Just Add Geopipe

Posted by Christi Kroll.

Players in Life Among the Bricks find themselves in the middle of New York City.

Players in Life Among the Bricks find themselves in the middle of New York City.

Geopipe co-founders Thomas Dickerson, Ph.D., and Christopher Mitchell, Ph.D. were not always pitching multi-million dollar companies to investors. Not long ago, they were dabbling in indie game development themselves. However, big ideas require big resources—time, expertise, and money.

“The specific problem that we saw was that we had these ideas for cool open-world, sandbox-style games that gave the player a lot of freedom, while still being sort of a unique style, and we just couldn’t get access to the sorts of 3D models that we wanted for creating those open world games,” Dickerson said.

Ever the problem-solvers, they built AI to do it for them.

Just Add Geopipe

A life-long LEGO enthusiast, Dickerson used the features of the Geopipe SDK for Unity plus the LEGO Microgame Plugin to create My Life Among the Bricks . In level 1, a scientist wakes up in her NYC apartment to discover that she has been turned into a Lego minifigure. While the Lilliputian character explores the static apartment, she can also walk over to the window to see an accurate contextual view of New York City. This environment is intelligent enough to compute new lighting, scenery, or information as things like time of day (or other plot points) change.

Bryant Park Among the Bricks

Geopipe’s technology allowed Dickerson to give the small environment the sense of being part of a really large environment without having to model the whole thing himself or hiring someone to take photos. Geopipe cuts out the middle-man by providing access to ready-to-use assets. “Maybe you want to apply a custom style to it, but you don’t want to create everything from scratch,” Dickerson said. “That, I think, is really helpful.”

Level 2 in Life Among the Bricks reveals a LEGO-fied Manhattan.

Level 2 in Life Among the Bricks reveals a LEGO-fied Manhattan.

Implementing custom style is key as the player advances through the game. In level 2, the player is dropped into a LEGO-fied version of part of midtown Manhattan, including huge skyscrapers and smaller buildings. Dickerson was able to use Geopipe’s 3D models and a technique called voxelization to produce these LEGO-fied environments, so the player can explore real Manhattan locations in the whimsical nature of a LEGO-fied world. Similarly, building voxelized copies of real-world cities in Minecraft was part of the inspiration for Geopipe’s creation. To do this, developers need to know what’s in the world, not just how it looks.

Building Your Own Games in Real-World Environments: Streaming 3D Models

Instead of relying on something like photogrammetry, which provides the look of the real world (e.g. Google Earth), Geopipe’s technology provides scalable models labeled with metadata describing the world. These environments are compatible with gaming engines like Unity and Unreal, so that game developers can download or even stream game-ready assets into existing projects. Geopipe’s proprietary AI infers metadata like the properties of windows or doors, the locations of trees, and what’s on the terrain. The generated 3D models preserve these properties, enabling them to be stylized differently or edited to immerse the player in the game narrative.

Geopipe models unlock the creative potential for storytelling in the real world. Even if a particular developer is more experienced with the programming side than the art side of game development, they can sidestep or minimize the need for 3D artists by plugging in a whole city model into a rendering engine. Whether you’re doing interactive or static rendering, Geopipe provides the feel of an open world, easily and instantly:

  • Interactive environments: Geopipe’s Unity SDK is primarily intended for realtime interaction: set “Performance Mode”, and your players can wander through a real-world city, with the necessary models for the area they’re exploring loading around them.
  • Pre-rendered skyboxes: Want a real city’s skyline as a skybox around your environment? Use the Geopipe Unity SDK’s “Frame-Perfect Mode”, then save a cubemap or skybox.

Performance Mode: Streaming Immersive 3D Models

In “Performance Mode,” models are loaded in a “best-effort way” to achieve the best interactive experience. Players can move around even as the environment is loading: the world is first populated with lower-detail tiles, which are then successively refined over a few seconds. The 3D models in the foreground and middle ground are loaded at high detail to produce an immersive experience for the user, while background models remain at lower detail to retain interactive rendering speeds.

Frame-Perfect Mode: Perfect Pre-Rendered Environments

Alternatively, if developers want perfect models, frame by frame, to create a skybox or a cinematic trailer, they can select “Frame-Perfect'' mode to pause rendering until all the content for that frame has loaded, to maximize the level of detail for static or pre-rendered content. Geopipe users can plug a whole city model into a rendering engine and get pictures rendering out to the horizon, and not just a few square blocks.

Play Life Among the Bricks at https://play.unity.com/mg/lego/lifeamongthebricks.

Want to use Geopipe models in your own game? Try them for free at https://geopi.pe/getmodels or stream instant immersive worlds for games at https://geopi.pe/games.