Why is Terragen looked upon as a toy ?


As a visitor to this forum I make a daily trip to the 3D Finished works forum to look at al the nice stuff that’s being made. Every now and then there is some work that has been done with Terragen and in almost any case there are negative reactions stating that Terragen is a toy and that it’s easy to make good looking landscapes with it by just pushing a few buttons.

To me this sounds like telling a photographer that his/her work is just childplay because all you do is pointing the camera at something and push a button. Oh yeah, that picture is just simple, you didn’t model that landscape yourself… ?! Of course we won’t say that to a photographer as we know that making a good (or even great) photograph there is a lot of stuff involved like composition, camera positioning and lighting.

The strange thing is that with Terragen, making a good (or even great) picture is also involving composition, camera positioning and lighting. If you have a nice camera you can make nice pictures with it but if you are really good at it you make wonderfull pictures. Same with Terragen.

I have used Terragen for several years and most stuff I made is mediocre and not worth showing. Those are ‘nice’ pictures but not ‘great’ ones. But I have seen stuff done with only Terragen that fals clearly into the category of ‘great pictures’ and I know from my own experience that it is simple to make a ‘nice’ picture with Terragen but it takes hard work and skill to make real great pictures with it.

And don’t say that using Terragen ‘to get the job done quickly’ is ok, because in that perspective it is still though of as a ‘simple’ program that does not need any serious skills to use.

So why is Terragen being looked upon as a toy ?


same reason Bryce and Poser are…


because the world is fill of elitist snobs


Thats not totally true. The main issues is that some software can easily make pretty pictures… but when it comes to making EXACTLY what a director wants…well… they fall flat on thier face. Its all about control and flexiblity that sepeartes a toy from a production tool.

I like some of those programs, but you have to be very careful how limited it is in doing what other people want.


I guess you could argue it both ways. But at least there is some validation as there will be a SIGGRAPH sketch about terrain rendering with one of the guys working on Terragen, plus speakers from Digital Domain:



Ahhh… but those attitudes may change if Terragen2 is all it’s hyped up to be. We shall see soon.


Bingo !

Actually, Terragen has a lot of control on the things it can do. It also lacks lots of things if you wanted to use it in production.

Neither of those things have anything to do with the snobbish put downs made by some people everytime a Terragen image is posted.


Well, that’s not really much of an answer, is it.

I never worked with Bryce so I can’t comment on it, although I think it is comparable to Terragen. But comparing Terragen with Poser is not logical (I know, sounding like a Vulcan here…). The point is that Poser is not meant to create photo-realistic images, it has a completely different purpose (posing 3D puppets). Terragen has loads of controls, comparable to, or even more complex as, a professional photocamera. Making good ‘shots’ with Terragen can be compared to making good shots with a camera. Poser has nothing to do with that.

When people judge Terragen they mostly do based on the way that you make your model (the landscape) in Terragen. Indeed modelling the landscape is fairly simple but that is one of it’s strengths. But most work in Terragen has to do with perfecting the picture, composing a great view, handle the lighting, texturing the land and setting wave-properties for the water. There is nothing ‘simple’ about that and getting great results is based on skilled use, not simplistic button clicking.

I think that most people who say that using Terragen is simple (or even ‘cheating’) never used it and those that did use it just touched the surface. The problem is that ‘touching the surface’ with Terragen gives you fairly nice (but not great) results right away without getting in-deep with the program. Those people judge Terragen on the fact that it is simple to get nice results right away and not on the fact that you can get wonderfull results when you actually get serious with the program.

For those that think Terragen is a ‘simple’ program, for example setting water-properties alone has 24 parameters, not counting the option to use plugins (this option is available throughout all the functionality of the program).


I do agree that Terragen might not fit certain productions, but we must not forget that 3D is being used in much more applications then movies. And for what Terragen is aimed at it is a serious tool tmo. Still, making real good and impressive artwork with Terragen is not simple or toy-like. And those comments stating that Terragen makes it easy to create nice pictures are doing wrong to the serious artists who are using Terragen.

Bottom line for me is the fact that I see some stunning visuals from time to time being made with Terragen and they are making me jealous of the talent involved. Those people push Terragen to the very professional level that Terragen is capable of.

Whenever I see a reply about it being simple to make ‘such’ a picture I dare the poster to get Terragen (available for free) and make a simillar quality picture with just pushing some buttons.


i don’t consider it a toy. like most apps it’s the person, not the tool.


Some people look at computers as toys. So whatever floats their boats.


i think one major focus of this forum is the creation aspect of digital art. with terragen, the user is virtually cut out of the creation process, thereby belittling the work in some way.


As far as I’m concerned it’s just another in the line “that’s cheating” opinions that some people seem to hold. Anyone that thinks Terragen is cheap or doesn’t produce controllable, film-quality results is just wrong. Wait and see Stealth. Just the pre-production stuff I have seen for terrain generation blew my socks off.


I worked with Terragen for a couple months, and at first I loved how simple it was to slap together a fairly pretty landscape. But once you get used to it, a lot of people (including me) get annoyed because there’s no built-in way to get, as Jackdeth put it, EXACTLY what you want. Basically the only way to modify the land (without installing plugins that are difficult for people with little or no 3d experience, i.e. me) is to use Terragen’s crappy paint tool, which is cumbersome at best and usually results in ugly, rounded forms. Still, it’s pretty fun for the first week or two.


Terragen is a GREAT program that lets you create some really cool renderings - and I would sooo not consider it a ‘toy’.

Is it ‘art’? Who the F cares… it looks COOL, that all that matters.


OK, I challenge you wedge. Go download and create “digital art” with terragen and then post it to this forum thread.

As has been said it’s easy to create fairly pretty landscapes. It takes a LOT of talent to make what I would consider great landscapes with it. Not impossible, as I’ve seen some great examples. I’m sure you’ll find that the user does make a difference and they are not “cut out of the creation process”.

You’ll find other 3D programs much much harder for people new to 3D. Terragens landscape creation tools are primitive, but you can download and load virtually any plot of land that exists on earth (and Mars) by loading in Hi-Rez Sattalite DEM files. What I find as a real weakness is the fact that you can’t create overhangs, but Matt says that it will be possible in version 2.


Only looking cool = toy.

Getting exactly what you want = tool

…that is what really matters.


Making a great image = art

…that is what really matters.


Then I would hate to see the world you live in, cuz 1/2 the fun of creating something cool is the unpredicatbility of life.
Now if you were talking about a CAD tool - thus something that you need absolute exact results, then I wouldn’t argue with you. But come 3D modeling - espesially something that deals with something as ‘random’ and ‘uncontrollable’ as nature, then I don’t see your point at all.

It also doesn’t sound like you’ve ever done any carving or sculpuring - since that ART form itself is quite un-precise (thus NOT exact) since the raw material your are using, breaks off at random sizes and angles.

But hey, if ya don’t like it, don’t use it - its REALLY that simple.


Well, it would sound like you haven’t been paid to do “art” before. Directors don’t want to hear about “un-precise,” “random,” or “uncontrollable.” They are paying you for a very exact thing. My “art” revolves around other people paying for it, so the rules of the game are different than someone doing a personal project. Most directors have the 6th sense to pick something that isn’t easy to do and breaks the entire pipeline.

Now… I’m not saying there aren’t happy accidents, because that happens all of the time too. But to prove my point, on Day After Tomorrow we had to hand key frame all of the “dynamics” because the “random” nature of falling debris was not pleasing to the director. And the second point is that just because its real, doesn’t mean it looks good either. Nature can look fake… just like random art can look contrived.

But I never said anything bad about terragen. I like it. Its a good, but very limited tool.