I had an idea for a new tool that might be difficult to code, but will be very useful.
My idea is a kind of improved height maps. I envision it as something like this:
First, you create a curve like you would for a BevOb operation (a lathe). Then you create an 8-bit BW picture representing the hight of the vertices you wish to be created:
very light gray to black = vertices with varying height values.
Then you go back to blender and assign the pic to the curve. The result is a vertice-efficient lathed object with the details you drew following its curves.
So, what do you think? Is this possible? Is this good? Is anyone willing to try making this?
This is not very difficult to implement technically, but it does have it's issues. One particular difficulty is the fact that the displaced curve can be self-intersecting (and presumably should not be).
This is not a feature that should be implemented in Blender because there is a much more useful generalization of this idea which could be considered instead. In fact, it is more of a rendering challenge than modelling. It's called "Displacement Mapping", and it is supported by quite a number of the Renderman implementations, including Aqsis. If/when Green finishes Renderman integration, what you describe will be easy to do.
I hope that satifies your questions.
P.S. "Vertex" and "Height"
Personally I don't have a problem with the old system.
Just slap a texturemap over a mesh and hit the noise button a few times
If I want smoothness just hit subsurfs..
Sorry I took so long to reply I had problems with loging in.
Anyway, the benefit of my suggestion over height maps as they are implemented now is that in my suggestion the "height map" would CREATE vertices where needed. So, instead of subdividing a plane 10 times to have ok results, you just append the image and blender creates vertices where they are needed.
Well, assuming that you really find heightmapping useful, then this is an excellent suggestion. The idea of not having a lot of useless verts sounds very pleasing.