Visitor 3: Making of simple landscape

From Bohemia Interactive Community
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This tutorial basics on source data of Rahmadi island. This tutorial does not provide exhaustive explanation of all the facets of terrain editing. It is a commentary to accompany sample data. For the additional information address:

To reproduce the creation of map do so:

  • Install BItools
  • Set up working folders structure for SampleMap project
  • Unpack required PBO files to your work drive (P:\) to make data available for editing
  • Start Visitor, load project and check project settings.
  • Import surface textures.
  • Run Buldozer and edit map.

Download the SampleMap project from BI Forums.

Working data structure

Offered the sample map project is presented by file (archive). It contains BISampleMap folder in which alocated CA folder. Copy SampleMap folder from the CA folder into the directory on your work drive (default P:\CA\). The SampleMap folder contains following:

1. Data folder;

2. Source folder;

3. config.cpp

4. SampleMap.wrp

5. SampleMap.hpp

Data folder contains surface textures, satellite texture and surface mask segments generated by Visitor. It should be packed into PBO file in the end of the work.

Source folder contains the project PEW file, helper files and source data.

WRP file contains the map itself. It is generated by Buldozer along with HPP file.

HPP file is included into Names class of the map's param CONFIG.CPP file using #include operator. It defines map names and appearance of 2D map symbols in game. KeyPoints tool panel of Visitor is used to insert those data.

NOTE: you will have to unpack content of buildings.pbo, misc.pbo, plants.pbo and rocks.pbo in respective folders in P:\CA\ in order to be able to work with sample data in realtime viewer.

Do not the same with roads.pbo such as ODOL model. It are not suitable for use in Visitor 3. Instead, use the MLOD road model supplied with the RC3 Tools Release.

Project settings

  • Create a project: Project > New (CTRL+N) then set following in Project parameters dialog:
    • Terrain grid size to 512 x 512, it is map size measured in elevation vertices.
    • Terrain cell size to 10, it is the distance between vertices in X and Y axis.
    • Terrain size is set automatically to 5120 x 5120 (m^2).
    • Satellite Grid field > press "Calculator" button and Satellite grid calculator dialog appears. Input image size corresponding to size of big surface texture you are going to import later. If 1 pixel of raster corresponds to 1 sq. meter, it is possible to set 5120, stick to default values in the rest of editable cases (Segment size and Segment overlap). Calculator fills in necessary values. Press Apply proposed and Close buttons.
    • Set 40 x 40 meters value in Texture Layers. It is the size of square into which the detailed textures are mapped.

project parameters.jpg satellite grid calculator.jpg

NOTE: Detailed description of Project parameters can be found here: Making Satellite Texture and Mask.
  • In Tools menu > Project Preferences command. Specify path to folder, into which surface texture segments will be generated - CA\SampleMap\Data and click OK button. Setting this is important for importing big surface textures.
NOTE: Textures may be generated to different folder and packed into separate PBO file.
  • Save the project: Project > Save (CTRL+S) as my_SampleMap.pew or with whatever filename you want.


There are several possibilities how to import terrain in Visitor. For the purpose of this tutorial, there are either XYZ file (texture generated by MicroDEM - MicroDEM Homepage) or PNG file with PBL param file available.

NOTE: Optimum format of imported PNG is grayscale with 16 bit colour depth. XYZ file depicts initial raw and unedited Rahmadi terrain.

  • Project menu > Import Terrain from picture command.
  • Browse for PBL file CA\SampleMap\Source\Terrain\terrain.pbl. Make sure there is terrain.png in the same folder, for PBL file points to it.
TIP: Visitor can also export terrain to PNG, using menu "Project" > "Export Terrain into picture...". 
Sometimes it is handy to make raw terrain in Visitor and later smooth or alter in some raster editor.
  • Now the terrain was imported. To check it, turn on Show contours icon and change contour range using Actual preferences icon, where it is possible to set contour interval and minimum contour (both in meters).
  • Colours of sea, terrain elevations and contours can be set in View > Define configuration (Ctrl+F) in Colors - height tab.
  • Visible terrain elements can be set in View > View settings, (CTRL+Q) or directly by the buttons in main toolbar.

view settings.jpg

view settings toolbar.jpg

NOTE: To get better idea on terrain in the course of editing, turn on "Show shadows" button.
  • Import of XYZ file is handled by Project menu > Import Terrain from XYZ command.

Import of satellite texture and surface mask

NOTE: During import of the data the Buldozer should be not connected to the Visitor.

For import from a Source folder you need the following:

  • SatTextureName_lco.png (sample file sat_lco.png)
  • SatSurfaceMaskName_lco.png (sample file mask_lco.png)
  • layers.cfg
  • mapLegend.png (not necessary to alter this file in other projects)

NOTE: In Data folder, detailed surfaces, textures and RVMAT files should be prepared. Every surface has several files with same basic name and various suffices:

  • surfaceName_CO.png - detailed texture which replaces satellite texture and MCO map on close range, together with normal map
  • surfaceName_NOHQ.png - normal map for detailed _CO texture
  • surfaceName_MCO.png - this map is mapped on texture layer square, it only multiplies over satellite texture

These surfaces have corresponding definition of so-called clutter (small grass, plants or stones objects) generated automatically on respective surface by the game engine, unless the surface is overlaid by some model's Roadway LOD.

Import data: Tools menu > Import satellite & mask command.

The Select layer configuration file dialog appear. In the Source folder select layers.cfg file and press Open button.

Rvmat selection dialog appear. In the Save .rvmat files as: field Binary default value . Press OK button.

The Select satellite map dialog appear. Select sat_lco.png file and press Open button.

The 'Select layer mask dialog appear. Select mask_lco.png file and press Open button.

The Importing Satellite Data box appear, which displays import process. After import, you should see Layers folder in the map working directory (e.g. P:\CA\SampleMap\Data\). Satellite texture and mask segments (PNGs) and RVMAT files for every square segment are stored in this folder.

NOTE: it is not necessary to delete its content when you regenerate the textures, Visitor is capable to regenerate and replace only changed parts. All the new PNGs should be converted to PAAs when Buldozer is started. Before you do so, it is recommended to save the project since it bears actual UV coordinates for the segments.

Content of MapLegend. Visitor uses only first row of pixels as RGB reference, rest of file does not have any function.

Satellite texture

This texture is mapped onto terrain. In the game, it exists as a group of slightly overlapping squares. Their cutting and overlay is controlled by value of Satellite grid in the Project Parameters box. To prepare satellite texture use a PNG picture of the same size which have been input for calculation of the Satellite Grid value in Project Parameters. In Arma maps, 1 pixel corresponds to 1 m^2, therefore the map size in meters is equal to raster size in pixels. File should be named using _lco suffix , ensuring its proper conversion to PAA.

TIP: If you experiment with satellite texture and you need to regenerate it often, you may as well use _draftlco suffix, which causes binarization to use faster but less accurate conversion of generated segments to PAA. Don't forget to delete content of Layers folder when you change suffix of source rasters to _lco.

Surface mask

  • Size of surface mask should be the same as the size of satellite texture.
  • Surface colours in mask should be discrete to avoid any artifacts on map surface. Avoid smoothing or anti-aliasing. (Such things are possible but not too easy to make properly, you should follow the gradient depicted in mapLegend.png).
  • It is possible to use only 4 colours on each single segment of surface mask.

NOTE: Visitor divides both input rasters in the same way.

It is because of the colour conversion of mask segments into 4 full RGB shades (black, full R, full G, full B). In your first projects, it is safer to use just 4 surfaces for the whole map and add later as you become to know where exactly the source data is cut based on generated satellite segments.

Surface definitions in layers.cfg

  • RGB values in layers.cfg must correspond to shades used in mask raster.
  • Surface class defines one surface and its own set of detailed textures.
  • If you used the same surface names as in ArmA games, same clutters will be displayed in the game as on original Arma surfaces.
class Layers ///List of detailed surfaces in map

  class pisek
    texture = "ca\SampleMap\data\pisek_mco.png"; ///Overlay texture on mid-distance, visible with sat. texture
    material="ca\SampleMap\data\pisek.rvmat"; ///File defining detailed textures

  class travajih
    texture = "ca\SampleMap\data\travajih_mco.png";

  class mesto2
    texture = "ca\SampleMap\data\mesto2_mco.png";

  class pole1
    texture = "ca\SampleMap\data\pole1_mco.png";


class Legend ///
  picture="ca\SampleMap\Source\mapLegend.png"; ///Path to mapLegend file
  class Colors
    /// Colours must correspond to surface names


  • pisek - sand
  • trava - grass
  • jih - south
  • mesto - city
  • pole - field

Inserting and editing of objects

Before you start Buldozer and try to edit objects, make sure you have unpacked PBOs of all addons used in Arma maps: buildings.pbo, misc.pbo, plants.pbo, roads.pbo and rocks.pbo.

Insert to object list - object template definition

  • Insert the objects you need into Panel of objects. You can do so: Tools menu > Nature Objects or Artificial Objects commands. Depending on the list in which model is inserted, it will be hidden or shown when particular filter is activated, there is no other functionality in this classification.
  • Objects (*.P3D) can be inserted by clicking Add/Browse button. In Visitor objects exist as object templates, defined by their template name, used model, ranges of random orientation and size on insertion.

NOTE: Deleting object templates from list is possible only if none of those objects are present in the map.

In Defined Objects window, it is possible to change name, draw properties and size of randomization, pitch and facing of selected object.

Objects definition

Inserting objects in the map

  • Choose an object: View menu > Panel of objects command. Window appear, select the category of objects from drop-down list then select object and insert it with a LMB click on the map.
  • Select inserted object by LMB click. It can be edited further:
    • Delete (Delete key)
    • Move by dragging by mouse
    • Change its properties (Object properties), accessed by double-click or Enter key. It is possible to change:
      • Object position
      • Rotate selected object
      • Elevation relative to surface (meters)
      • Object size (%)
  • By dragging over objects while holding LMB, multiple objects can be selected. If CTRL/SHIFT is held, objects are added/subtracted from selection.
Object properties
TIP: If you place mouse cursor over object and press O key, object will be highlighted and selected in Panel of objects.

Named selections

  • If the panel is not visible, it can be activated by View > Named Selections Panel.
  • When objects are selected, it is possible to make named selection of them, which can be hidden, locked etc. separately.
  • Context menu for named selections can be activated by RMB click in list of selections.

Editing terrain and objects in Buldozer

Start Buldozer: Project menu > Connect to Buldozer command (CTRL+F7) or click red exclamation button in the toolbar. When Buldozer is started for the first time or you change any textures (regenerating satellite segments, altering objects textures), it will converting all PNGs or TGAs to PAA format, which may take a while. If application does not respond, do not try to terminate it, let it finish its job.

Editing terrain in Buldozer

Buldozer controls:

  • You can navigate in the map using mouse.
  • Camera rotation is controlled by numpad ("2", "4", "6", "8").
  • Zoom of camera relative to cursor is handled by "+" (zoom in) and "-" (zoom out) keys.
  • Default distance of camera from cursor is restored by "5" key .
  • LMB selects object (if you select objects in Visitor, they are selected in Buldozer as well).
  • Objects are rotated by holding RMB and dragging mouse sideways. Origin of rotation is defined by the position of box cursor.
  • LShift key accelerates camera rotation and cursor movement.
  • Use H to turn on/off arrow marking closest terrain vertex.
  • Use N to turn on/off FLIR Filter.
  • U/J rises/lowers vertex by 1 meter.
  • I/K rises/lowers vertex by 5 meters.
TIP: If you don't see editing cursor (white box) and arrow indicating selected objects, set Buldozer to use content of unpacked UI.pbo by stating it in text file loaded when Buldozer starts. Description can be found in Visitor 3 Manual page.

Packing your map

  • To pack the map into PBO file, you need to have functional config.cpp (+HPP), WRP file, textures in PAA format and all relevant RVMAT files.
  • If you use your custom objects in the map, you should pack them and add them to ..\Arma\Addons\ folder to use the map in game.

NOTE: that structures described here reflects working customs of BI. Public utility used to pack PBO files packs ALL the content of a designated addon folder (in this case ..\ca\SampleMap), therefore it is wise to keep clean "packing" version separated and keep there only needed files.

TIP: If you cannot see your map in map list, game crashes after you attempt to preview mission on your terrain or you cannot see surface textures, check ALL PATHS in config.cpp and RVMAT files in Data folder. Also make sure that any referenced files really do exist at the specified location.