Surreal Landscape Demo

edited in Projects
Hey all

I've been working on a demo developed using a Direct3D11 engine that I started last year (with development on a simplified version continuing as I code up the demo). The demo was initially somewhat inspired by the game Flower. I thought I'd link to some screenshots for now (will upload a working prototype at a later stage).

Looking at the upcoming PS4 titles I realized it will be difficult to compete with the new technologies -- the engines being showcased for the upcoming generation are advancing pretty quickly and the companies just have too many resources (programmers, artists, time and money) to compete. And yet games like Flower exist and still look really pretty in their own way, so I thought I'd just focus on my strengths (beautiful fantasy landscapes) and try to outdo my earlier work.

The idea is to have a vibrant world with complex interactions between creatures and plants (it's getting there, though I have plans to add much more to it). I might eventually turn it into a simple game, though at the moment I'm at a loss for gameplay ideas. I have a basic story premise in mind, but I guess I have the programmer equivalent of writer's block when it comes to thinking of compelling gameplay.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. Here is a link if anybody is interested in having a look:
Thanked by 1hanli


  • Nice. Like the floating Jellyfish and red tentacles with elvish-like writing on them.
    Thanked by 1ScurvyKnave
  • Style is always going to be an easier way to stand out than tech. Especially for a project with a tiny fraction of the resources of the major studios.

    I think one of the biggest elements of style is coherence of concept - it's what makes Journey and Flower work so well. Your floating jellyfish are interesting, but they feel like the world they're in isn't coherent with a creature like that: There's no reason for them to float, no high-canopied but spiny forests that would create airspaces for them to hunt in or things for them to hunt, no obvious predators that they're escaping from, no non-chlorophyll-based photosythesis that they might be doing up there, etc.

    Same thing with the tentacles: Why do they have writing on them? Are they natural or an artifact? If they're old, they should be weathered or part of other visible ruins to give us a story to surmise at, etc.

    You've got some neat beginnings of style, if you make your scenes more coherent they'll start hinting at stories in people's minds.
  • edited
    There's no reason for them to float, no high-canopied but spiny forests
    Well, its only a few weeks of work so far (for the demo itself, the engine code is older), so I haven't had time to flesh the world out yet. I'm still in the process of adding trees (I'm going to have very large procedural trees, possibly growing and flowering in real-time). Also, the jellyfish concept is still early (I might put them underwater eventually). And there will be predators as well (I want a few predator-prey relationships).

    The world is actually set in the dream of a girl named Mirium (she's dreaming of flying) -- I suppose it's a bit of an Alice in Wonderland concept. I was going to (and still might) make it truly surreal, with floating tea-cups and clocks etc. Currently I'm just adding bits and pieces as I go. To a large extent I also just want to provide a nice playground for me to get familiar with D3D 10 / 11 features. Most of my engine development in the past was in D3D9 (and a bit of OpenGL), and so I haven't really had a chance to experiment much with geometry shaders, tessellation etc.

    Basically, I want to level up again :)

    And I thought I'd put together a demo world in the process. Re the tentacles, they're plant-like thingies that were actually more me testing out my procedural geometry generation framework -- I just happened to like my first test and decided to put them in. The texture might very well change. But there is going to be far more bizarre plantlife in a similar vein.

    I work with quite a few 3D artists and so would like to recruit one of them to help out, but before I do so I want to have something fleshed out for them to work with. They tend to regard programmer art with some disdain (and rightfully so, although I think mine is not quite as bad as some programmer art I've seen). I've found that if I give them models and textures to improve, they usually come up with far superior results, but this will hopefully give the look and feel I'm aiming for; programmer art as concept art :P

    I have odd creatures (that currently consist of multiple connected nodes, just cubes for now so quite odd-looking) that flock together and exhibit behaviour reminiscent of schools of fish. I'm thinking of having them hunt the jellyfish creatures. Basically its going to be a dense-atmosphere alien world / dreamscape (as in, the atmosphere is so thick that most creatures are airborne). Well, maybe. I'm just winging it for now.
  • if you make your scenes more coherent they'll start hinting at stories in people's minds.
    I have a story in mind, where a young girl is flying in a peaceful landscape (which occasionally descends into something a bit darker and more sinister). I'm thinking that between scenes, you see brief stills of a woman's life (I have a very talented friend who I can hopefully convince to do some illustrations). As it progresses I want the user to realize that the woman they see growing old is Mirium herself, and that even very old people still have the same dreams and aspirations as when they were younger, that at heart we can still have the ideals we held as children.

    I'm not sure if its cliched, but I was considering making it her last dream... the dream she has on her deathbed (while in a coma), with her catching glimpses of a mysterious boy who leads the way. The boy is her deceased husband, and he is guiding her into the afterlife. I envision having the last scene showing a hospital room as her eyes open one last time (maybe a fading heartbeat) and then closing. Thereafter she heads into the light, uplifting music plays, and it flashes white, leaving what happens next to the user's imagination.
  • I personally think the blur/dof is too heavily applied, but if it's a dream world, I guess that makes sense. Just, you seem to end up with some halo-like artifacts around things as a result; while those are normally negligible, they get exaggerated here. I don't know if that's intended.

    Have you seen Iñigo Quílez's stuff? His 4k demos blow my mind, not just because of the technical excellence, but because they're actually truly gorgeous too. It's great seeing how both his programming and his art levelled up over the years.
  • you seem to end up with some halo-like artifacts around things as a result
    Yes, I agree. There are some halos at the moment -- its because I haven't implemented a proper blending algorithm for the bloom yet (it's essentially simply adding a highly contrased bright-pass blurred version of the scene, whereas you're supposed to determine how much bloom is applied based on, for example, the brightness of the original pixel). I'll need to fix that eventually.
    Have you seen Iñigo Quílez's stuff?
    Not yet, I'll take a look at it now... Ok, just took a look at the first page... Holy cr*p, that is impressive! Will browse through now.
  • My mind is blown by his stuff, a lot of it is exactly what I'm aiming for! Saving the link to use as inspiration, good to have something to aim for.
  • edited
    Aaaah ok, its not real-time (he generates those as still images when you run the executable). Still though, truly impressive -- the complexity of the geometry he procedurally generates gives very nice end results.
  • Great! :)

    He's got some great articles on his site too. Works at Pixar now, afaik. I keep it bookmarked for one day if/when I decide to try my hand at pretending to be a graphics programmer and entering the demo scene. :P
  • ScurvyKnave said:
    The idea is to have a vibrant world with complex interactions between creatures and plants (it's getting there, though I have plans to add much more to it).
    Depending on your focus. Waking Mars has some examples of ecosystems that produce gameplay challenges for players.

    I thought the Idle Thumbs podcast had some great thoughts about Waking Mars.

    In any case. I love coherent systems that I can interfere with to make interesting consequences. I'd love there to be "complex interactions between creatures and plants" in a dream game like Proteus for instance. There wouldn't even need to be goals, watching things unfold is entertaining in and of itself. (And there is a market for that if you can make the aesthetics pleasurable as well)

  • I totally agree. If Proteus had more interaction I'd wander around in it all day long :)
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