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Manas : USC AGP 2023 Featured Game

Role: Art Producer

Year: 2023

Genre: Action Adventure

Platform: PC


Manas is an action-adventure game that takes you on an epic journey through the mountains, valleys, and nomadic culture of medieval Central Asia. Inspired by the Kyrgyz epic of the legendary hero, Manas, this game immerses you in a world of adventure where you defend your village against ruthless invaders with the help of your trusty steed, Akkula.


My Roles:

  • Authored a 60-page art bible elaborating the Unreal Engine 5 pipeline to equip the entire team with production knowledge

  • Created the mountain vista and terrain with Gaea, Megascan, Mixer and Unreal 5

  • Collaborated with another Tech Artist from Champlain College to implement the moveable grass system

  • Utilized Codecks and Perforce to formulate strategies and engage collaboration with a 15-member art team, working collectedly to accomplish game goals

  • Accelerated 3D production by pioneering cutting-edge tools like Megascan, Metahuman, PBR render flow and Mixamos

  • Received interviews from NBC, Kyrgyzstan National TV about student games that revive culture history


Auto Material - How the Landscapes are made

  • In Manas, I wanted to creat the real life mountains as epic as possible. To do so, I was adopting the methods of auto-material. The material distinguishes the landscape by slope and assigns grass, rocks, cliffs and dirt correspondingly.

  • Similar techniques applied to the snow mountain. It is vastly covered with snow, so I used the snow mask from Gaea to indicate where the snow locates on the terrain. 

  • In addition, we used our custom foliage designed by my wonderful colleague @Henry Foley. The grass spawns onto only the part where grassland locates, and is centrally controlled by its own blueprints.

Nanite - Optimizing the Game Performance

  • Snow mountain is a huge part of Middle Asia, marked by the beautiful vistas of the god-blessed Tien Shan. To recreate this in Manas, I adopted the most cutting-edge tool of nanite, making the meshes of these snow mountains occupy least performance space possible. Nanite, from the debug view above, enabled us to fully show the millions of polycount realistic snow mountains in a very low graphic budget.

  • Similarly for the giant trees in our game. Before enabling Nanite they were horribly heavy. To make the game run fluently for players, we made decisions on cutting the tree moving animation to the minimum and enabling Nanite on them.

  • Eventually, The game can now smoothly run on PCs within 5 years of time.

Trees - Spruces

  • Notice the spruces in the game? It is not by accident there but designed faithfully to the real life Kyrgyzstan. According to our research, Asian Spruces only grow in altitude of 1,500m - 3,500m. This means, the spruces only grow on ridges of the landscape, neither too high or too low.

  • To make that happen, I cooperated with our lead designer @Frank Lin to selectively paint our spruces on the ridge of the mountains. Therefore, players will be able to see the valley and snow mountain devoid of trees, making the playable area more visible and the landscape more layered. 

Details  & Quality of Life

  • It is hard to conclude all the details in one section, but honestly, there are a lot of consideration in even the tiniest piece of art in this game.

  • The yurts for example, I discussed a lot with my director Omar on where exactly the yurts should locate. After weeks of tweaking the slope of yurts, we made them suiting the ground and not tilted to the sides so they are more believable to player eyes. 

  • The path - what we call the "golden" path of gameplay- tried 3 different methods before we got fully satisfied in it. We tried using spline tool, material paint and mesh to reach the similar effect and decided finally to combine them.

  • The Grass is an interesting story. To make the grass cast shadow but take less performance, we could either have a moving grass constantly updating shadows, or a static grass giving static shadows. In order to make the grassland more believable, we ended up combining the two grass half and half. One half is static, casting shadows to the ground; the other half is dynamic, mimicing the wind effect. @Billy Wang and I made the grass work within budget, without cutting much of its effects.


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