The Watery World of Submerged and SpeedTree

Uppercut Games is no stranger to creating compelling environments. From their past experience working on AAA titles such as Bioshock to their mobile game hits Epoch and Epoch 2, they bring all their experience and passion to bear on their latest title, Submerged. Eschewing combat and violence for storytelling, Submerged focuses on telling a story through exploration of a rich environment. The game takes place in a city that has been destroyed by an unknown watery cataclysm, towering skyscrapers are now overgrown with palm trees, grass, and brush. Working with a small team of six, the studio made use of the powerful tools in UE4 and existing content wherever it was practical, including creative use of the blueprint system and SpeedTree for the trees.

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Miku, the games protagonist, arrives to a desolate city on a small boat with her brother who has suffered a grievous wound.  The goal of the game is to explore the environment to find packages containing medical supplies, all the while an ominous threat watches from the shadows.  The story follows in the footsteps of games like Ico, Shadows of the Colossus, the environment becomes a subtle storytelling element rather than just an arena for combat.  Andrew James of Uppercut games talked to us about choosing SpeedTree to build that environment:

We were using Static mesh for trees when we first started developing Submerged. We were on the pre-release beta for Unreal Engine 4, so were very happy when SpeedTree announced it would be integrated. We knew we wanted a living, windy, sun-swept environment, and the “out of the box” wind animation on the tall palm trees was a big draw card: it just looks so realistic and brings the world to life.

 

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One of the innovative ways that Uppercut Games used UE4 is the creation of a unique system for placing foliage on rooftops. While trees used to create paths, block areas, and aid in navigation were placed by hand, the task of painting the trees across the tops of the buildings became a daunting task. The team used the UE4 blueprint system to create a procedural tool for placing trees on all of the buildings.

…with hundreds of buildings in the city, and every time we changed a building we would have to re-paint the trees. Instead we created a system that worked with Unreal’s Blueprint system, so whenever we placed a blueprint of a building it would automatically generate the trees on that building. We came to call these “Tree Hats”, and this allowed us to regenerate or delete the foliage with the press of a button.  We could even regenerate all the foliage for the entire  level with a single console command! This saved us days, if not weeks of busy work.

Submerged is available now on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One and is a must play for anyone who is a fan of thoughtful storytelling and immersive experiences.

SpeedTree is an award-winning tool used by AAA studios and indie studios alike through our UE4 and Unity Subscriptions and drop in ready assets.

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