PIXEvoLve is a relaxing sandbox game in which you shape and explore procedurally generated islands. Use your powers to spread meadows and forests, build roads and farms, and carve out burned scars and blasted deserts. View your world from on high or walk among the fields and houses at the size of a human. Immerse yourself further in VR!

There's no goal beyond losing yourself in the flow of creation and destruction, chaos and order.

PIXEvoLve was inspired by cellular automata like Conway's Game of Life.  Known as a "zero player game", patterns and beauty emerge from a few pixels and simple rules of evolution.

PIXEvoLve is built in Unreal Engine 4.25

Download the Early Access Demo for Windows:     https://johnmaxwilson.itch.io/pixevolve

Selected Features

Fractal Terrain

PIXEvoLve began as an expression of my interest in geophysical fractals.  Each island in PIXEvoLve is randomly generated using Fractional Brownian Noise.  This creates a statistical fractal pattern that, to our eyes, looks like natural terrain.

Since mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot published "How Long is the Coast of Britain?" in 1967, landscapes and coasts have been favorite examples of fractals in nature.

Bees spread flowers according to the rules of Life

Cellular Automata Simulation

The simulation that controls how the features of the world change and evolve is based on cellular automata, the most famous of which is Conway's Game of Life.  From simple rules, these simulations can demonstrate remarkable complexity, and can create patterns we associate with nature.

Each entity in PIXEvoLve obeys a different Life-like rule.  The custom simulation which allows the different rules to interact was written in C++ and runs in parallel to the main game thread.

For those who wish to play with even more cellular automata, I highly recommend the (unaffiliated) open source program Golly.

3D mesh, Impostor Sprites, and Parallax Impostor Shader displaying trees at different distances

Parallax Impostor Terrain Shader

Unreal Engine 4.25 is not designed, out of the box, to display thousands of 3D models on the screen at once across all hardware. Even making use 3D Impostor Sprites, mobile platforms and PC desktops alike encounter limits on total number of vertices displayed at a time.  Many games avoid this problem by introducing fog or limiting camera movement to block the player's view of the entire map.  However, I wanted the player to engage with the simulation at the largest scales.  This prompted the writing of a custom parallax shader for the terrain.

At close distance, 3D meshes with traditional Levels of Detail (LODs) are seen.  The farthest LOD uses an impostor sprite to display each mesh with only 8 vertices.  At farther distances, the parallax shader displays the impostor texture directly on the surface of the terrain with no additional vertices.  While a parallax shader comes with its own GPU cost, it is still usable on low-end VR devices, and trades a fixed GPU cost per pixel for a theoretically unbounded number of far-distance meshes.

Sculpted and Shader-Animated projectiles

The projectiles launched by the player were each sculpted in VR in Adobe Medium.  They were then processed in Blender before being imported to Unreal Engine, where they were colored and animated using Material shaders.

Bees spread meadows

Fire burns down to soil

Concrete spreads roads

Bombs leave behind deserts


Virtual Reality

PIXEvoLve was built to support VR from inception. Though not built exclusively around VR interaction modalities, VR provides a sense of immersive presence and scale that draws in the player.  The act of shrinking down to walk among your island's structures becomes a rush, and interacting with the world with your hands happens without a thought.

Original Music

Original music performed on a Novation Launchpad and edited in Tracktion Waveform.