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We’ve updated our modeler for Unreal Engine 4. This update fixes several bugs as well as bringing  improvements to how the modeler handles light mapping and an additional LOD.

If you are currently a subscriber, simply log-in to your account on our store to download the update.

New Features

1. More LODs for UE4 Modeler
You can now enable 4 LODs if you disable billboards.

2. Light mapping improvements:

  • Generating two sided meshes now works with light mapping.
  • Option to back out of light mapping on save.
  • General performance improvment.

Bug Fixes

1. Current Mesh Replacement
Generating a mesh and replacing the current one no longer causes an issue with quads.

2. Displaying Normals Correctly
Deleted nodes no longer show normals.

3. Tree Generator Locked
The tree generator cannot be deleted.

4. Light mapping fixes:

  • The Modeler does not hang when computing light maps.
  • A bug that was causing a crash during computation has been eliminated.

 (Previous changelogs can be found here)

SpeedTree has been directly integrated into Unreal Engine 4 and has enabled game developers and Arch/viz designers to take advantage of the same set of tools and technology used by AAA studios for titles like The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Far Cry 4, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.  SpeedTree is also the same tool used to by VFX studios in blockbusters like The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. 

Learn more about our SpeedTree Modeler and Drop in ready Assets available on our store.



We would like to say that The Witcher 3 has amazing looking foliage simply because it represents one of the deepest integrations of SpeedTree for games we’ve seen. However, the reality is that while SpeedTree is a really great resource, like any tool, how it is implemented in a game is more important than the tool itself.  SpeedTree could be thought of as a really great hammer.  It’s absolutely the right tool for the job and we recommend it to anyone looking to build a house but any carpenter who approaches a job with just a hammer and no blueprint or plan is bound to find the final product lacking. Art design as a blueprint is equally important to the tools used to build a game world.

We’re going to take a look at how the foliage in The Witcher 3 serves the greater purpose of the game through great design.

Layering Foliage

When you look out across a field there is an unevenness and a sense of wildness to the landscape. This is partially achieved by using a variety of plant height to create a sense of diversity and scale. If you were to take a look at a field, there are several layers of plant life that are all competing for the light. There is the short grass, the weeds, shrubbery and bushes, followed by the trees.

The landscape here subtly combines the different layers of assets to create a single landscape where the whole is more important that each individual piece.  The colors are carefully chosen to blend together, not have each stand out on its own. Having these subtle layers does more for immersion than more accurately modeled assets. Often we get caught up on how well defined each model is when the more important factor is the gestalt effect of multiple layers creating a single scene.

This also serves to create a greater sense of scale.  With enough smaller brush to compare to, the surrounding trees feel that much larger.  Juvenile trees are contrasted against towering pines and oaks, heightening the sense of scale of the world and the depth of immersion.


Distinct Environments

A Redditor recently posted an image of The Witcher 3 with and without foliage. It’s amusing, but it actually highlights a very important point about the game. The game world is huge. At 136 square km it is easily 3 times larger than Far Cry 4 and 1.5 times larger than Skyrim. How does someone even begin to populate a world this huge without it feeling redundant?

Open world games can still be looked at in terms of the basic game mechanic of rooms and corridors. Rooms are areas where action or exploration is intended to take place and the corridor is a link between different rooms. When the majority of the action takes place in an open world, the foliage can function as a subconscious divider.  The level of subtlety with which this is achieved is equal to the impact of immersion. A forest that you want to avoid is much more compelling than a forest that is clearly just blocking your way to another area. (I call this the “impenetrable hedgerow effect”) . For example, in the first town you encounter in the game there are distinctly separate locations. There is the town itself, the orchards on the edge of town, a bloody battlefield, a swamp. These are all distinct biomes that separate an open region into distinctly recognizable settings. So much so that they are easily used as landmarks for navigation.

The importance of these barriers is that it creates a very deep sense of location.  For example, in the first region in the game there are distinctly separate locations. There is the town itself, the orchards on the outskirts, a bloody battlefield, a swamp. These are all distinct biomes that separate an open region into distinctly recognizable settings, in the same way that we recognize our real life surroundings by distinguishing and labeling different areas.  This creates a virtual world with very real landmarks.

Jane Ng from Campos Santos made a great point in her GDC presentation on environmental design. Referring to a specific outcropping in the game she points out that you know you have an effective environment when it warrants a nickname. This kind of recognition means that after only a short time of playing in The Witcher 3 I can recall landmarks to create a mental map without referring to the in-game map. Although at that point I am subject to my very poor sense of direction.

Now I know that CDprojekt Red did use procedural tree placement to create the world, but they clearly did so in a very intentional way to create actual environments, not just a populated world.

Serving the Game Mechanic

Cohesion is one of the best indicators of good design.  Creating subtly layered foliage and a sense of scale and well-defined areas serve the greater good of the game rather than just act as another pretty thing to look at.  To take a look at this, let’s take a look at another title (which also used SpeedTree): Far Cry 4.

If I had to sum up Far Cry 4’s approach, I would probably label it as “Leave room for the elephants”. Far Cry 4 is, first and foremost, a masterpiece of an open world sandbox.  It’s tightly focused on perfecting the lovingly crafted mechanics established in Far Cry 3, it knows what it’s trying to do and it absolutely refuses to apologize for it.  It is a recipe for chaotic action and frantic chases. Less concerned with how individual areas differ, the primary concern is creating a world where no matter where you are, chaos could erupt. If the trees were more densely placed, fleeing enemy helicopters on an elephant might meet an anticlimactic end as you find yourself stuck in a thick woods. Now, the first sign that Far Cry 4 had great art design is that you never particularly notice or care that the trees are relatively evenly spaced, more so than what you might find in actual woods. Rather everywhere you look still looks jaw-droppingly fantastic.

Similarly, in The Witcher 3 the foliage, like every other part of the game, is always serving the game mechanic. If Far Cry 4 is a recipe for chaos, The Witcher 3 is a formula for immersion. While the world is open enough that you feel like you can simply explore and have memorable random encounters, the goal is to focus you on the cause and effects of events in this world, not just the outcome. The war-torn world that Geralt lives in is challenging and large. The woods are thick and limit your visibility and ability to fight. A nest of other worldly creatures lurks behind a small farm while drowners linger on the edge of the rivers and wetlands.


Pixel Peeping vs World Building

At SpeedTree, we’re fans of the small details that it takes to make a game.  I’ve seen multiple SpeedTree employees huddled around a game trying to get a better look at branch seams, completely ignoring the zombies getting closer.  But as much as we love the details, we are at our core gamers who just enjoy great games.  It’s all too easy to get sidetracked trying to have the best possible technology powering your game while missing the big picture of what you are creating.  Musicians do this all the time, nit picking over getting their sound just right, when in reality only 1% of the audience will ever notice the subtlety with which you were able to layer low gain overdrives.  At the end of the show, what matters is the strength of the song, and the presence of the performance.  Similarly, in games, at the end of the day you may have the best looking trees the world has ever seen but if it doesn’t serve the art design or the game mechanics, will anybody want to play it?


This is an editorial solely expressing the opinions of Danny Oakes. Please do not burn down our blog.  



The list of movies using SpeedTree in 2015 continues to grow with almost every opening weekend.  California studio WhiskeyTree has told us that they used SpeedTree in the upcoming retro-futurist film “Tomorrowland” starring George Clooney.  “Tomorrowland” is partially set in a parallel dimension where technological optimism has created a pristine vision of what our future could look like.  Judging from the trailers we expect to see a lot of SpeedTrees incorporated into Brad Bird’s (Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Up) vision of a bright and beautiful future city.   WhiskeyTree also reported that they previously used SpeedTree in the dystopian world of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay–Part 1” (2014).

Mad Max: Fury Road” is hands-down one of our favorite movies that have come out this year and we were thrilled to find out that despite that it is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (filmed in Namibia) they used SpeedTree for the greenery.  SpeedTree often shows up where you least expect it in movies.  This is a testament to the quality of work done by the VFX studios as well as the Academy Award-winning quality of SpeedTree.  For a great example, check out Brainstorm Digital’s VFX reel for The Wolf of Wall Street which made extensive use of SpeedTree.







Witcher Sale Slider

To celebrate the world that CD Projekt Red has created in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, we are putting our UE4 and Unity 5 Asset packages on sale at our Speedstore for 55% off until Tuesday May 26th.

As usual, our packages come with all the features that make SpeedTrees more than just a static mesh:

  • Tuned lightmap UVs for UE4, all LODs
  • Seasonal variations
  • Collision objects
  • Tuned LOD transitions
  • Tuned wind effects
  • Preset ambient occlusion
  • Leaf map maker SPM files
  • Branch seam blending used

Want to create limitless variations of these trees or tweak them in any way? A Modeler subscription will get the job done

Asset store

Hero Tree Package                                                       $53.55

Hero Tree Package 2                                                    $53.55

Desktop Tree Package                                                 $71.55

Desktop Tree Package 2                                              $71.55

Desktop Ground Cover Package                             $44.55

Desktop Ground Cover Package 2                         $44.55

Desktop Grass Package                                              $12.15

Mobile Tree Package                                                   $58.05

Mobile Ground Cover Package                               $44.55

Mobile Grass Package                                                $10.00

SpeedTrees for Unity                                SpeedTrees for Unreal Engine 4



When building the ultimate game engine for open world RPGs, CD Projekt Red chose SpeedTree for Games to incorporate into REDengine 3.  Their goal was to create a toolkit that would enable them to handle the challenges of building an expansive open world that allowed for a compelling narrative, balancing freedom with story line, complexity with focus. The sheer size and scope of what they accomplished is staggering and is one of the most extensive integrations of SpeedTree that we have seen.

With 52 square miles of a densely populated game world, integration of our SpeedTree for Games SDK into REDengine 3 allowed the developers to take full advantage of our tools.  We like to think of SpeedTree as a well made paintbrush. It’s a tool that both streamlines workflow while increasing artistic freedom.  In “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt” we see it being used masterfully.

The war-torn countryside utilizes different levels of foliage to create a sense of scale and depth in the world, the foliage is varied not just by species but by size. This leaves the player feeling dwarfed by enormous pine trees or lost in a field of high grass and flower.  Using custom tools to determine the placement of foliage based on factors such as water accumulation and light distribution, they’ve managed to create and incredibly natural feeling landscape. The grasses, brush, and tall grass blend together to form one landscape.  The lighting and dynamic weather accentuates the mood of the terrain with the grass rustling in the wind as a storm approaches and dying down as the clouds break and the sun returns. The result is a world that strikes a balance of feeling unstaged but compelling. Inviting you to go off course and explore while at the same time enhancing the mood of quests and creating a framework to immerse you in the story.  The era of open world games is upon us and “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt” elevates the modern open world game from a concept to an art form.

Learn more about what we offer with SpeedTree for Games and check out the screenshots from our first few hours in the world of “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt”.

Also, be sure to check out our Witcher 3 Asset Sale!






Asset store

As Unity and UE4 are being used for more diverse applications we’ve seen an increase in the demand for our hero model trees for arch/viz renderings as well as just highly detailed scenes.  We’ve taken nine of our most popular trees and put together a package of Hero models that include multiple seasons and age ranges.  More than just a static mesh, these trees come with all the features you’ve come to expect from SpeedTrees including Tuned wind, LOD transitions, ambient occlusion, and collision objects. To celebrate their release they are hitting the stores on sale for only $89 for one week (regular $119).

Hero Tree Package available from our store

Trees Included

  • Alaska Cedar (3 models – Full, Bare, and Juvenile)
  • American Elm (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)
  • Colorado Blue Spruce (3 models – Full, Bare, and Winter)
  • Douglas Fir (3 models – Full, Bare, and Juvenile)
  • European White Birch (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)
  • London Plane (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)
  • Red Maple (6 models – Summer, Autumn, Winter, Juvenile Summer, Juvenile Autumn, and Juvenile Winter)
  • Scots Pine (3 models – Full, Bare, and Winter)
  • White Oak (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)

1. Alaska Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

This slow-growing, false cypress is native to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. It is known by many names including Yellow-Cedar, Alaska Cypress, and Nootka Cypress. It has long, drooping branches with long flat sprays.


2. American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Also known as the ‘White Elm’, this deciduous tree forms a spreading canopy. It is a hardy tree and can thrive in cold or harsh winter climates. For that reason they are often planted and thrive in the upper northeastern US.


3. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

A large evergreen native to the Rocky Mountains and other parts of western North America, this spruce varies in color from gray-green to nearly bright blue, giving it its name.


4. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

This tree that required the creation of its own genus (Pseudotsuga) is not a true fir. Douglas Firs are large, stately trees that can reach impressive heights of over 100 meters. They are endemic to the western US.


5. European White Birch (Betula pendula)

This common European tree (also called Silver Birch) is characterized by its white bark that is spotted with black diamond-shaped marks. The bark color along with its slender and gracefully drooping branches make it a popular ornamental world-wide. The European white birch is a medium-sized deciduous tree, typically reaching heights of 49 to 82 ft (15 to 25 m) with a slender trunk usually under 16 in (40 cm) diameter.


6. London Plane (Platanus acerifolia)

The London Plane is the European version and close relative of the American Sycamore. This large tree is stately and attractive, most notably because of its scaly jigsaw bark.


7. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple is one of the most wide-spreading trees in the eastern US, stemming from its ability to survive under a variety of conditions. Its leaves, as its name implies, turn a brilliant red in the fall.


8. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The Scotch or Scots Pine is native to Scotland and can grow up to 25m in height. Scots Pine is used heavily in timber products and is planted commercially for this purpose.


9. White Oak (Quercus alba)

A large oak that often grows to have an irregular, wide spreading crown and a stocky base. White oaks are native to all regions of the eastern US.


What Files Are Included?

  • 30 individual tree models
  • 229 unique high-resolution diffuse, normal, and specular maps
  • 31 leaf map maker SPM files (utilities for easily creating and adjusting leaf-group textures, Modeler subscription needed)


What makes SpeedTree models so special? How many features are packed into each model? Details here.

  • Seasonal variations
  • Collision objects
  • Tuned LOD transitions
  • Tuned wind effects
  • Preset ambient occlusion
  • Leaf map maker SPM files
  • Branch seam blending used

Want to create limitless variations of these trees or tweak them in any way? A Modeler subscription will get the job done.


Often times the best use of SpeedTree in VFX is the one where you aren’t quite sure if it was used at all.  Sure there are dramatic cases like “Noah“, but you may have seen several tv shows and movies already this year and not even noticed the SpeedTrees.  That being said, when you go see “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” this weekend (which you should) keep an eye peeled.  We received word from Industrial Light and Magic that SpeedTree was used extensively in a certain scene taking place in a dense forest.

As movie fans, we’ve been fortunate to be a part of some of the biggest movies of the past few years as well as being honored with an Academy Award.  So far, this year is shaping up to be even busier for SpeedTree in theatres. As the summer blockbuster season kicks off, expect to see a lot more movies coming out that take advantage of SpeedTree to create the spectacular scenes that capture audiences imagination.

Learn more about SpeedTree for Cinema





SaleblogArbor Day is this Friday the 24th of April, which means it’s time to shut down your computer, step outside and get your hands dirty planting trees and exploring real-life foliage generation.  At the very least give a tree a hug or a loving pat, and let it know that you care.

Once that’s done, head back inside turn your computer back on and get ready check out the massive sale on SpeedTree packages on the Unity Asset Store.  Our assets are far more than just a static mesh, bringing carefully tuned LODs, wind effects, collision, and seasonal variations. Need more variation?  Our SpeedTree Modeler is available on a subscription basis, letting you use it to edit the assets or create your own from scratch.  Use the modeler for as long or as short as you need, everything you make will remain available to you whether you continue the subscription or not.  To continue the celebration, our Subscription Modelers are both on sale for $10 dollars off the first month ($19 a month after that) with the code ARBORDAY.  The code is valid from until midnight EST April 30th and the sale on the Unity Asset Store will be running until April 29th.   

WIP by Adam Goodrich

Whats Included with SpeedTree Assets:

Three Resolutions

Every tree model in the set is available in multiple resolutions:

Hero: A high detail tree that runs well in real-time. These are perfect when there are only a few trees in the scene or if a tree is particularly important (e.g. a big tree at the center of a town). Triangle counts normally exceed 15,000.

Mobile: Right around 1,000 triangles, these are great trees for targeting lower-performance platforms or just to use as distant fillers when billboards won’t do.

Desktop: This is the most commonly used resolution, hitting right in that sweet spot between Hero and Mobile trees. Commonly around 8,000 triangles, this is the default resolution when designing a title for use on PC/Mac, PlayStation® or Xbox®.

Seasonal Variations

Many of the models feature seasonal variations. Deciduous trees all have autumn and winter versions. Others may have snowy variations. Each seasonal variation is modeled in three resolutions: hero, desktop, and mobile.

Artist-Tuned LOD

The SpeedTree Unity 5 integration supports seamless LOD transitions. A typical desktop model might have three discrete LOD levels with triangle counts of 8,000, 4,500, and 1,800, and finally a normal-mapped billboard for very distant rendering. Our artists painstakingly tune the 3D LODs and the transitions in between to keep transitioning artifacts at a minimum.

Artist-Tuned Wind Effects

SpeedTree employs a very scalable wind effects system, supporting anything from simple global wind all the way up to cinematic-level as used in The Lone Ranger and many other feature films. Our Unity 5 models have been artist-tuned specifically for use with the SpeedTree/Unity 5 integration. Once imported, users can adjust the speed/complexity trade-off by editing the Wind Type (e.g. fastest, highest-quality, etc), per material.

Helper SPM Models

For tree models where it’s impractical to model every leaf separately, creating convincing leaf clusters is important (example at right). Many of our models include SPM files to help generate these automatically. Using the Modeler, users can easily tweak the individual leaf sizes, quantities, and color variations. The Modeler will also automatically generate the diffuse, normal, specular and transmission masks – all without ever opening Photoshop®.

Branch Seam Reduction

In low-polygon modeling, a tree’s trunk and its branches are often modeled as cylinders shoved against other cylidners. Our models take full advantage of SpeedTree’s branch seam reduction feature as integrated into Unity 5. Without using sub-division surface modeling or unwrapping the branch/trunk texture, a smooth seam is still possible where the branches meet the trunk. Because the texture still wraps, a higher overall texture resolution appearance results.

Preset Ambient Occlusion

Per-vertex ambient occlusion is included in every tree model, tuned by our artists to darken the interior or otherwise obstructed parts of the tree model. When dynamic shadows aren’t possible, SpeedTree’s ambient occlusion can make a huge difference in rendering quality, especially for the lower-polygon models. The image at right shows a desktop tree model with no dynamic or static shadows and then that same tree with our ambient occlusion applied.

Preset Collision Objects

All tree models will have medium-detail collision objects already placed and ready to work with Unity 5.

Quality Textures

We supply high-resolution textures with all of our models, often higher than is commonly used in real-time, allowing you to scale down to the resolution you need. Models include diffuse and normal maps with alpha masks. Masked textures also include edge padding to prevent bleeding at lower mip

Today we’re happy to announce the release of SpeedTree for Games v7.   SpeedTree for Games has been used in AAA development since 2002 and continues to be used in some of the most exciting, bleeding edge next-gen titles coming out this year.  Our new release brings significant changes to our Modeler, Compiler, and SDK to greatly increase efficiency while at the same time giving artists more control over their models.  We’ve tuned the GUI to cut down on modeling time while introducing much-anticipated features such as subdivision surfaces, more control over LOD and more intuitive controls for generation algorithms. We’ve also made changes to the SpeedTree Model Library to include an expanded and improved set of real-time models and improved wind animation and LOD settings.  Our Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5 subscribers are already able to access the v7 modeler.  If you’re interested in our subscriptions, check out our offerings in the SpeedTree Store.

Version 7 changes to the SpeedTree SDK include: 

  • Rolling Wind Effects. In the same way that real wind gusts through nature, SpeedTree grass and trees now react rhythmically and believably to anything
    rom breezes to gales. Each leaf and blade of grass animates uniquely.
  • Optimization. Increased performance throughout, including faster instance paging, faster constant buffer updates, and shader optimizations.
  • Per-Instance and Per-Vertex Hue Variation. Each tree instance and/or each leaf can now be uniquely tinted, adding more variation with fewer assets.
  • Image-Based Ambient Lighting. More realistic ambient lighting.
  • Support for PlayStation® 4, Xbox® One, Windows (DX9/11/OpenGL), Xbox® 360, and PlayStation® 3

Version 7 changes to the SpeedTree Modeler include:

  • Subdivision Surfaces. Create procedurally generated subdivision surface models suitable for hero trees.
  • Improved Leaf LOD. New options for controlling the appearance of leaves during LOD transitions. Have fewer triangles with a fuller look at lower LODs.
  • GUI Improvements. Slash modeling time with user interface and workflow enhancements, including a new “Focus” tool that presents only those portions of the tree being actively modeled, reducing certain processes from hours to minutes.
  • Floating License. The Modeler may be activated by either a node-locked or floating license option.
  • New Generation Algorithms. Friendlier options for controlling how many and where tree components are placed.
  • Improved Control for Leaf Normals. Per-vertex controls for leaf normal manipulation.


Press Release

Right out of the gate, SpeedTree is starting to show up in some great looking games being developed in Unity 5.  P.A.M.E.L.A. was one of the games featured in Unity 5’s showcase reel at their Tuesday morning GDC announcement. P.A.M.E.L.A. is NVYVE Studio’s first project, an open-ended survival horror game that that builds on the team’s background of creating compelling environments. Its unique visual style utilizes all that the new Unity 5 engine has to offer, including SpeedTree for their foliage.

Working in one room, NVYVE Studios are four programmers and artists who have branched off of NVYVE, which uses Unity to create interactive architectural and product visualization.  Drawing visual cues from games like Mass Effect and Mirrors Edge, P.A.M.E.L.A. takes place in a massive floating city with environments ranging from the brightly lit mall  to dark nightclubs and wooded areas. The GDC demonstration hooked us in with its visuals and after hearing more about the game and the dystopia they are creating, we were even more intrigued.

The premise is thus: an artificial intelligence awakens, cures, and releases you into the pristine future city Eden, but you are not alone. The city is filled with infected citizens who aren’t too happy that you’re awake and pose a constant danger.  This might all seem very familiar, if not for the unique approach to designing the world of Eden. One of the foundations of the horror genre is the corruption of the familiar. The family home becomes a death trap, the child’s doll becomes a possessed murder, the underwater utopia becomes a waterlogged nightmare; it’s a time-honored premise. In most games, the common practice is to place you within an environment that is covered in gore or crumbling architecture to create a dark mood. P.A.M.E.L.A. reverses this premise, placing you instead in a world of gorgeous architecture and lush environments. This can create a tension between the beauty of your surroundings and the horror that takes place inside its walls.  Eden is a dystopia, just one that is better maintained than most.

NVYVE Studio is using a combination of our SpeedTree Assets and our modeler for the trees in Eden and is a great example of SpeedTree’s integration into Unity 5.   P.A.M.E.L.A. is still very early in its development, but the team is hoping for a 2016 release. We look forward to seeing how this project continues to grow!