Landscapes have been a staple component of almost every MMO in recent memory. With the exception of some sci-fi titles
, most MMOs take place on the land of some imagined island or continent. Some use stylised fantasy landscapes
that run smoothly on even low-end computers while others have managed almost photo-realistic visuals
at the cost of performance. But have you ever thought about what's going on behind the scenes in your favourite MMO? Most of us don't think about how the computer is actually drawing the terrain we run around on. We don't give much thought to the different ways each MMO renders the water in lakes, rivers and oceans. And just how does your computer render so many trees and plants without grinding to a halt? As part of my masters degree in computer science, I got to grips with a number of these techniques and found it a fascinating thing to learn about. Now when I play a new game or see MMO screenshots, I can't help but think about what the computer is doing in the background and how particular visual effects could have been achieved.
In this technical article, I talk about some of the components of an MMO landscape scene and a few of the techniques used in creating the graphics behind them.