Year

2011

Degree Name

Master of Computer Science - Research

Department

Faculty of Informatics

Abstract

Procedural content generation is becoming an increasingly popular research area as a means of algorithmically generating scene content for virtual environments. The automated generation of such content avoids the manual labour typically associated with creating scene content, and is extremely useful in application areas such as computer graphics, virtual reality, movie production and video games. While virtual 3D caves are commonly featured in these virtual environment applications, procedural cave generation is not an area that has received much attention among the research community to date. The research in this thesis investigated and developed an approach to automating the process of generating visually believable 3D cave models.

To generate 3D cave structures with diverse characteristics, the use of different noise functions with different parameters was examined. This thesis presents experimental results showing the relationship between these factors and their influences on the resulting cave structure. Furthermore, the construction of an efficient spatial data structure had to be developed as part of the cave generation process. This research proposed a unique bottom-up voxel-based octree building approach that was specifically designed for the purposes of constructing the cave structure.

In order to be able to render the resulting 3D cave model in real-time, a polygonal mesh of the interior cave walls was obtained from the data stored in the octree. To increase the realism of the cave model, a polygonal mesh smoothing technique was used. However, the naïve smoothing technique caused cracks to appear at certain sections of the cave walls. An effective solution to patch the cracks was subsequently developed to produce a smooth crack-free mesh.

In addition, the procedural simulation of two common cave features, namely stalactites and stalagmites, was explored. The generation of these cave characteristics was seamlessly added to the procedural cave creation process. The end result is a procedural approach capable of generating visually believable cave models automatically on a computer, and being able to render the resulting model in realtime.

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