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Adding Even More Detail

A major advantage of using Games Engine technology is the in-built ability to model real world environments to a highly realistic level of detail. This means that there are readily available capabilities to add ground textures, vegetation, sky boxes etc.. In addition there are also more advanced possibilities such as the representation of flowing water, camera effects and automated behaviours for particular entities. In the Explore level we have started to use some of these features.

An important example of this is for rivers with an animated texture that adapts to the terrain that it is flowing across. Thus the width of the river is automatically calculated, waterfalls are automatically created based on gradient and turbulent eddies produced at the edges and around obstacles such as rocks. Whilst we are in the early stages of working with this, and there is certainly scope for improvement, we are happy with the initial results we have produced.

Detailed modelling of Swart Beck

The modelling of buildings presents some interesting challenges. As mentioned previously, we are linking to Open Street Map (OSM) to provide the locations and overall size of buildings, however this does not provide much information on the shape and overall nature of the building. It is possible to add this by improving the geometry and adding textures. We use a separate application for modelling the geometry of the buildings and identifying where textures should be applied, these models are then imported to the Games Engine with suitable textures automatically set to regions of the model.

The effort required to model a building in this way rises quickly with the level of detail and thus a delicate balance needs to be stuck between providing a good sense of place and a practical level of effort. The current feeling is that this needs to go beyond the OSM “blocks” that are imported to a basic shape, as shown for The Base hostel above. More detailed representations are then reserved for the next level of detail that we term Experience. An example of this level of detail is shown below.

Experience Level Building Detail

High fidelity modelling coupled with signs, labels and information panels allows for a great deal of information about a business to be communicated through the model. Ultimately there is no limit to the level of detail that can be represented, which should provide some interesting opportunities moving forward.

The Games Engine also allows behaviour to be assigned to parts of the model. This can range from simple actions, such as the way that the labels applied to Fells, Buildings, Rivers etc.. always face the viewing direction, to more complex characteristics such as the adjustment of lighting when a room is entered or opening a gate as it is approached.

Gate Opening Triggered on Approach

This initial work on the Explore level has been highly encouraging and we look forward to evolving and expanding.

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