‘Instant Terra’ for Landscape Creation Released

‘Instant Terra’ for Landscape Creation Released

Wysilab has released the official version of its innovative terrain creation software, Instant Terra v1.0, available from the Wysilab website.

Wysilab has released the official version of its innovative terrain creation software, Instant Terra v1.0, available from the Wysilab website. Check out the description of some of the features of the new landscape generation software.

Introduction

We’ve just released the official edition of Instant Terra v1.0, a powerful offline application to create terrains fast and seamlessly for the video-game, animation, and VFX industries. You work directly in the final resolution to create 100% realistic terrains of thousands of square kilometres and see the results in real time. It is the opposite of software where you work at low resolution to work faster and perhaps not achieve the result you want after you have completed a time-consuming final calculation.

With Instant Terra, you change your way of working completely. It is much like the difference between digital photography and traditional photography. With digital photography, you can try and test as many times as you want with different settings. You do and undo, you check, and then decide what is best. Instant Terra allows you to do the same on very large terrains and up to much faster than any other software.

Why did you decide to develop Instant Terra?

Up until now, creating realistic terrains has been a long process requiring significant calculation times and numerous iterations. The means available to artists have not allowed them to take their creativity to the limits. Most existing tools are limited, slow, and complex.

Also, with the accelerated ambitions in gameplay and design that we have seen in recent years, the space in which games are held is becoming larger: now we speak of terrains that are hundreds or even thousands of square kilometres.

With that in mind, we interviewed several people who had just worked on some of the most recent open-world AAAs and were in charge of the terrain. They told us that they had to wait for hours to see if their last modification was satisfactory or not; the generation took a whole one night or even more. Because of that, the number of iterations was limited and they had to curb their ambitions. Some of them explained that they had to develop internal tools because of the limitations of existing tools.

The idea of Instant Terra came about to meet these new challenges by providing a new user experience with a procedural terrain generation tool based on innovative technologies that sweep the limits. With Instant Terra, you work on terrains of (almost) unlimited size while getting real-time visual feedback on any view of the terrain. We wanted users to be able to edit their creation on the fly and avoid wasting time after each modification. We wanted to achieve ultra-rapid calculations so that users could export terrains and masks much, much faster than with their usual software.

What lies at the core of this technology?

Based on our experience for building real-time solutions for in-game technologies, we created Instant Terra with a logic that is mostly found in the development of video games or in some industries specialized in real-life physics simulations but never used – as far as we know – for the development of offline tools.

Instant Terra uses all the available power of the CPU and the GPU, optimizing dynamically their usage depending of the configuration of your computer and of the available resources at each moment.

But, this is not enough if your algorithms do not follow a performance-oriented logic. We needed to be very creative to find for each case, for each node, the correct approach that will be the least costly without downgrading the quality of the final result.

Can you explain how Instant Terra works to create a terrain?

In Instant Terra, terrain creation is procedural. You build your terrain by creating a graph composed of different nodes. Each node corresponds to an operation on several terrains. The nodes are connected together by links. You can return to any node at any time, modify a parameter, and immediately see the effect on the end result.

Even if want a 16k x 16k terrain or even a 32k x 32k, Instant Terrain is designed to handle it. At such a high resolution, you can still change a parameter and immediately see the result on the terrain. There is no preview window: changes are updated directly in the main window.

There are mainly two ways to start building your terrain in Instant Terra: start from scratch and use one of the terrain generators, or import a terrain: this can be satellite data, a heightmap, or any image. You can have several starting nodes and you can combine them into a large, final terrain. You can place each of them exactly where you want, scale and rotate them individually, and even drive the composition from a mask. Most nodes have editable parameters that you can modify and see the results in real time in the main window.

We have published a series of video tutorials that we invite readers to watch to learn more about Instant Terra’s features. More videos are coming soon.

What are Instant Terra’s main features?

Instant Terra provides a complete set of terrain creation tools.

Very large terrains

Let’s talk first about terrain size. As I said before, the changes in game play and design and the space in which games are held is becoming larger and we need terrains that are hundreds or even thousands of square kilometres.

Terrain composition

For video game production, you need one or several small high-resolution terrains, which are places for the game design, and you also want a very large terrain all around to provide the open world look. This large terrain may support a lower resolution. With Instant Terra’s suite of terrain composition nodes, you can combine terrains to create one final terrain. You can use and mix terrains of different sizes together and use a mask to drive the composition.

Bulk import

We have bulk import feature to import several terrains or masks at the same time and compose them exactly as you want.

Paint masks

Masks define where and how the global actions are applied. You can use masks to protect some areas from global actions, or use them as per-vertex coefficients to be taken into account by the calculations. Even for a 100% procedural tool, the artist controls all the details. You can use masks that you import or draw dynamically in the 3D view to specify how an area will be impacted by any node. Masks can also be used to raise or lower some areas.

Terrain size changes

At any step of your project, you can change the size or resolution of a terrain (or a mask) dynamically. Instant Terra has several terrain transformation nodes to modify the input terrain, such as the size and resolution, the scale and offset, and so on. For example, at any step of your project, you can change the size or resolution of a terrain or a mask dynamically. You simply start playing with the parameters and see the changes in real time in the 3D view.

Erosion simulation

Erosion simulation is probably the most challenging calculation for this kind of software. Realism is driven by the simulation of natural phenomena.

We rose to the challenge of reconciling a convincing result with an acceptable calculation time. In Instant Terra, you can create realistic terrains with the erosion simulation and use the presets or play with the advanced settings to achieve the result you want.

Other types of erosion are planned and will be available in future releases.

With what rendering software is Instant Terra compatible?

You can easily integrate Instant Terra into your production pipeline as we have several export formats for the generated data: you can export as a mesh (.fbx file) compatible with the tools you are already using (3ds MAX, Maya, Houdini, Clarisse, Unreal Engine, Unity…). or export a heightmap in 8, 16, and 32 bits as tiff, png, tga, Raw 16 bits, and OpenExr 32 bits.

What’s next for Instant Terra? What new features have you planned?

In the next year, we plan to develop three new editions of Instant Terra. The priorities of our roadmap are subject to changes based on our users’ feedback. We have a Forum where we invite users to register and share their work, and give us valuable feedback so that we can respond to our users’ needs.

Our next edition will be released in May and will include the possibility to apply a color map to a terrain after transforming it. We will have more noise generator nodes and new terrain composition nodes. You will also be able to disable a node in a graph, view a terrain as a mask, and use masks based on orientation and curvature to apply specific textures, for example, snow on the North faces.

This summer, a second edition will include node groups, where you can set a group name and add comments to the group. You will be able to use masks to control the node parameters. We will include a Voronoï-region based generator node and a formula node. You will be able to export multi-files by automatically splitting your export file into smaller files.

The last edition in the year will allow you to define a sub-graph and use it as a component. We will include an Assets browser and the possibility to import meshes. One of the main features will be erosion simulation: we will add thermal erosion, control from masks, and multi-scale erosion. You will be able to load your input files very quickly even with gigabytes of data. We also plan the first version of an API to use Instant Terra through automated commands.

 What are the different subscription options?

We have five different editions available, depending on your company’s revenue, and these are available for monthly, 3-monthly, and yearly subscriptions.

  • The Enterprise edition is for any size of a company. With this edition, you can generate graphs and terrains with unlimited sizes, and import multiple files.
  • The Professional edition, again, is for any size of a company, and the terrain size is limited to 8k x 8k.
  • The Small Business edition is for companies with revenue of under $500k and the terrain size is limited to 4k x 4k.
  • The Indie edition is for companies with revenue of under $50k and the terrain size is limited to 2k x 2k.
  • The Educational edition is for schools and students; it is free and the terrain size is limited to 2k x 2k.

We offer degressive prices for one company in the same location, for the same edition. For details on the different subscriptions, please see our website.

The Team of Wysilab

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Comments 4

  • Kirill Tokarev

    Thanks, man. Very thorough review. We're here to bring you the news, and you need to make your own decisions on whether to use it or not. Let's hope Instant Terra will continue development and achieve a better set of features to justify the pricing.

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    Kirill Tokarev

    ·a year ago·
  • Oli

    These guys do terrain generation but do not seem very well grounded. $550/month to have no resolution limitation! And based on the screens they show, the quality is nowhere near competition. Hey guys, come back down to earth or you'll soon make the headlines as the funniest company in the business...

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    Oli

    ·a year ago·
  • Ivain

    Being highly interested in any terrain generation software, I could not help but give the trial version a shot.
    I'm afraid, however, that my only reaction is disappointment. This software is nowhere ready to compete with the terrain-generation software already out there, be it WorldMachine, Terragen or other, less publicly known software.
    This GPU-acceleration that gives a significantly faster preview is just about its only redeeming feature at present. The "Large scale terrain" selling point is also mostly moot, since it is only available to the Enterprise edition for $550 per month. The other editions are all limited at 8K ($250 per month), 4K ($80 per month) or 2K ($25 per month or educational). I would like to note that the "indie" version might as well not exist at all, since at that scale a half-decent PC will have near-instant results even for WorldMachine unless the workflow is absolutely gargantuan.
    Now, back to the software at hand.
    The number of available devices in Instant Terra is considerably low, even for software that is still in development.
    If I were to sum up the currently available options in comparison with Worldmachine devices (the software I am used to), this software currently has "basic" perlin and some geometric shapes, a bunch of basic transformation devices the most sophisticated of which is "curve", a normal erosion device, a combination device and some color devices. That's it. All of the 'combination' options almost completely fit together into one or two devices in Worldmachine. That brings us to the next question, being some of the design choices. Choosing to have a separate device for each geometric shape and for each method of combination is less than practical when you could simply make them the same device with optional inputs.


    To give an idea of contrast, the software "World Creator", which also seems to be GPU-accelerated, has many more functions available, even if its user interface isn't perfect yet either. World Creator, in contrast to Instant Terra, appears to actually fill a niche comfortably. It's far from a mature software, yet it is at a point where it can serve a practical purpose. It simply has more available erosion functions, editing methods and general effects, leading to far more freedom in terms of creation.
    Oh, and its pricing is very much more reasonable. For a single license, it's a one-time fee (no limits to the amount of updates, unlike Worldmachine) that is $150 for the standard edition (limited at 4K resolution, just like the Instant Terra small business version), but the professional edition is a WHOPPING $389. This is for companies or individuals with a revenue of less than $100K per month.
    The Small Business edition of Instant Terra, in comparison, has a pricing of $600 per year, while offering a similar plan to the World Creator Standard plan, which is $150 total, period.


    From what I have seen, this software in its current state has NOTHING to recommend it over WorldCreator, which is its closest kin in terms of performance goals and workflow that I can currently think of. Even if the two shared an identical price, I have little doubt that I would choose World Creator from the two.

    Now, don't get me wrong. Instant Terra is not completely redundant. There are some interesting ideas there, such as the ability to rotate an entire large-scale perlin noise terrain around a central axis in the generation device itself. As far as I know, a feature like this only exists in Worldmachine (the software I use personally) due to GeoGlyph (a large-scale addon system for that software). However, features much like this exist, again, in World Creator.
    So the ideas are there. You just need to VERY SERIOUSLY reconsider your business plan, sense of perspective and where you want to go with this software.


    TLDR:
    This software is nowhere near ready to be on the market, and the honestly ridiculous payment plans will discourage any client with half a brain unless they're trying to actively throw away money.
    For the price of getting Instant Terra Professional Edition, $1990 per year, you could get the entire Adobe Creative Cloud package ($600 per year), WorldMachine or Worldcreator Pro (up to $389), AND the entire Substance Suite from Allegorithmic ($990) for a year) and you'd still be about $11 dollars cheaper.
    This is what I mean by sense of perspective. To get a properly functional version of this software (8K limit is still strange, but can be worked with), you'd need to pay more per year than the entire packages of 2 very well-established software companies AND a fully functional alternative for this software.



    So I'm sorry, 80-level, a lot of you guys' recommendations have been very useful to me, but I'm afraid that this one is a big negative in every way, and I strongly recommend the creators of this software to put in an absolute boatload more work before they sell this software, as well as reconsidering their pricing plans.

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    Ivain

    ·a year ago·
  • Testure

    more overpriced subscription software.. hard pass. crazy how every software developer thinks they can get away with using a subscription model for their software these days. Adobe can get away with it because pipelines have already been established that are difficult to change. Passing on a brand new (unproven) software with "work in progress" stamped on several places in the interface while several mature alternatives are already on the market for a fraction of the price is a very easy thing to do.

    how much is that GPU acceleration worth to you?

    to put it into perspective. for the professional version you will spend almost $2,000 per YEAR for a single license of 'instant terra'. For that same price you can get a STUDIO-WIDE perpetual license for worldmachine. This niche piece of software costs as much as a single license for Houdini Core (think about the feature comparison vs price for a moment). This is absolutely insane.

    I've worked on multiple AAA games that featured sprawling landscapes, and the amount of time we spent in worldmachine was surprisingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things.. i think these 'instant terra' guys have greatly overestimated the value of their work and are in for a rude awakening.

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    Testure

    ·a year ago·

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