Scene demonstrating the full shader and lighting stack

Artist Statement
If there’s one aspect of our current political moment that has most dramatically emerged in contemporary game mechanics, it is the fantasy of colonialism. City builders, roguelikes, factory/automation games, colony sims, and contemporary RPGs are built around the core loop of ‘gather resources’, ‘craft weapons and upgrades’, and ‘build bases/homesteads’. Some of these games have self-awareness and build mechanical winks towards the destructive, expansionist fantasy that they present players. Most games, however, erase the externalities and inconveniences of the brutal work and consequences of settler-colonialism to further immerse players in the fantasy. This famously began inadvertently in Sim City’s mechanical adaptation of Jay Forrester’s Urban Dynamics, but games in this mode today are many steps removed from reflecting on real-life analysis of empire or city building. Many games gleefully refer to players as ‘settlers’ on their Steam pages and have uncritical, full-throated mechanical endorsements of every expansionist impulse that players are willing to indulge. 
I will fully admit that despite this, I like to play these games. I like to build clockwork systems and create massive industrial processes to solve bizarre goals that I’ve set for myself. When designing and building games. However, with this project I am attracted to the idea of examining myself and the gaming zeitgeist I am immersed in by offering a mirror to these game systems. I wanted a logistics game about dismantling logistics. I wanted to elevate and make visible the dirty externalities of expansionist colonialism- and not validate the power fantasy of the clean and satisfying parts. Historically, ‘persuasive’, ‘serious’, or ‘games for change’ type games have struggled with lacking mechanical identity and choosing didacticism over game design, so I wanted to also challenge myself to build this game where mechanics speak louder than words when delivering my intentions. 
The player’s main mode of engagement is to disrupt the existing logistics systems of the game world by hijacking various freight trains, liberating and redistributing their cargo to empower worker struggle and labor disruption. Incorporating the elements of physical struggle to move goods from games such as Death Stranding with the slow, verisimilitudinous travel of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Densha De Go!! or American Truck Simulator, the player will find an interesting tension between planning and the long-haul from city to city. Since the mode of travel is by rail, the goal is to create the tactility and physicality of moving freight by rail instead of adhering to a ‘true’ train simulation.
The aesthetic inspirations come primarily from 19th century impressionist paintings, as well as the pseudo-impressionist commercial art of the 1970s. Alina Cohen writing for observed that despite the foreground of impressionist paintings featuring aristocrats generally engaging in bourgeois pastimes, the style and setting of impressionism is made possible by the thick smog of industrial pollution diffusing the sun, and impressionist artists often distort images of massive machines and industrial processes through such haze. The bourgeois subjects of these paintings exist because of the damage they are doing to their diffused, hazy workers in the background. I want to create that sense of haze and distorted fog-of-industry. 
From a technical perspective, the two major ambitions of this project are a novel approach to a hybrid of procedural and authored sprawling cities and landscapes, and a new way to render ‘painterly’ objects with stable ‘brush strokes’. The goal for these cities is to reflect principles of real-life urban design theory, but mostly to reflect those ideas from the perspective of gazing out of the window of a train. The painterly effect is derived from a long series of shader experiments in different textures and lighting effects. I created a new shader pipeline that processes meshes to create stable ‘strokes’ in world-space that are flexible from any view angle. This combined with layering a few other effects for thin tracery and character bodies adds up to a strong volumetric, layered effect that is reasonably performant. 
All elements and code of this project are created by myself. 

The player interacts with colorful and sleazy characters throughout the story. 

Unique shader-driven paint effects remain stable with a moving camera.

Many surreal environments and effects can be combined for unique aesthetics. 

Standard 3d meshes are converted into complex objects built entirely of layered paint strokes via shader. 

Production on this project has begun in 2023 with a demo expected mid 2024. 
Back to Top