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American Soutwest - Monument Valley, Part One: Creating A Butte


This is Part One of a 5 part tutorial on how to create an American Southwest terrain using SC4Terraformer. Within this tutorial are a number of "sidebars" -- that is, aditional explanatory information -- that cover the use of a number of the SC4Terraformer features and functions. It is recommended that this tutorial be done from Part One through Part Five so that the results obtained closely mirror the results of this multi-part tutorial.

The map created from this tutorial is available on the Simtropolis STEX under the name American Southwest - Monument Valley.

Downloading, Installing and Running the SC4Terraformer Application

Downloading the Application
1) The SC4Terraformer application (SC4TF), version 1.0c can be found in the Modds & Downloads -- -- section of SimTropolis. For version 1.1, click on SC4Terrafomer, version 1.1.

2) Create a folder on your computer's hard drive and name it SC4Terraformer.

3) Download the application (it is a zipped archive) and save it to the SC4Terraformer folder you created.



Installing the Application
1) Unzip the archive ensuring that you use the "Use Folder Names" option in order to reconstruct the necessary folder structure for the application.

2) The application is installed -- there is no installer file that needs to be run.


Running the Application
1) To run the application, navigate to the sub-folder in which you unzipped the application and double-click on the file named SC4Terraformer.exe.

2) The application's ReadMe file is displayed and can be closed, if desired.

3) In the Browse for Folder dialog box, highlight a region to load and click the OK button. A Loading Region dialog box is displayed as cities are being loaded.

4) In the Report dialog box, click the OK button to open the region.

5) The SC4Terraformer Main Window, SC4Trraformer toolbar, Overview and Slider Window open and display the region.

6) In the SC4Terraformer Main Window, click on File - Create a region (or, press Ctrl+N).

7) In the Region creation dialog box, in the Region Name field, type in the name given in the specific tutorial instructions.

8) In the Width and Height fields, typ in the dimensions given in the specific tutorial instructions.

9) Leave the SC4M file field blank.

10 Click on the OK button.

11) A blank, flat region is created.

12) Go to a tutorial and following the instructions given to create a region.



IMPORTANT NOTE
The default configuration bit map created by SC4TF when creating a new region is 4 x 4 pixels and consists of all small (red) city tiles. If you wish to use either medium, large or a mix of city tile sizes or, a specific tutorial calls for a specifically sized config.bmp file, you must create the appropriate config.bmp file yourself using a graphics editor application. A good tutorial to follow for creating config.bmp files is Config.bmp: How to Make it Yours. Once you've created a new region, overwrite the config.bmp file created by SC4TF with the one you just created. The next time you run SC4TF and open the region you created, it will be configured to use the config.bmp file you created.

The config.bmp file created by SC4TF can be found in the following path:


\My Documents\SimCity 4\Regions\\config.bmp



where is the name given to the region in Step 7), above.


Monument Valley in the American Southwest


The following is quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (information has been updated since the below quote was taken):


"Monument Valley provides perhaps the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. The isolated red mesas and buttes surrounded by empty, sandy desert have been filmed and photographed countless times over the years for movies, advertisements and travel brochures. Because of this, the area may seem quite familiar, even on a first visit, but it is soon evident that the natural colors really are as bright and deep as those in all the pictures. The valley is not a valley in the conventional sense, but rather a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by the crumbling formations rising hundreds of feet into the air, the last remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region."


For more information about Monument Valley, click on the Monument Valley link.

This tutorial details how to create a region with topological features similar to Monument Valley. The tutorial is broken into five parts as shown below:



01) Creating a Butte (this tutorial)
02) Creating a Chimney Rock Spire
03) Creating a High Tableland Mesa
04) "Roughing" Up the Land
05) Creating a Dry Wash


In order to successfully complete this tutorial, the SC4Terraformer application (Version 1.0c or higher) is required to be downloaded and installed. Please consult the Downloading, Installing and Running the SC4Terraformer Application information above for detailed instructions on installing the application. Use the following information when creating a new region:



Region Name: American Southwest
Width: 4
Height: 4


Create a config.bmp file that is 4 x 4 pixels and blue in color (single large city tile). Overwrite the config.bmp created by SC4TF with this 4 x 4 pixel blue config.bmp file.


This tutorial is rather lengthy as I am introducing a number of explanations on how to use SC4Terraformer (SC4TF) features and functions. In subsequent sections of the tutorial, I will reference those explanations rather than re-explain them again.









Creating a Butte


Launch the ST4TF application
Launch SC4TF and load the region named TUT01-American_Southwest.


SC4TF User Interface
Before starting our tutorial, let's explore the SC4TF User Interface (UI).


UI Components
The interface is made up of four distinct parts as follows:


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Overview Window
The Overview Window shows the complete map you are working on in a 2D overhead view.



SC4Terraformer Toolbar
The SC4Terraformer Toolbar contains all of the applications tools used to create a terrain.


SC4Terraformer Window
The SC4Terraformer Window is where you actually create the terrain. It is shown as a 3D view and can be scrolled in all four directions, rotated and zoomed in and out.


Sliders Box
The Sliders Box is use to set the size of the drawing tool (Radius), the strength of the drawing tool and to set the minimum and maximum heights of the selected tool.


The Overview Window and Sliders Box can be independently moved around the screen. The SC4Terraformer Toolbar is permanently docked on the left hand side of the SC4Terraformer window. Also, the Overview Window can be closed, if desired. To reopen the Overview Window, click (in the SC4Terraformer Window) on File - Show overview or, press Ctrl+V.



Configuration Tools
The following completely explains the use of the Configuration Tools as they are useful to use when terraforming your terrain. In the SC4Terraformer Toolbar, click on the Configuration Tools drop down arrow to open this set of tools.


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Edges scrolling checkbox
When checked, this function causes the map displayed in the SC4Terraformer Window to scroll left, right, up or down depending upon where the mouse pointer is placed in the window -- when the mouse pointer is placed on the left edge of the window, the display is scrolled to the right; when placed on the right edge of the window, the display is scrolled to the left; at the top edge, the display is scrolled down; at the bottom edge, the display is scrolled up.


Compute Shadows checkbox
When checked, this function causes SC4TF to determine where shadows should be placed and then display them where appicable on the terrain in the SC4Terraformer window.


Show cities borders checkbox
When checked, this function displays the appropriate city tile squares on the terrain in the SC4Terrafomer window. The default displays as all small city tile using light gray lines. The configuration of the config.bmp being used in the region shows the appropriate city tiles as bright white lines.



Render water checkbox
When checked, this function displays any water shown in the SC4Terraformer Window in the default water color. When unchecked, the underwater terrain is displayed in the default underwater terrain color.


lock/unlock cities button
When this button is pressed, the Report dialog box is displayed and allows you to protect or unprotect city objects.


Undo last terraforming button
When this button is pressed, it undos -- that is, removes -- the last terraforming performed. This is very useful in undoing a mistake or removing terraforming you don't like. Note there is only one level of undo. If you perform two terraforming functions, only the most recent is undone.



Change colors button
When this button is pressed, the Choose a new color scheme dialog box is displayed and allows you to select a different set of default colors to use in SC4TF.


Navigation Key Combinations
There are a number of key combinations that are used to move around in the SC4Terraformer window. We'll finish our tour of the SC4TF UI by explaining how to use them.


Left Arrow Key -- scrolls the display to the right and displays more of the left side of the terrain
Right Arrow Key -- scrolls the display to the left and displays more of the right side of the terrain
Up Arrow Key -- scrolls the display down and displays more of the top of the terrain.
Down Arrow Key -- scrolls the display up and displays more of the bottom of the terrain.


NOTE: "Camera" is a term used to describe how the terrain is viewed.



Ctrl+Left Arrow Key -- Rotates the camera to the left moving the terrain to the right.
Ctrl+Right Arrow Key -- Rotates the camera to the right moving the terrain to the left.
Ctrl+Up Arrow Key -- Rotates the camera until the bottom of the terrain is displayed.
Ctrl+Down Arrow Key -- Rotates the camera until the top of the terrain is displayed.


NOTE: Ctrl+Up Arrow Key is useful to get a ground level view of the terrain. Ctrl+Down Arrow Key is useful to get a "straight-down" overview of the terrain.


Scrolling the mouse wheel towards you or pressing the "+" key on the numeric keypad raises (zooms in) the camera.
Scrolling the mouse wheel away from you or pressing the "-" on the numeric keypad lowers (zooms out) the camera.


Pressing and holding the Shift key in combination with any of the above keys causes the action of the key to be much slower and results in more precise movements.


Useful keyboard shortcut keys:
-- The "G" key toggles the grid display on and off.
-- Ctrl+S displays the Save dialog box.
-- Ctrl+Shift+S opens the Save file as dialog box and allow the saving of a picture of the current SC4Terraformer window.
-- Ctrl+O displays the Browse for a folder dialog box and allow the opening of a region.
-- Ctrl+N opens the Region Creation dialog box to create a new region.
-- Alt+F4 will display the SC4TF Quit dialog box.



SC4TF Tools To Be Used
In making a butte, a number of SC4TF tools are used including the following:


Brush Tools -- Canyon, Mesa, Volcano
Zone Tools -- Draw, Smooth, Make Valley, Water erode Enhanced
Slider Window -- Radius, Strength, Min Height, Max Height


Creating a Butte
A butte is simply defined as an "eroded mesa". That is, a high area which, over time, has been eroded away leaving only a relatively small and very tall rock mass. In the American Southwest, it is not at all unusually to find buttes between 133 and 333 meters (approximately 400 and 1000 feet) in height.


Mesa Tool
In the SC4Terraformer toolbar window, click on the Brush Tools drop down arrow and select the Mesa tool. The Mesa tool creates a raised portion of land whose minimum and maximum height is dependent upon the settings of the Min Height and Max Height sliders. (More on these sliders later.)



If we use the default values of the sliders and click somewhere on our terrain, we create a mesa of some height. The height is further dependent upon how long the mouse button is clicked before releasing it. For example, the picture below shows a mesa created using a rounded drawing tool shape (selected from Zone tools), default slider values and clicking the mouse button for 1 second, 3 seconds and 5 seconds.


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The difference in height is very obvious, isn't it? In its simplest form, this is all that is necessary to create a butte. However, MTCS never does things in a simple way.


Slider Window
The Slider Window selects the Radius of the drawing tool (that is, the size of the rounded or square shape used to create terrain features), the Strength of the drawing tool (that is, how much of an affect a selected tool will have on the terrain) and sets the minimum and maximum heights of the terrain by adjusting the Min Height and Max Height sliders.


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The Radius slider adjusts the size of the drawing tool. It can be set by clicking on the slider pointer and dragging the pointer to the desired value or, for larger differences, by clicking in the slider groove. For very precise changes, click and drag the slider pointer to a value near what you want the then use either the Left Arrow or Right Arrow keys to get to the precise value you desire. Notice the example below where the Radius has been set first to 7 and next to 18.


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The Strength slider changes the amount of affect a selected tool has on the terrain. To show this, the following examples use the Zone Tool "Make Hills" with the Radius set to 10, the Min Height set to 0002 and the Max Height set to 6000. In the far left example, the strength is set to 10. In the middle example, the strength is set to 12. In the far right example, the strength is set to 15. The "Make Hills" tool is selected for 3 seconds in all three examples.



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The Min / Max Height Sliders are used to restrict the minimum height to use when terraforming and the maximum height to use when terraforming. The values are shown in units of meters. By restricting the height, a terrain object starts at a specified height and does not go over a specified height. To show this, the following examples use the Zone Tool "Make Hills with the radius set to 5 and the strength set to 5. The far left example shows a Min Height of 0280 and a Max Height of 281. Note that smallest Max height value that can be selected is 1 meter higher than the Min Height value. The middle example shows a Min Height of 0300 and a Max Height of 0350. The far right example shows a Min Height value of 500 and a Max Height value of 750.



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To change the value of the sliders, click on the slider pointer and drag the pointer to the desired value or, for larger differences, click in the slider groove. For very precise changes, click and drag the slider pointer to a value near what you want then use either the Left Arrow or Right Arrow keys to get to the precise value you desire.


Creating Different Height Buttes
Move the drawing tool over the terrain and notice the lower right portion of the SC4Terraformer window. You'll see the X and Y coordinates changing as well as the height of the terrain under the drawing tool. Notice that level terrain shows 280 meters (approximately 840 feet). Leave the Min Height value at 0002 and change the Max Height value to 500 meters (approximately 1500 feet). Leave the Radius and Strength values at their default values of 05 and 10, respectively. Using the same 1 second, 3 second and 5 second values for mouse clicks we get the following results:



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Notice that the first two mesas at 1 second and 3 seconds are pretty much the same height. However, the 3 second mesa never rose above 500 meters while the first 3 second mesa only stopped rising in height because I released the mouse button.


The Min / Max Height sliders are very useful in controlling either the minimum height of an object as well as the maximum height of an object.


Creating our example butte
That's enough SC4Terraformer explanations for now. Let's go ahead and create our example butte. The butte will be 300 meters tall (approximately 900 feet) and generally oval in shape.


Note that when moving the drawing tool over the terrain, the height shown in the lower right portion of the status bar in the SC4Terraformer window shows 280 meters. We'll use this value as our Min Height and we'll set our Max height to 580 meters. Set the Radius and Strength Sliders to 10.



To set the Min Height and Max Height values, follow the below steps:


1) In the Slider Window, click on and drag the Min Height slider pointer to a value close to 280 meters.
2) Use the cursor left or right key to precisely select a value of 0280.
3) Click on the Max Height slider pointer to a value close to 580 meters.
4) Use the cursor left or right key to precisely select a value of 0580.


Now, lets create out butte.



1) Open the Brush tools choices in the SC4Terraformer Toolbar and click on the Mesa Tool.
2) Choosing an area on the terrain in the SC4Terraformer window, click and hold the mouse button.
3) Allow the mesa to raise to the Max Height value then, with the mouse button still pressed, move the drawing tool slowly about two inches and allow the rest of the mesa to raise to the Max Height value.
4) You should end up with something similar to the below example:


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We're done, right!


Wrong!



This is just a bit too "vanilla" for my taste. We need to work with the smooth walls a bit and add some bottom to the butte.


1) In the Sliders window, change the radius to 1 and the Strength to 20.
2) Leave the minimum and maximum heights as they are.
3) Click on the Zone Tools drop down arrow and select the Water erode Enhanced tool.
4) In the SC4Terraformer Window, zoom in on the butte until it just about fills the window and position it in the center of the window.
5) Choose a starting point at one end of the butte, click on the top edge with the tool and slowly work your way to the base of the butte.
6) Notice that part of the wall of the butte has been removed leaving an indented area which resembles a sheer cliff.
7) Continue using the tool on the wall of the butte as explained in Step 6, above, rotating the display as necessary until you get back to the point at which you started.
8) You should have something similar to the below example:



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As you can see, we've done a great job of "roughing up" the walls of the butte and make them look more rugged. Now, we need to add some bottom or, fill, along the base of the butte.


1) Chose a height value of about one fourth the height of the butte by moving the drawing tool over the butte's walls about a quarter of the way up the wall.
2) Look in the lower right side of the SC4Terraformer Window Status bar and note the height in meters.
3) Use this height to reset the Max Height Slider value plus 100 meters.
4) I chose a value of 333 meters so, my Max Height value is set at 0433.
5) Leave the Min Height value set at 0280.
6) Set the Radius Slider to 3.
7) Set the Strength Slider to 10.
8) Click on the Brush Tools drop down arrow and select the Volcano Tool.
9) Choose a starting point at the base of the butte and randomly click the mouse along the base of the butte.
10) Randomly hold the mouse button down for a longer time then,
11) Randomly hold the mouse button down for a shorter time and,
12) At the same time, randomly move the drawing tool up the wall of the butte and out from the wall of the butte.
13) Slowly work your way around the base of the butte rotating the display as necessary until you get back to the point at which you started.
14) You should end up with something similar to the below example:



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We now have a great base added to the butte -- rough in places, high in some areas, lower in others and a nice mix of rock and soil. Some of the places look a bit too rough. We'll correct this by using the smooth tool.


1) Leave the Radius Slider value at 3.
2) Change the strength Slider value to 3.
3) Leave the minimum and maximum height values as they are.
4) Click on the Zone Tools drop down arrow and select the Smooth tool.
5) Choose a starting point at one end of the base fill and start smoothing it rotating the display as necessary until you get back to the point at which you started.
6) Be careful to not go up the walls of the butte.
6) You should end up with something similar to the below example:



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Finally, let's finish the butte by adding some roughness to the very top of the mesa.


1) Change the Radius Slider value to 2.
3) Leave the Strength Slider value at 3.
4) Change the Max Height Slider value to 0600.
5) Change the Min Height Slider value to 0580.
6) Make sure the Zone Tools section is still open. If not, open it.
7) Click on the Make Hills tool.
8) Zoom in so that the top of the butte almost fills the window.
9) CAREFULLY click on the top of the butte with the drawing tool randomly holding the mouse button down for longer and shorter times to create a bit of a rolling top to the butte.
10) You should end up with something similar to the below example:



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And, FINALLY, we have a completed butte!


Please note the steps I've given you in this tutorial are based on the way I make a butte. They are by no means the only way a butte can be made. Please feel free to modify any steps in this tutorial in order for your own personal style to be incorporated when terraforming with the SC4Terraformer application.

Part Two of the American Southwest Terrain tutorial series will explain how to create a chimney rock spire and can be access by clicking on

*** MAKE SURE TO FIX

American Southwest Terrain - Part Two: Creating A Chimney Rock Spire


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