Building Virtual 3D Environments - 762 (Virtools) Winter 2009 - The Process of making a Butterfly World - 3D Exploration of an imaginary place


To view the game, you have to download the player (outdated link).

Using VIrtools :link to game


butterfly1 buttefly2
I began by thinking through how my world would work by drawing and writing a pseudo code. Through the process, my ideas about how the player would navigate the virtual space and what they would be able to do changed. I do have ideas that I would still like to impliment as I continue to learn how to use Virtools, while expanding and continuing to build my Butterfly World. These sketches represent what I wanted the buttefly to do: fly and rest upon a flower. The navigation allows the user to move up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. They can also look in these directions without moving.




To create the batik look, I took photos of two butterflies and worked with vairous filters and artistic brushes in Photoshop to create what I imagined to be a batik look. The resulting images became the texture files that I used in Maya.


The sky was an important element. I used photos from my trip to the Rocky Mountains last summer. I found clouds that I liked and a clear sky photo with a slight gradient. I composited the elements I wanted and then began altering the look of the clouds. After several trials, I found a look that was acceptable.

final result final
original sky original buterlfy


Some of the images were 64x64 pixels and 128x128 to keep the size down. The sky, however, was 1024x512. The ground planes were 512x512. Below is an example of using a cut out plant to create an image for a panel.

original clouds clouds caterpillar yellowbush


Maya wire frame butterflies
monarch wireframblue flue
The wireframes represent the two methods I used to make the butterflies. I used a simple plane and added the image of the Monarch Butterfly. The blue butterfly was created by using a plane with multiple divisions and I deleted the ones that didin't match the image of the butterfly. Thus, I was able to recreate the shape accuarately. I added antenna to the blue butterfly. Each butterfly has it's own body made from a cylinder.
dirt riverbed


inside dome

grass stream

These images are the enviornment images I created. I created the texture in photoshop using the process explained above. I created holes in the grass using the alpha channel and then layered the same sized planes to create four levels: dirt, riverbed dirt, grass, and stream. I used the modification tool to give the ground plane variation in height before duplicating it.

Once they were layered with a bit of seperation between them, I added in the plants. Some were 3D and others were projections of flowers that I photographed and cut out in Photoshop. I also took image captures of the plants I made in Maya and used those images as texture files to create more flowers and plants that were single planes that intersected.

To create lighting in virtools, I used a surface shader on almost everything. For the remaining images, I baked in the light. It worked very well and greatly reduced the lighting needed in Virtools and meant that the outdoor scene is evenly lit.


The caterpillar animation was made by applying two deformers: squash and sine. This was done to give the illusion of caterpillar movement. The wing flap was also animated in Maya. The animations were exported with the objects.

To achieve the animation in Virtools, the objects were placed on curves. The curve for the caterpillar was made in Virtools and one for the butterfly was done in Maya and a few in Virtools. There were a few curves that were used several times for each butterfly, with some changes made after duplication.

Virtools Virtools Interface (click to play)

I have explored the virtools interface. I have used some building blocks to operate the cameras, make the river run, and create a barrier under the world so you cannot accidentally go below the world.

To the right is the interface and opening instructions that the user will see upon opeing the game.


intro The finished world has a running stream complete with sound. There is also an ambient sound track that loops filling the meadow with the sound of birds and ambient outdoor noise. These sound tracks were created with Soundtrack Pro.


To the right are two images that I used. The first is the photo of a garden path that I cut out and inserted a river instead. I extended it so that it falls below the ground plane. I also allowed the boundary to havea slight transparency and adjusted the texture options in Virtools to achieve an effect that moves and shimmers as the viewer moves the camera around the world.

The image to the far right is an example of a panel that was made from a 3D object in Maya.