Developing the Environment
Check out this video highlighting the early development of the environment through several iterations of our forest.
On of the biggest challenges with Phantom of the Forest has been creating a believable environment. Although the art is stylized, we have always strived to make a forest feel authentic. This means doing some research and placing trees appropriately based on where they would grow in nature. We also designed the landscape to be characteristic of a real location. Beginning with aerial survey images, we laid out our base mesh as a 1 square kilometer based loosely on the terrain area North East of Winnipeg. Our main tree that composes the bulk of the woods is the Black Spruce. We did several iterations of the Spruce, trying to refine both its look and keep the poly count down to a minimum.
In the end, we developed a version that used Speedtree with a leaf node modified to be a much larger branch and that allowed us the combination of the artistic vision and performance that was required. This was especially difficult in our project due to the fact that you can fly high above the canopy and view several hundred trees at a time, so multiple levels of Level of Detail were required, as well as camera based culling and physics geometry optimization. In the end though, the feeling of flying between towering Spruce as you try to spot voles hiding in the deadfall was ultimately worth the effort.
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