Tasty Water (mmm) by Elliot Gray

Put together a rather neat unified water system in ue4 because basically I’m jealous of cry-engine developers haha. I’ve been replaying the Crysis series, a flawed masterpiece of a trilogy with graphics that still hold up 5 to 12 year later! Crysis 3 introduced some truly impressive interactive water surfaces with what appeared to be very accurate simulation. Going back however, I realized how fake the caustic lighting really is which inspired me to have a stab at it myself. I love pretty games.

Features include:

  • Infinite, automatically interactive, water plane

  • Totally not fake caustics sim (reflections + refraction) -

  • Water ripples affect plant 'physics'

  • Easy to use, almost no programmer intervention required (soon to be none)

Currently the system works well and looks really good but before it’s ‘game-ready’ I need to add/finish a few more features:

  • Support for water mesh LOD’s so the shader complexity can be lowered at distance automatically

  • Support for multiple separate fluid surface per level.

    • Currently while there’s nothing stopping you adding more than one mesh to the level, I’ll need to add a bit of logic and shader support so that meshes take caustic data from the water body they’re nearest to.

  • Move logic from blueprint to C++

    • Obscenely cpu intensive for a graphical feature otherwise

  • Automatic lighting condition support

    • Currently because the caustics are just faked based on height data of the surface ripples, if the scene lighting gets changed significantly the caustics will be over/underbright. At it’s simplest I’ll be able to read lighting intensity from a param collection but I’m also thinking about other options such as reading from the skylight or even reflection capture cube maps

  • 100% drag and drop setup

    • I’d love for this system to be able to be integrated seamlessly into any project with zero implementation work. Drag, drop, scale, and done. That’s the goal and I don’t expect there to be much trouble getting there from where I am now.

So definitely a lot of work ahead but hopefully I’ll be posting back here soon with a finished product. Thinking I might pop it up on the UE marketplace so if that’s something anyone’s in give me shout!

VR Characters are People too by Elliot Gray

When it comes to VR games, the number of “Must Play” titles is short.  Sure there are a lot of decent experiences to be had that each bring something unique to the table, but the traditional ‘AAA’ quality bar is yet to be reached. 
One game that comes closer than any other to that illusive standard is Lone Echo by Ready at Dawn.  While the scope of the gameplay here is limited, every aspect is beautifully implemented.  Locomotion is ingenious, world exploration immersive, visuals are beautiful and intelligently optimized, and the setting is perfect.


The one thing that I love about Lone Echo more than any other, however, is the storytelling.  Now the story is just a nice sci-fi adventure that would be right at home in a classic space opera:  Something big and spacey happens and messes up your ship, and once all hell has broken loose you’ve got to find your captain and try and un-break everything. 

But one potentially unassuming aspect of the story telling that really blew me away was how vr turns characters into PEOPLE, FRIENDS, HUMANS.  In Lone Echo you play as an AI ‘helper’ robot, an assistant to Olivia Rhodes the captain of the Kronos II Mining station.  In any traditional game (or media format for that matter), the introduction and setup of Olivia’s character would be referred to as character building.  All of this is done excellently, industry top notch, but VR makes this magical. 

After my first hour or so I took the headset off and was thinking about Olivia, the person I had just been interacting with, rather than Olivia, the character in that game I was playing.  This is a subtle differentiation but an incredibly powerful and exciting one.  Even in a game world that’s obviously not quite photoreal, with facial animations that aren’t all that lifelike, this character was made real because as with all VR experiences (and this is an educated/anecdotal guess) at some level our dumb animal brain BELIEVES she’s real at a subconscious level, or at least, perceives it similarly to any other real world interaction.

This innately makes the rest of the story more powerful, and avoiding too many spoilers, you’re trying to find Olivia, your friend, trying to help Olivia, your friend, as opposed to find and help Olivia the video game character.  This had me, the player, far more involved in the story than I’ve been in other traditional triple a games recently, even those with greater scope, character animation, realism etc and I think that’s something really special VR has to offer.  This makes me really excited for future story driven games in VR, and I can’t wait to see what hijinx my captain Olivia and I might get up to in Lone Echo 2.

Ps. Just another note on VR dev while I’m talking about echo – If you can afford the simulation cost, I’m a firm believer in always having a full vr body simulation.  At one point as I was gliding through space pulled along by my shuttle, I looked down to see my robot body’s shadow and it was MY body’s shadow.  Goosebumps.  Do it.  It’s worth it. 

Lone Echo Trailer

Art Break by Elliot Gray

While Gameplay Programming and Design are my primary passions, I’m a big fan of pretty environment art (always have been) and love taking the opportunity every now and then to take some pretty photos/videos of environments I create in my spare time (wild Friday night in makin pretty pictures in the gray household).

These are some of my favourite shots and there’s a video further down (all real-time by the way). (Also you can click on each photo to go through to the full 4k res in a new tab if you want)

Interestingly, these shots are all taken in the Forward Renderer because I happened to be playing around with all real-time lighting and frankly I couldn’t see any downsides (i’m sure with an in depth comparison you could) so it’s nice to know there’s no reason our vr forward rendered projects can’t look gorgeous too.

Ps I love doing nice layout work, but all these assets are either store bought or put together from mega-scans with minimal content creation by me - I’m happy to leave that part to the pros.