After spending more hours than you want to admit, cycling through randomly created FT3 worlds, you have finally found one that is nearly perfect. But there are some bits that are too tall, others that are too low. Maybe there is an inland sea you want filled in. It’s time to learn about editing.

The following is taken largely from ProFantasy documentation and comments Joe Slayton (the program’s author) has made in various forums, and is then expanded upon by my own experiences with the software.

In this article, I will try to briefly cover the most commonly used editing tools and their basic function. Understanding editing is pretty straightforward. However, developing proficiency is a much more difficult goal. I do not claim any great skill, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of a few simple tasks. Today, I want to lay the foundation, as much as anything, to simply get everything clear in my head, before moving on to specific topics. In following posts, I’ll try to create step-by-step tutorials on how to accomplish specific goals, as well as covering some of the more esoteric editing features.

Climate, Rainfall, and Temperature

When FT3 creates a new world, it includes a number of maps (called shaders) for altitude, climate, rainfall, and temperature. There are various tools for editing each of these maps. However, I am going to limit this discussion to the Altitude shader, and the editing tools that affect terrain altitude.

Most of this information can be applied equally well to the other shaders and their associated tools. Specific differences and uses may be covered in a future post.

The Editing Toolbar

When you select any of the following tools, the Paintbrush Options dialog box will appear at the bottom of the screen. Within that dialog box, there is an Operation drop down box with three options: Raise, Lower, and Value. If you select Value, any terrain you use the brush on will have the associated attribute (Offset, Prescale Offset, Roughness) set to this value.

Note that when setting brush size or value, these changes do not take effect until the focus leaves the textbox, so click on another textbox, or press tab or alt-tab, after entering a value in any of these fields.

Raise (R) and Lower (L) – affect the altitude of the terrain.

Raise Prescale Offset and Lower Prescale Offset – also affect the altitude of the terrain. However, prescale offset changes are applied prior to scaling. See “What Is Prescale Offset Editing?” below.

Rougher (O) and Smoother (S) – increase and decrease the height variation, creating rough or smooth terrain.

The Tools Menu

Paint Values, Paint Raise, and Paint Lower are simply different methods of accessing the same editing tools found on the Editing Toolbar. Most of the other tools on this menu are a little more advanced and I’d like to save them for a future post. But I do want to at least mention a few of the Global commands.

Global Raise, Global Lower, and Global Smooth are similar to their corresponding Brush counterparts. However, they affect the entire world, limited by the current selection mask. Whereas, those three commands increase or decrease a value, Global Set will replace a value. The first three affect Offset, Prescale Offset, and Roughness. Global Set can additionally affect Altitude (as well as Climate, Rainfall, and Temperature) directly.

When Using any of these Global commands along with a selection, it is best to feather the selection first in order to reduce the creation of artifacts at the edges of the selected area.

What Is Prescale Offset Editing?

Prescale offset editing allows terrain to be raised or lowered prior to the application of scaling. From a mathematical point of view, normal offset editing is calculated as:

Altitude = Offset(lat, long) + Roughness(lat, long) * Shelf(Scale(Fractal(lat, long)))

while, prescale offset editing is calculated as:

Altitude = Offset(lat, long) + Roughness(lat, long) * Shelf(Scale(Fractal(lat, long) + Prescale(lat, long)))

According to ProFantasy documentation, the prescale offset editing functions “are advanced editing functions for greater precision in editing continental shelves”. However, in numerous instances Joe Slayton (the programmer behind Fractal Terrains) has stated that you essentially want to use prescale offset editing functions wherever you can, as they provide better results than normal offset editing functions.

In order to use prescale offset editing functions, they must first be enabled. Click on World Settings, and select the Editing Tab. Check the box next to “Allow Prescale Offset Editing” and click Apply.

With prescale offset editing enabled, memory usage for the map will increase by 18%.

Selection Tools

There are four basic selection tools located on the editing toolbar: Rectangular, Elliptical, Freehand, and Polygon. When using these tools, you can hold down Shift to add to the current selection, or Ctrl to remove an area from the current selection.

There are four other standard selection tools located on the Selection menu:

  • Select All (Ctrl-A)
  • Deselect (Ctrl-D)
  • Reselect (Ctrl-Shift-D)
  • Inverse (Ctrl-Shift-I)

Naturally, you can Save and Load selections as well. All of these selection tools are standard in any current day editing program and all work as expected. However, the Selection menu also has a few additional commands:

Feather – This will soften the selection mask, blurring it around the edges. You will be prompted to enter the amount by which the selection is to be smoothed. Feathered selections can have partially-selected pixels. This is essential in reducing the artifacts created at the edge of a selected area, when raising or lowering terrain.

Binarize – This is essentially the opposite of Feather. It will harden the selection, so that each pixel is either fully selected or fully deselected.

Modify – This submenu offers four methods of modifying an existing selection.

Expand and Contract – Increase or decrease the selected area by a set number of pixels.

Border – This will create a new selection, that is a strip extending a set number of pixels on either side of the existing selection. For example, if the current selection is a circle 100 pixels across, and you specify 10 pixels, it will be replaced by a new circular selection 120 pixels across, which does not include the central 80 pixels.

Currently (in v3.0.12), this feature does not seem to be working correctly. It does create a border, but the width does not correspond to the value entered. You will have to experiment with values until to achieve the desired effect.

Distance – “Converts the selection into distances from the edge of the selection”. If you understand what this means, please explain it to me. When I select Modify -> Distance, I am not offered an option to enter a value. Instead, the selection is contracted and corners are rounded. It acts very similarly to Modify -> Contract

Select by Range – Lastly, you can select by value (of Altitude, Climate, Rainfall, or Temperature). Each of these can select all terrain that is above or below a specific value, or between (or not between) a set of values. The resulting selection can then be added to, removed from, or replace the current selection. These selection tools are extremely useful in conjunction with more advanced editing techniques (that will be discussed in a later post).

Using Selections with Brushes and Global Commands

Normally, when using brushes, everything the brush covers (and only what the brush covers) is affected. In this sense, the brush can be thought of as a selection all its own. When you define a selection, and then use a brush, you can think of the defined selection and the brush as being two separate selections. Only areas where these two selections overlap will be affected by whatever tool you are using.

When you use a Global command, by default it will affect the entire world. If a selection is defined, only the portion of the world within the selection is affected.

Where To Go From Here

Read everything you can, watch the videos listed below, search for related threads on the ProFantasy forums, and most of all just play around with the program. Practice on a world that you don’t care about. You are guaranteed to make changes that don’t come out the way you expect, and it is nearly impossible to correct some things with tools. As long as you are on a “practice” world, you can always click Next World, followed by Previous World to reset everything.

As tempting as they look, ignore rivers. There is a great deal to learn before you will be ready to delve into setting up rivers properly.

In general, use big brushes and make small changes (use small values). When using global tools, always feather the selection.

Whenever working on a world you care about, make a copy at each stage as you move along. There is an undo feature but it is very limited in how far back it can go.

Enjoy! And don’t get frustrated. It will get easier.

Edit: This section was originally left off. However, it can be extremely useful in certain situations. Sorry I didn’t include it right off the bat.

“Fixing” an Area that You Messed Up

As I said above, it is sometimes impossible to use these tools to “fix” something you messed up. The Undo feature will only go back so far. If you don’t have a backup, you are basically screwed. However, there is one last thing you can try.

Select the area you want to fix.

Tools -> Global Set -> Land Offset (with a value of 0).

Tools -> Global Set -> Prescale Land Offset (with a value of 0).

Tools -> Global Set -> Roughness (with a value of 1).

This should revert the selected area back to how it was originally, before performing any edits.


Additional Resources

Fractal Terrains 3 – ProFantasy’s Product Page

FT Pro Details.pdf – Located in the Documents folder in your FT3 installation directory.

FT3 Essentials.pdf – Located in the Documents folder in your FT3 installation directory.

CGTutorial – Joe Slaton’s FT Pro Tutorial.

Fractal Terrains 3 Demo – Mark Fulford

Joe Sweeney’s FT Videos

ProFantasy Forums – Filled with wonderful, helpful people. Searching for “Fractal Terrains” will bring up a great many threads that you may find useful.