A few years ago I started creating a procedural planet engine/renderer for a game in Unity, which after a couple of years I had to stop developing due to lack of time. At the time i didn't know too much about shaders so I did everything on the CPU. Now that I have plenty of time and am more aware of what shaders can do I'd like to resume development with the GPU in mind.
For the terrain mesh I'm using a cubed-sphere and chunked LODs. Since terrain never changes, heights for each chunk need to be calculated just once.The way I calculate heights is rather complex since it's based on a noise tree, which is created from an artist/designer-provided XML for each main planet/asteroid. Leaf nodes in the tree would be noise generators like Simplex, Value, Sine, Voronoi, etc. while branch nodes would be filters and modifiers (FBM, abs, neg, sum, ridged, billow, blender, selectors, etc).
To calculate the heights for a mesh you'd call
void CalcHeights( Vector3 meshVertices, out float heights ) on the noise's root node, somewhere in the game code.
This approach offers a lot of flexibility but also introduces a lot of load in the CPU. The first obvious thing to do would be (I guess) to move all generators to the GPU via compute shaders, then do the same for the rest of the filters. But, depending on the complexity of the noise tree, a single call to CalcHeights could potentially cause dozens of calls back and forth between the CPU and GPU, which I'm not sure it's a good thing.
How should I go about this?