Styling the Martian Terrain

- from Tandon Mars

Creating the terrain was surprisingly easy using Unity Terrain. NASA has several published heightmaps including for the Gale Crater, which I ended up using. Though Unity Terrain isn’t the prettiest on its own, Unity has really power LOD optimization for it and it works exceedingly well with Unity’s Navmesh system, which I use for controlling the robot.

After getting height data for the Gale Crater, I was playing around with lighting and decided to turn off both lighting from the sun and ambient lighting.

Next, to match the color of Mars, I relied on photographs from the NASA Curiosity Rover. Though Unity Procedural Skyboxes are designed with atmospheric effects designed to mimic the scientific results of atmospheric scattering, I couldn’t match the nearly sepia-toned skies of Mars. I ended up using Photoshop to create a cubemap of a simple gradient made from the color of Curiosity photographs.

Adding a faux dust-storm helped tremendously with creating a sense of place as the limits of designing for a mobile device meant that faraway details needed to be removed or minimized. I added a fog effect and reduced the draw distance to try and improve the framerates I was getting on some lower-powered hardware.

Lastly, to create more detail, I added boulders to block off pathways and make the cliffs sharper and more imposing.