New answers tagged heightmap
If you need to, you could use the Assimp file import library's 3ds export function to create the 3ds files directly. The procedure would be as follows: Load Image Process it into a vertex and index list. Add those to the aiScene structure. Export it using the 3ds exporter. Also, if you are writing your game's code, or if the engine supports it, consider ...
I haven't worked with 3DMax in several years, but it should be pretty simple to generate a 2D grid primitive/object and apply displacement texture (your heightmap image) to it along the vertical axis. Then freeze the geometry.
As tkausl suggests, it should be trivial to program a simple tool: Construct 2D grid Apply heights from the image Write it to OBJ format file Import into 3DMax
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