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Morphscape

Deanna Giovinazzo,
United States,  Rochester Rochester Institute of Technology,  Senior Thesis,  May 24, 2015
Morphscape is an experiential art game in which you explore and interact with an evolving dreamscape environment. As of now, Morphscape is an early prototype, demonstrating the visual style as well as some of the in-game mechanisms. As a technical artist working in Unreal Engine 4, my work has been focused on shader-based look development and visual effects, texturing, and programming highly-parameterized smart assets using Unreal Engine 4's node-based Blueprint systems.

In dreams, reality is just a malleable impression at the whim of your subconscious mind. By pursuing a visual style that appears painted, with loose brush strokes breaking the borders of models, I have drawn inspiration from impressionist painting as a visual translation of our dreams. Impressionist painting can be considered a study in the way we perceive visual information. I find that this relates to the way our brain sees and records this to the memories that fuel our dreams. If we could see our dreams, I imagine that they might look like a vague, painterly impression.

In order to accomplish this painted style from a technical standpoint, a major issue I have addressed has been the hard edges of 3D models and the noticeable seams between intersecting meshes that are inherent to standard 3D models. These aberrations break the illusion of the visuals appearing painted, as in a painting, strokes are able to make form fluid and seamless. Working in 3D graphics as opposed to painting requires much more overhead to overcome the default look of the tools and be able to demonstrate a personal style. Developing the visual style beyond this default has been necessary to avoid letting the software dictate the vision for the project. While rendering progresses in terms of achieving greater and greater photo realism, making a material interact with light as a painter might depict light still stands as a challenge. In the materials I made for Morphscape, I wanted to regain some of the expressive, happy accidents that can give a painting so much life and character. Using a technique based in meshes and materials as opposed to a post-process gives this look a more dimensional quality when navigating an immersive 3D world.

In anticipation of creating a transformable, morphing landscape, all assets created for this project can be considered "smart" assets, with many controllable parameters between Unreal Engine 4's Blueprints and materials. These parameters can be hooked up globally to in-game variables or player input, providing for a completely dynamic world that can change before the player's eyes in real time. For example, a custom procedural tree system I have built based on spline components allows for infinite random variations of trees in engine, and the ability to animate tree growth along the splines.

A main interactive feature of the game will relate to the visual style, allowing the player to be able to paint objects in the world into existence, using a volumetric painting mechanism I am currently developing.
  • Concept Art
  • Design
  • Generalist (all)
  • Look Development
  • Modeling
  • Programming
  • Texture Painting
  • 3D Coat
  • 3ds Max
  • After Effects
  • Mari
  • Maya
  • Mental Ray
  • Mudbox
  • Nuke
  • Photoshop
  • Unreal 4
  • UV Layout
  • Zbrush
Epic Games
  • NEXT-GEN GAMING
  • Game of the Year
  • 1686 Page Views
  • 12 Images
  • May 14, 2015
This is a preview cinematic showcasing real-time gameplay of Morphscape. I created all of the visuals shown in this cinematic using Unreal Engine 4, and additional software for asset creation including Maya, Zbrush, Substance Designer, Substance Painter, Mari, Photoshop, and 3D Coat. The music track is composed by Eric Reeves.

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