Martin O’Leary, a glacier scientist, has created a remarkable program that you can find under the Twitter account Uncharted Atlas. This program allows for the creation of intricate maps that would look perfectly at home in your favorite fantasy novel–and they appear hourly.
O’Leary created this program during NaNoGenMo 2015 in an attempt to hash out the sort of maps that he often found in the backs of fantasy novels. But he wanted to apply a little bit of science to the process too:
There are loads of articles on the internet which describe terrain generation, and they almost all use some variation on a fractal noise approach, either directly (by adding layers of noise functions), or indirectly (e.g. through midpoint displacement). These methods produce lots of fine detail, but the large-scale structure always looks a bit off. Features are attached in random ways, with no thought to the processes which form landscapes. I wanted to try something a little bit different.
The result was a process of generating bumpy surfaces, then applying erosion to them in a simulation to see what comes out the other end. And the results are pretty darned impressive:
You can get a more detailed window into how O’Leary went about creating the program on his site, and you can get all the fantasy maps your heart desires on the Uncharted Atlas Twitter. Oh, and curious about the names on the maps? There’s an explanation for that, too!
[Via Atlas Obscura]