Monday, July 7, 2008

A River Runs Through It

This week I did a bit more work on random city map generation.

I'd like this kind of city to be in a floodplain with a meandering river running through it, perhaps joining with another river. Accordingly I decided to start with the river and build up from there.

Random river construction is not something that is well-documented on the web. Luckily I know Dr. J. Wesley Lauer at Seattle University, who specializes in the interaction between rivers and their floodplains. He's given me a couple of leads to follow.

The simplest model of a meandering river is a sine-generated curve, also known as a meander curve. The river direction oscillates via a sine wave as a function of arc length. Scaling the direction angle results in a river that meanders more or less. Here are some examples (maximum angles of 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 respectively):

Here's an example with a varying direction angle scale:

It's really easy to generate these. Here's some Python code I used to generate the SVG diagrams above:

from math import sin, cos

viewSizeX = 300
viewSizeY = 300

x = 0
y = 20
angle = 0

angle_inc = 0.1
dir_scale = 1.0
step_size = 4.0

points = [(x, y)]

while x < viewSizeX:
dir_angle = dir_scale * sin(angle)
dir_x = step_size * cos(dir_angle)
dir_y = step_size * sin(dir_angle)
angle += angle_inc
x += dir_x
y += dir_y
points.append((x, y))

print '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>'
print '<svg xmlns="" xmlns:xlink="" width="%d" height="%d">' % (viewSizeX, viewSizeY)
print ' <g fill="none" stroke="blue" stroke-width="2">'
print ' <polyline points="%s"/>' % (' '.join(map(lambda p: '%g,%g' % (p[0], p[1]), points)))
print ' </g>'
print '</svg>'

The next step is to replace my rather-lame first attempt at river shaping with something based on sine-generated curves. Here's what I'd be replacing:

The rivers in this version are based on some quadratic curves. The buildings are just splattered down in such a way as to not overlap; that'll be replaced with an algorithm that generates streets and city blocks and then subdivides the blocks into buildings. There's a bunch of little green lines which represent a gradient estimate, which I may use to guide some of the roads.

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