Shape of the World is lead by myself, Stu Maxwell, an effects artist at Black Tusk in Vancouver, Canada. While my day job is making photorealistic explosions and gore for the Gears of War series, my spare time has been spent diving into a surprising and whimsical world where Active Reload and DBNO play no part.

By my side are experts who share my passion; industry veteran Athomas Goldberg is contributing his experience with procedural animation systems to populate the world with creatures, storyboard artist Chad Smith is lending his pencils to build out the story, and sound designer Brent Silk is making everything sound amazing.


Shape of the World features a world which grows around you as you explore the landscapes of an ephemeral first-person “walking simulator”. The world materializes as you willingly oscillate between thrill of getting lost — perhaps when scrambling through a dense forest  — and the satisfaction of being found again — maybe spotting a familiar landmark in the distance. Your presence is the driving force behind the evolving environment as you establish more permanent monuments to mark your way. Without your presence, will the forest still come alive?


While Unreal has built itself a reputation for pushing the forefront of photorealism, Shape of the World showcases another kind of beauty: color and style. I've drawn inspiration from minimalist motion graphics and Disney concept art to build a game that proves that Unreal is a viable tool for any aesthetic.

Starting with the first-person shooter template, I’ve constructed a system to build a procedural forest around the player as he journeys, calling upon arrays of plants, bushes, and creatures which evolve over the course of the game. Uniquely, many of the trees grow with Vertex Offsetting, making it a simple procedure to turn any static mesh into a life form which animates into existence.

While the game is mostly made with Blueprints, it also features creatures animated with custom flocking behavior coded as a plugin. We plan on releasing this plugin to the Marketplace after the game is released.


I released a teaser trailer in January and was thrilled with the response. Even better, Chance Ivey featured us on the Unreal Engine 4 Twitch Broadcast Community Spotlight (Feb 20, 2015) which aired right after the Unreal Dev Grants were announced. That got my attention!


I’ve spent the last year building a following. I’ve been a regular attendee at Full Indie, Vancouver’s monthly meetup for indie game developers, where I’ve watched dozens test the game and give feedback. On Twitch, I’ve connected to other developers as I build the game in real time.

I’ve reached out to the games community (thanks for following me on Twitter!) and have been fortunate enough to have been featured on sites such as Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Destructoid, Kill Screen Daily, Indie Game Magazine, Wired Italy and even a spread in Edge Magazine (a real physical magazine!).

In February, an early build was exhibited at IndieCade East. If given a grant, I hope to participate in more conferences and continue to build an audience of curious fans and helpful industry contacts.


I’ve come far but I still have a long way to go. The grant will be put towards the following:

  • Production:  We are approaching the end of concept design and entering production. This means paying my talented teammates for their continued work.
  • Marketing & Administration: As we proceed, we also need to shift our focus towards marketing. We are investing in administration, visual materials, ratings and distribution.
  • Fundraising: As the saying goes, it takes money to make money, and a small portion of the grant will go toward further fundraising campaigns.


I’ve chronicled the development of the game on our website and built a press kit. I’ve also included the latest build for you to test out the game for yourselves.

Thanks for reading my story, viewing the teaser and playing the build. I can’t wait to hear back from the Unreal Dev Grant program!