Effect Layers are a new TRS18 feature which offer the ability to use Surveyor to paint various effects beyond the traditional ground height and ground texture. Each effect layer typically offers a number of configuration options, including a configurable data density so that route creators can tune the outcome to their specific requirements, dedicating performance to areas which are important to their route while lowering detail and/or flexibility in other less-important areas in order to maintain high overall performance.
Effect Layers UI
Effect Layers are configured per route. A new "Edit Effect Layers" menu item in the Surveyor main menu pops up an editing dialog which allows the route builder to add, remove, and edit effect layers. An effect layer type is selected when adding a new effect layer, and the type-specific properties for that layer may be adjusted repeatedly until the desired result is achieved. Effect layers are also named, for user convenience.
Most properties of the effect layer are configured on a route-wide basis, however some special properties may be configured to change across the route, using data bindings.
Configuring Effect Layer Data Bindings
Specific effect layer properties support data binding. This allows the route builder to paint (eg. using the ground height tools) the property onto the terrain, rather than setting it to a single value route-wide. For many effect types, this is used to configure the intensity of the effect at various locations on the route, although other properties and data types are also configurable in this manner.
There is a limited amount of data reserved in the route for effect layer data bindings. It is up to the route builder to determine how best to use the available data space to best effect. Each property which supports data binding may be configured with a set resolution (higher resolutions consume more data) and precision (higher precision consumes more data). The route builder determines which effect layer need the most precise control, and dedicates the majority of the available data space to those layers.
Adjusting data bindings is a computationally expensive operation. On a large route, this process can take a number of seconds. An uninterruptible progress indication will show during this process. It is not possible to "undo" a change to a data binding, so the route builder should save changes before editing bindings in an existing route.
Painting Effect Layers
Once an effect layer data binding has been configured, the route builder may begin painting in the effect layer. Surveyor's "Topology - Advanced" tab offers a new "Effect Layer" picker which allows the route builder to select either "Ground" or one of the effect layer data bindings. A button is also present in this location to quick-open the relevant Effect Layer properties. After selecting the target data binding, the route builder may use the topology tools (height up, height down, etc.) to manipulate the bound data.
As the Surveyor brush size is variable, it is possible to configure a brush which is finer than the precision of the effect layer data binding. This makes it possible to move the brush to a location where painting will have no effect (since it lies between the bound locations, rather than overlapping one or more). In this scenario, the brush will turn red to indicate that painting will have no effect. The route builder must either increase the brush size, or move the brush to a location which overlaps one of the bound locations. Alternatively, the user can consider adjusting the data bindings to have a higher resolution, at the expense of increase data usage.
Effect Layer Types
The current effect layer types are supported:
- Clutter Effect Layer - for ground clutter such as rocks and foliage.