Procedural Virtual Worlds

Procedural Virtual Worlds

Nuno Rodrigues (Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal), Luís Magalhães (University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal), João Paulo Moura (University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal), Alan Chalmers (University of Warwick, United Kingdom), Filipe Santos (Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal) and Leonel Morgado (University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-854-5.ch002
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Abstract

With the increasing demand for more complex and larger models in different fields, such as the design of virtual worlds, video games, and computer animated movies, the need to generate them automatically has become more necessary than ever. Manual tools are no longer sufficient to match this rising need, and the impact that automatic tools may have within these fields is essential and may lead to an adoption of virtual worlds in a growing number of applications. Indeed, it is possible to eliminate most of the effort associated with the creation of such environments, by providing tools that may generate “massive” 3D content automatically. In consequence these tools may lead to an exponential growth of virtual environments and represent an important turn into the design of realistic virtual cities, which may have a huge impact on virtual world users. This chapter discusses the very complex issue of where and when procedural modelling may be used and presents some solutions and methods that have been successfully used in the aforementioned fields of application.
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“Going Procedural”

In the last few years, the use of algorithms to automatically generate virtual reality environments has become an effective solution for the production of digital content. In fact, the idea of automatically recreating environments with very little modelling effort is a fascinating idea that can lead to several benefits in different areas including virtual worlds (a few other examples include architecture, video games and movies). The goal is to place all, or most of the effort, of creating an environment in computer software. This means that the time spent by human resources, such as computer modellers or even a plain virtual world user who wants to create their own models, would be significantly reduced and their time may be used on more useful tasks.

The creation of virtual environments via an algorithm (instead of manually) is often identified as “generation” of virtual environments. Similarly, the set of techniques which rely on algorithms to generate these environments are often referred to as “procedural modelling” techniques. Although there are diverse techniques used in procedural modelling, such as grammar based techniques (e.g. L-systems1), fractals2 and generative modelling3, the general purpose of these is similar: apply parameterised algorithms to produce 3D virtual scenes. The result is to create 3D models or textures from user choices rather than manually modelling each of the environment features.

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