At work we use a tool called TerraVista to create the visual databases. This tool has some very interesting features, that are certainly part of my imaginary ultimate-scenery-design tool.
TerraVista for example allows you to import a lot of different data types. DEM altitude data, aerial or satelite photos, vector data for roads, etc. You can import them all, from a lot of different formats. If TerraVista knows the projection used in the data, it is able to combine them all for the project you are working on.
You can also determine rather flexibile how you want to use your data. Based on some attributes of your vector file, you can for example determine if it should be used to draw a road, a river or maybe a line of light poles. After you have defined these processing passes, the compiler takes care of the rest of the work, while it generates the visual database.
One of the things it can for example do during the generation is cut out different polygons. In Flight Simulator we are used to layer polygons if we have different ones on top of each other, but the Image Generator we use at work prefers to have only one polygon at a certain position. So TerraVista makes sure that the overlapping parts are cut away.
This is of course a very short discription of what the tool can do. It is so flexible that it sometimes even becomes hard to get something done, because you get lost in all the parameters that you can set.
But what about the ultimate-scenery-design tool? I would love to have a tool that I could provide with some altitude data, some photos, data for roads and that would then create the proper scenery files for me. Without me having to wonder about the LOD of the terrain and complicated things like that.
In that perfect imaginary world we would only need two kind of tools. One to design our 3D objects (GMax for example) and another tool that takes care of all the mesh and XML parts of the scenery. Maybe somebody would create that perfect tool in the future?
I know there are tools that can do part of this, but wouldn’t it be cool if we had all this in one tool? Especially for new designers it can be very frustrating to learn that they have to use yet another tool to get something done that sounds very simple at first.
As I design tools myself, I know how much work it would be to create a tool like this, that is powerfull on one hand and easy to use on the other hand. Maybe I can better keep dreaming…..