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I am looking for a Windows program which can simulate

  • plate tectonics,
  • hydrodynamics, and
  • erosion

on a randomly-generated non-Earth earthlike world in as realistic a manner as possible.

It should be able to output a height-map with detail as fine as possible.

The ability to view the world (even in a low-detail manner) as the simulation is in progress is almost a necessity.

I am chiefly after believable results for game worlds, on non-earth worlds. I would be chiefly interested in producing detailed topological and hydrological maps. I'm perfectly willing to let a program that does this run for days or even weeks if necessary to get the results I want, so speed is not an issue.

Freeware would be a bonus, and open-source would be a further bonus, but neither is really necessary.

  • 1
    Scientifc, and supplied with Earth data: gplates.org . . . also no reference to hydrodynamics . . . not a 100% hit. I think your "scientific-computing" link excludes a few hobbyist attempts which may cover your needs but not in fine detail or rigour. I would differentiate between something suitable for detailed realistic graphics, versus games, versus scientific climate simulations. You probably cannot have all those covered. Games (which require only believable results, not accurate ones) would be easiet. Could you clarify? – Neil Slater May 19 '14 at 12:29
  • Earth data is of absolutely no use to me. I've seen lots of hobbyist world generators, and none produce what I'd call believable results, especially as part of my BSc degree was in Geology. I need something that produces realistic results, thus the [scientific-computing] tag. I heard of a research project that was simulating plate tectonics using physics-based rules, but I can't remember what it was, let alone if the software has been made publically available and will run on Windows. – Monty Wild May 19 '14 at 23:09
  • There are so many variables affecting whether plate tectonic even happens that would affect exoplanets (probably the only scientific area of research where a whole-planet simulation might be written), that I doubt you would find anything. Neither plate tectonics nor climate are understood well enough to be applied with arbitrary "world building" starting conditions. For a game world I think your best bet is to find the hobbyist system that you can best live with. I world-build too, have used various hobby software or scripted my own things . . . but any "realism" is draped over the top in game – Neil Slater May 20 '14 at 7:40
  • You're not allowed to cross post, but earthscience.stackexchange.com might be a source as well (well, you're not looking for earth, but who knows). – Jan Doggen Sep 16 '14 at 14:58
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There is pyTectnonics which should let you do your modelling for the plates and there are several python based hydrology GIS systems about you could possibly integrate them with the Blender Physics engine.

  • Able to model plate tectonics for non-earth worlds
  • Ditto hydrology
  • 3D view via blender
  • Free & Open Source
  • Cross platform.
  • Wow! I was beginning to think that there wasn't anything like this out there that I could obtain (It doesn't matter what research software exists if you can't get it), and here is a free one! I'd have to see if I can get it to work before I can accept this answer, but in principle it looks like the sort of thing I need, even if it is a bit more basic than I'd like. – Monty Wild Sep 16 '14 at 23:48
  • Unfortunately, I have found that it is inadequate. It's resolution is too low, and the results are not entirely believable. Further, there doesn't seem to be any way to export a height map. – Monty Wild Jan 16 '17 at 0:52

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