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RiverCocytus

Mappng and creating realistic streams

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Ok, so it has come to my attention that many scale-accurate maps lack most of the smaller bodies of water (streams, ponds, etc) that are really there. Partly this is due to the quality of satelite maps limiting the visibility of these estruaries, but partly it is a limitation of SimCity4's rendering engine.

I set out to figure out if it was possible to equip a map with streams/rivers of a very small size, so that the player would not have to do this work himself.

After some fooling around, I have discovered what I believe is the smallest stream that SC4 will reliably render from a grayscale.

Without using height mods, this is what I did:
RGB = 85,85,85 - use this to lay down the land.
RGB = 78,78,78 - take a 1 pixel pencil or brush and draw streams/ponds etc with this. they can be as small as you would like, AFAIK, and they will be noticed by SC4. (provided that they are not lost in compression.)

Here is what I got:

streams.jpg

Bottom Left: The actual grayscale, 257 x 257.

Looks pretty nice, IMHO, but it seems that like usual, the rendering engine's shortcuts result in a kind of artificial weathering. Also, the streams have gotten wider than your original image suggests they ought to be.

Solutions:

1. Use 'Smooth Terrain' in God Mode, and/or the Soften Brush.

stream_wide.jpg

Results in wider streams, in this case they're really rivers. But their width is fairly realistic.

Bottom Left: Showing what some bridges look like, for size reference.

2. Use 'plains' brush or 'quick level tool' at a fairly zoomed in level (it makes the brushes smaller)

streams_small.jpg

This takes more effort but I like the result.

Bottom Left: Showing what some bridges look like again, for size reference.

Top Left: Somewhat more effort results in very tiny streams, which get really good bridge sizes.

Conclusion: The limitations of the rendering still make it impossible to really lay down good streams. I think that if one had a very special brush one could fool the rendering engine into more consistently drawing smaller streams.

It still requires effort on part of the map player, but it gives the region more character.

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May I offer my congratulations rivercocytus

You have shown here with some excellent pictures, what I have been trying to say in words on almost everyone of my maps.
I am sure you will agree that it is so frustrating to spend many hours, hand drawing the most intricate of streams and small inlets, only to have the God forsaken rendering engine all but destroy them. The answer is most certainly a large bitmap, but it is understandable that the STEX must limit greyscales to 2.5 Mb, otherwise Dirk would need many thousands of dollars for a massive new server just to accomodate the maps.
As map makers, all we can do is give the members as accurate a map as is possible, in terms of proportions and/or scale, - the final touches are then in thier hands

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