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I'm currently playing around with a few examples and techniques for terrain generation and suddenly remembered the game Godus - seen below.

Image of Godus Youtube clip of Godus

Looking at the material above, it seems to me that they aren't just using a classic heightmap system, as there appears to be some bevel or flexibility in the angle of the edge faces (shadows aside).

However, more technical approaches, such as GPU GEMS 3 marching cube example seem a bit over the top.

Could I achieve this aesthetic with a heightmap and clever manipulation of vertices in a vertex / tessellation shader, or is there a better approach?

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A hill like this could be created with the following algorithm:

  1. Start with a small circle in form of a regular n-gone (the mountain top).
  2. Create a larger "blob" on height 0 by taking the corner-vertices of the previous circle and move each one further away from the center by a random distance.
  3. every few iterations, interpolate new vertices on straight lines between the existing ones to avoid it becoming too blocky on the lower levels.
  4. move all "blobs" up by one unit
  5. repeat from step 2 until desired size is reached.
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