Monday, May 24, 2021

The Small Blue Marble

Last week I posted a link to River Runner, a fascinating map which allows you to view the route that a drop of rain would take from any location in the United States to the ocean. However the big question is - how would a 1000 mile wide inflatable ball react if you dropped it on the Earth?

Darren Wein's Whirld allows you to roll a gigantic floating ball around the Earth. Like 'River Runner' Darren's Whirld map uses Mapbox's 3D elevation data. In Whirld the elevation data is a used to restrict the huge ball's movement as you try to roll it around the Earth. In order to move the ball around you need to tilt and rotate the map. 

Darren's little game is created using Three.js with Mapbox GL. The small 3D Earth ball object is created using Three.js (you can change the texture of this ball using the drop-down menu). On the map the ball interacts with the elevation data - so that high elevation on land will effect how and where the ball will move. 

When Mapbox first released their 3D elevation layer last year I did think we might see a few games created with this feature. A fairly easy game to make would be a simple flight / plane simulation. I am surprised I haven't seen a Mapbox powered flight sim yet. 

If you are interested in observing how smaller objects react to Mapbox's terrain data then you can play with Darren's Flowtrack interactive map. This map allows you to click anywhere in the world to view how water dropped at that location would flow based on the local terrain. I assume this map uses Mapbox's elevation data to work out the downhill path of least resistance.

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