A group dedicated to indie and standalone game development.

Report article RSS Feed WPG: Tech art – Water… a lot of it!!

A new post from White paper Games looking at the tech art side of the project. In this post we are looking at the creation of the water in the world of Ether and how we created a hand painted feel to our work.

Posted by Benni_Hill on Jan 22nd, 2013


The first challenge at White Paper Games came in the form of water. Replicating realistic water is quite a feat on its own, however, for Ether, we required the water to make sense with the world and follow the artistic style that we had already established for the game. This created a number of challenges that needed to be solved:
- How do we make the water hold up to the visual style of Ether?
- How can we make water using the minimum amount of resources possible?
- Can we make the water reusable and applicable to non-ocean instances?
- How can we animate the water without any physics simulations?

This set of questions had to be answered and here is the result we have come up with:

The first and foremost concern I had was to keep the visual style of Ether intact. Therefore, the normal map that would create the ripples would have to be hand painted.I used Corel Painter for this instead of Photoshop. In Corel, you can adjust the amount of paint added to the brush and make it lit so that it feels thick and painted on canvas; I felt this was crucial in order to get a good painterly effect on the water. The result was pretty bad for the first set of tries but I ended up getting an effect that was quite nice:

Now I just had to mix a couple of sets of normal and pan them in different directions and a subtle effect was created!

Now that the ripples were sorted, I needed to focus on animation… an ocean has waves and this couldn’t be simulated with physics considering our limitations, so a workaround had to be found. I started doing a lot of research into how to solve this and began to create a solution to this problem. Using the world displacement node in the material, I could displace certain parts of the mesh based on a mathematical expression. The fastest way to do this was using a Sine wave. In short, it creates a wave that varies from black to white, making everything that’s white push up, and everything that’s black go down. The good thing about this is that it’s extremely cheap (only 4 instructions in the material). The only downside to this is that it works based on the amount of verts the mesh has, so it meant our water shader had to be quite highpoly. In the end, we went with a 2048 triangle mesh, which is still pretty low poly for a whole Ocean!The next problem was to make the oceans depth believable and also make the foam for the water when it hits other meshes.For the foam, using a depth biased alpha with a foam texture worked fine. For the translucency, playing with a few values did the trick and the results were quite convincing.Here is a picture of the full material expression and couple of videos, one explaining my approach, another just showing the wate rin action, inside the game:

This expression is highly reusable, in fact, it became the base for all foliage and wind based materials in the game! So I’m very happy I took the time to make sure this material was spot on and game ready as soon as possible.Next, I will begin to talk about the foliage for Ether!Stay tuned!!

Post comment Comments
Insolent. Jan 23 2013, 12:09pm says:

Well that's quite cool.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Post a Comment
click to sign in

You are not logged in, your comment will be anonymous unless you join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) which we encourage all contributors to do.

2000 characters limit; HTML formatting and smileys are not supported - text only

Jan 21, 2009
Open to all members
Send Message
Members Only
Join this group
Group Watch
Track this group
Report Abuse
Report article
Related Games
Ether One
Ether One Single Player Adventure
Related Engines
Unreal Development Kit
Unreal Development Kit Commercial Released Oct 31, 2009
Related Groups
Indie Devs
Indie Devs Hobbies & Interests group with 1,176 members
Indie Gamers
Indie Gamers Hobbies & Interests group with 674 members
Indievania Web & Community group with 25 members
UDK Developer's Group
UDK Developer's Group Hardware & Tech group with 696 members
White Paper Games
White Paper Games Developer with 3 members