Virtual world creation often starts with designers sketching their vision, and proceeds with months of manual 3D modelling and fine-tuning all the small details of this world. Novel, semi-automated modelling techniques can spare much of this routine work, however, they are often very specific and complex to use. SketchaWorld combines this research into an integrated and very accessible modelling tool.
3D virtual worlds have grown from abstract and simplistic to highly detailed and lifelike. Furthermore, they now have a widespread use outside entertainment gaming, for instance in serious gaming, military training and simulation, urban planning, etc. However, as virtual worlds continue to become even larger, more detailed and lifelike, two challenges are apparent. First, the effort required to model all that content by hand becomes simply too large. There are various techniques for (semi-)automatically creating content, but most offer designers very little control and hinder them to realize their ideas. Such tools typically require in-depth knowledge, being therefore only suitable for experts to use. Second, integrating all the content in a virtual world and maintaining its logical consistency throughout its design is increasingly complex. This makes it impracticable to modify it substantially at a later stage, even though there might be valid reasons to do that.
Procedural sketching of virtual worlds
SketchaWorld, a combined research effort of TNO and Delft University of Technology, integrates content generation techniques and user interaction methods for making the creation of virtual worlds accessible, controllable and efficient. Using an intuitive interaction method called procedural sketching, you interactively create the virtual world you have in mind. You paint the landscape with colors representing steep mountain ridges, green hills, barren desert, etc. On top of this, you draw terrain features, such as rivers, forests and cities, using simple lines and shapes. Meanwhile, each element you sketched is automatically expanded to a realistic terrain feature. Furthermore, all generated features are automatically fit with their surroundings. For instance, a road's embankment is integrated in the landscape, and when it crosses a river an appropriate bridge is inserted in place. While you sketch the world, you can continuously evaluate the results, both in 2D and 3D.
Applications of SketchaWorld
Automated content generation techniques as these will certainly never fully replace manual modelling, but can help to substantially improve the effectiveness of virtual world modelling.
SketchaWorld's foremost application is enabling virtual world design by non-specialists. Consider, for instance, instructors that train their students using serious games or simulations. Using SketchaWorld, they could create a virtual world that matches exactly with the training scenario and learning objectives they have in mind. Furthermore, it is easy for them to quickly create variations on the scenarios they have.
In addition, SketchaWorld could be of valuable assistance for applications as concept design, rapid prototyping, and exploration of ideas. Moreover, the generated results can always serve as a sound basis for further enrichment using traditional manual modelling tools.