Accurate terrain modeling advice?

I’m starting to model the terrain for a 3D simulator game I’m working on and am not sure how to go about it. The model is of a coastline and harbor, and I have a topographic map, nautical chart, and aerial photos for reference. I would like to get the shoreline as accurate as possible, yet also try to keep the poly count as low as possible.

I have two thoughts on how to do this, but never having done this before I thought to seek the advice of folks with more experience. Here are my two ideas:

  1. Create a high resolution grid and overlay my topo map on top of it. Use the topo map as a reference and push/pull vertices vertically to create the terrain. I could also get the free geo reference data and try to convert it to a mesh. I’ve seen references to this and using Terragen to create a mesh. My concerns with this is that the grid may make the shoreline look “choppy”. I want the shoreline to follow the actual topo map as best as I can.

  2. Trace the shoreline with a poly-line and then extrude it vertically. Then scale the “layers” until it is a smooth shoreline. And last, sub-divide or add mesh to the top surface and push / pull vertices until the terrain is as desired. I experimented with this a bit, and although the shoreline comes out OK, I’m having a hard time creating a top mesh that looks right.

Am I going in the right direction, or is there another way? Any advice?

Thanks!!!

those both sound like tedious ways of doing it.
I have a suggestion.
I am also working on making terrain and the best way that I have found to do it is using what is called a hight map, a high map is a 2D gray scale picture that you make in photoshop (or some equaly capable graphics program, MS paint for example)
the highest elevatios are white and the lowes are black, I think if you use this in conjunction with your topo you will be able to quickly produice a basic mesh for the landscape.

I would post an example of what I’m talking about if this section would allow it.

any further questions?

A couple of years ago I was working on a similiar thing. The method I used was the same as corndogs. Once you have your height map then all you have to do is:

1: Create a Plane with your desired width and length.
2: Subdivide it into as many polys as you want your end result to have.
3: Set the height map as a texture onto it and render a preview to make sure its lying in the right direction on the plane.
4: Go into Mesh Tools in edit mode with all your vertices selected.
5: Use the “Noise” tool until you get the desired height for the mesh.

Once you have this you can then go and fix up any areas that mightn’t have come out just as you’d have liked them to. Using the smooth tool once or twice can have a good effect unless you don’t want to lose that bit of realism.

thank you darg
those are the steps I forgot to mention.