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Speed up your work with the new Terrain Tools Package

May 28, 2019 in Technology | 5 min. read
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We’re excited to introduce the Terrain Tools package (preview) for Unity 2019.1. This package contains over 15 new sculpting tools, as well as a utility toolbox to streamline terrain workflow.

The Terrain Tools package contains brand new sculpting tools and a collection of common-use utilities to help automate tedious tasks.

Existing terrain sculpting tools have been improved with new controls for rotation, spacing and scatter. Strength, size and rotation parameters now have a jitter control to help you add natural variation to your brush strokes. We’ve also added shortcut keys to streamline the terrain brush workflow, providing quick access to common brush controls without needing to fiddle with the Inspector window.

Several new sculpting tools are available when using this package including bridge, clone, noise, terrace, and twist. There are also Erosion tools that modify your height map based on Hydraulic, Wind and Thermal erosion. The package documentation contains details about all the new sculpting tools and how to use them.

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The last major addition included in this package is the Terrain Toolbox. Unity 2018.3 enabled users to paint across multiple terrain tiles. This new feature was awesome but needed some important tooling to help streamline the creation of large terrains requiring many tiles and manage existing scenes with multiple terrain tiles.

The Terrain Toolbox can be launched from Menu > Window > Terrain > Terrain Toolbox. This is a centralized hub for all your terrain-related settings. It helps you create new terrains utilizing preset settings or imported heightmap(s), batch change terrain settings on multiple terrain tiles, and import/export splat-maps and height-maps for improved interoperability between Unity and other digital content creation software.

Installing the Terrain Tools Package

To access the new package, you will need to install the new Terrain Tools package from the Package Manager. Go to Window > Package Manager. Simply find the “Terrain Tools” entry in the list on the left, and click the “Install” button on the lower right of the window.

This package is intended to work with Unity 2019.1. It has only been tested against that release. This package is also in preview and as such is subject to frequent changes (API, UX, scope, etc.) and not covered by traditional Unity support. Please report any issues you find on our forum page instead.

To showcase how to use the Terrain Tools package to sculpt beautiful terrains in Unity let’s walk through an example:

Sculpting a Volcano

Before we get started, let’s set up our brush hotkeys so we can quickly switch between the brushes we’re going to be using the most. I like using the function keys for switching between my sculpting brushes, but with the Shortcut Manager (Edit > Shortcuts menu) you can set these however you’d like.

Now that we have our brush shortcuts set up, let’s start by roughing out the macro shapes for our volcano. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I was inspired by Mt. Saint Helens, which experienced a massive landslide following the eruption in 1980.

I use the new procedural Noise tool to get started by blocking in a rough mountainous shape. I’m not too concerned with the brush settings here - I really just wanted some organic variation, but I did vary the noise offset and scale a bit to create features of varying scale.

I’m happy with the overall composition, but it’s not looking very natural yet, so I’m going to first use the Thermal Erosion tool to smooth out the bumps a bit and allow the sediment to sort of “avalanche” down the steep slopes as it would in real life. Here, I used the “Granite Scree” preset uniformly over the peaks just to make the angles a little more natural, and smooth things out a bit.

Ok, this is starting to look a little more natural, but we’re obviously not there yet; it sort of looks a bit like a pile of sand, rather than a volcanic mountain. Let’s fix that by switching over to the Hydraulic Erosion tool to simulate the effect of eons of rainfall eroding the landscape.

This tool works best at high terrain resolutions, so I’m going to switch the resolution of my terrain tile to 2049 so I can capture as much detail as possible. (Later I can down-res, and maintain most of my erosion details).

As I use the Hydraulic Erosion tool, I adjust the Simulation Scale parameter slightly to add variation in the details. I also fiddle with the Riverbank parameters to vary the shape of the features the tool creates. This is a really complex sculpting tool, so it’s worth spending some time to get familiar with. However, the default settings work well if you just want a quick result.

So after some noodling with these three sculpting tools, the heightmap is starting to look much more recognizable as a volcanic mountain - it just needs some materials. Rather than manually paint in the materials though, let’s export the heightmap using the new TerrainToolbox, and generate the material distribution map in an external app (I used World Machine).

Launch the Terrain Toolbox from the Window > Terrain > Terrain Toolbox menu option, and select the Terrain Utilities tab. The option to export our heightmap can be found at the bottom of the window:

I won’t get into the specifics of my World Machine setup (that’s for another blog post!), but I used a combination of erosion, slope and concavity selection nodes to generate my splat map, using the sculpted heightmap as an input.

World Machine setup

Once we have the splat-map generated, we just import back into Unity using the TerrainToolbox, and we have a nice, snow-capped peak:

Finally, I create neighboring terrain tiles, noodle around some more with the erosion brushes (used the new wind erosion brush to give a natural wind-swept look to the snowy peaks), and add some rolling hills surrounding the main peak (using the same techniques as above).

We hope the tools in the Terrain Tools packages enhance your experience using Unity’s terrain and we can’t wait to see all the spectacular terrains users sculpt.  Stay tuned for future updates from the Terrain Tools team, we have more tools planned for this 2019 cycle that we can’t wait to share with you all!

We’re also looking forward to hearing what you think about our new package on our forum page.

May 28, 2019 in Technology | 5 min. read
Topics covered