Terraforming 101


Firstly, I am not one to be negative about other people’s terraforming. As well, I generally do not toot-my-own-horn…however; from Customer reviews to seeing Terraforming in multiple Grids…I do think I am a pretty decent Terraformer.

So it occurred to me I might be of some help to some people in their desire to do their own terraforming. And since I have picked up a few tricks and tips along the way, I thought I might take some time to share some. If it helps some people, I will be happy–))

If I might insert a small disclaimer first please. Yes, I am a Business Woman. If I got some additional Business from this…I certainly would be fine with that, however, I think it more likely I will lose some potential business. Some of these hints will be very helpful.

I would first recommend either creating your own grid on your own computer http://simonastick.com/ or similar. You can also create RAWs in http://www.kitely.com/#!home and upload or download them either way.

RAWs are the Terrain 832 kb file that is the depths and heights of the terraforming on your Sim/Region/World. The hills and mountains, the rivers and creeks, the ponds and lakes. Using your Estate Tools available in all grids, you can upload a RAW to your Sim and you can download them to your harddrive.

As well, you can add an Estate Manager and they can also do that for you. In some grids god-mode needs to be invoked in order for the EM to do their work. Ctrl alt v activates this using imprudence viewer. This setting does not persist through relogs.

There is a little-known OS code terra bug that causes some types of terraforming to not smooth. If you have done some terraforming you will see this in small patches of areas at random locations where you simply cannot smooth the area. This is due to a steep change in elevation, generally when the flatten terra tool is used and the area is not smoothed. It is unavoidable in those cases where steep changes are necessary but in most cases the proper use of smoothing and elevation changes can fix this.

I always recommend to new terraformers that they start out with the lowest settings on the terra tools slider bars until they get used to the gird results. In particular, the strength slider should be almost all the way to the left. It is very easy to make a big mess of your Sim or parcel by trying to go to fast using high strengths.

One thing to remember when uploading RAWs is that any prims on the Sim will not move. So, your fancy new home may end up inside that new mountain–)) But you can cam inside the mountain and edit it or pick it up…hehe. Or, of course, do the terra work prior to placing any ground prims.

There are terraforming software programs. I currently do not use any of them as I have gotten pretty fast doing them by hand, but the terra software does allow one to create RAWs off line, so they may be useful to some people. There is a lot of information on the net concerning terraforming…I personally think one can do overkill in some things and terraforming, tho easy for me [and my passion] is difficult to impossible for many people.

I would be happy to answer any further terra questions you may have.

Warm regards–minethere

23 comments on “Terraforming 101

  1. Linda Henson on said:

    Great article Minethere. Thanks for the tips. OpenSim is for sure harder to terraform than SL. The AuroraSim users will have an easy time with it. I was doing some terraforming on an Aurorasim based grid and it was smooth as butter. Seems like if Aurora can do it then OpenSim “should” be able to lol.

  2. Minethere on said:

    ty-)) I find it easy on all grids. Tho the bulk of my terra work has been in os based grids, so I suppose I have become used to the idiosyncrasies.

  3. Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

    “One thing to remember when uploading RAWs is that any prims on the Sim will not move. So, your fancy new home may end up inside that new mountain–))”

    I’m wondering if the settings in opensim.ini regarding allowing or not- prim movement underground will cause a big grief like the items being returned rather than winding up inside the mountain if the ground moves up and the prim movement underground setting set to NO.

    I created my Colorado Wilderness region’s RAW file entirely in a picture editor, I just messed around with it and uploaded the file, the first try was far too mild for heigh differences, so I changed the settings in the software to much higher values and reupped the RAW file and went WOW! that’s just what I wanted, so I left it alone at that.
    The terrain is smooth yet rugged, using software instead of the in world viewer tools is much better and faster, but it can be difficult to “translate” in your head the grey image you are looking at in the software into what it will look like scale wise and textured in-world, you don’t get a sense of scale in the image as to just how massive or not the mountains you made will really look.

  4. Minethere on said:

    As I have not dealt with any off-world software yet or or looked into that setting in the .ini file, I do not know. If you try that I would be interested in knowing your results.

    The ‘underground’ ‘might’ be related to the numbers below the water line…@ 20m and below.

    I can certainly see how using software to create your RAWs would make it difficult to ‘translate’ it to what is actually inworld. For me, I just find the terraforming so relaxing and satisfying, I have not ‘yet’ desired to look further at terraforming software, tho I have read up on it.

    It seemed to me from my limited reading there is a bit of a learning curve to using them well.

    Thank you for your comment Timber-)) and your terrain looks beautiful !! What editor do you use?

    • Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

      Since I have Mac for my main machine, and a Dell workstation for the opensim server, I downloaded the Mac version of Terragen 0.9 which is free, there are windows versions, and there are more featured versions up to I think 2.4 which runs $299. You can download the free 0.9 version and it will do RAW files for terrains very nicely. It has a lot of features in it, including a preview in grey tones, and a rendered version with a green grass-like texture applied. It has water, sky, clouds and sunlight- all can be adjusted as can the camera view of the renderings.
      As you noted of software in general, Terragen is no exception- it does have a learning curve, but it’s easier to use than things like Blender and in 15 minutes of bumping around in all the features and trying it out, you should be able to generate a terrain.
      Import or open an existing .RAW terrain file to make it easier than starting from a pancake flat slate.
      This image shows a rendering control window, the grey scale quick rendering window and the colored 3D rendering together, as you can see it’s quite detailed and pretty real. It takes a little looking around to figure out how to get the view to rotate and change in Terragen, but here’s the first picture:


      I rotated the view a little, and here is the 3D colored render and the greyscale side by side:


      As you can see it gives you a pretty good idea what the terrain will look like, but without objects or avatars in the scene it’s difficult to tell if that mountain in the back is 200m high or 2m high, thus my first attempt resulted in terrain that had mountaisn that didnt vary much more than tall pebbles, the scale was completely off, the second try was much better.

      • Minethere on said:

        ok…that is very good information–))

        I am going to d/l terragen and when I have some time, I will look at it a bit. I did know about it and had read a little bit on it.

        Thank you for an easy to understand comment on it–))

        [btw folks, I learned if one does a https://en.gravatar.com/minethere you profile will show up here-and in other places--kinda cool I think]

  5. savino svm on said:

    ok aurora-sim have a other database and for terraform more flexible i have test aurorasim in the year 2010 as name nova-grid and i know the owner of this grid enrico. i find allone sorry him have stopped this project.. whatever opensim its real hard for this hmm correct terraform need you good learn..and i see minethere do a good job and i know it…she its a good terraformer…

  6. Minethere on said:

    ty…savino–and you have become such a good friend-)) Thank you for letting me use your os grids–hugsss

    • Minethere on said:

      btw, savino made an audio file of this article…kinda cool tho it is in male computer voice…which I find rather disconcerting!! lol

      maybe he will share it to those who ask him-)) thx sav!!

  7. Jessica Random on said:

    I have always done my terraforming in world, although I would never claim to be great at it :) The biggest problems I have always had were joins between regions as the in world tools do not work well here. Trying to smooth out an elevation difference between two regions where it ends up in one region smoothing down and the other smoothing up (if you know what I mean) occasionally I have just given up and cheated by finding a reason to put a wall there and hide the fact hehe.

    • Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

      Joins between regions is a bear, because you are in one region and you usually have to be in the region you are editing the land on, or at least the should be on the same server. What usually happens is you start editing the border and only the side you are on edits, but doing the terrains in software takes care of that and both edges can be made perfect, it also helps if you use the same texture in connected regions.
      New Mexico where it borders Red Canyons Arizona in OSgrid is a good example of a near invisible border in this image;


      The textures are the same and the little rise helps make the border invisible.

      Here on the West side of Red Canyons Arizona it meets Red canyons California which is mostly ocean, the border is not in the water however which would be easier, there’s a coastline sloping down to the water, the border happens to be where that sun shadow is, it’s normally not easy to see. With California I used the same terrain texture as Arizona has, but I flipped it because it didn’t match well the other way:


      Here’s the border line;


      There’s another little buggy thing with in-world editing, you can be left with thin slices of land around the edges despite trying to edit them down flat, in some cases I noticed they are just beyond the reach of the land edit tools on the water side of the border, that can take a lot of work going around every part of the edges and trying to flatten them- the region lowering setting etc still leaves those and they have to be gone after with the hand tools.

      • Minethere on said:

        Wonderful additional commenting and information to this Article–)) tyvm for participating so much Timber.

        Let me point you to my blog where you can see some pictures also…


        Another issue is in uploading RAWs…they are dependent upon good network activity. Most of the time they come in very well, but sometimes you can get a ton of spiking. I had one I did in a grid that came in with 100 m spikes all over it–I freaked!! But doing another upload can often fix this. Often tho there is some additional smoothing needed from each upload.

        • Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

          I remember being unable to upload a .RAW terrain file to my regions in IW, they would load maybe 25 to 50% and stop, no matter what I did, they said it was a backend issue after trying to load it from a viewer, and had me email the file to upload from the backend.

          • Minethere on said:

            lol timber..that was the grid i was referring to-)) it is the only grid i have ever had that happen so bad…usually they come in fine but often still need some smoothing in random places [those could simply be spots i missed when i created them tho:P)

            inwz I only had that happen once tho, so maybe it was whatever was happening at the time there...they do have various old os code issues since they forked off from it at an early stage and are in a perpetual state of fixing code from that [see their mantis]…code that is fine in the later versions we all enjoy. In the one instance I refer to I was able to load a good raw the next day.

            My offtimes only real complaint [to myself] is the various loading times of various grids. But this is a matter of minutes and not that big of a deal…jus’ a finger tapping time-))

          • Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

            LOL, yeah well, the terrain loading there was a pain, more frustrating when you don’t know why it’s not loading right and you immediately think in terms of “maybe my file is corrupted” and so you waste time looking into that avenue of possibilities, re-uploading other versions, having them work to varying degrees but still fail.
            Then after a time you come to realize it’s not your file causing the problem at all.
            There were other region/performance related issues there, but not related to the terrain topic of this thread.

          • Minethere on said:

            “LOL, yeah well, the terrain loading there was a pain, more frustrating when you don’t know why it’s not loading right and you immediately think in terms of “maybe my file is corrupted” and so you waste time looking into that avenue of possibilities, re-uploading other versions, having them work to varying degrees but still fail.
            Then after a time you come to realize it’s not your file causing the problem at all.
            There were other region/performance related issues there, but not related to the terrain topic of this thread.”

            True–)) I am trying to stay on topic also–)) difficult do to do sometimes…lol

            Having worked with computers for quite a few years now [25 yrs or so I guess] I look at these virtual worlds [aside from the people of course] as software to figure out and either overcome deficiencies or accept them. So terraforming is a matter of figuring out what works in any particular grid and their own specific coding.

            I guess my major complaint that I find in some grids is that I cannot restart the sim[s] I am working on after I finish terraforming using Estate tools. All that sim activity tends to slow performance and I like to clean them up. So it falls to the sim owner to do that, ofttimes from the website tools for that purpose. A small thing tho–))

            I am very much enjoying the discussion here on this–))

          • Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

            Oh yes, it’s all good.
            On the terrorforming, long ago in SL I was editing a small area in the viewer, now here’s a “gotcha” for you- if you use the select area tool you can use the other tools to affect just that area, provided you don’t accidentally DE-select that area while working, and then continue using the raise, lower smooth, flatten tools.
            What happened to me was, I was working in this one area to flatten it, and I had the area selected, it was all going nicely but then the mouse was too close to the edge of the view and the cam suddenly rotated to center the view, somehow the area I was working on was accidentally DE-selected and I hit the lower button a few times. That’s when I saw it- but not exactly, what I saw was an undefined movement on the scene but now what moved or in what direction.
            That’s when I discovered all the prims around were in the air but all just as they were in relation to one another and the terrain.
            After some confusion I figured out the whole sim lowered by a good meter but now I didn’t know how to fix that.
            I did figure it out and clicked the raise button with nothing selected for area, and got it back where it was.
            It’s one of those gotchas that can really do a number on new people.

            Another land gotcha I also ran into, related to terrorforming and land- the bonus factor, it’s designed to allow creating parcels on a sim and allocate a higher number of prims to the parcels than the region allows per sq meter, its not a free lunch- the prim allowance is deducted from the rest of the sim.
            I had a fort on the land people were renting, they needed 900 prims and the land allocated only 142 prims (homestead) for that parcel, so using the bonus factor I increased their allowed prims and all was good, at least till I needed to change the land GROUP, auto return was always on. I thought I could ismply change th eland group and the prims on it would change to the group, turned off auto return and chanegd the group but none of the prims changed, so I changed the land back to the previous group and turned auto return back on.

            I THOUGHT I saw a little flicker in the corner, but, nah, all looked fine.
            That evening I got a bunch of ANGRY IM’s some accusing one of the em’s of returning prims in the fort, I went to look and the fort was missing large chunks of wall and prims and random, none of it made sense. Long story short, I discovered what happened- changing the land group reset the bonus factor behind the scenes with no confirmation or warning back to the default which was 1.0, turning the auto return back on then sent back about 750 prims on that parcel that exceeded what the default allowed (142)
            BUT, i didn’t figure that out untill after it happened TWICE! none of us had any idea the first time WHAT happened. That was why prims seemingly at random had been returned, even parts of linksets I think.

          • Timber Wolfe / Westernprairie on said:

            For those that havent seen it, here’s that “object bonus factor” menu in the viewer and an explanation about it’s use:


          • Minethere on said:

            lol..yes, i am certainly aware of object bonus. It is best used when a parceled sim has a lot of it under water and unused, or, in a parceled rental sim when it is hardly rented, as in many sims I managed inwz. I helped several renters in that regard there. In point of fact…inwz has recoded this aspect [I think they already have or may be doing so, I\'m not sure] so that prim allocations will not auto return when it has been properly set by the grid to have prims allowances hard-coded in, One of the many old os bugs they have had to spend time fixing.

            I use object bonus fairly often in sims I am EM on when needed.

            The select tool for specific area terra work is still un-fixed in that grid also [unless it has been fixed recently- I haven\'t tried it]

            Ya, gotta be careful…lol

  8. Jessica Random on said:

    Oops, forgot to say: Thanks for the article Minethere, great of you to help people out – especially at the risk of loosing business yourself :)

    • Minethere on said:

      hiya Jessi–)) Oh I don’t mind the -risk- there is only so many seconds in the day anyways,,,lolol

      I hear ya on the adjoining sim issue loud and clear. Here is what I do [unless i have no choice as in when I am doing cleanup of an existing sim with no rights to those sims]

      I almost always create my raws with all edges below water and smooth them to look realistic.

      In the cases where elevations must needs be above water try using the raise tool at a low slider strength to make it higher than the adjoining sim. Then keeping the slider almost all the way to the left, use the smooth tool and cam in close and touch it lightly several times.

      Now, the os bug will likely come into play as mentioned above in my article…when smoothing low elevations go into your world/estate tools, terrain tab and reduce the water level to -0-. This will allow you to see the lands below water more easily. [it can be fun to set the water at 50 too--try it-lol]

      Smooth the underwater elevations so that the they are more curved outwards in a more natural look. This will allow you to more easily match elevations in the lands that show above water to better match adjoining sims.

      Takes some practice but if all else fails— put nice prim down–)))) lol

      [if none of this makes sense, I blame the lack of my not havin\' enuf coffee!!]

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