View Full Version : Layers - What's Your Method
22nd May 2012, 1:12 AM
i'm curious as to how you guys organize your world layers. the speculation of whether or not this makes the game lag aside, i've heard mention of doing it by area or suburb, or by what's actually going on the layer (lots, trees etc).
i'm still in the painstaking sculpting stage but i need to throw down test layers and it got me thinking "how should i do it?".
so... how do you do it? just looking for advice from seasoned CAWers :rofl:
22nd May 2012, 4:18 PM
Hrm, let's see... 1. Trees and plants. 2. Rocks. 3. World objects [bridges, retaining walls, and other especially big stuff]. 4. Spawners and FX. 5. Lots. 6. World deco [everything else, really]. 7. Lighting.
So I use about six or seven layers normally, with the lighting one depending on my mood. I make layers so I can find the things I place. While generally my layers are according to object type, I have infrequently made other layers based off geography. One incomplete world has a ton of different layers for water FX for specific areas.
Aside from foliage in the same layer [at least per chunk or whatever, but I do the whole thing] for clustering, I don't think it matters much how you layer everything else. Most of my performance issues, I'm sure, come from other identifiable things. squeezing in a few more lots, and before I know it I have 200 plus. :( ]
22nd May 2012, 5:40 PM
My layers are organized much as cutsocks describes - one per type, with some object-heavy areas like waterfalls on a separate layer. I split out the spawners into gems, animals, insects, etc. so it is easier to look in a category and see if I have too many rare or similar spawners.
Here are the considerations I use in planning layers:
How many objects will likely be in this layer? It's easier to find and move stray objects in smaller groupings.
Do I have too many layers to track or manage, and are the groupings simple enough that I won't have to pause to remember which region I'm in every time I plop down a spawner?
How do I design? If you place all of the objects in a small area and then move on, organizing geographically will save a lot of time. If you tend to place all the lots, and then all the spawners, and so on, organizing that way will save time. If you do the former and organize for the latter, you'll spend as much time switching layers as building.
What items are you most likely to want to change or redo later? If you might change from desert to lush terrain and want different rock styles, grouping items for quick deletion is handy. I was thinking of making an "expansion reserve" in my next world so I could easily update it using whatever future "You Need All Large Lots" expansion comes along, so any filler deco in there would be on its own layer.
22nd May 2012, 9:14 PM
Hi! I use usually not many layers, sometimes if the map is huge I divide it into 2 regions (trees1, trees2, etc.), but the most typical setting for me is the following, layer 1 - decorations(world deco, light, rocks); layer 2 - lots; layer 3 - effects( spawners, FX). Works great for me, so far.
As for lag, as far as I know it depends much more on the amount of kinds and number of objects you use in your map and if you cluster or not your plants.
I've opened Sunset Valley in CAW and it has a lot of layers, objects grouped by region and theme, kind of chaotic, as for me.
24th May 2012, 11:41 PM
Don't be shy about contributing tips about using layers to this page on CAW Wiki (previously Pasimfic Wiki, but the readership voted for change): http://pasimficandbeyond.wikia.com/wiki/Layers
8th Jun 2012, 1:46 PM
We had another thread on this quite recently, where we were all talking about the significance of layers. It turns out that it's really individual preference, as layers have little or no impact upon world performance except where trees and plants are concerned.
For trees and plants, those of the same type on the same world chunk will be grouped together (merged into one object, so increasing performance) but only if they are on the same layer. So you might want to have a layer for trees, and a layer for plants, or at least a layer for each chunk.
Otherwise, it's up to you.
16th Sep 2012, 7:46 PM
I'm currently working on a world called Well Springs Cove. You can find the thread by searching for all posts by me. I found that making a layer for each rabbit hole as worked well for me to keep track of what's placed and makes it easy for me to find. I also use the same rabbit hole layer to keep track of added objects around it that are off the lot. As for sculpting and painting I work one chunk at a time. It's tedious work and finishing one whole chunk makes me feel accomplished. My first mistake on an old world I started and scrapped was seeing the paint too strong. Low opacity and falloff and more than one application of paint gives the world a natural look. Also if you're trying to blend two different paints together you have to click around the dges to blend it nicely. Clicking and dragging for me seem to make the edges yucky and the default grass pops up in between. I hope this helps fellow players using CAW!
20th Sep 2012, 2:50 PM
WaterHornet, working on one chunk per layer is similar to how EA appear to make their worlds- I suppose that they have a team work on a specific area (on one layer), and then splice the layers together to make the finished world. :)
21st Sep 2012, 5:42 AM
^Thats probably why they have chunk boundaries in CAW, because other than using them to tell the amount of paints per chunk, they are otherwise pretty useless.
21st Sep 2012, 6:28 AM
No, chunks are extremely useful. They're a unit of what's loaded. I try to measure everything by chunk, really, not just terrain paints. For example, I try to roughly follow EA's advice of only 4 types of tree per chunk. I monitor the number of lots per chunk (Grimschurch has four chunks on the overloaded side, but I'm fine with that). Chunks are essential for optimising a world's performance.
I asked EA WB team whether working a layer per chunk was a good idea a few months back, and one of the team, Rebecca, replied:
"Using layers in CAW: I’ve never tested whether trees will group across layers. I do know for sure that they group per chunk. I’ve never seen any benefit to creating layers per chunk. Since there is no advantage, really, it makes more sense to put things on layers according to one’s own organizational preferences. They are merely a tool to help with organization and have nothing to do with performance."
I don't quite know what prompted the first sentence there. I think she misread my question, but managed to answer it all the same, and very well.
22nd Sep 2012, 12:32 AM
That's good advice, Kiwi- and for the record, trees don't group across layers, they have to be on the same layer AND chunk to group.
22nd Sep 2012, 12:42 AM
Yes. I didn't really ask her that question. I already knew the answer, I think she misunderstood whatever it was I asked (which I have dutifully lost). :P
4th Oct 2012, 11:25 PM
I usually have 3 layers for each area; an objects layer, a plants layer and a lots layer, and a layer for any CC I have used so that I can easily remove it all if need be.. e.g.
7th Oct 2012, 11:01 PM
I create layers by theme. Here's what I have in my world:
3) large objects (retaining walls, bridges, water towers, etc.)
3) rail and road (railways, trains, road signs, streetlights, street lamps)
4) small deco (boats, billboards, trashcans, planters, hay piles, carts, fences, other small stuff)
5) effects (haven't placed yet)
6) spawners (also haven't placed)
I don't think it would be easier to make layers for each area, maybe I'd just group lots and street lamps this way (each area uses different street lamps). I thought about it, but I don't want to have too many layers, it's confusing.
And, thomsonjamie, it is a really good idea to create a separate layer for CC, in case one plans to make a CC-free version of the world, I think I'll use it in my world, thanks.
28th Mar 2013, 12:29 AM
As a newbie CAW user, I could totally be wrong but I was hoping to bounce a couple ideas off you guys.
Essentially, I'm thinking it's not so much about how many layers you have, but how much area your layer spans. I think while in game, TS3 will only load the layers the user is interacting with. You interact with a layer in game once you enter its dimension which is defined by where you place game objects/trees/FX in CAW. For example, imagine a square map. If you make a brand new layer and place a tree in three of the square’s corners, the triangle that would be formed by those trees is the area you’d have to be in to interact with that layer.
When you enter that layer’s dimension it activates all the object animations at high quality rendering. Back to our tree example, once you entered that layer’s dimension your computer prepares everything on that layer to be super-dooper highly rendered, even if something (like a mountain/building ) obstructs some of your trees from your view. In other words, your computer is working overtime to let you see all your trees’ shadows and subtle swaying when you’re not even looking. This doesn’t matter much if you stick with a small map or with a small amount of objects in your map, but as your maps get larger/filled with more stuff, a noticeable lag will start to develop.
The lag is caused by “animation overload”. I think EA has managed to avoid this by deciding to section off their maps. They’d develop “chunks” of their town using SEPARATE layers so that your computer is only animating the region you’re gaming in as opposed to the ENTIRE map at the SAME time. I believe this allows for smoother animations throughout the game as a general rule (ie: not only do your trees/FX/game objects have smooth animations, but your ‘selection menus’ aren’t choppy, scrolling around your lots is smoother, etc…). So long as you stay within the confines of that particular layer, your game is pretty smooth.
Having multiple layers is only good up to a certain point. After about 5 or 7 layers [depending how much stuff you’ve put on them] you’re just creating more files for your computer to sort through which means lag. Also, for those of you who tend to bounce around the map like mad, you’ll notice you’ll be waiting for the new regions you’re visiting will always need to load up. You wouldn’t have that problem if everything was on two to three layers in CAW, but again going that way means the overall animation quality of the game would be choppy.
So to summarize, being skimpy on the layering means less load time when bouncing around your map, but ALL in game animations are choppier than an Asian stereotype. The bigger your world, the worse the lag. If you want smooth animation, go for layering in chunks like the pros at EA did. It’ll mean longer loading times when scrolling throughout town, but really, most people spend their times on one lot. Wait the 30 seconds it takes for everything to show up, and then allow your videocard to reward you with better game play for not making it animate crap on the other side of the map.
**REMINDER: Layers take time to load. The more stuff you have on a layer, the more time it takes. When your layers populate full of stuff, it does so in a grid formation. If the layer your compy is currently catering to is filled only with trees, your computer must only access one file and sort through one very small list of things in order to find what it needs. The whole process is pretty quick. When you mix and match trees with FX and game objects, you’re forcing your computer to search through all three files, which makes for a significantly longer list of things to look through, and you get lag as a result. This is the reason EA designers suggest putting trees/FX on separate layers; to save your computer the trouble of having to sort through all those files.
At least, it’s what I suspect. I could be wrong, but based on what I know of compys, how layering works in Photoshop, and what I’ve read on these forums, I think I’m right :P
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