In case you haven’t noticed, games and the tools used to make them are not getting any smaller. From upcoming games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which shows off a world size that is 20% larger than the thumb-numbing blissful world trek that was Skyrim, to Far Cry 4, which demonstrated that a linear plot is less important than an enormous open world with dynamic systems to keep you occupied. But this trend isn’t restricted to AAA blockbusters. The Steam marketplace is full of indie games (The Forest, Rust, Firewatch, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter) that take place in worlds where the open environment sets the tone and is a core element of the gameplay.  However, creating these worlds is typically a time-consuming and tedious task, one that has just become more approachable.

UE4 has made a major leap in how it handles foliage rendering  in their 4.7 release that allows creating scenes with huge amounts of vegetation more feasible.  This is where Ben Burkart’s weekend project comes in.

Ben has been working with the new 4.7 release of UE4 and using SpeedTree to create a test of the new rendering method:

“In the end the level had over 900,000 foliage instances in it with 100% dynamic lighting and shadows with the dynamic lighting distance pushed up from the default 20,000 to 200,000 and I could not get the frame rate to drop below 30fps.”  

The 4.7 update has altered the way foliage is batched for rendering to allow for a massive increase in the amount instances allowed in one scene before making it unusable.  To the tune of many hundreds of thousands more.  In one sq. mile, Ben filled the entire landscape with foliage and most of the ground cover in a very thick grass.

Oh, did we mention that Ben also completed all of this in about 20 hours over a weekend using only our sample trees? If you look close, you’ll notice that many of the trees look somewhat similar. In fact, all the tree assets were the samples that can be found in the UE4 asset store simply rotated and scaled to make it appear like a diverse forest.

 “Just preparing for a project this large normally takes a lot of manpower but with SpeedTree all I had to do was import them and everything I needed was setup automatically for me from wind shaders, to automatic color variation, LODs, collisions, billboards, etc…  This allowed me to take what is normally hours if not days of preparing and setting up all of the technical stuff for the level to simply importing and having it all just be ready for me so that I could spend my time on the actual environment.”

Making excellent use of just the samples, Ben created an impressive world in a very short time, which is one of the reasons we’re excited to have SpeedTree as a part of UE4 and Unity giving people more freedom to create their vision without the need for large staffs or months of tedious asset creation.  Ben has continued working on this project since first uploading this test video hoping to use it as a benchmarking tool in the future. Be sure to check out the latest screenshots below.

Take a look at our product page for more information on SpeedTree for UE4 and the upcoming Unity 5 release as well as our standalone products.  If you’ve got a great example of what SpeedTree can do head over to our forum and share it with us, we love to see how people are using SpeedTree.

Check out more screenshots below:
Ben Burkart’s Portfolio