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I hate Terrain Builder… Just sayin’

Rock

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I seem to go months between blog posts but it does give me time to generate things to talk about so maybe it’s not that bad?

Regular followers will likely have seen my recent social media posts about the Bovington Test Area map we’ve been developing. It seems to have generated a lot of interest and associated demands (more on that later) but since Islands aren’t exactly what I’m known for I thought I’d explain what happened and why.

20200511093608_1.jpgBovington came up one night when MikePheonix and I were talking about testing our respective vehicles.  I’d made a comment about how none of the islands really have the terrain resolution to push the limits of the vehicles and it would be nice to have some sort of dedicated test area. Mike immediately said Bovington.

I blame MikePheonix for the whole damn thing

Now at the time I was considering making another area for pretty much this exact purpose.  But something much larger and I was having problems getting DEM (Digital Elevation Map) data for the areas I wanted (Yes, I am being cagey about that so as not to commit to anything) But amazingly I managed to get 1m resolution maps of Bovington almost immediately. So just as an experiment I put it into L3DT and 24hours later I had the basic map in game and useable.  It wasn’t pretty.  But the data was clean and it was really interesting and fun to drive around so I decided to run with it.  This is where I start to blame MikePheonix for the whole damn thing.

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Mike even said publically that if i made the island he would populate it.  Sadly its not worked out quite that way.  Mike is making objects for it.  But the limiter is really the tools.  Terrain Builder is really not collaboration friendly.  There are some community made tools out there that make things easier eg Plopper (Really unfortuate name) but incredibly useful. But again add an extra layer of complexity to learn and adapt your workflow to. I'd love to know how the internal BIS team do it. I know they have a different toolset to the public ArmA tools but I am curious about how they manage and merge the work from several developers worth at the same time on the same maps.

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I’ve been tinkering with Islands since ArmA1 days.  And not really produced something I actually felt happy to release but it has been the catalyst to make objects and buildings in the past.

Anyway, enough preamble. Making Bovington may have been a  happy accident. But using terrain build is not a happy experience!! Making the map wasn’t something I had planned and had the first version of the island I got in-game had it not been as much fun to drive around on and muck about we wouldn’t be talking about it now.  The process of develeoping the island past that initial point really wasn’t easy or much fun…

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Terrain Builder crashes a lot.

The tv4p files seem to become corrupt with depressingly regularity. The programme refuses to save files without any error boxes or warning. It crashes without explanation and one minute its fine the next it won’t save. But doesnt say why. Or something random happens and you are left wondering what the hell did I do? And the undo button doesnt seem to work. 

But in the long run it will be worth it...maybe...if i dont die of frustration first.  I've had to rebuild from the WRP atleast twice now as the terrain builder files either wont open or save. Its frustrating as hell.  My advice, take lots of backups. 

20200507132536_1.jpgBovington Test Area is a small map. Its 4.096kmx 4.096km. its got a 1m terrain resolution which may seem like overkill but I think its worth it as the terrain is interesting and fun to drive on.  I recently watched Farsight spend nearly 3 hours driving various vehicles around it laughing his ass off most of the time.

From day one, the Bovington map was all about testing the vehicles.  Originally, I had no intention of releasing it to the public.  It was supposed to be for MikePheonix and I to test on. Then a few other people asked for a copy.  And as I started adding things, I watched their interest seeming to grow. And suggestions came in thich and fast. Now I usually don’t respond well when people start with “You need to add X, Y and Z” because 85% of the time its not something I want or think is realistic. Its my project after all.  And if it expands the scope to be something I wont ever use then I dont tend to add it.  But in this instance almost everyone that knew about the side project suggested something that made the idea better.  Or at least I could see the logic in adding it. But suggestions like this, meant I added the 25m and 600m ranges. Including the need for some custom objects too.  Then came the 1200m vehicle firing range in the north east. A late-night conversation with Farsight convinced me to make the map a bit more infantry friendly. Adding in some details and features that could be fun. Puddles and ponds appeared to be something that everyone expected to see and want. So I’ve added them. And it does add to the feel it.

Several people suggested expanding the map to support coastline and full size airbases. I'm sorry but these were immediately dropped. Expanding the map meant reducing the terrain resolution which is the most important part of the map. And entire reason for me continuing with it.  it needs to be rough and random to be able to test vehicles.  Smoothing it out defeats the purpose of the terrain.

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Several British groups I know have said they would like to use it as their own home rotation map and made some very specific requests but I’ve said no to almost all of these. So many people want and continue to demand features outside of the things Mike and I want from the map I’ve decided to leave it fairly open so people can add their own compositions in the editor. I think its the best way to make sure it does get finished.

Thanks to many people in this community making Islands in ArmA 3 is relatively easy; there are some really detailed tutorials on how to do it.  But making good, credible, believable islands is gloriously hard to do convincingly.  I take my hat off to the likes of Ivan Buchta of BIS, Blud and others from the community that specialise in this.  It is amazingly hard to make something that feels credible and realistic. By the time you get to play on Bovington I'm hoping it with be believable. But I'm not sure it will be upto the standards of Livonia or some of the other BIS or premium community maps.  But I do hope it will be fun to use.

Rock (in isolation)

May 2020

 



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