Creating Landscapes

Creating massive terrain based worlds for your projects is something that Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) can do quite well with its built in terrain editing tools. The Landscape tool will allow you to create massive terrain based worlds that can still maintain playable frame rates across a multitude of different devices. Because of the flexibility of the Landscape system, you can create your Landscape using either of the following methods.

  • You can create a new Landscape heightmap from scratch using the Landscape tools in-engine.

  • You can import a Landscape heightmap created previously in Unreal Editor or created through external tools. To read more about how to do this, please check out the Creating and Using Custom Heightmaps and Layers document.

  • To create your own format for importing Landscapes, please see our Creating Custom Landscape Importers document.

For examples of the Landscape tool in action, see the Landscapes Content Examples Content Example.

Opening the Landscape Tool

Before you can create a Landscape, you must first open the Landscape tool which you can find on the Modes panel. To open the Landscape tools click on the mountain icon along the top of the Modes panel.

Landscape_ModesPanel.png

You can also press Shift + 3 on your keyboard to switch to the Landscape tool at any time.

When the Landscape tool is first opened, you will automatically be taken to the Manage Mode tab if you do not have any other Landscape Actors currently in your level. In Landscape Manage Mode, you can create new Landscapes and modify existing Landscapes and their components.

Landscape_New_Manage_Tab.png

If your level already contains one or more Landscapes, the Manage tab will look different. The Landscape Editor section will display a drop-down menu with the Selection tool visible. It is from this drop down menu that you will select the Landscape you want to work with.

Landscape_Multiple_Landscapes_Actors.png

Creating a new Landscape using the Landscape Tool

Creating a new Landscape from scratch is done through the New Landscape section of the Landscape tool's Manage tab.

Landscape_Create_Section.png

Property Name: Function
Create New: Creates a new Landscape heightmap from within the tool.
Import from File: Allows you to import a Landscape heightmap made in an external program.
Material: Allows you to assign a material to your Landscape.
Location: Allows you to set the location in the world where the Landscape will be located.
Rotation: Allows you to set the rotation of the Landscape in the world.
Scale: Allows you to set the scale of the Landscape in the world.
Section Size: Section size is used for Landscape LOD and Culling. Smaller sections allow the Landscape to LOD sections more aggressively but with will have a higher CPU cost. Larger sizes will allow for fewer components and will be less costly on the CPU. If you want to have a large Landscape, you will need to use a larger section size as using a smaller section size and scaling the Landscape up could cost too much on the CPU.
Section Per Component Sections Per Component helps with the Landscapes LOD. Each section is the basic unit for the Landscape LOD. One component could have 2 x 2 sections which means that it is possible that one component could be rendering four different LOD's at once. With a larger section size, you get the added benefit of reduced CPU calculation time. However you could run into issues with the Landscape rendering to many vertices at once. This is could be especially prevalent when using very large areas of Landscape. These problems could be even worse on mobile devices because of the limited amount of draw calls you can have due to hardware limitations.
Number of Components Along with section size, this sets the size of your landscape. This value is capped at 32 x 32 because each component does have a CPU cost associated with it and going over this cap could result in performance issues with the Landscape.
Overall Resolution: This is the number of vertices your Landscape is using.
Total Components: The total number of components that will be created for your landscape.
Fill World: This will make your Landscape be as big as it can possibly be.
Create: This will create your Landscape in the world using the settings you specified.

For this example, we are going to leave all of the Landscape settings at their default values that are listed below.

Property Name: Value
Section Size: 63 x 63 Quads
Section Per Component: 1 x 1 Section
Number of Components: 8 x 8
Overall Resolution: 505 x 505

Be careful when choosing Section Size because as the number of components increase, build times and performance can be dramatically affected. 63x63 quads per section is generally recommended as it gives good performance and size.

When completed, you should have something that looks like this in your New Landscape properties box.

Landscape_New_Heightmap_Size.png

In the main viewport, there should be a preview of the new Landscape you are setting up which should look like the following.

Landscape_In-Editor_Preview.png

You can Move, Rotate, and Scale the Landscape Actor like any normal Actor. You can also drag the edges of the preview Landscape to easily size the Landscape to fit a space.

If you like, you can assign a Material to your Landscape before you create it. To do so, select an appropriate Material in the Content Browser, and then assign it in the New Landscape section, next to Material, by clicking the Assign arrow icon.

Landscape_Assign_Material.png

For more information about Landscape Materials, see Landscape Materials .

When you are ready to create your new Landscape, press the Create button in the lower-right corner of the Landscape tool's window. The Landscape will appear in the viewport as a flat plane. If you assigned a Material to it, it will appear with the Material applied. If you did not select a Material, it will appear with the Level Editor's default Material applied.

Landscape_Creat_New_Button.png

If the Landscape is large or complex, it may take a few seconds for it to appear.

Once you have pressed the Create Button, you should have something that looks similar to the following.

Landscape_NewTerrain.png

Now with your new Landscape now created, you can now start to Sculpt or Paint the Landscape to your liking.