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Finnbhennach's Crypt. Fri, Oct 20, 2017.
New York City:
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I. "Ongoing Projects w/ Status Updates"
New York City:
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II. "Future Projects"
A SimCity 4 Tutorial
Cloud Oriented Region Import Method Adding Painted Streams
In this guide I present a method to create a grayscale image from which to render a random rolling hills terrain map that has water streams and rivers added.
Here's a random sample of a map I created using this method:
Note: The following is merely an alternative method to create a semi-realistic, fictional region map for SC4. Before you waste any time reading this please be aware that the defacto standards for map making are: SC4 Mapper, SC4 Terraformer, and Landscape Designer. Use them if you want something better. Also, as mentioned by @RobertLM78 in a reply in this thread there is another one by Ordio called Simcity 4 Region and Config Creator.
However, many peeps have said they cannot run those programs on later versions of Windoze or other OS's so what I'm presenting here is simply another method by which one can make a decent map with minimal time and effort. I'm using GIMP for this guide because it's free to anyone. Any good image editing program will have the same tools I use in this guide.
The method is quick and easy.
1. Load your SimCity 4 Rush Hour or Deluxe game and create a new region. Name it whatever you want. For this tutorial I'll use Cloud Map. Exit the game, or at a minimum, exit the new region by opening a different region. This is so the existing config.bmp file is not in use.
2. Create a new config.bmp file. For this tutorial mine will be 12x12 pixels. See Config.bmp: How to Make it Yours if you are not already familiar with it.
3. Save that config.bmp into the new region folder you just made. (Overwrite the existing one.)
4. You should now have region.ini and your config.bmp in your new region folder.
Making the Grayscale Image
1. Go outside and take a picture of some clouds.
2. Load the picture into a decent imaging program.
3. [Optional] Crop it if there are cloudless parts you don't want in the image. In Gimp it's the Rectangle Select Tool over in the upper left of the tools box. Or you can press R. Draw a box around the part you want to keep.
Then go to the Image Menu and select Crop to Selection...
4. Scale the image to the appropriate size based on the config.bmp you will be using. As we learned in @Birdin's config.bmp guide we multiply the dimensions of config.bmp by 64 and add 1. So 12 * 64 = 768 + 1 = 769. The height and width are the same since my config.bmp is 12 x 12.
Go to the Image Menu and select Scale Image...
That brings up this Scale Image dialog box. First click the little linked chain to the right of the Width and Height boxes to break the chain. This tells the program that we are not concerned about keeping the cropped selection proportional to the original image. Type in the Width and Height dimensions that you calculated in the beginning of this step. For this tutorial I entered 769 in both boxes. Then click the Scale button.
5. Convert to grayscale. Go to the Image Menu and select Mode --> Grayscale.
6. Export the image as a .Bmp file. Go to the File Menu and select Export As ...
When the export dialog box comes up, look in the lower left for the little bitty plus sign in a box by the Select File Type (By Extension) and click it. That will open up the File Type selection box. Scroll down and click Windows BMP image.
In the upper left in the name box, type in Gray 1 in front of the .bmp. Note only the name portion is pre-highlighted in blue indicating what part to type over. (Brilliant programming imo.) Remember which folder you export (save) the file to. That's indicated by my arrow in this next pic. Mine is going into My Documents. Click the Export Button.
The next dialog box has some options. I simply click the Export Button. (I believe one could select the Run-Length Encoded to reduce the file size. I haven't tested that, so I leave it unchecked.)
And here's what I created:
8. Close all files. I personally do not let it save my original clouds with the cropping and changes so that way I still have my unaltered original.
9. Close your imaging program. (Or if your comp has plenty of memory, just minimize it.)
(These interim steps are what I did when learning. I skip them now I know what I'm doing.)
1. In SimCity 4, open the new region you created. Mine is called Cloud Map.
2. Press the magic key combination of Shift+Ctrl+Alt+r. This brings up the file selection box.
3. Drill down to where you saved your grayscale image file and select Gray 1.bmp then click Ok.
4. Now wait while the map is rendered. You will see Creating New City like this:
And here's our first draft render. Note that it's way too choppy. We will fix that soon. The reason I did this preliminary render is to see what part is water.
Tweaking the Grayscale Image
1. Reopen Gray 1.bmp in your image editor. We will paint in our rivers and streams before we smooth out the rough, choppy bumps. Select the Paintbrush tool and set it to Acrylic 05. Leave the size at 20 point for now. I selected Acrylic cause it adds a random pattern to the edges of what you paint.
2. Click the foreground color selection box. It's right under all the tools on the left. That brings up the Change Foreground Color choices. Type 40 in Red, Green, and Blue. Yes, I already hear peeps saying: Wait, that's too dark. Stay with me on this.
3. Now paint in streams / rivers. A twitchy hand actually improves the realism.
4. Now to smooth out the choppiness of the hills. From the Filters menu select Blur --> Gaussian Blur... This also blends the rivers and streams so that's why I picked color level 40 (which equates to 120 meters height after rendering but doesn't count the blur merging). This'll be an area to experiment on your own based on your original cloud picture.
5. In the next dialog box change the Blur Radius to 10.0. Or pick your own number. Higher numbers means more smoothing and lower ones give less.
6. Export the image as Gray 2.bmp. Here's my new grayscale:
7. And here it is rendered:
The map is now ready to paint trees in game or load your favorite terrain and tree and other landscape related mods. Or, tweak it some more.
1. Let's say I want everything to be a little lower elevation to get a bit more water. From the Colors menu select Levels...
2. Then I adjust the Gamma Level to 0.85. (I derived this number thru trial and error for this particular cloud image.)
3. Here's the new Grayscale image I exported as Gray 3.Bmp:
4. Here it is rendered:
5. And then I painted Maxis trees in every tile:
I've discovered a couple new things. I started with this cloud picture:
Then in GIMP I did the normal stuff outlined above and then I used the Burn Tool to lighten the banks of the rivers:
And I blurred it after that. Here's the grayscale I created:
Another new thing I noticed is having mods for terrain, rocks, water, and beaches already installed means the import rendering colors the region view with them so I don't have to go into each tile to do that. Here it is rendered:
Then I did go in and paint Maxis trees as thick as the program would allow:
^ What I really like is the banks of the rivers seem more realistic to me inasmuch as they show the effect of previous flooding. Also my heavier use of Gaussian Blur means the map is much more friendly when using a slope mod to lay out the transportation network.
Where to go from here
1. You can alter the gray shade of your paintbrush to a lighter one and paint along the sides of the streams to create gentler slopes if you like. It's best to do that before adding the blur cause the blur does a bunch of evening out. (See my edit above. Using the Burn Tool works even better for this.)
2. If your cloud picture has a much lighter blue sky you might want to play with brightness, contrast, or color levels to darken it before for you start any other part of the editing. Use the Color Picker Eyedropper to see what shade any given area in your grayscale is. Providing you have not installed a Height Mod with an alteration to the scale factor and/or sea level, grayscale 83 is slightly below sea level. Lower values are farther under water. Grayscale 84 is slightly above water. Higher values are then higher elevations up to a max of 255 (white).
3. Experiment with various options in the imaging program. Render and see what you get. Learning by doing is loads of fun.
4. Experiment with altering the moisture content as discussed here to change the ground texture appearance.
5. Extract the Terrain Properties exemplar from Simcity_1.dat and play around with the variables there like ImageImportScaleFactor and SeaLevel or the Erosion settings.
Feel free to post your map creations in this thread. Ideally, post both the final grayscale image and then a region screenshot. Reply with what you've discovered that might be useful to other peeps.
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