Join 3,413 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


England's pleasant pastures recreated
May 1, 2013 3:14 AM   Subscribe

The British countryside generator uses Voronoi diagrams to recreate the patchwork quilt look of your stereotypical UK landscape of rolling meadows, woodlands and crop fields, enclosed by hedgerows and drystone walls.
posted by MartinWisse (21 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks fantastic but he needs to develop a set of plug-ins for added realism : the gastro-pub gentrifier DLC; a "Get Orf my Laaand" audio pack; and an algorithm that randomly dumps noxious agrochemicals in the water courses.
posted by Abiezer at 3:33 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been following this for a while as part of the game referred to in the first link, but it's hard to deny that there's a whole other reason to be interested. Just the term "British countryside generator" hits on so many terrific, weird, BoC-like ideas that I'd love it if it had wings beyond the game itself.
posted by ZaphodB at 3:38 AM on May 1, 2013


A) I really like the look of that game. It's been on here before I think?

B) I don't think British fields are well-approximated by Theissen/Voronoi polygons on a noisy grid. There's more topography involved, and the road/lane network buggers it up. But trying to work out the diagnostic is making my brain hurt. Otherwise some fun with Google Earth would be on the agenda.
posted by cromagnon at 3:41 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


BLDBLOG covered this, too.
posted by empath at 3:45 AM on May 1, 2013


I thought this was a double, but I searched and only found a few references in comments.

I remember when this came out and it's a cool article. He also took some technical questions in the forums after (disclaimer: I'm in there).
posted by 23 at 3:53 AM on May 1, 2013


I spend quite a lot of time doing mapping, and the output of this is actually not a very good approximation of the geometries in reality. It's much more random, more bitty, there's much more variation in size, and as cromagnon says, a lot of dependence on topography. Look at an example.
posted by Marlinspike at 5:41 AM on May 1, 2013


We are the procedurally generated preservation society.....
posted by The Whelk at 7:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


My new passport arrived yesterday and all the visa pages are drawings of 'stereotypical British landscape', but they're labelled! So there's 'coastal cliff', 'moorland' and what have you, but then they apparently got a bit stuck for ideas of natural features, so there's 'formal park'.
posted by hoyland at 7:40 AM on May 1, 2013


so there's 'formal park'.

I believe those actually do form naturally if you simply create a high enough density of tea and disapproval.
posted by lucidium at 9:27 AM on May 1, 2013


It's maybe worth pointing out that the distinctive patchwork-quilt pattern is the product of the Enclosure Acts (the original 'get orf moi land' movement designed to squeeze more profit out of the countryside), so this 'typically English' landscape didn't exist before the eighteenth century and would have been unrecognisable to Chaucer or Shakespeare.
posted by verstegan at 10:23 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]



I believe those actually do form naturally if you simply create a high enough density of tea and disapproval.


They randomly spawn Aunt Gertrudes
posted by The Whelk at 10:32 AM on May 1, 2013


this 'typically English' landscape didn't exist before the eighteenth century and would have been unrecognisable to Chaucer or Shakespeare.

... and?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:36 AM on May 1, 2013


A stereotypical corner of England-shire perhaps but not a generic British countryside landscape I'd recognise.
posted by Callicvol at 11:44 AM on May 1, 2013


so this 'typically English' landscape didn't exist before the eighteenth century and would have been unrecognisable to Chaucer or Shakespeare.

And formalised fox-hunting, that other rural tradition, came along with enclosure. Which is apt, given the theme of Sir, You Are Being Hunted.

... and?

"In America, 100 years is a long time; in Britain, 100 miles is a long way."

The creation of the "English countryside" (and it's very much English rather than British, and particularly southern English) happened over a relatively short timeframe, a relatively short time ago. For instance, I'm sympathetic towards the desire to save hedgerows and the diversity of flora and fauna they encourage, but they're often regarded as ancient when they're mostly about 250 years old. The English landscape once looked a lot more like Port Meadow than the fields around it.
posted by holgate at 12:31 PM on May 1, 2013


That the English countryside once looked different doesn't make its current appearance less typical. It just makes the current appearance atypical of England before enclosure. Some other thing would have been typically English in Shakespeare's time, and still another thing in Chaucer's.

I guess I'm misreading what's meant by "typically English" here.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2013


I guess I'm misreading what's meant by "typically English" here.

It's mostly about how the construction of typicality in the 18th century -- the pursuit of the picturesque, the engineered informality of Capability Brown, etc. -- takes place at a time of relatively rapid change to the wider landscape. (In similar fashion, proscription of traditional dress and land clearances create the space for a recreated "typical" Scottishness in the 19th century.)

This isn't simply "it looked different in the past"; it's "our sense of how it always looked dates from a particular time in the past, a time when it was starting to look very different from how it had looked before."
posted by holgate at 1:43 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, OK. I guess other threads had set me on edge, and I saw an implicit argument that existed only in my own head. What it was, I have no idea anymore. Thanks for humoring me.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2013


The idea is great but ... I wanted to like this more than I did. I feel the Voronoi diagram method is not really that rich. I have an idea that some kind of fractal extension of a 2D or 3D Markov Chain would be a richer foundation for things like this, but I haven't worked out the details :)
posted by iotic at 3:52 PM on May 1, 2013


Thanks to holgate for explaining my point better than I did. To anyone who knows the English countryside, the patchwork-quilt pattern seems so natural and organic that it comes as a bit of a shock to realise it's actually the result of a deliberate programme of agricultural modernisation (or 'improvement' as it would have been called in the eighteenth century). Which doesn't detract in the slightest from the coolness of this very cool project, except that I wonder how far the attempt to recreate this pattern mathematically, with an element of randomness thrown in, may reflect an unconscious assumption on the part of the game designers that this is a natural landscape rather than a planned one.
posted by verstegan at 1:48 AM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's intended to be an accurate simulation of actual reality, but rather a sufficient simulation of what people imagine to be reality.
posted by empath at 2:22 AM on May 2, 2013


except that I wonder how far the attempt to recreate this pattern mathematically, with an element of randomness thrown in, may reflect an unconscious assumption on the part of the game designers that this is a natural landscape rather than a planned one.

That's a good question. It's certainly an assumption that I would have left with if you hadn't pointed out enclosure's effect on the land. Still, reading the developers' blog, I get the idea that they wanted to recreate the countryside they grew up in rather than the countryside in its natural state. I can hardly blame them for historical ignorance when they're not trying to portray history.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:20 AM on May 2, 2013


« Older The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi...  |  It turns out that up to an est... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments