Terraining - Terrain Transitions

Tutorial By Seannny

Terrain Transitions!

Table of contents

Section 1.............................What is a transition

Section 2..............................What does Warcraft and transitions have to do with each other?

Section 3..............................Transitions and Details

Section 4..............................Tiles, Transitions and Trees, OH MY!

Section 5..............................When not to use transitions.

Section 6..............................Ground to Water

Section 7..............................A Quick look at Raising and lowering tools.

Section 8...............................Ending Notes and Q&A

Section 1:What is a "Transition"

What is a transition. Well, A transition is when you change one thing, to another. For example turning sand slowly into grass, starting with sand, Then grassy sand, then slightly thicker grass, then thick grass.

The dictionary's definition: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change: the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

And that's a transition.

One thing to note about transitions is that they are not always needed. Sometimes the path looks fine the way it is. A cobble stone road against thick forest grass looks fine. An Ice covered lake against the fresh coat of snow is fine on its own. So just look into nature. research a few real life pictures on an environment like what you are making.

Section 2: What does Warcraft, and transition have to do with each other?

Well, when terraining in the editor, you use transitions, but not all transitions are good ones.
When you go from dark dirt to luscious green grass, it's not too great of a transition. Especially when it's simply a straight line. The least you could do is add some natural aspects to it.

Lets look at a few examples.


Here, the terrain is flat. It's 2 tiles side by side, in a perfect line.
If you are wandering in a field, does it go from grass to dirt just like that? Fast, nothing in between? if it does, bring me a picture and you have the right to gloat.

Now check this picture out.

Still, this isn't the best terrain. it's once again flat, But it is an improvement. Compare the two, One is straight and, well just ugly. The other one has some flow to it, its natural, it's more realistic, and yeah, it looks a bit better overall. BUT it can still be better, which is what we will get into next.

Section 3: Transitions and details...

Instead of just 2 tiles, why don't we take it up a bit? add a third, perhaps a fourth tile. With more tiles to choose from, and more to add, you get more realism and it just looks a bit better. But if you aren't wise about what tiles you choose, you could end up with TOO much variety!! yes, thats right, its possible to put in to much. Take a look.


So, looking at it for a few seconds, sure, it's cool! But after actually thinking about it...It doesn't fit. The sunken ruins tile set is out of no where. there is grass and sand touching immediately. There are Barrens Rocks in there. Where did all this come from? Well, wherever it came from, we don't want it!

Note!:The only exception would probably be if you are making a kooky/wacky map with a lot of weird random things.

So lets get into detail here. How exactly will this work? Should I just scatter random grass tiles next to each other? Should I line them all up neatly? Should I avoid transitions?

No! No! and No!

The closest you can get to right with any of these is the scattering one. At times randomly placing tiles can be what you need or want. But rarely. Things always look better hand placed with doodads, units, or even tiles.

First things first... Squares aren't too pretty, So make sure your circle tool is selected at the terraining window. It is right here, if you never noticed it.


After selecting that. You wanna just choose what tiles you want to use, preferably about 3-4. one to start. one to end, and 1-2 in the middle. Heres how my Dirt to forest turned out.


So if you notice, there are 3 tiles here. Ashenvale dirt, Ashenvale light grass. and the Ashenvale grass. So, looking at this picture, what you see also is that its not in straight lines. its curvy and a bit oddly shaped. The thick grass is even separated from the rest and is just floating there in the light grass. This is a touch of realism. like I said, it doesn't just stop. It flows into the next terrain.
Also, Check out how the way the tiles situated, whatever tile it is next to, that edge changes its shape to make it fit the neighboring piece. So when I place the light grass with dirt, it looks different that placing it with grass. And grass looks different against dirt, than against light grass. If that was confusing, take a look at this picture.

Now, The grass in the middle, on the left side is the same exact tile as on the right. It just takes a different form while against different tiles. This is actually a great thing blizzard did, as it helps a bunch with transitions.

Now there to cover up some of the square-ness of blizzards tiles. Doodads come into play. Use whatever the scene fits, in my case: A few bushes, shrubs, maybe a mushroom or two, and a couple trees. Check this picture out.

Now as you can see, rocks in the dirt fit well, the grass transitions are great looking. The shrubs stay in the grass, because if they grew in the dirt they would be much more dead like a cactus. If its dirt there, its because nothing is growing... The trees fit in well, and don't flow much into the dirt. Its a great picture.

Section 4: Tiles, Transitions, and Trees OH MY!

Trees... oh boy trees. Boy are they a pain, but only if you are using them right... How does that work!? its only hard if you are doing it right?. Well it's only difficult until you get the hang of it at least. Now how could it be hard you ask? Well what happens is people often make the mistake of placing trees from one tile, into another. A great example is snow to grass. Boy thats a tough one. Snow has snowy trees, and Grass has... Well, Green trees. Things people try to do with transitions is add a bit of trees from each side into the opposite. Well its a good thought! but its not what we want. See, if you think about it hard enough, it will make sense. IF a tree is snowy, it means it snowed at that location. So why would there be non snowy trees? Snow doesn't fall in small sections across the area. It snows as a big group. If you aren't following this well, Check this visual.

The top half of the picture shows whats wrong... green trees in grassy snow? that wont work, The trees would have a small amount of snow. Or at least they should!
Now check the bottom. no trees outside the green area, But there are snowy trees in the snowy grass area. Tiles are allowed to be separated and surrounded by a foreign tile. But it doesn't work to well with doodads like trees... So stay clear!

Section 5: When NOT to use transitions

So a few people in this thread told me, hey wait, Transitions aren't always best. And i suppose they are right, so here is the first added section: When NOT to use transitions

So, When don't we use a transition, This one is a lot to do with how YOU actually want it. But this is a tutorial. And tutorials are meant to show the way, So heres my take on it.

Transitions shouldn't be used when trying to make say, a cobblestone path through the forest. Now, they can be used, but 9/10 times it will turn up not looking as good. Like what i said earlier, And will explain into much greater detail next time i add onto this tutorial, some tiles change their looks depending on whats around them. All the tiles that are commonly used for paths already have a very good mix against the other tiles.
Check out this picture.


As you can see, I have chosen two path types from the Village tile set. and i have placed them against dirt and various other types of tiles. They all seem to look fine standing alone. Now of course your can take it further and attempt to make a good looking transition of grass to dirt to path... But the only issue i see here is because of blizzards Square only tiles... you will have to go pretty far out with the dirt to make it look remotely real. And even then you've gone to far out.

I hope i have explained well what paths are advised to go without transitions, if you have any questions, pm me or ask them here, i will add it to the Q&A if its a good question, and answer it.
Section 6: Water

Water is another difficult thing to get right... Blizzard did a pretty bad job on water overall actually. In fact if you are making a scenic map, its almost easiest to avoid bliz-rivers.
But if they are a MUST, this is what you do.

First off, Water Should always be from raised lowered land. The cliffy waters aren't very nice... I'm sure anyone would agree with me there. So what you could do is start the map totally shallow water, and just raise terrain from there. or you can make a cliff, and make it completely ramps into the water. Once the ramps are done, or the terrain is raised then you should have a steady stream going. Check this out.


See how it not only flows naturally but it looks pretty natural too... Much better than those Urgly Blizzard cliffs!

NOTE!: Don't Get me wrong. Blizzard Cliffs believe it or not come in handy... i was surprised at how well canyons look with the blizz cliff.

Now, When on a river, its usually dirt...Perhaps sand. But we all know that grass likes to hang around the beaches too, So grass has to be involved somewhere, right? Well, Grass fits in behind the dirt or sand. Honestly though, beach transitions don't look as great as they should... It's obviously difficult, and frustrating. Looking at this next picture you see that trying normal transition effects don't work too well...But you could pull it off with a few doodads thrown in.

Now, After looking at this picture, your either still here reading because you were unsatisfied... Or your gone and making that river! If you chose the second one. GOOD FOR YOU!!! if you chose the first, Please leave now, You get what you get man...

Hehe nah, I'm joking. But seriously. If you are still here, reading then we know that you are not satisfied. And with this specific thing, You wont get much satisfaction. But there is something we can always fall back on to make beaches look better. Sand. Sunken Ruins sand... Add some doodads, a few trees. Maybe a waterfall, And your golden for your beach.

But even then a few people are like. Meh Thats still not perfect. But unfortunately with what blizzard gave us, we wont get much better... I hope this helped in your beach conquest!

Section 7:A Quick Look at Terrain Raising and Lowering

Okay, Raising and lowering terrain is up now. Many of you probably already know what this tool is and how to use it. I got a few requests to add this in for those who don't, And those who aren't to great at it.

First off the raise, lower, and smooth tools are located here:


now, lets go over what each icon means.

The first icon, is the raise tool. The raise tool is pretty self explanatory. It raises the terrain you have highlighted with your mouse. The raise terrain tool ive found raises more in the middle of your tool than the sides. So if you have a square cursor. It wont raise a square, it will raise a small lump in the middle, and get higher depending on how many times you raise it.

The next icon is the lower tool. This works EXACTLY like the raise tool, but instead of making the terrain go up, What do you know, the terrain goes down!

The next tool on the list is the plateau tool. Not only is the name complex, the tool is too. It can really get you frustrated. Heres why, you see the plateau tool takes the level of terrain its on, and flattens it. Not to the ground though, it flattens it to whatever height the terrain is. Check the picture:
Starts with a lump. And goes to:

So the reason the plateau tool is a bit tricky is because it will take the level of the ground that your mouse is covering most. And it will level it to that. So instead of keeping a steady cliff going, you may accidentally do this:

Note: You can hold down the left click and drag across to have a continuous line of flattened land!

The next tool is the worst. never use it. Its the... Bumpy crappy looking road tool? Oh yeah. Its the "noise" tool. Just by the name you should remember it will be bad looking. Many people in tutorials would stop there. But i will go deeper and show you why its bad rather than telling you to not use it. Why is it bad looking? well think back on every terrain tutorial you've ever seen. Now look at this:

The last tool is the smooth tool, Very nice tool for the water section, It basically smooths out the terrain you have highlighted. So it turns this:
to this
So if you look at the last picture in the section above.
You can see that on some of the sandy beach parts i used the smooth tool to make it look less choppy, and then in some parts i should have used it, as well as cover it will some doodads.

Thats all for this section, i believe this could be the final section added. I hope i get this baby into the tutorial Repository rather than the graveyard! =D

Section 8: ending notes

Well, Thats my tutorial. I really hope you enjoyed it and i hope that it helped! I tried to fill it with enough images so you would understand easier..But not too much to be useless filler... I worked hard on this, it took me a total of an Hour to write. So please 'Dun Be flamin' me!'
If you have ANY! suggestions, Questions, Requests, or whatever it is that has to do with me and this tutorial. Please feel free to pm me or just post it here!

Common questions a friend or two gave me while reviewing this tutorial.

Q: Why are transitions important?

A: Because without a transition, the terrain cant be as pretty as it should. And without a pretty map, the game probably wont last long. It would have to be pretty damn fun to have users completely ignore the looks. Looks go a long way.

Q: Why are doodads so important here?

A: Well, for one thing, Doodads are very important in Map Beauty. it's cheesy, i know, but like i said before, Looks go a long way. And second, They are a good way to hide little terrain oopsies as i call them... Which are generally just completely ugly, but tiny, areas of the tile that don't look good at all.

Q: Why did you make this tutorial?

A: Because i enjoy mapping, and i enjoy helping others map. its a true hobby for me and i don't want new people coming around, and start off doing things the wrong way... Well I cant say the its wrong, But the less good looking way. its much easier to start Right, Than to Change to Right.


Added a new paragraph explaining Transitions aren't always needed.
Fixed a bit of grammar errors in the first 2 sections.

Update 2: Another section added between End and Trees, OH MY!

Update 3: YET ANOTHER SECTION! Beaches and Water transitions.

Update 4: One more section added! the Raise lower and other tools information section!

Update 5: Added spoiler tags around all images to reduce the stretching of the page, as well as making this a bit more convenient.
Update6: Removed spoiler tags due to request

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