different brush shapes, etc. There's also no way to make cliffs atm (ie no equivalent to 'set' mode in SME). Support for editing metal maps, terrain type maps etc is also important, but should be fairly simple compared to height and texture and none of those require layers or anything else fancy.
Overall I think it's kind of silly to try to implement a program when you don't really know how it will be used. Some of that is much harder to explain than it is to learn simply by doing. There's lots of reasons I'd rather be using scened instead of SME, too, but that's also hard to understand unless you've actually fought with SME and its interface in the context of actually trying to make a map.
I also had it crash several times.
The worst was under spring 98, which doesn't seem to work for it at all, but I also got a crash under spring 91 when trying to place a wreckage for a mystery unit from ZK. I haven't really used it enough to track down specific problems though.
enetheru wrote:Why re-invent the wheel, there are loads of sculpting applications available that do a top quality job of creating height meshes incuding normals etc. More valuable would be a bridge between these programs, or loading a heightmap and info maps from an image on demand as the simplest most robust solution
edit in zbrush -> export to height.png(16bpp) -> switch windows back to already running spring, reload height!
Well, I can't say I know everything about every program, but there are a few reasons.
First off, programs like blender and zbrush aren't particularly designed for doing terrain and either perform badly or lack features that would be nice for it. Texture paint in blender becomes nearly unusable for large maps, and for maps which have features like mountains. It freezes badly due to the way the brush is applied to the surface (esp when there are large distance differences like the edge of a mountain), and sometimes paints streaks across the map when that was not intended. This is what you get when trying to apply techniques for 3D models to a 2.5D terrain map. Texture layers also don't work in blender currently, or at least I haven't figured out how to make them work.
Height sculpting requires rendering to create a heightmap, the setup for which is more complicated than what I know how to do right now (in blender, and not to mention painfully slow). Overall editing the height map directly as opposed to the mesh is both simpler and more efficient. Other programs may have better features for that, but none of those programs are free AFAIK, or functional enough to be usable with only the trial version (ie terragen, etc). I mostly just use SME, which sucks for all the usual reasons, but it still gets the job done more conveniently than more complicated 3D modelling software. There are also things you could do with height layers that afaik would be impossible using 3D modelling, like applying details to a layer in a pattern, then erasing part of it where you don't want them to show up.
There are other problems and considerations for editing height maps, and some of the stuff I mentioned probably wouldn't work the way I had hoped, but that's beyond what needs to be done right now anyway.
Normals it depends. I haven't had a reason to need to render normals, since I can generate good-enough normals directly from a texture in gimp, and could even make them for an entire map at once. That said, it probably isn't necessary for scened to be able to do that. Specular maps it depends, it might still be easier in some cases just to do those externally but not always. Emit maps though, like being able to paint glowing lava easily with matching diffuse/emit, I don't know of any way of doing it that isn't highly difficult and tedious.
I'd say it's mostly a matter of specialization, and finding the cases where extra convenience and capabilities could be gained and are practical. Being able to hot-plug the various image maps like you can in SME certainly would be useful though. Having to restart the game just to check one stupid change to the map does really suck.