Towards a more user-friendly MW3D

Radakan and MonkeyWorld3D are going through an ever so little collaboration of sorts these days. As MomokoFan said earlier, it kinda started here and now we’ve begun looking at the benefits we got lying ahead of us.

Radakan’s main interest in MW3D is its capabilities as a terrain editor. More generally, and much more importantly though, we want, no, we need to see some improvements in terms of intuitiveness and logic as far as UI-design goes.

Reviewing 3D Applications

So let’s get straight to the point. I figured as a friendly push in the right direction towards the sacred sanctuary of user-friendlyness, we could bring up for discussion whatever 3D applications we know, mainly terrain editing though, and see if we can go so in-depth about their pros and cons that we might end up with a couple few posts worthy of being called reviews.

We’ll see where this takes us, but my original thought was that after having tried/discussed a couple of commercial-grade applications of relevance here, we could then turn the critical eye over on MW3D and see if we can make a couple of solid suggestions out of all those pros and cons spotted in those other tools.

First Reviews…

Feel free to make suggestions, but I figured we could start with these three. This is what I found after some quick searches for decent terrain editors either free or at least offering a free trial.

Note: I also wanted to have a go with Freeworld3D, it being the most well known free terrain editing tool to my knowledge. It seems however that this tool has been abandoned. I cannot review this tool unless someone gives me (and everyone else) a download link for the last stable version published. To those who have FW3D installed; It would be very much appreciated it you could make a review for this application.

Panorama Terrain Editor

T.ED Terrain & World Editor - Not pleasing to look at at all if you ask me, and I also missed some helpful mouseover tooltips to compensate for the odd graphics, but they seemed to vanish at the blink of an eye. A Vista bug maybe? Still, it’s obviously a powerful tool with lots of interesting features, and also seems to have some decent textures in place out-of-the-box.

PnP Terrain Creator - Probably the most up-to-date and polished piece of software out of the three. This one makes the same mistake as MW3D though: Sure it can do a lot of things, but what if I want to skip all that and go straight to the terrain editing!? Its “FirstSteps” guide is also 25 pages long; first steps should be “press these buttons and you’ll now have a terrain to play with”. However, the documentation is of high quality and will definately get you up to speed easily as long as you can be bothered doing some reading before diving in.

Next up, I’m going to sit down with one of these editors, probably starting with Panorama, and dedicate about an hour total as I try to create a specific piece of terrain based on a range of reference pics I’ve got for a special location in Radakan. After that, a more detailed review would follow. I heartily encourage anyone else who cares about the progress of MW3D to make a similar effort.

Review - Panorama Terrain Editor

It's usually easier to point out the flaws about any given entity rather than praise its strong sides, but in this case the flaws just overrun any brief glimpse of promise. In Panorama's defense, its latest version dates back to October 13, 2005. For $25.36 however, I'd still expect more.

Not all that pleasing to look at, but relatively simple to use with all the features it boasts simply put right there in front of you; nothing stays hidden. Kinda boring to play around with this tool seeing as it had very little demo resources to go along with it; only one texture and that was it afaik after 5 mins of playing around.


  • Immediate manipulation of terrain is possible.

  • Basically all available tools are put right there on the left side making the tool easily accessible.

  • Being able to apply noise to all sculpting tools was quite convenient.


  • I lower terrain and go "wtf is that?" => Lowered terrain should simply be lowered terrain (a hole...), not with water or sky popping up unless default settings have been altered.

  • Hotkeys for useless commands => Hotkeys are supposed to be for the most common actions, and I strongly doubt "invert terrain" goes into that group (to name one example).

  • Movemenet/camera was horrible... Buggy also. I won't go into details, just, don't ever copy this.

  • Couldn't figure out how to add multiple textures. Whenever I chose a new texture the whole scene was covered in it. The damn thing said "Texture layers" which I could only assume meant I should supposedly be able to add multiple layers of textures, however figuring out how to do this was a whole other matter.

  • I could also "fill" the terrain (which seemed to be what I did anyways whenever I tried to add another texture-layer), however when I clicked to use this tool, I was told that I needed more than just oen texture layer in order to make this work...

  • Didn't like how right-mouse button lowered terrain by default, seeing as that will only work with some of the tools available.

  • There were two tools I never figured out what really did... Some ereaser-like thing and some taggy line...

  • I could "colour" stuff, but it only went black/non-black again. No choice for other colours although the button seemed to indicate there were.


We are currently working on improving the user experience with our terrain system, including some wizards that we will create to allows for immediate terrain creation, plus its texture, we will also consider adding new multiple terrain page editing, and texture as well, but might be at a later stage. So far we have added a new wizard that allows to create a scene with terrain directly into the editor, you can check out the code to see it in action.

So let me state the current shape of our terrain editing here:

  1. First of all our camera system management is not particularly tied to the terrain system, our camera system is extendable and allow for many handlers like FPS, and Camera dolly, I think we have to add a little bit of management on the camera system to allow for more easy switching between camera handlers, but the fact that they can be plugged is a big plus with the editor, and any one can be applied and changed while working with the terrain system. So we don't have one way to navigate with the scene created, but we can use, and add as much as we wish. Thinking of adding an extra handler that will allows our users to walk on the terrain might be a great option.

  2. Our terrain tools are exposed to the users when there is a terrain created in the system, so users will not see terrain tools at all when they don't have terrain, this is due to the fact that terrain is optional and can be plugged into the system, so users that don't want to use terrain, will just react with the editor in a regular way. With the new terrain creation wizard, those tools will open up just right after the creation wizard is finished, and users would feel like they are dealing with terrain only which will increase the sense of the terrain.

    The tools gui system is not that user intiuitive, but they actually work as they are supposed to, our rules on the terrain, is that you will not have two terrain tools active at the same time; actually more "no more one active tool at a time", so if you activate a Raise/Lower terrain, and you previously selected a tools before, then it will get deactivated, and its effect will not be visible. Consider the selection tool as an example " The free movement tool ", when users started up the editor, then its the default tool active for the users, and they interact with it, by selecting objects, and then highlight them, now if you have activated the terrain raise lower tool for example, then the effects of those tools will disappear, for example if you have a selection of spatials, and you pressed on raise lower terrain, then the highlight facility from the deactivated tools will disappear, while you are still having the selection, so switching back to the selection tool will actually enable its highlighter, and you will see the same effect as before. So tools with the editor is very organized.

    Thinking of combining the terrain tools on one gui component with tabs instead of having three views, will I think increase the user experience a lot. Also our icons are not that good at showing what the tool is supposed to do, so adding a more descriptive icons will also be a great thing todo. Also adding ToolItems instead of relying on the combo selection box to activate and deactivate the terrain tools, like on the world tool, will make it even much more  great.

  3. Texturing:

    Texturing the terrain in MW3D is pretty easy, even before we think of the wizard to add textures at the terrain. It works like this:
  • You first add a base layer. Which is a must.
  • Adding alpha layers to paint the terrain with. This one in partiuclar is not that easy, because you have to choose the texture that you want to paint with, and its alpha layer image. I have changed this just today, you will only need to choose the texture that you want to paint with, and a default alpha image will get created for you. Also don't forget the fact that we add a lots of flexibility in this regard, users still can select their alpha map image and use it right the way.

    Its very flexible to deal with the terrain layers, adding/removing, change u/v , and changing the order of those layers is one of the great things, and its very easy from the painting tool.

  1. Object placement in the editor: You can actually enable this tool, choose your model, and start painting models on the terrain. One of the greatest features here, is that you can create a new spatial, import model into the work space, then texture it, or change its states, adding lights, adding spatial transformation …  and then save it, and they you can very easy use it with you terrain to place it there. So its has a sort of build able objects.

    The main point with us, is that you can start from scratch, and build your objects, but as you said, we have to have a predefined wizard and objects, some sort of libraries that will put users on the track, on the minimal time, and we are really working hard on that.