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Tutorial - How to create a world using Real-World Height data

Following a request I had on my World thread - (http://forum.thesims3.com/jforum/posts/list/247320.page ) here is a tutorial on how to create a world in CAW using actual real height data that is readily available for most of the world. The data we will use is in the form of DEM data (Digital Elevation Model), more information on DEM data can be found at wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_elevation_model

To get started you will need the following:

* Google Earth (http://earth.google.com)
* MicroDem (http://www.usna.edu/Users/oceano/pguth/website/microdem/microdem.htm)
* SRTM Overlay for GoogleEarth (Run from URL once you've installed Google Earth - http://www.ambiotek.com/topoview).
* A graphics program, such as Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, etc.. to covert a TIF to PNG. I will primarily be using Photoshop in this tutorial.

OK, before we start, make sure you've installed Google Earth, the SRTM Overlay & Microdem.

1st Step: Google Earth

The first time you use the SRTM overlay you will need to run the actual file, just double click on the file named srtm41.kmz (or right click and select open), this will load SRTM into Google Earth and place it in your 'Temporary Places' within the Places categories list. Put a tick in the option marked 'Elevation' under the STRM4.1 Category and you should see a load of boxes appear over the globe, each with a green dot in the middle.

Now, locate the area you want to create a height map for, in this example I'm going to use the lovely Greek island of Kefallonia.
Keff_GE.jpg
Ok, on the pic above you will see the island and part of mainland Greece, you will notice a green triangle towards the right side of the map labelled 'Data for: srtm_41_05', this is the DEM data we require.

Click on the green triangle and you will get a page pop up, scroll that page down until you can see the link 'Click here to visualise terrain and access 1 degree tiles'. Google earth will then split the larger box into smaller boxes and the display will change to a coloured height map view, in the 'Places' category list on the left you will see an additional selection called 'Elevation Preview', click on the plus next to this selection and then place a tick in the 'Global Legend' box (you might need to click twice).
GE_STRM.jpg
From the Google Earth screen we can now select the relevant data we want to download, click on the small box next to the data you want to download, for example I need to download srtm_41_05_1_4, a pop up box will appear and allow you to download the required file (I have had problems with using the FTP link so I normally select the HTTP one). Once you have downloaded the file you will need to un-ZIP it into C\mapdata\dems, once you have done that you can close Google Earth as you don't need it anymore.

2nd Step: MicroDEM

Open MicroDEM and then click File->Open DEM, in the Files of Type box make sure 'ASCII Arc Grid' is selected, browse to the folder you unzipped the DEM file, select the file and then click Open.
By default you get all the legends and other stuff you don't need, to turn these off. You'll only need to do this the first time, as it remembers these settings. Right click on the map & select 'Legends / Marginalia'. Click on 'Scale Bar' and untick the 'Include on Maps' box. Do the same with the Elevations button. Then click OK to close the Map Marginalia window.
MD1.jpg
The DEM files that we downloaded are too detailed for what we require so we need to 'thin' them, to do this select Raster GIS->Thin DEM (Decimate), select a Thin Factor of 3 and press ok. We now need to select the area that we want to use, on the toolbar of the Map window (not the main MicroDEM toolbar) you will see a button which has a dotted rectangle with an arrow at the bottom right (9th in from the left). This is the 'Create Subset' button, click it and then click and drag (whilst still holding the mouse button down) across the map area, try to keep the selection as square as possible.

Microdem will automatically zoom into the cropped area. If you made a mistake and cropped off an area you want, simply undo the crop (the crop operation is called a subset), by clicking the 'undo subset' button (to the right of the create subset button).

Next, we need to change the colour map to a greyscale map. Right click on the map and select 'Display Parameter' and then select 'Elevation'. Select the Greyscale option in the list and then click on the Z Range button. The Z Range basically controls how the heights are mapped onto the greyscale colours, the greater the height, the lighter the colour.

I usually leave the default values but if you have a problem with the map in CAW you can try altering the values, especially if the sea level seems wrong you can lower the Min Value to give more depth. Click OK and Ok again and MicroDEM will convert the map into a greyscale map.
MD2.jpg
The last thing we need to do before we export the map is to resize it to 1:1 pixel mapping. On the map windows toolbar you will see the zoom and un-zoom buttons, between them is a button with a 1 in a magnifying glass, click this button and MicroDEM will the resize the map.

To export the map we need to save it as a GeoTIFF file, click on 'File->Save Map as Image->As GeoTIFF, Screen Scale (Greyscale)'. Locate the folder where you want to place the image file and then select 'Save'.

3rd Step: Photoshop or other image editing software

Open up the .TIF file. The first thing we need to do is make sure the map is square, in photoshop the easiest way to do this is to use the crop tool and select a 1 x 1 crop. Now we need to convert the map from 8-bit to 16-bit (if we didn't convert the map CAW would duplicate the map and create 2 islands instead of the one), select 'Image->Mode->16 Bits/Channel'.

Next we need to resize the map to the size that is required by CAW, remember that CAW has different size requirements for different size maps (Small map = 512 x 512, Medium = 1024 x 1024 and Large = 2048 x 2048). In photoshop select 'Image->Image Size...' and then enter the required dimensions and then click OK, in this example I am using 1024 x 1024.

Finally we need to save the image as a .PNG file so that CAW can read it, select 'File->Save As...', browse to the CAW Map folder (my folder is located at - Documents\Electronic Arts\The Sims 3 Create A World Tool\UserToolData\HeightMaps), enter the name for the map in 'File Name' and then make sure the 'File Format' is PNG(*.PNG) and then click Save and then click OK in the pop-up box.
Keff.jpg
That's the Height Map created all we need to do now is open up CAW, create a new world and select the Height Map we just created and your new world should appear as if by magic ;)
CAW.jpg
All the world will need is a little bit of smoothing to get rid of the ripples and then you can create your world however you would like.

Hope this helps some of you creative guys and any Comments or questions are welcome.

Nathan

Edited for spelling

Comments

  • drowssapdrowssap Posts: 2,007 Member
    edited August 2010
    i just skimmed through this, going to read through it throughly now, i got photoshop on my pc and iv found some very interestion tools too, plus im just awful at creating mountains, i may try this out, see if i can get them to blend in with the rest of my world

    thankyou for this, i will let you know how it turns out

    i think its the converting it from 8bit-16bit that causes the fuzzy texture, is it possible to copy from that program into photoshop insted of saving,

    mm ideas ..
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    drowssap wrote:
    i think its the converting it from 8bit-16bit that causes the fuzzy texture, is it possible to copy from that program into photoshop insted of saving

    Unfortunately MicroDEM only works and saves in 8 Bit so you need to convert to 16 bits. I used to use this process when I built worlds for a Railway Simulator and always used to get a similar problem of a stepped landscape, at least with CAW we have the smooth tool to get rid of them.

    Nathan
  • drowssapdrowssap Posts: 2,007 Member
    edited August 2010
    what about ....

    exporting a height map from CAW .. a plain one or w.e opening it up in photoshop ..

    next to it open up another tab and open the microDEM's saved file, and pasting it on ..

    maybe that will work .. unless the photo is all blury in photoshop,

    mm

  • simbilN99simbilN99 Posts: 273 Member
    edited August 2010
    This needs to be stickied, great thanks for posting this!!!

    ETA If you need to convert to 16 bit png(I did) here is program that will to it for you: http://www.rawtherapee.com/
    Post edited by Unknown User on
  • Verbaltee99Verbaltee99 Posts: 403 New Member
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for this, I'll have a go at it tomorrow cause I gotta get some sleep now but like I said, thanks ^^
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for the comments guys :)
  • xmenchick05xmenchick05 Posts: 568 New Member
    edited August 2010
    this is awesome I am going to try this out asap
  • Verbaltee99Verbaltee99 Posts: 403 New Member
    edited August 2010
    MicroDEM seems to have malware properties, did your security thing pop up? I've got avast installed and that seems to pick up everything sooo.........
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    MicroDEM seems to have malware properties, did your security thing pop up? I've got avast installed and that seems to pick up everything sooo.........

    I don't get any warning over MicroDEM and I'm using McAfee, I've been using MicroDEM for years and not had a problem with it. Did you get it from the link I posted in the tutorial?

    Edit - Just updated the download link for MicroDEM

    Nathan
  • Verbaltee99Verbaltee99 Posts: 403 New Member
    edited August 2010
    Well I've got McAfee as well but I've picked up a lot more things with avast and the scans are quicker (well at least on my laptop). I've gotta do a full system scan tomorrow as it takes 12 hours so I might run it in safe mode to see if it installed or not, maybe you should try just incase
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    MicroDEM is safe.

    I just ran a scan on the MicroDEM folder and it is clean, as I said in my last reply I have been using this software for a few years and have never had a problem with it.
  • Verbaltee99Verbaltee99 Posts: 403 New Member
    edited August 2010
    Alright then, I'm just a bit sketchy at the moment because I've got to do a really important project and I'm just being over protective.
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    No probs, I'm over protective also as my computer is part of my lively hood so I'm very careful with what I download. Any files that are downloaded are automatically checked for viruses and I havn't had one slip through yet.
  • Verbaltee99Verbaltee99 Posts: 403 New Member
    edited August 2010
    I used to be really care free and naive when downloading of the Internet and I was persistent on downloading a certain song and the only website that had it up for download seemed odd but I really wanted that song next thing I know my laptop was at the repair shop for a month -___-. Since then I've been really careful and protective of my files.
  • auntielyndsauntielynds Posts: 3,071 Member
    edited August 2010
    Bookmarking.

    Great info here, thankyou Napalm.
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for the comment auntielynds :)
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    Just giving it a little kick to see if any other peeps have any comments.
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    Has anyone tried the process yet? Would like some feedback if possible as this is the first tutorial I have written.

    Nathan
  • simsamplesimsample Posts: 987 Member
    edited August 2010
    Nathan, thanks for this tutorial. I tried it out and it worked well, this is an excellently written tutorial. Thank you for posting it! :)
    I will choose a path that's clear- I will choose free will
    RUSH
    My Worlds
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for the comment hope it helps a few more people :)

    Nathan
  • Stw402Stw402 Posts: 772 New Member
    edited August 2010
    That's some great info, many thanks for sharing.
  • NapalmVFRNapalmVFR Posts: 195
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for the comment Stw402 :)
  • simbilN99simbilN99 Posts: 273 Member
    edited August 2010
    NapalmVFR wrote:
    Has anyone tried the process yet? Would like some feedback if possible as this is the first tutorial I have written.

    Nathan

    Yes it was pretty easy to follow but you really need to foucs. I got stuck in some of it but was able to get through by re-reading. Having larger pictures would help but we are stuck here so understand why you couldn't.


  • SimmervilleSimmerville Posts: 6,961 Member
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for the tutorial! Even if I don't use those programs, I learned a lot here.

    Question about sea level; on these graphics it looks like the sealevel is nearly black. Is black the code CAW go for, or is there any known grey code that CAW will use for sea level?

    About downloading and risks. I hardly dl anything from sites I don't know. But what I would do, if the site is busy (lots of visits) the chances is that if ppl had bad experiences, the more visits the more negative publicity on web forums and blogs. So, search for the site on blogs and forums. If you find no negative comments, I'd say the chances for trouble are limited.
    Simmerville on Youtube | My blog is updated weekly: Simmerville's Sims
    a.jpg
  • IngeJonesIngeJones Posts: 3,117 Member
    edited August 2010
    CAW *probably* starts with the sea level at 127 or 128 gray, but in any case you can adjust sea level once you get in, in case it didn't get it where you were expecting.
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