We firmly believe that the future of terrain editing lies in a non destructive object based workflow. As long-time Unity users we have been working on a next gen terrain editor that combines brushed and generative workflows into a perfect hybrid. Having both these workflows operating inside a non destructive object based system allows us to overcome the shortcomings that these techniques have on their own.
A Stamp in Atlas is a bundle of textures that articulates a piece of terrain, it includes heightmap data and a range of masks that you can use for your splatmaps. The Stamp lives on a regular GameObject which means that you can move / rotate and scale them just like any other GameObject.
It's easy to create your own stamp assets. You can use textures of stamps that we provide or generate your own using your favorite terrain generator or perhaps you are looking to use satellite data. Its all possible since the stamps only require at least a heightmap to work.
Real-time editing is done within a preview box, the box acts as a camera that sees your stamps, renders them and allows you to view the result as a terrain. Rendering is done on the GPU and it uses an underlying Unity terrain to show the result, which means that the collision and the splatmaps work in real time while editing.
In addition, you can turn the preview box on and off on demand so you can save resources while not editing your terrain.
Roads should probably make the height go towards the spline at all times. The mountains on the other hand should most likely punch through the heightmap and craters should probably only lower the height of your terrain.
This logic is handled through blend modes and we have 5 modes to choose from.
Atlas comes with full splatmap control, each stamp contains multiple masks that you can use to compose your splatmaps, these masks can range from Erosion to Slope and curvature or anything else this stamp wants to express.
You can add as many layers as you want to write to your splatmap, each layer can be adjusted to your taste, which means you can filter a specific slope section and increase the sharpness of your erosion lines.
In Atlas you can brush the opacity of your stamps. This is especially handy when you want to isolate a specific piece out of a stamp or when you need to make a couple of stamps fit better. You can always revert back to the previous mask or jump back to the original mask, so feel free to make a mess, no harm done.
In short mask painting is here to cover your back in difficult situations.
Stamps in Atlas are regular GameObjects and as you would expect you can drag them to your project panel and turn them into a prefab.
This allows you to structure the way your level is built; you can group stamps, combine stamps with other prefabs like buildings or lakes and especially reuse the things you build throughout your project.
Atlas would not be complete without spline support. The spline stamp offers the same functionality as regular stamps, the only difference is that the stamp will now be orientated as a spline instead of a square.
Consider using spline stamps to build road networks, rivers, ridges, coast lines, or cliffs. It's all possible and can be very powerful when used correctly.
Atlas can generate a mesh from your spline, use this to create your road meshes and/or river meshes.
The settings with which you export the mesh can be customized separately; for rivers, you may want your mesh to be a little wider than the stamp itself whereas roads might need a small height offset or other tiling values.
Atlas applies straight onto Unity terrain, each terrain will render at full resolution. You can use as many terrains as you want and they don't need to share the same settings. Atlas will automatically render seamlessly when your terrain is placed side by side, there's no stitching required.
To make Atlas ready for the future it provides you with extra textures you can export for more advanced terrain solutions.
These should provide enough information to articulate pretty much any terrain that is heightmap based.
While global color map can give huge improvements of the uniqueness your terrain can also express to a global normal map that will make your terrain look sharp and crisp from far away.
Atlas also provides up to 16 splatmaps if your terrain shader supports it.
Atlas comes with basic scattering system in which each terrain contains a list of scatter rules.
Each scatter rule can be a biome like palm trees on a beach or a dense pine forest and can be filtered using a target splatmap, range sliders for height and slope and an ignore tag.
Scattering is 'hierarchy' based, which means you can first scatter a bunch of big trees, those big trees can then scatter smaller trees and so on, this works a bit more like nature in real life compared to just noise based scattering.
Details such as tiny rocks and billboard grass can also be scattered via a density value. All scattered objects can cull each other so you don't have overlaps.
Scattering is also non invasive, which means that you can manually place your special trees without the scattering system removing them whenever it scatters again.
Atlas renders using a fixed resolution, which means that regardless of the size of your terrain, your performance will stay the same.
The preview box is split in 2 parts, on one side you have your total preview area which shows your whole terrain at a lower resolution and on the other side you have a smaller square which renders at full resolution.
Drag the full resolution square around to get a glimpse of what the terrain will look like.
We put a lot of effort in making sure Atlas does not go beyond its scope of terrain editing and most of all does not use any invasive techniques that would interfere with other tools. This makes it highly compatible and ensures that your experience is straight forward and to the point.
At the end of the day Atlas is simply a terrain editor, all of its workings are done in the editor and its final result is applied onto your terrain solution. This means performance wise it has no impact on your application or device compatibility. Atlas provides the tools you use to build your height and splatmaps with. The way this data is rendered is up to you or... most likely Unitiy's built-in terrain.
We really want this tool to feel like it belongs inside Unity, as if it comes from the Unity developers themselves. We hope that our take on a next gen terrain editor will be appreciated and look forward to support this tool and its users.
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