Video of my project:
Idea and Inspiration:
With this Unity experience I want to broach the issue of the forests in our world steadily dying.
This happens mainly because of climate change. The temperature rises and rain in the summer nowadays is a rarity.
The tree- and plant life struggle to stay alive since they can barely absorb any water and the heat from the sun dry them out. A branch can more easily break of from a dried-out tree and injure a person/animal standing below it. Trees especially become susceptible to catching fire as well as getting infested with bark-beetle. These insects use the trees as a living space and nesting ground. They drill into the wood of the trees, which in turn severely damages or even kills the infected plants.
This especially affects conifers, like pines and spruces. They have shorter roots than broadleaf trees, so they can’t get to the water that is stored in the deeper in the earth.
You can probably think of the reasons yourself why our forests gradually dying is a big problem.
By creating this project I want to bring more awareness to this issue.
Now I want to describe what I actually made in Unity.
I created a coniferous forest that you can walk through in a first-person perspective. The atmosphere and lighting are made to resemble a hot sunny day.
You start in a bedroom but when you walk out of the rooms door you suddenly find yourself teleported to a beautiful forest. You hear birds chirping and wind blowing through the trees leaves. However, after walking for a while you experience a sudden shift in your surroundings. You come to an artificial clearing, where the freshly chopped logs of the trees still lie. And what you see behind the clearing is quite alarmingly. The forest that seemed so alive before is now replaced with dead trees. The lush and green plant life still exists behind you but for how long? Soon it will also die but is there a way to prevent that?
During your exploration of the forest, you can find white, glowing orbs scattered around the map. When you walk into these orbs an audio track will start playing.
The tracks talk about different aspects of the forest declining, in more detail and what methods are used to work against this problem.
In close proximity the orbs are video planes. They show a loop of a video that show corresponding imagery to what you can hear from the orb nearby.
- On a 500 x 500 terrain I created a landscape resembling a valley.
- When I was happy with the shape of my landscape, I painted on the texture I wanted as the base layer for my gras as well as the texture for the paths.
- After that, to make my forest more interesting and lifelike, I added some rock structures.
- My next step was to add the gras, flowers and weeds to my terrain. For the parts of the dead forest and the clearing I used a shorter and lighter colored gras type, to make it look like the gras is drying up.
- Of course, as a next step I added all of the trees but not only conifers. I also sprinkled in some broadleaf trees, bushes and tree stumps. In the middle of the map, I didn’t place any trees to create a clearing.
- When I was happy with how my forest looked, I made some finer detail, like the particles. For the healthy part of the forest the particles give a dreamy feel, like dust particles that seem so glow when the sun shines on them in the right angel. For the dead part, the particles are made to look like ash falling to the ground.
- After that I played around with the lighting settings, lighting placement and skybox until I was satisfied with the outcome.
- I made some tree logs by giving two cylinder models the texture of bark and the cross section of a tree. The cylinder with the bark texture is a bit bigger than the cylinder with the actual wood texture but this cylinder is a bit longer. So, when I moved the cylinders into each other they look like a real log. I played many of these logs on top of each other to create a big and a small pile of them. Piles of freshly cut trees you would often see when walking through a forest. To two of the logs I attached an audio player. When you walk beside the piles you can hear insects crawling around, to make it seem like they are infested with bark-beetles.
- After being finish with the forest map I created the room the player would start in. Out of cubes I formed the basic shape of the bedroom walls, floor and ceiling. I added prefabs for a bed, shelves, a couch, a desk, a bin, a speaker and a computer. The potted and the window I formed out of cubes and cylinders. Into the window and onto the computer screen I added video screens. What you can see through the window and how plane the room looks is a sharp contrast to the forest you spend most of your time in, when experiencing the project. The video that plays on the computers screen and the dead plant on the shelf are supposed to give the player a hint of what he will see when they step outside of the room. Behind the door and into the forest I placed two teleporters, so that the player can walk through it and get teleported to the other side of the portal. To the teleporter in the bedroom, I added some faint sounds of birds chirping and when you walk trough the portal you trigger a short swooshing sound.
At this stage I also added the ambience sound for the forest that I cut together in reaper.
Here are the links to the videos I used the sound and imagery of:
- Finally I placed the 10 glowing orbs around the map. Attached to these orbs are sound triggers that start playing audio when you walk into them. Next to 8 of these orbs I placed small planes that display a video. The content of the videos corresponds with the audio of the orb and constantly loop. Finding the orbs should encourage the player to explore the forest beyond the paths. I used “Reaper” to cut together the audio for the orbs. To get the unedited audio I searched out YouTube videos that center around the topic of forest decline. The videos that are displayed in my project I also cut together from the same YouTube videos. I used the free video editing software “OpenShot Video Editor”.
Here are the links to the videos I searched out and used in my Unity project:
Like I said before with my small project I want to bring more awareness to this issue and I hope by you reading this documentation and watching the video of my project I achieved my goal.