I hope you appreciate that i died for this article! Twice.

I don’t play World of Wacraft that much and so i use a level 1 hero to investigate the graphics of the game. What can i say? The world is full of aggressive creatures! Grrr! I wish there would be a “ghost” account where you could fly through the world of World of Warcraft without any fighting. ]:)

But now let’s dig to the root of this article! Look at the image below and tell me what you see:

Correct, a bunch of painted polygons (luckily they are forged together to a very beautiful world). But you can see (or can’t see) another detail: No hard edges between the trees and the ground. Since computers are able to render a lot of grass, flowers and bushes we can hide sharp polygon edges very well.

At least, if you don’t look from above.

In WoW this isn’t a problem since you don’t look very often like this at the game. But there other games out there – and some of them use exactly such a top-down-perspective! So how do they handle this problem (expect from just accepting it)?

I found two very interesting examples which i want to share with you:

On the left you see a tree out of Dungeon Siege and it’s more or less just a 6-sided cylinder with a wood texture (at this time this was more than enough! I loved the graphic back in 2002)! The interesting part is, that they widened the cylinder at the bottom and faded it out smoothly. So they avoided a hard 6-sided-tree-ground-cut and blended nicely into mother earth.

Even more interesting is the approach to the right. It looks like some grass is covering the bottom of the tree in Torchlight II. But if you take a closer look…

…you’ll see that it’s not grass which covers the tree. The stump itself has some alpha1-cutouts and let you see though!

In my eyes, this is a very nice trick! I mean really…they render less to show more. This is almost philosophic!


Update 1
Eric Chadwick was so nice to mention an other interesting approach to blend trees with terrain. He used vertex color which he painted on the ground. The result can be seen below (click the link below the picture for high-res version):

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