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Submitted by Francis Shanahan, posted on October 05, 2000

Image Description, by Francis Shanahan

This is a shot of some landscape I've created using the OGLM tool. Last weekend I implemented spectral synthesis using a paper I found on the web. It's pretty cool the way it works. You take a grid and gradually add height values to the grid. Each pass adds more detail to the landscape. I'll create a tutorial on this and post it soon on the but for now you'll have to make do with this juicy shot.

Image of the Day Gallery


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Archive Notice: This thread is old and no longer active. It is here for reference purposes. This thread was created on an older version of the flipcode forums, before the site closed in 2005. Please keep that in mind as you view this thread, as many of the topics and opinions may be outdated.

October 05, 2000, 05:35 AM


yeah, well...

it's uhh... definitely a screenshot I guess.


October 05, 2000, 06:42 AM

Throw in Max the juggeler in that landscape engine. :)
He could add some lighting effects with his burning torches.
But watch out.. he could easily burn your grass hills if he dropped one of them.

The Wolf

October 05, 2000, 06:49 AM

nice :)

it could use some environment effects and lighting

Francis Shanahan

October 05, 2000, 10:20 AM

Yes I agree, it could use some more effects. This was a quick image I ran off right after completing development on the algorithm. Here's a slightly better one:


October 05, 2000, 10:30 AM

yes the second one is much better, even with the outline


October 05, 2000, 11:01 AM

better??? only because of the background?? not realy.....! lets say, its just different.

Francis Shanahan

October 05, 2000, 12:57 PM

No appreciation for hard #@$!-damn work.


October 05, 2000, 01:10 PM

Francis: Just wanted to let you know that i like it and hard work is always appriciated by me at least :)

good luck with it.


October 05, 2000, 01:59 PM

nice screenshot, i'm working on something like that, but i'm trying to implement some sort of edge detection, that can use just one little texture to generate terrains the way you can see in the IOTD 9-21-2000 on the bottom right side. Does anyone know how to do that without generating one texture for each n-spaced rectangle of the heightmap grid, without using multitexturing or something like that?


October 05, 2000, 02:42 PM

Francis: Don't bee too discouraged. Most of the people who comment on here are only looking for neat eyecandy and don't even understand what algorithmic development is all about. Now, I'm somewhat interested in this landscape detail technique you refer to - any chance you could give a pointer to the paper you read? Thanks!

Francis Shanahan

October 05, 2000, 03:19 PM

Thanks for the encouragement. I would include a pointer to the paper but I can't remember where I found it. Search on google for things like: terrain coordinate generation, spectral synthesis and you should find plenty of references. I'll be documenting this whole thing in a tutorial on my site


Lourens Veen

October 05, 2000, 03:20 PM

How is your algorithm different from recursive subdivision?

Francis Shanahan

October 05, 2000, 03:25 PM

The diamond plasma algo ( or subdivision ) is a one pass random algorithm. It's difficult to control the level of detail with this and each time you run it you get completely different results. With spectral synth you get to run multiple passes, each one adds to the detail of the landscape hence you can control the landscape a little better.

Marco Al

October 05, 2000, 03:26 PM

The second picture does look a lot better, not because of the background but because the ground texture looks a lot more interesting. The background is a bit jarring because of the low rez, but with the lining it adds a surreal feel.

Your description reminds me of Hierarchical Fractal Surface Generation.


Marco Al

October 05, 2000, 03:27 PM

Oops at least it did till I read your later discription :) Sorry.

Mike W

October 05, 2000, 04:33 PM

Is there some reason that some people only post negative stuff on these? I know there's a lot of positive stuff, which is great, but we don't really need stuff like " uhm...yeah, well... it's uhh... definitely a screenshot I guess. ". There are quite a few reasons, like do the authors of these types of messages know what the screenshot is trying to show? There's no point in putting environment mapping, lens flares, or other eye candy into a picture that's there to represent an algorithm. I personally think that the screenshot does everything that I think it was supposed to. Without personally knowing Francis (can I call you Francis?), but by seeing his other work, it seems like he could have added this if he wanted to, but there's not much point.

The next question is, have you ever worked on some of these types of algorithms, and have you ever done better than this? Even if you have, have you ever been at this stage (this isn't referring to this screenshot, but others--I've already explained I think this is fine, and look forward to the tutorial!)? I get the impression that most of the negative comments posted here are by people with little experience in the area. In fact, I doubt that they have any experience socially, or in other fields. Haven't they ever heard the "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all." saying?

If you're one of those people, and think that I'm being too harsh, I don't care! Here's a guy that has the guts to put up a screenshot, and write (excellent) tutorials on his web site. Can you really say that he's not doing enough? If it were my work, and it served its purpose, I wouldn't want people to be complete jerks about it--constructive criticism is fine, but there's a fine line between that and being a dumbass.

Go ahead and flame me, I've made my point and said something about it. Francis did too, which is really good--too many people are negative to everybody else's work, and brag of their own. Then again, most of the people that post on this board are really constructive in their criticisms or their praise.

Mike Weber

Francis Shanahan

October 05, 2000, 04:42 PM

Thanks Mike I really appreciate your support.


October 05, 2000, 05:05 PM

Thanks Mike you saved me a lot of typing.

Great work Francis. keep them coming.

Richard Szalay

October 05, 2000, 05:36 PM

Mike: Well said, I feel insulted myself when I read those kinds of messages. I couldn't have said it better myself.

I am *very* interested to learn about this algorithm you talk about. Love the screenshot, try and see how far you can take this algorithm (detail-wise) :) I can't wait for the tutorial.

Keep up the good work

Richard Szalay
Programmer of stuff...


October 05, 2000, 05:44 PM

Ahem... I don't see anything, only a nice red cross?? :)

* Richard hits F5 button...

Ah.. Now I can see it :) Nice peace of work!

Søren Hannibal

October 05, 2000, 06:02 PM

I agree completely. My own engine looks terrible and is slow, but have some neat technical features (IMHO), which is what I have focused on.

I wouldn't expect my non-programmer friends to be impressed by it, but if I posted about it here I would expect people to appreciate it for what it is. Even without particle systems, lensflares, and lightmaps.

Warren Marshall

October 05, 2000, 07:41 PM

Yeah, I agree 100%.

Actually posting negative comments is OK ... as long as they're constructive. Which none of the ones in this thread are.

Jukka Liimatta

October 05, 2000, 09:02 PM

I believe, that the image _was_ quite basic looking, eye candy or not. I decided to hold my peace, since I don't believe in putting people's hard work and effort down.

But, I also believe, that if we just tell someone his work is cool, when it's in our opinions is quite basic ( even if we are wrong! ), we are LYING to the person.

LYING is bad, he has a false illusion that people feel the work IS tres-cool, and don't find ways to IMPROVE the work. If the code doesn't need improving, the textures and presentation certainly does.

The presentation obviously was not a very strong one, anyone disagree? If the code IS good, then the person should improve the presentation to get the appreciation he DESERVES.

Just my $.02

Francis Shanahan

October 05, 2000, 10:21 PM

Here's some links which describes the algo, someone was good enough to post these links on my site ( )


Michael Kurth

October 06, 2000, 12:24 AM

If Francis had posted the screenshot of his terrain and said "Hey guys, how do you like my ground texture and sky dome" and we all said "Its looks great! Keep up the good work!" - then yes, we would be lying. But his screenshot is demonstrating his spectral synthesis terrain, therefore any harsh criticism of his ground texture or background is totally rediculous.

It's called "Programmer Art" for a reason. Yes its bad, but its there so the programmer can visualize what is going on while the algorithm is in development.


October 06, 2000, 09:25 AM

wow, a lot of responses since mine...and so forceful! oooo baby I like it when you talk like that! sorry was I thinking out loud again?
in answer to the follow-up of my response:
there was a lot more to the second image than just a BG
and I agree with "Mike W", constructive criticism is supposed to HELP not HINDER. Some of those comments, if put to a sensitive beginner might have been very discouraging, and the world might have lost a possible future Gaming Guru, Imagine what the world might be like without Id...

besides it's been said many times on this very website that this is precisely what this IOTD is for, beginners... and how many beginners are going to post shots of projects if all they get is some sarcastic remark from someone who doesn't understand what he/she is looking at?

as an artist, I agree it wasn't much for eye candy, but as an artist who understands the art of programming, I also understand that there is more to a screenshot than meets the eye. ask instead things like how fast is it? can the special effects be added easily and seamlessly? what will it be like after optimization? comment on: gee those hills look very smooth that looks like a high level of detail...

Adam Hoult

October 06, 2000, 10:59 AM

I'd just like to say something in response to the first comment. I see from his website that he is trying to be taken seriously in his goal of being a games programmer. The site gives us a semi professional impression of this guys company, and they seem to be working with some high profile companies. However it damages his business by saying things as he did. People will remember his "Holier than thou" attitude and possibly steer clear of his work.. Can you imagine if John Carmack came onto a messageboard and started criticising (non-constructively) someones work based on a screenshot, (and quite how you criticise someones ALGORITHM because you don't like the screenshot is beyond me.) there would be an uproar, and people would think twice about supporting him (in any way, not just buying his products). Of course he may be able to do what you've done in his sleep, but thats not the point. The IOTD allows programmers/artists etc showcase their hard work, and ANYONE who has the courage to place their work in full public view, especially amongst their peers, deserve the common curtesy of not being put down. ANYTHING you do is an achievement. Whether others see it as being "good" or not is irrelivant.... I for one congratulate Francis on his hard work on his synthesis algo's (something which I'm interested in getting into after my current project). I also cannot give any constructive criticism on his work, because I do not know enough about what he's done to be able to comment, as it should be.

A while back, I posted a screenshot on IOTD of my Half Life level viewer. This was my first ever venture into 3D, and i was extremely proud of the results. I was actually surprised to find that i did recieve some good constructive criticism, and not a flame every other comment, which is what these boards are for. Which brings me to my final point that if you're going to criticise, it should only be constructive, not to put the original poster down as this will serve no purpose at all (except in your own mind, because now you feel superior to them). Again i will repeat what someone said earlier. "If you have nothing good to say, don't bother saying it".. Remembering that CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is a good thing.

Anyway, i'll climb down from my 20ft Soap box now and let you all get on with your hard work =)

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