Level Design,  PC Games,  Review,  Screenarchery

FlowScape: A real-time Landscape Game

If you enjoy playing sandbox games such as Garry’s Mod or any other level editor like Minecraft, you are definitely going to fall in love with FlowScape. Generate different randomized sceneries or create your own, building a wonderful collection of new wallpapers for your desktop, outstanding artworks, or just enjoy a peaceful stroll in your dream locations.

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting. Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul.”
― Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, Vol. 29

FlowScape is a standalone engine in development created by Pixel Forest Games, officially described as “Bob Ross The Game”. It allows you to “paint” any landscape in real-time with a good variety of 3D elements, HDRIs and different atmospheres. FlowScape offers a lot of premade models you can use to make your personal hideout away from reality, coming with a user-friendly interface and a great set of basic lands you can shape to build a new place from scratch according to your desires.

FlowScape is available for purchase on the official site and Steam.

Functionality

The main screen will prompt you to set your resolution, display mode and the graphics settings from low to high. Once you’re ready to begin you can click the Escape Reality button and sit comfortably until it finishes loading. This process may take a bit of time especially during the first load, but you can read the game’s instructions appearing under the wheel in the meantime to get an idea of FlowScape’s shortcuts.

The first thing you get upon entering the game, is a complete scenery you can use to test things around or simply practice with the keys. Just like any other PC game, FlowScape can be explored by using the W, A, S, D, keys and the mouse/arrows to change camera angle. On the top left a small window will appear, asking you if you want to stay where you are, clear all the plants from the land to only leave the base level, or generate a different place completely. You can also modify what you already got using the tools on the right, adding vegetation or some animal to make the scene even more lively. Water, flora and fauna are animated.

If you want to make something yourself from the ground up, simply click the Clear Plants button and select the lands category to open the list.

You can choose among a bunch of different terrains. Use the cube on top to make random combinations and pick the one you like most, or to modify the settings for water, snow and ground textures. The program also features a sculpting brush you can select to edit a specific area.

Use the middle mouse wheel to scroll between different items when you pick the rocks, houses, fantasy creatures, etc. To scale them down easily you can press the Alt key and use wheel again to scroll.

FlowScape is a very powerful tool built with a detailed renderer that can be altered to create different worlds. You can change the sun height and direction while also affecting the shadows and ambient occlusion, select the moon/sun and scale it up or down, add some fog and additional lighting points, generate auroras, floating lanterns, modify the tones and saturation of the scene or select different HDRI files for a nice variety of backgrounds. I highly recommend to check the official video tutorial for more instructions about the UI and what you can do with it, along with the channel itself for upcoming updates.

In the recent uploads, a new feature to import custom models has been implemented even if you can only use the OBJ format at the moment. Should you have any HDRI image you would love to use in your scene instead of the available ones, you can import it as well by selecting the Sky option from the house icon on the top left corner > Import. For the time being you cannot export your creations in 3D format though.

Another beautiful aspect, in my opinion, is the background music and/or nature sounds you can activate while creating. Click on the headphones icon from the right bar and activate the random tracks or any ambience from the list that fits your scene.

Shooting

As I previously mentioned, with FlowScape you can save your newly created scenes into high quality pictures. There are at least four different ways to do so and if you are obsessed with visuals as much as I am, you can also install a ReShade configuration.

Once you’re happy with the landscape you made and you’ve found the perfect camera angle, press the Spacebar key to hide the UI and Prtscrn to automatically store the screenshot in FlowScape’s main directory. However, this method only works if you have ReShade installed. I highly recommend to use SRWE in combination to alter the original resolution and use different profiles.

If you don’t want to use ReShade and prefer to stick to the original settings, you can select the camera icon from the right menu. Unless you have activated the High option under Screenshot Resolution (top left corner, second icon), the image will store with your native screen size. Should you want to have a bigger and more detailed image you have to change the default configuration in order to generate a 4k picture. Note that this will not work with ReShade, no filters will be captured along with it.

In case you want to go even higher and get a 7k px image, go to the Map setting and select the 4x button. Again, no ReShade filter will be captured.

Last, but not least, FlowScape has Ansel support. This means that if you own a Nvidia card you can open it with Alt+F2 and use the resolution slider to enjoy some super HD wallpaper or 360 panoramas, plus included filters and ReShade preset intact. Still, Ansel may have some difficulty in capturing all the scene effects like fog or DOF as they are on screen.

Creative

With FlowScape you can go beyond the normal scenery and test your creative vibes. The tool already has a book and turtle “base” to create abstract dimensions, but you can also use the rocks as lands while hiding the ground for new awesome levels floating in the air.

All elements will glue to the rock and with the gizmos from the side bar you have all the freedom you could ever ask for. The import feature is extremely helpful when it comes to add in even more detail, but you need to be sure the overall topology and textures size aren’t too demanding for your system. The game consumes a lot of virtual memory whenever you load a new model in it, as long as the vertex count isn’t crazy, you should be able to import pretty much any type of 3D model. Sometimes you may be forced to generate a new scene to wipe off the filled up memory and start over without experiencing frames dropping.

The model’s materials can be edited in the .mtl file that exports with the object. By default you should be able to see the diffuse texture set this way:

map_Kd diffusetexture.jpg/png/tga/tif

With just the basic color applied, the model will appear horribly flat and this is not how video games work. You should add at least a bump/normal map and a specular color, to do so simply add these two strings to the section one:

map_bump normalmap.jpg (generally this is set before the diffuse)
map_Ks specularmap.jpg

To fix the shiness value, you have to alter the Ns numbers on top with a lower aspect, right under the material name.

The best format for maps containing an alpha channel is tga.

Even without any particular experience with 3D models you can learn how to setup textures and reduce the mesh quality. I suggest you to use Blender to begin because it’s free open source and you can find a lot of tutorials on YouTube about its usage and UI. Sketchfab is one of the best places to download nice-looking high quality free models (account needed), just be sure to always credit the author following their disclaimers and never use their products for profit unless you have purchased them with the full license.

FlowScape is the perfect game to play if you’re interested in level design and want to train your eye for Unreal Engine and similar platforms for game development. It works wonders for artists who need new backgrounds for their artworks too, or simply like to express their creativity through unique compositions.

What are you waiting for? Go grab your happy little escape from reality and start building your own fantasy RPG world, a peaceful forest or a breathtaking land in the sky!


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