Worksheet #3

At the moment of writing this I am still waiting to see Matt Bett to discuss particulars of my project. The meet is currently scheduled to this Friday. So there could be some changes pending this post which I will update as necessary.


Computer generated 3D terrain is important and popular in many applications. Games ranging from first person shooter to strategy implements some form of terrrain generation. Realistic computer generated terrain is also used in advanced mapping software and also in simultors used to train pilots and military personnel. Terrain simulation is popular not only in computer games but also used as a virtual tool for busineses and also in military simulations. A very good example is a 3D geospecific terrain created to train soldier fighting in Afghnistan. Generated using a proprietry software called the “Virtual Reality Scene Generator” developed by MetaVR, it could generate over 9,600 square kilometres of geospecific landscape with 500 accurately modelled buildings. According the MetaVR’s developers (2009), “Unlike the simplified, flattened terrain used to simulate urban environments in most image generators and video games, MetaVR’s Afghan village is set within mountains, complex terrain of varying elevation, and cave complexes enabling realistic training scenarios for operations in mountainous villages.“[1]

Lighting is also an important and integral part of 3D terrain generation. It greatly adds to the realism and the complexity of the scene. The main objective of this research project is to investigate and implement lighting on a procedurally generated terrain. Hopefully from the research I would determine an optimized and effective way of lighting a terrain. Lighting a textured terrain could greatly improve the level of its realism. However, as some lighting techniques require heavy computation it could impact the rendering performance of the terrain. There’s a lot of techniques and algorithms out there aiming to overcome this problem. The research will attempt to investigate and compare these techniques and algorithms and hopefully develope a custom hybrid solution. The key is to try and strike a perfect balance between realism and performance.


Realistic terrain rendering is almost associated with expensive computational requirements. It will be interesting to research into methods of improving this situation and also to push the boundary on how realistic a terrain can be rendered in real time. By completing this project, hopefully an optimized and realistic method could be determined.

Research question

What are the techniques involved in real time lighting effects for procedurally generated terrain? 

Addressing the question

The first phase of the research is too implement a simple “sandbox” to test multiple variables and apply several different lighting methods. The OpenGL API will be used to render the 3D world containing the terrain. The terrain would be procedurally generated for real time testing. Performance will be tested with a FPS counter to determine which algorithm would produce the highest FPS. The second phase will finalize and fine tune the suitable researched technique to be included in the final demo. There will also be an addition of functions enabling the user to tweak some variables such as light angle and intensity to further observe the effects on performance and rendering quality. Hopefully, a novel method will also be discovered from the research.

Resource requirements

At the moment, the required resources are :

1) Microsoft Visual Studio 2005
2) OpenGL API
3) Related books and articles on the internet


1) metavr (2009) MetaVR announces new Afghanistan 3D Terrain and the Release of Virtual Reality Scene Generator Version 5.5, [Online], Available: [21 Oct 2009].


1) Trent Polack. (2003). Chapter 4 Lighting Terrain. In: Andre LaMothe 3D Terrain Programming. Cincinnati: Premier Press. p57-72.

2) Daubert, K., Schirmacher, H., Sillion, F X., Drettakis, G., 1997. Hierarchical Lighting Simulation for Outdoor Scenes. Eurographics Rendering Workshop, [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19 October 2009]

3) Roettger, S., Frick, I., 2002.The Terrain Rendering Pipeline. Proc. of East-West Vision ’02, [Online] Available at: [Acessed 20 October 2009]

4) Watt, A., Policarpo, F. 2001. 3D Games: Real Time Rendering and Software Technology. New York, New York: Addison-Wesley ACM Press. 


That concludes my draft proposal so far. I have also attached a Youtube clip of the 3D Procedural Terrain demo in OpenGL which I submitted as coursework last year. It uses a very simple shader for lighting the terrain hence very little to no shadowing.



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