Do you know of any terrain formats for FPS games that use a triangulated irregular network (TIN) instead of a grid for elevation representation? Or at least a game whose development tools accept a TIN as input for terrain elevation?

The only example I have is the ASCII Scene Export (ASE) format that can be used as input in the terrain editor for the Unreal engine (UnrealEd). I am mainly looking for formats that support terrain holes (both visually and in collision detection) and allow underground models. I want to avoid having to carve and cover gridded terrain elevation grids to place underground models.


2 Answers 2


Perhaps your best bet is to stop considering it a terrain in the usual sense, and rather just treat the ground as any other 3D model. Depending on the style of game you are making you may want to slice it into reasonably sized chunks so that you can load and unload parts dynamically and/or switch between high and low detail versions depending on camera proximity.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ i think that's what he was sick of doing... \$\endgroup\$
    – Tor Valamo
    Dec 3, 2010 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to demonstrate terrain and underground modeling capabilities on a commercial gaming platform. Developing a custom game is beyond the scope of my expertise and task. I want to find an existing (and hopefully popular) gaming platform. Your approach is basically what we are doing with ASE: the terrain is broken into tiles and each tile is represented as a 3D model. Do you have examples of other commercial games where this approach would be feasible? I want to automate the process as much as possible, so formats that require little or no manual manipulation are preferable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jaime Soto
    Dec 3, 2010 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure exactly what your goal is, what problem would an answer to this question help you solve? You ask for TIN-based terrain, but the essence of your question seems to be more about seamless combination of terrain and underground. You are making or want to make some tools, but I can't tell what exact part of the toolchain you are into. Why do you worry so much about formats? Anyone can mock up a static mesh fileformat, the hard parts is making editors and integrating the concept in a game engine. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2010 at 1:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ We develop tools to generate terrain and models from GIS sources to multiple 3D formats. Most of these formats are for military simulations but we would like to target a few popular commercial games. We have been partially successful with Unreal engine games, however the user needs to load the ASE files in UnrealEd. Our main concern is correlation: most of our output formats represent the terrain as a TIN so we want to avoid having to convert the elevation to a grid. We also want to avoid manual edits as much as possible to maintain correlation with the other output formats. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jaime Soto
    Dec 5, 2010 at 18:59

Are you talking about something like this?


  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. However, I don't understand what this forum thread relates to TIN terrain support in Panda3D. Are they considering TIN representation for the terrain in Panda3D (back in 2007) or did they rule it out? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jaime Soto
    Dec 5, 2010 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably should have posted this as a comment, not really an answer to your question, just trying to understand \$\endgroup\$
    – slf
    Dec 6, 2010 at 15:12

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