By Douglas King
MojoWorld, a "planet-creation" product from Pandromeda, is as much a tool that can be used by digital matte artists as it is a fun toy that allows friends and family from around the world to connect and explore digital worlds.
MojoWorld consists of two modules for creating and exploring worlds both fantastic and realistic, complete with moons and suns. The MojoWorld Generator creates the worlds, and the Transporter is a viewer. A Pro version of the Transporter is also available-both it and the Generator in clude the MojoVox chat utility. This last underscores one of the main purposes of Mo joWorld-to offer the ability to explore worlds created by others in a community of users.
When you first open the software, you find yourself on a default planet in the Transporter. Here you have the ability to travel by foot, airplane, or UFO.
The Generator is accessed within the Transporter through a pull-down menu. Once in the Generator, prepare yourself for a substantial learning curve, but the end result will be well worth the time.
Part of the reason for the learning curve is the Generator's interface, which is at tractively designed and clutter-free, but not particularly intuitive. The many different sliders that pop up whenever you click on the icons, lines, or circles that are used to create the planets do not indicate how the values are going to affect the element you are adjusting. You are left to experiment and hope you get what you desire. At press time, however, Pandromeda an nounced Version 1.2, which includes tutorials and reference guides that should shorten the learning time. Support for third-party plug-ins has also been added.
|Barren, dramatic scenes, whether realistic or fantastic, are the kind of landscapes that MojoWorld does best. The program is also particularly adept at cloud creation.|
Within the Generator, you have access to controls for sky, fog, water, primitive objects, suns, moons, materials, and textures. All these controls affect the planet on a global scale. MojoWorld is definitely more for creating entire planets and panoramas rather than worrying about the specifics. It is only through the use of Parameter Bombs that you can make localized changes to the landscape such as individual mountains and craters. You use Parameter Bombs by dragging the mouse over the desired area, thus creating a sphere of influence. By placing Bombs within Bombs, you can create some interesting looks. The trick is aligning the objects just so and selecting the correct modifiers to make the changes you want.
I found it difficult, confusing, and annoying to select objects. Also any finite alignment on the surface of my planet was a major issue. Again, trying to create a specific landscape is not as simple as drawing a line or painting a displacement map.
MojoWorld, however, excels in two areas. First, the renderer surpasses that of other landscape packages. While it does not give you specific aspect ratios or resolutions, it allows you to select between low, medium, and maximum resolutions. The other area in which MojoWorld excels is material blending. I found it to be one of the best I have used in this type of landscape programs. The random and soft blends between grass, rock, and snow look very natural and realistic. The ability to control both the material and texture shaders offers great control over completing the look you desire.
A major drawback with the program is the absence of flora creation tools. As it is, the package can really only be used for barren deserts, moonscapes, alien planets, and ice planets.
The current version has only one type of cloud layer, but the developers say new plug-ins will be released soon with different cloud types. The clouds are animatable for time-lapse effects. One detail about the clouds that I appreciate is that they interact with the terrain; they are reflected in water surfaces, they cast and receive shadows, and wrap around mountain peaks. All this lends itself to a realistic and great looking finished image. When you get into the detail of cloud distortion, the amount of control you have over clouds is incredible.
What MojoWorld lacks are the fine details for making planets finished, such as plants, rocks, rivers, waterfalls, etc. Also, and this applies to all landscape packages, there is no way to create landbridges, caves, or overhangs, items I would personally love to have. Otherwise, MojoWorld is an incredible product, especially for its price point. It is powerful and puts a considerable amount of control in the users' hands.
Douglas King is a writer and animator based in Dallas, Texas.
Price: $249 for MojoWorld Generator 1.2, $50 for MojoWorld Transporter Pro, $20 for Transporter
Minimum System Requirements: Win 95/98/00/NT/ME, 90MB of RAM