3 Ways to Create Vegetation that Supports Narratives
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this is an Excellent article, the way its set out with the vids and pics. very technical but not rambley. I learnt alot out of it.

by Eric
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Bob would have been proud

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Congratulations Lukas:) Amazing piece of 3D parametric shader:) thank You for sharing Your knowledge:)

3 Ways to Create Vegetation that Supports Narratives
1 June, 2017

Environment artist Jeremy Huxley showed some simple techniques, which will help you to build better natural scenes, which will help to push the game’s story forward.

Jeremy has over 12 years of experience in the game industry. He worked on a number of big titles, including Torchlight 1, Torchlight 2, Hellgate London, Uncharted 4 and Uncharted 3. Over the past 6 years, he’s been working at Naughty Dog. He did some extraordinary work on Uncharted 4, so we jumped at the chance and asked him about his work in environment design. So here we go.

Whenever I am assigned an environment, no matter what the project may be, the first question I ask is: What emotion is the player supposed to feel? Is this a high or low moment for the player or the characters? Is it a time of rest after a challenge, or am I leading the player into danger? These 3 simple questions propel your design forward and immediately set you on a course that can inspire the look and feel of an environment.

1. Shape

What shapes, when designing my plants, rocks, trees and layout, can I use to convey the nature of the space? Is it safe or dangerous?

Round and sharp shapes create different feelings for the player, based on basic human instinct. Round, broadleaf, healthy plants and larger shapes provide comfort and relief, and even create soft, natural shapes in the environment.

Sharp, pointed, thin, asymmetrical and chaotic plants and compositions create confusion, tension, fear and unease. The positive and negative space created by the composition of your plants are just as powerful as the initial plant shapes themselves, and can be very effective when working together with the environment.

2. Color

How can I use color to evoke a certain mood? Is this a warm and inviting space? Or is it cold and dangerous? Color can convey a different meaning depending on the hues that surround it and the context in which it is used.

Red, for example, acts as a natural indicator of dangerous plants and animals. Amongst other analogous colors, red tones can convey a warm feeling of fall colors.

Alternatively, when used sparingly or by itself, it can convey danger or mystery, or even imply violence. Cool tones can make the player feel cold or uncomfortable, based on personal association with the elements. In some instances, like in a shadowy meadow in a forest clearing, it can be a relief after an intense gameplay moment.

3. Density

How does density play a part in the player experience? Is the space open and free? Does it make the player feel exposed? Or does the environment feel imposing and claustrophobic? The density of an environment can have a huge impact on the player.

Crowded, busy and imposing plant arrangements can imply fear, claustrophobia and mystery. A single plant can signify death and despair — like sparse dead leaves hanging from a branch in winter. Alternatively, density can show life, rebirth or even a beacon of hope–like a small tree growing out of a hillside decimated by a fire.

A balanced level of detail and density can greatly affect the feeling of a scene, creating safety and comfort. A dense scene can imply the beginning of a hard journey by transitioning from a relatively open area into a claustrophobic space. Going the opposite direction, from a claustrophobic space into an opening, you can convey safety and relief.

Put into Practice

Battlefield 1 uses all of these techniques to great effect. Compare the two screenshots below. The lighting, shape and density of the landscape and foliage in the second image are much more hopeful than the one before, implying the passage of time and the new life growing back over the destroyed fields. The density and color choice of red for the flowers can be seen as a symbol of the lives lost here, each flower representing a lost life.

Tomb Raider is another example. In this scene,Lara has just descended the mountain; as she approaches her goal, you can see the landscape, including the foliage and plants, becoming sharper and more aggressive. The feeling is that of a transition from the open forests into danger. The colors are more muted or dead, the plants are dead or sharp, and the density is sparse.

In Farcry 4, the alternate world is all colored in warm tones–the plants are all red and imply blood or sacrifice. Enemies are shrouded in blue tones.


Shape, color, and density of plants and their compositions can greatly complement any story or mood. Once you have a grasp on what kind of moment the story calls for, and have an idea what kinds of emotions you would like the player to be feeling, you can effectively use these techniques to evoke any emotion that the narrative calls for.

Learn More

Jeremy covers all of these topics and more in his course at CG Master Academy: Vegetation and Plants for Games. Visit the course website for more details, and send all registration inquiries to 3d.registration@cgmasteracademy.com.

Jeremy Huxley, Senior Environment Artist at Naughty Dog

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