Jenuvyel seeks to generate a virtual infinity of planets.
In my sci-fi space exploration game, players will be searching for as many planets as they can.
Older, less sophisticated games had tens to (at best) a couple hundred 2D colored discs to represent different planets. Not only are these discs incapable of portraying the locations of cities, colonies, facilities, geographic features, resource locations and so much more that were in play, but their variety was also noticeably lacking, even with a couple hundred. The same picture would inevitably be randomly assigned to two or more different planets in the same game, as well as in multiple games with the same players, who would recognize the repetition. This worked, but it tore at the fabric of fictional make-believe.
An infinite variety still seems well out of reach for us puny humans at this time. So, I've been seeking the next best thing; a virtual infinity...
One of my original concepts was to create multiple spheres, for example a geosphere (earth) and an aquasphere (oceans). The geosphere would have sculpted surface contours, like crevasses, valleys, plateaus and mountains and the aquasphere would be scaled up or down to fill in different ocean levels. This should create a considerable quantity of different looking planets from a single pair of spheres.
This idea presents several challenges: On a planetary scale, the geosphere's contours have to be vary minute or they start to appear unrealistic and cartoonishly exaggerated (the 20-mile thick crust of Earth is thinner than an eggshell on the same scale); and the sculpting produces an undesirable high poly count. Answering the high poly count by baking a normal map of the contours then negates the effects of the adjustable aquasphere.
Then I discovered this hurricane tutorial. One minute and 15 seconds into this tutorial, the tutor TomWalks demonstrates a color-ramp mask over two linked textures where adjustments to the ramp adjusts the predominance of one texture over the other. And voila! The artist can cause the oceans to rise and fall, with “the almighty power of God,” as TomWalks puts it.
Unfortunately, TomWalks does not show how to set up this color-ramped multi-textured mask. And I have yet to figure it out on my own.
I feel as if I'll figure it out sooner or later, but not yet. Can anybody help? If the solution requires considerable instruction, can we meet (online, or off the to side during a meeting break)? If many others are interested in this technique for the same or other applications, might this be an interesting meeting topic?
My game concept is still too far from becoming a reality to spend any amount of money on anything like Flaming Pear's LunarCell planet generator. But, if somebody knows enough about Photoshop-translated-over-to-GIMP get me started on manually duplicating what this interface software does, it would be more than greatly appreciated.
ALTERNATIVE THREE - ??:
Does anyone have any other solutions I might pursue? To achieve a virtual infinity, it might be better to use many different methods to generate more and more distinctively different planets.
For convenience, I have uploaded CCs of TomWalks' dot Blend Hurricane file in the Files section.