For my final year project at university I created a system that manipulated a mesh over time. The main goal of the project was to provide a way to realistically simulate the effects of erosion and weathering over a piece of terrain. This is in the hope that realistic terrain can be created procedurally that does not display the traditional aspects of mathematically created terrain.
Many video games take place over a scope that in the real world would need to pay attention to the consequences of weathering and erosion, though for the most part this is largely ignored. Both weathering and erosion are systems that are well understood and both lend themselves to simulation. The aim of my simulation would be to provide designers and gameplay programmers with terrain, for use in a game, which changes over time, but in a way that is predictable, realistic and safe. Erosion is defined as the wearing away of the earth’s surface through effects such as abrasion, corrosion and transportation. All these processes are kinetic processes, which sets erosion apart from weathering, which is the breaking of the earth’s surface through static processes. Static processes are usually the effect of the atmosphere on material, for example, the dissolution of rock in acid rain.
I personally have always been interested in mathematics as a means of creation, rather than a way of representing existing systems and I believe the choice of project shows this, the systems of the natural world have been the systems that have captured human’s imaginations the longest. Raph Koster defines sense of space as one of the fundamental aspects of a successful game. Most games give full control of their terrains over to their artists, whether they are trying to create a fantastical environment or a realistic one. I believe that suitable realistic environments can be created procedurally. Many terrain generation algorithms already exist but few take into account the effect that time will have upon them. The effects of weathering and erosion create some of the most beautiful spectacles on earth, made even more amazing by the fact that they were created by semi-random processes.