Tree Update

I've been trying to refine the trees to look better, and I'm fairly happy with the results so far. All too often, game trees are using many tricks to make em look good. Because of that, the geometry often looks like a mess (unless it's really high poly). One thing I tried to do is make the basic geometry look fairly good, so that the lightmap would make the tree look nice without just revealing ugly basic geometry.

Here's some screenshots I just took. Here is a group of trees without a lightmap. As you can see, the underside looks pretty flat and boring, and it's hard to see which limbs are in front of others.

Here's the lightmap just by itself. While you can see a few lighting artifacts (like where the cross trees cross), overall the trees look pretty good even without diffuse textures.

And here's the final. As you can see, the underside has a lot more definition to it.

Once I get some LOD's I like, I'll write up another update.


  1. Do the trees move at all in the breeze? The static pictures look great, but I wonder if they will look like plastic as you walk around them because they are too static.

  2. The trees look so good they’re making the ground look bad. :)
    Good work!

  3. also, very nice job on the blog redesign.

  4. The glare of the sun and the texture of not just the trees but everything looks quite attractive to me, to be honest. Watching the growth of the game and the graphics is quite interesting, however, do we know much about the story yet? Would the story be non-linear like Braid or does it have a solid structure?
    As the game is called “The Witness” and takes place on an uninhabited island I wonder if the character has obviously witnessed a crime or something traumatic and is now in witness protection. Obviously Mr. Blow would opt for something more astounding than my theory, however, I’ve been reading up on the seven sins of memory and basically how fallible our memories can be/are–it would be excellent to see Blow create a psychological thriller where the player will have to basically create the story themselves from the evidence they find upon completing the puzzles.

    Anyway, I have serious doubts for my assumptions and I hope Mr. Blow himself will swoop down and correct me hahaha.

  5. @Nathan I’m surprised at how much people complain about details, this is too long, that is too gay, this and that, shut up you derp!

  6. Looking more and more beautiful with every update! I can’t wait to see the finished product – it looks beautiful as it is.

  7. Have you tried editing the vertex normals? That’s really the best way to make these type of alpha-based trees look good. It used to be an arduous process, doing it by hand (certainly given max’s shoddy edit normals modifier), but there’s a normal_thief script that allows you to bake down the vertex normals from another mesh to your tree, which works wonderfully.

    Check out this wiki-page (from the lovely Polycount Wiki) on vertex normals for more information (and some visual examples):

  8. Just stopped in to say the new web design looks beautiful. You guys do good work.

  9. hey, those are some nice trees…
    the new page desing is cool… i guess

    is this still WordPress? it looks so different!

  10. Very excited for this game to come out, and the trees are looking great. If I may make a suggestion, exposed roots here and there might to a lot to make the trees look more realistic. Its something I rarely see in games. That being said, i dont make games, so it may be more problematic than its worth.

  11. The trees are starting to look really great–this was a huge improvement!

    One thing I’ve been wondering: is the sunlight supposed to overexpose the picture like in the center of the shot, or is that just something that hasn’t been worked on yet? In general, I don’t like the look of that, but on the other hand, if used deliberately, I think it could work well for the game.

  12. Are you going to add roots to the trees? I really like what you are doing with the foliage, but the bases of the trees look a bit strange without any roots.

  13. Sorry for being off-topic but, I really miss the old theme…

  14. Is this game about religion? Witness, watchtower… the poem at the start page seems to be about god. Maybe.

  15. You know t, i wonder how many people belive that the game will start at the door and end at the door. at the “spawn point” door of the “tutorial house” like the bridge in Braid. my guess since i saw that door with the touche panel i was like “that is the very begging of the game… also the very end!”

    i know the game will have underground tunnels so maybe at the end we use the tunnel and end up in the tutorial house like the building door in Braid. In braid it made since, because its about time so the game ends where it began since time is… circular? or something like that.

    but for The Witness? maybe Jonathan is trying to make reference to the “Halting Problem” to make the game more like a system and never ending… or even better like Jenova Chen’s Hero’s Journey thing where at the end of the adventure you begging all over againg but now with all the knowledge… who knows? only Jonathan knows! but i think its cool. i like it. no menus and no begging animation. only pure game play.

  16. Also… the website is working fine now on my Chrome browser. i just disabled “Endless Pages” on the Fast Chrome extension and is all well now!

    and i just played P.B Winterbottom and i saw your names in the credits as a consultant. i didn’t know you started working after Braid and before The Witness… the game was cool! i got it because it reminded me of Braid.

    BTW… any comment on why make games like that? (like in the comment above that i explained)

  17. “Strategy guides and Braid: Sometimes the developer doesn’t know best”

    I linked you not to the actual article, but he the hub that host it so that you can see the comments. from there you can go to bitmob to see the actual article

  18. I really like those tress, the leaves feeling is really full of charm. However there’s something that ticks me. It’s more like a discussion I would like to open. I’ve been raised in the coutry side and I’ve always been attracted to “green-ness” (not sure if there’s a word in english for that) and one thing I often is the “soul” side you can find in a tree trunk. Trunks in 3d are often like cylinders. I litterally fall in love sometime with pine trees’ trunks, more than the leaves. I don’t know if you ever read blades of the immortal (manga, japan) but there’s a truly poetic narration going on with the vegetation and particularly with trunks. I’m not a 3d artist so I’m not complaining or anything, I really would like to have some insight on the difficulties of rendering a great trunk, that is, subtle angles (or even enormous actually) and textures, that make a tree look like an entity, one the things, I believe that made men give deity to them. I may be in an offtopic poetic delusion but I stiil want to know more about it :)

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