The Standard Tab in the Gaia Manager is your entry point for creating a new scene with a Gaia Terrain from scratch. This article explains the different steps you go through usually when creating a new scene with Gaia, and gives a detailed explanation of the different settings along the way.

The workflow of creating a new scene with a Gaia Terrain can be broken down into 4 different steps:


  1.  Creating the Terrains that make your world

    Gaia terrains are based on the unity standard terrain objects, and to create a terrain with Gaia, you need to lay down those unity terrains as a foundation to work on first. The simplest case is creating a single terrain tile at the desired size that then can be populated with objects like trees etc. but in more complex cases you may want to create multiple of those terrain tiles when creating bigger worlds.

  2.  Create Tools to sculpt and populate the terrain tiles

    After the basic terrain tiles have been laid down, you can start shaping your world according to your goals by adding mountains and valleys with the Gaia Stamper tool. While doing so, or after the final height changes to the terrain have been made, you can populate the terrain with textures, trees, terrain details (grass) and other objects. This process is called spawning and is performed mostly automatically - e.g. instead of placing single trees on the terrain manually, you can define intelligent spawn rules that will place trees in fitting places in an automated process.

  3. Create Runtime settings and objects

    Beyond the terrain and the resources on it, Gaia can also create additional runtime objects commonly found in a scene with a terrain - such as sky, lighting and water. You can configure the runtime setup (which sky type, water type, etc.) you want to use in your scene and let Gaia set up the required objects in your scene.

  4.  <Optional>Light Baking

    The Unity Engine features different Light Modes where some of the modes require you to bake lighting in your scene. You can start this process from the Gaia Manager to improve your visuals (if you chose to use baked lighting in your scene). Additionally Gaia has features for generating light and reflection probes across your terrain which can improve the final lighting result.


These 4 workflow steps are reflected within the Gaia Manager standard tab and will guide you through the process of creating and completing your scene.


The following sections explain the 4 steps and the respective settings / features found for those in detail.


Terrains



The terrains tab initially only presents dropdown boxes for two settings: World Size and Target Platform / Quality. The values found in these dropdowns represent presets for a more complex selection of settings.

The "World Size" selects the target terrain size of your game world - larger worlds mean more space for your scene, but also a higher impact on performance.

The Target Platform / Quality settings adjusts the quality of the terrain objects in terms of resolution and objects being displayed on the terrain.

You can go more into detail by pressing the small "+" button right of the dropdown. This will show the advanced settings for the category, and when you switch between the different presets for world size / target platform, you can see how the advanced settings change accordingly. If you chose your own advanced world size / target quality setup, the selection in the dropdown will change to "Custom" instead, indicating that you chose custom settings for this category.


Advanced World Size Settings



X & Z-TilesThe amount of terrain tiles you want to create on the X and Z axis. Per default this is set to 1 which means you would create a single terrain, as soon as you begin to increase the values you are creating a multi-terrain scene with X multiplied by Z terrains.
You can create multiple terrains to create larger worlds with higher terrain & texture resolutions, however this can quickly lead to performance issues.
Tile SizeThe size of one of the created terrain tiles. Larger terrain tiles mean more space in your scene, but also mean less detailed terrain since the terrain resolution values (heightmap, control texture, etc. are stretched out over a larger area).
Use World DesignerInstead of creating the terrain tiles directly, use the world designer to create the terrain shape on a worldmap level first, or do random terrain generation. Note: This is an advanced feature for terrain generation that does not follow the same workflow that is target of this help article.
Create Terrain Scenes (Gaia Pro only)Create an individual unity scene for each created terrain tile. These scenes can be loaded in and out around the player / camera as they move through the world. Selecting this option is an advanced feature that will activate terrain loading for your scene, and is explained more in detail in this article.
Unload Terrain Scenes (Gaia Pro only)This setting is only relevant in combination with the "Create Terrain Scenes" setting and will unload the terrain scenes immediately after creation. This can be helpful when creating very large worlds that would normally crash the unity editor just from the sheer number of terrain tiles.
Floating Point FixActivates a special workaround (scene origin shifting) to prevent issues from floating point imprecision that can affect you when creating larger game worlds. (exceeding roughly 5 kilometres in any direction)
Total World SizeGives a summary of the total world size of all terrains combined and the number of terrains you are about to create.



Advanced Target Platform / Quality Settings



Global Spawn DensityThis is one single value that increases or decreases the distance between all Tree, Game Object and Terrain Detail spawns. In other words: The higher this value is, the more objects will be created on your terrains. More objects usually look better on your terrain, but also cost more performance at the same time. You can still change this value later and regenerate the objects on your terrain if you want to experiment with different values / densities.
Heightmap ResolutionControls the heightmap resolution of the terrain, or how detailed the terrain geometry can be in relation to the terrain size.
Control Texture ResolutionControls the splatmap resolution of the terrain, or how detailed the terrain textures can be painted on in relation to the terrain size.
Basemap ResolutionControls the splatmap resolution of the terrain when viewed past the Basemap distance.
Detail Resolution per PatchHow many terrain detail cells should be rendered together as a patch. Must be a divisor of the detail resolution below.
Detail ResolutionThe number of terrain detail cells on the terrain, the more cells the denser the terrain details can be placed on the terrain.


Please note: The "Resolution" values and how they work are not exclusive to Gaia, these are settings / limitations of the unity terrain system. You can find more information about the settings of the terrain objects in the Unity manual.


When you are happy with the world size and the Target Platform / Quality Settings, you can click the "Create Terrain(s)" button to create the terrains with the selected settings in your scene. This allows you to continue with the "Tools" step in the scene creation workflow.


Tools


At first sight, the Tools tab offers two features: A checkbox to select whether you want to create a stamper in the scene, and a dropdown to select a biome preset.
The Stamper is Gaia's main tool to manipulate terrain height, or to "create hills and valleys" in your terrain. If you plan to sculpt the terrain you should leave this box checked.
The biome dropdown allows you to select the main biome you want to use in this scene. A biome is a combination of resources that, when spawned together on the terrain, give a specific look to the terrain. A biome consists of multiple spawners that are triggered one after another to spawn all the resources used in this biome. You can review the spawners included in this biome and fine tune the included spawners by clicking the small "+" button next to the biome dropdown:


The checkboxes in front of the spawners control how this spawner will be set up when being added to the scene:

  • S = The spawner will automatically be triggered whenever the stamper is used. This is especially useful for texture spawners.
  • B = The spawner will be set up as active in the biome spawner.
  • P = The prototypes (Resources such as textures, tree prototypes, etc.) will be added to the terrains in the scene when this spawner is added. If this box is not checked, the prototypes will only be added "on demand" whenever the spawner is executed.

When you are happy with the settings, click the "Create Tools" button to create the selected tools in the scene. Note that you can always come back to this tab to create the stamper again, or to add more biome spawners to the scene. After the tools are created, you usually would close the Gaia Manager to work with the tools on the terrain. The stamper and biome spawner are fairly complex tools on their own that are described more in detail in these articles:

Stamper Introduction

Introduction to the Biome Controller


You can now work with the stamper and the biome controller to sculpt and populate your terrain. Once you are happy with what you have created, you can move to the next tab in the Gaia Manager, the Runtime setup.


Runtime



The Runtime tab displays a collection of settings for objects you can add to your scene that influence the runtime behavior. Other than the Gaia tools these are objects that can remain in your game for the final build and may also be directly visible to the end user. The available settings / features are:

Player ControllerAdds a player character controller to the scene. Even if this is not the final player you want to keep for your game / scene, this is still very useful during the design phase to get first impressions how the player would experience your scene from a certain perspective. The available choices for Player Controller are:

  • First Person - The classic first person controller where you move with WASD on your keyboard and look with your mouse.
  • Flying Camera - A camera that can just freely navigate everywhere in the scene. Controls for this controller are visible on the screen when you run the scene.
  • Third Person - Adds the unity "Ethan" model as a player character that is followed by a third person camera
  • XR Controller - A controller for Virtual / Augmented Reality projects with teleportation movement. This controller needs to be enabled from the setup Panel first to function properly.
  • Custom - Not a player / controller per se, but allows you to reference your own custom player character and camera to make sure all the other Gaia systems are set up using the correct camera and player character. For example, if you use the Gaia Water system there is an underwater effect that is dependent on the camera position in the scene - if you are using your own character controller you would either need to go over the Gaia underwater scripts and assign the camera in there, or you can use this "Custom" feature to have Gaia set up the camera & character for you in the associated systems.
  • None - Does not set up any player controller at all. You can freely set up any character / camera controller you like, but note that some of the other runtime settings of Gaia (e.g. underwater effects) might not function properly until you set up the character / camera in the associated scripts.

Once the player has been created, you can still switch to different player types during design and even during runtime of the scene. You can find more information about it here: Gaia Player Settings

SkiesSets up a sky and lighting setup for your scene. This can greatly improve / influence the overall look & feel of your scene. The available options are:

  • Morning, Day Evening, Night - Sets up static HDRI skyboxes with a fixed time of day and fitting lighting.
  • Default - Uses the default "empty" Unity skybox with some basic lighting
  • Procedural Worlds Sky - Advanced sky system with changing Time of Day, layered clouds and weather features (Gaia Pro Only)
  • None - Gaia will not change the current sky / lighting setup


Please Note: The selection you make here is just setting up a preset. The lighting system of Gaia has a lot (!) of customization options which are explained more in detail here:
Gaia Lighting Settings

Post ProcessingWhether Gaia should use Post Processing effects for the sky / lighting setup. For the built-in rendering pipeline you need to have the post processing package installed from the package manager, for the other pipelines the native post processing tech of the respective rendering pipeline is used.
WaterAdds an ocean water plane to your scene. The water is placed at the height of the sea level which can be set up in the session manager and other Gaia tools such as the stamper or the spawner. You can select different presets for the look of the water surface here, or choose to create no water at all. After creation of the water in your scene you can customize the water within the Gaia Water Settings.
Underwater EffectsAdds special effects when the camera goes under the sea level to give the impression that the camera is filming in a body of water now. These effects strongly rely on post processing when using the built-in rendering pipeline, so it is recommended to install the post processing package when using this setting in built-in.
Wind ZoneSets up an unity wind zone for the scene.
Wind TypeSets a certain preset representing calmer or stormier weather for the created wind zone.
Ambient AudioAdds playback of an Ambient Audio Loop for the player character. 
ScreenshotterAdds a small tool that allows you to create screenshots from the current camera. (Default Key to take screenshots: F12)
This tool is described more in detail here: Screenshotter
Location ManagerAdds a tool that allows you to bookmark important locations in your scene, and jump right back to them. This works both during design and run time, and can be a great help for designing your scene or for playtesting.
This tool is described more in detail here: Location Manager


You can choose a combination of appropriate options / features, and then click the "Create Runtime" button to set up the runtime objects with the given configuration. Note that this selection is not set in stone - you can always change settings in the runtime tab and click the "Create Runtime" button again to override your runtime setup with the new values. This is especially useful when you want to experiment with the look of different sky / water setups in your scene, or when you want to reset the runtime setup to its default values.

After setting up runtime you are mostly finished with creating your Gaia Scene, if you are interested in Light Baking you can also perform the next, optional step in the Gaia Manager.


Light Baking



The Light Baking tab in the Gaia Manager is an optional step after the terrain creation that assists with baking the light for your scene. The tab offers two panels for the creation of reflection and light probes for your terrain, and two buttons for starting the light baking process.

The "Quick Lightmap Bake" button just bakes the global lighting and reflection probe information of the scene, without baking any of the individual lights. This is a very quick process that improves the visual look of your scene somewhat, especially how the shadows look when a HDRI skybox is being used.

The "Full Lightmap Bake" button does a full bake including all lights, light and reflection probes in your scene.

Please Note: Both buttons are just "remote controls" for starting the lightmap baking process from the Window -> Rendering -> Lighting dialogue. Gaia does not perform the light baking by itself, but rather triggers the internal light baking process of unity. If you experience problems with the light baking process it is recommended to start the light baking manually from Window -> Rendering -> Lighting. If you run into the same issue there, it is an issue with the internal light baking process of Unity.


Adding Reflection Probes


Unfolding the "Reflection Probes" panel gives you additional options to spawn reflection probes in a grid-like fashion across the terrain:


The options for the probe placement are as follows:

Probe ModeWhat kind of probes should be spawned? 
  • Baked Probes will only be calculated once
  • Realtime Probes will be re-calculated periodically to display current reflections
  •  Custom Probes allow you to set your own reflection cubemap that was generated by other means
Refresh ModeAt which time the probe should be refreshed for realtime mode:
  • On Awake: Probe will be calculated on scene start
  • Every Frame: Probe will be updated constantly (expensive!)
  • Via Scripting: Probe will be updated from a script
  • Probe Manager: Probe will be updated via Gaia's Probe Manager System
Probes Per Row / ColumnHow many rows & columns of probes should be created across your terrain? E.g. 5 means a grid with 5 rows and 5 columns will be created, resulting in 25 probes total.
Probe Height OffsetAt which height above the terrain the probe will be placed. Usually you would want this at the "eye level" of the player / camera in the final game.
Probe ResolutionThe resolution at which the cube maps of the probes will be rendered at. Higher equals a better reflection image quality, but worse for performance, especially when using realtime probes.
Compression MethodThe compression method used for the cubemap image of the probe
Render DistanceThe distance for the probe capture. Anything beyond this distance will not be part of the probe image.
Shadow Render DistanceThe distance at which shadows are being rendered when doing the probe capture.
Culling MaskWhich layers should be considered for rendering the probe capture.


Please Note: Most of these settings are not Gaia exclusive, but are rather the same settings you would find on a manually placed reflection probe. You can find out more about these probe settings in the Unity manual about Reflection Probes.


When you click the "Generate Global Scene Reflection Probes" Button, a grid of probes will be created across your terrain according to your settings. You can find the generated probes as a child object of the terrains in your scene.
The "Clear Reflection Probe" button clears the generated probes again accordingly.


Adding Light Probes


Unfolding the "Light Probes" panel gives you additional options to spawn light probes in a grid-like fashion across the terrain. Since Light Probes do not have as many individual options as reflection probes, you can only define how many probes you want per column / terrain. 


Same as with the reflection probes, the "Generate" Button, generates a grid of probes as a child object of the terrains in your scene, and the "Clear" button removes those probes again. Light Probes only become active after pressing the "Full Lightmap Bake" button in the Gaia Manager or starting the full light baking request from the Window > Rendering > Lighting window.


Please Note: Alternatively you can also spawn light and reflection probes from the Gaia Spawner by selecting "Probes" as a resource.