ProFantasy just announced the release of Fractal Terrains 3. Fractal Terrains is an intuitive, easy to use, fractal mapping program. A new user can, with just a few clicks, create an entire beautifully detailed world, complete with lakes and river systems.

Here is their list of new features:

What’s New in Fractal Terrains 3

Fractal Terrains 3 lets you work faster, more efficiently, create better-looking maps, and export to a wider variety of forms.

Fractal Terrains 3 is the most robust version of already-robust software. It uses the latest code to make use of today’s modern multicore processors. It’s faster, includes more export options, and is compatible with CC3.

  • CC3, Google Earth, Cosmographer 3 and 16-bit PNG export.
  • Screen rendering on mulitcore processors is twice as fast or more.
  • The complex mathematical operations used in Fractal Terrains are up to 20% faster.
  • Performance scales better with the number of processors available on the system.
  • The interface has been improved with a variety of themes.
  • Added texture-based climate shader which works on sea areas.
  • Added normalize tool to manually fix problems with painting in earlier versions that could cause black areas to appear on the world.
  • Many niggles and bugs fixed and export libraries updated.

My Experience

I’ve used other ProFantasy products for years and am extremely happy with them. Although I was aware of Fractal Terrains, I never gave it much thought. It looked intimidating and I assumed it would be difficult to use. Aside from that, I had the impression it was geared mainly towards sci-fi mapping.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a very detailed step-by-step tutorial that used Fractal Terrains, Photoshop, and Wilbur (a free but more complicated fractal mapping program) to create stunning regional maps. I was amazed at what could be accomplished and even more so at the apparent ease with which the maps were created.

I purchased Fractal Terrains Pro and went to work on the tutorial. It wasn’t quite as easy as it sounded, only because I wasn’t familiar with the menus and the tutorial assumed a basic level of knowledge. Regardless, with no training at all, I got through the tutorial and creating fascinating maps of my own all in one evening.

The tutorial was a bit tedious but that was mainly due to it trying to create a very specific look. Fractal Terrains is so easy to use that you can literally install it and have an amazing map in a matter of minutes. Here is an example of a random world created entirely by the program after setting just a few basic parameters, along with a close up of a section of that world:

Not Just Random

A huge strength of the program is its ability to create a complete world map all on its own. This is such a huge feature that it is touted to the point that it sounds (or at least it sounded to me) like that is the only way to create a world. I’m not nearly as interested in a randomly created world as I am in the ability to create one by hand.

Fortunately, this is extremely easy to do as well. There are brushes that allow you to “paint” an area (selectable anywhere from very small to very large) where the painted terrain is raised or lowered, smoothed or roughened, to create the look you want. By clicking in the same spot you can “grow” mountains and islands, or carve out lake beds and valleys.

Although I haven’t tested it yet, I’m sure I saw where you could import data from Campaign Cartographer as well in order to maintain continuity between maps made in the two programs.

Free Upgrade

Shortly after purchasing Fractal Terrains Pro, I discovered that Fractal Terrains 3 was due to be released shortly. Kicking myself for not looking into this possibility first, I emailed support asking if I could return the product and apply the payment towards the new version when it came out. I promptly received a reply saying that since I bought it so recently I would receive a free upgrade when version 3 came out and would be notified when it was available. I just got that email today.

It turns out that anyone who purchased Fractal Terrains Pro in the past ninety days is eligible for a free upgrade to Fractal Terrains 3. I think that is pretty damn impressive!

Using Fractal Terrains with Campaign Cartographer

Joe Sweeney produced a number of short Fractal Terrains video tutorials that show off some basic features. One amazing aspect of the program is its export feature. It will split the world map into however many smaller maps you specify. But it doesn’t stop there. It can then split each of those maps into smaller maps and repeat the process numerous times. This way you have large scale maps, regional maps, and local (city scale) maps. When you import them into Campaign Cartographer, it also sets up the links between maps. That means that you can view a large scale map, click on a portion and automatically switch to a more detailed map of the area you clicked on. Then click on a section of that map to go to an even more detailed map of the new area that you selected. This is a feature off Campaign Cartographer that I was aware of but never played with before.

Expect More

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a series of articles about using Campaign Cartographer, Dungeon Designer, and Dundjinni to create fantasy gaming maps. Now that I am adding Fractal Terrains to my arsenal, I’m even more excited about getting back into mapping. It will probably be some time before I’ve worked out what I want to do but expect to see mapping as a recurring theme around here!