Game developers, 3D artists, cartographers, and anyone who needs a free 3D terrain modeling tool should check out Visual Terrain Maker from UNGSoft Developers Group. Using it, you can create three-dimensional terrain profiles that can be exported as DirectX files or used to create games, interactive maps, landscape views, digital artworks, and more. It's particularly suitable for DarkBasic game programming.
Visual Terrain Maker is a standalone tool that requires no installation, so it's totally portable, too. It opens with a black full-screen interface with a rotating 3D grid display. There are two initial commands: Typing 1 loads a map, and typing 2 creates a new map. Pressing Esc exits the program. We pressed 2, then Enter, and a series of wizardlike steps walked us through the basic parameters of our new map: vertices, width, texture, and so on. When we'd finished, we saved the new map. Typing 1 and pressing Enter called up a standard Windows file-browsing dialog. We clicked on our newly created map, and it opened in Visual Terrain Maker, ready for the fun part, the shaping. We used the tab button to select the shaper tool, which opened with its numerical data displayed in the upper left-hand corner. The right and left mouse buttons control the tool's shape, size, contour, and so on, while the space bar changes between sphere, cone, and other shapes. We were able to drag our map into a smooth 3D hill with a few simple tugs. Pressing F3 saved the map as a DirectX file in a folder of our choice. We were able to return to our map to refine the terrain. As a DirectX file, it was ready to be exported into a wide range of applications. The download includes an HTML-based Help file and some sample images that can help you get the most out of its tools as well as use the maps it creates.
This is a cool tool; no doubt about it. It's extremely easy to use yet also powerful and flexible enough for experienced coders, and the maps it creates are good enough for highly realistic simulations and games. It's free, too. Highly recommended.
From UNGSoft Developers Group:
Visual Terrain Maker is a 3D-modelling program, which allows visually create landscapes (maps) for games and other purposes. The program can export to Direct X file format (*.x). The program is not critical to the video adapters and drivers. Suitable for DarkBasic developers.
What's new in this version:
Version 1.4 features source code examples, and new Help documentation.
Is compatible with Windows 7 Some people seem to have had success with it
The controls and brushes do not seem to do anything Little to no context, not very user friendly Layout makes no sense The save function is broken because the application automatically goes fullscreen, causing the save dialog to go underneath, and requiring to Alt+Tab out of the software to actually save it. Wouldn't be noticeable if I had been able to figure out how to close it, which I couldn't because there isn't any close button.
Not very user friendly and terminology is vague. I know what I'm doing with 3D Models. I could tell you the difference between DAE and 3dxml, I've been on the 3dvia community for many years and know the ups and downs of model creation and editing. I was looking for a free alternative to Vue. I realized that I could use Sketchup and draw contours, but I wanted a visual tool, rather than drawing in 2D. This is not it. Combined with the fact it exports to the rarely used .x format, and that the brushes didn't actually work or create any terrain, like it is supposed to, it's very hard to give this a good rating. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but it sure doesn't seem like it.
Not very intuitive. Actually, completely the opposite of intuitive for first time users. No help file, just start it up and plunge on in.
This is ridiculous! I'm actually going to have to read the instructions on how to use this! Not a classic Windows style of program and very little help, with short prompts on mouse button actions and how to move around the map. The rest seems to be up to you to guess. The web site doesn't help. Make sure you copy off Cnet's description above as it's the closest thing you'll get to a help file.
Tried this on Windows 7 (64 bit). It starts up with the rotating grid. I entered 2, entered a grid size of 100x100 with 2 size for tiles. But when trying to save, load, or click anything, it just hangs. No map, no manipulation of terrain, nothing.