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Creating Water Bodies in World Builder

By Pulkit

Introduction


Water bodies form an important part of map designing. From rivers and lakes to marshes and ponds, water bodies can appear in numerous avatars and give a touch to a map that no other tool can. This guide will talk about the basics of water bodies: creating basic rivers and seas. Advanced functions such as oceanic waves, water reflections and relevant things such as river bed enhancement and waterfalls will form part of another guide coming soon.


Rivers


Creating Rivers
It all starts with placing down a river. Of course, first you need to lay down the foundations, so it is advised you dig out a river channel by using Terrain tools for lowering height. This may also be done later, and might also need modification once the river is created, to improve the river's appearance.

Rivers can be created using the River tool in the toolbar. Select the River Tool, then click and hold the mouse button on any location of the map. Now, drag the mouse pointer to another location and release the hold. You will see a black line connecting two points.

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Click and drag the black line to another location. A new black line will be created connecting two points, thus forming a rectangle.

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The four points will be connected by flashing blue lines. Adjust the height of the water in the Options box, till it is visible on the ground. You can move the river by moving the individual four corner points. You can create more points in between to create curves, by selecting the River tool and clicking on one of the blue lines. Create as many points as desired, and move them to make the desired shape of the river. You may need to modify the terrain for improving the river's appearance.

For alternative ways to create rivers, check the Alternative Methods to Create Rivers section.


River Options
When a river is selected, there are many options available in the Options box. You can give the river a name, for use in triggers. Using the Water Height option, you can set the height of the river. Using the UV Scroll Speed option, you can change the speed of the river as desired. This option is very useful to synchronize your river with your map. If your river is wide, keep its speed slow. If it is a stream, then it should flow fast. In case you have a waterfall at the end of your river, make sure the speed of the river is appropriate, that is, similar to the waterfall if the river is the same size, somewhat slower if your river forms a pool before the fall.

The rest of the River Options regard the appearance and textures. You can select a colour for your river using the Colour option or the Use Additive Blending, and set its various textures using the given options.

The Alpha value is very important. It is the amount of solidity of your river. The lesser the value, the more transparent your river becomes. So if you wish to make a shallow river showing the riverbed clearly, make sure the Alpha is set to a small value. The Use Alpha Blending option also reduces the alpha of the river.


Alternative Methods to Create Rivers
One alternative method to create Rivers is to use the Lake/Ocean tool. The Lake/Ocean tool creates slow-flowing water, and is useful for rivers where the water needs more realism, since the Lake/Ocean tool creates three-dimensional water, and the texture can be modified greatly by using the various Lake/Ocean Options.
To create rivers using lakes, refer to the section Creating Lakes/Oceans. This form of river is a great alternative to the ordinary river, and in fact it is better for various purposes, such as fords, where the river becomes shallow enough to walk across.

Another great way to make an even more realistic river, is to use both River and Lake/Ocean tools over the same river area. Create a river using the River tool, and create a lake using the Lake/Ocean tool. Now, adjust the height of the River to that desired, while keeping the height of the Lake one or two units below it, so that the graphics don’t interrupt each other. Next, select the River, and select Use Additive Blending, and select TWWaterEmpty.tga in River Texture option. With this feature, the River will turn transparent to a great degree, allowing its textures to blend with the Lake’s, so as to create a better river effect that not only includes the advantages of the Lake/Ocean tool mentioned above, but also the flow of the river and its own texture options. This method also has another advantage: that one can set the Minimum LOD option for the River to Medium, High or Ultra High, as desired. In this way, a person playing the game on low graphics does not have to burden the system with river rendering, as it will not display. Yet the Lake underneath will display, so that the river is still present to view.

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River Without Lake
River With Lake


Lakes, Ponds, Seas and Oceans


Creating Lakes/Oceans
Lakes can be made using the Lake/Ocean tool in the toolbar. First use the Dig tool to dig the lake bed. Next, select the Lake/Ocean tool and click around the lake perimeter in anti-clockwise direction to create points that encompass the lake and complete a polygon. Once the lake polygon is complete, adjust the water height in the Options box, till the water is visible and is at the desired level. You can move the vertices individually for adjustment. You can also add more vertices by selecting on the Lake/Ocean tool and clicking on the blue line. You may have to modify the terrain to improve the lake's appearance.
Be sure to place the vertices in a counter-clockwise direction. Lakes that have been created in a clockwise direction have been known to cause problems.
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Oceans are created in the same manner as lakes. The only difference between a lake and an ocean is that the lake is generally inland, while the ocean extends to the edge of the map, thus enabling it to have oceanic features such as waves.


Lakes/Oceans Options
When a lake/ocean is selected, there are many options available in the Options box. You can give the water area a name for use in triggers, set its height and flow speed as desired.

The Deep Water Alpha and Max Alpha Depth settings can be used to modify the transparency of the water body. Their basic functioning is simple: the Deep Water Alpha setting changes the transparency of the water, and is useful to display shallow lakes/ponds/marshes etc. The Max Alpha Depth makes the seafloor visible, helping make shallow yet visible slopes of oceans.

Lake/Oceans feature a great range of textures, and very realistic ones. These can be applied using the FX Water Options field, by selecting the Enable FX Shaders option and selecting the desired water model. Here’s how this can be effected:

For this, you'll need to extract W3D models for water. The main W3D file in your BFME2 folder is a .BIG file. Open the .BIG file in FinalBIG. Check the Mini Guide Series for instructions on that, and the download link to FinalBIG.
In FinalBIG, open this W3D.BIG file, and you'll see a vast list of .w3d files. Scroll down to the files that begin with 'w' (they are arranged alphabetically). You'll see the various water files titled wtr_arnor, wtr_ettenmoors etc. To extract a model, just click on the file and go to Edit -> Extract.
Then, in Worldbuilder, select your lake/ocean. In the Options box, under FX Water Options, uncheck the Enable FX Shaders option. Then again click it, and this time a dialog box will open asking you to locate the W3D files. Select your extracted W3D files and click OK. Your new textured ocean should be visible.


Conclusion


Now that you have learned the art of making water bodies such as rivers and lakes in World Builder, you should go further and experiment. Look at the game maps for inspiration and learning. Get familiar with the uses of these tools. There are many other things to add to beautify your water body, such as weeds, ripples, waves, appropriate textures, ambience sounds etc. All these are beyond the scope of this guide, but a separate guide will be devoted to these aspects. Nonetheless you should explore these things yourself, as a water body without such enhancements looks unrealistic and bland. Looking forward to your amazing maps!