Real time generation and rendering of realistic landscapes

A Dutch landscape painting from 1820 (by Adrianus van der Koogh). A challenging goal to aim for in landscape generation and rendering.

I haven't used this blog much yet, but I was thinking of starting to blog regularly now. So to clear up the backlog, here's my masters thesis on landscape generation and rendering, finished in the autumn 2006.

In it I review a number of algorithms for generating and rendering various aspects of landscapes, from terrain to plants, buildings, and the sky. I also discuss a bit how to use ecotopes to distribute the landscape features naturally.

I tried to illustrate it throughly and make it easy to read, so feel free to check it out. Apart from some of my not-so-interesting building generation experiments in the middle it's mostly a review of existing approaches with a few ideas and improvements of mine thrown in. It can serve as a kind of pre-study for a landscape engine.

Here's the abstract:
With the increasing size of virtual landscapes in games and other applications there is a growing need for generation algorithms that can help designers to produce large realistic landscapes. Parametrized procedural and fractal systems provide this, and also enable on-the fly data generation that minimizes required storage space. Ecotopes provide a way to introduce natural variation in automatically generated landscapes by varying the generation parameters based on the location. Interactive performance can be achieved by using geometry with a level of detail that decreases with the distance to the observer. In this thesis I evaluate different algorithms for generating and rendering terrain, vegetation, buildings, cities, and the sky. New algorithms are sketched out for terrain generation through successive uneven mass deposit, elevation map modifying textures, river system generation, pattern based city generation, and weather modeling. A subdivision based house generation algorithm is also presented and partially implemented. Finally opportunities for further research in conveying emotions with landscapes are identified.