Graphics Team

The Graphics Team works on everything visual inside and outside the game. If you are reading this thread, you have likely decided to dedicate your talents as an artist to the graphics team for the ambitious project that is Thrive! If so, then welcome aboard! This thread is designed to best ease you and other new artists into the process of developing the game, and providing you with all the relevant information you need.


Team lead(s): TheCreator

Forum category:

Types of work: Modelling, animation, texturing, concept art, UI design, etc.

Graphics covers a wide range of visual entities. Some of these are appropriate for pure artists (e.g. concept art) but others may require varying levels of programming knowledge, or at least a close relation with programmers to get art assets working in the game.

The in-game graphics system is Ogre 3D, the basis of our custom engine. It's open-source software and is compatible with almost any computer operating system. The Microbe Stage features 3D graphical entities on a 2D plane, so all in-game elements should be 3D models (tutorials on creating these can be found below). Often these will be animated and will respond to player or environment events, so animations should smoothly transition from one to another with the underlying code.

Some 3D models are procedural, such as the membrane and floating rocks (not yet implemented). These are more complicated to create since they aren't based on static models. As shown here, there's a programmed algorithm controlling its definition and movement. In the future we hope to adapt the membrane to distort on contact with other cells and water currents, but since it's theoretically and computationally difficult even in comparison to the current membrane, we estimate it may take a while to be added.

2D artists could work on the GUI (Graphical User Interface). The version currently in-game is temporary and will need to be replaced. This will require an understanding of Lua scripting. See the tutorials for more information.

Concept art is another task for 2D artists. With the exception of the very highest quality images (see our existing concept and promotional art) we unfortunately don't need concept art depicting other stages. Functional concept art should be relevant to the stage at hand and supplement the work of other team members, such as testing GUI designs, organelle designs or general gameplay aesthetic. The key here is breadth rather than depth. Concept art of this kind doesn't have to be beautiful but it does have to run through several alternatives so the team is better informed about visual choices. Compare this image with this. The second is obviously higher quality, but isn't useful for development at the moment, whereas the first (which could perhaps be a little more refined) covers plenty of alternatives quickly and gives an at-a-glance understanding of how the game could look. We'd generally class art of the second type as fan art. It's not inherently better or worse, but it's not what's needed. The exception is when creating promotional material such as trailers, though generally gameplay footage is preferable and more honest anyway.


You start by making a model and texturing it in any program of your choice. After you're done with that, you will need to bake your material to a single image texture that will be used in game. The model needs to be exported with a .mesh.xml file extension (then we use an xml converter to change it to a binary file .mesh). Not sure about maya, but for blender there is this plugin:

After that, you just add the model to the game. The easiest way is to just modify the setup.lua file in the microbe stage folder as follows:
local myEntity = Entity()
local sceneNode = OgreSceneNodeComponent()
sceneNode.meshName = <insert name of your mesh without the .mesh part here>
sceneNode.transform.position = Vector3(0,0,0)

Current Tasks

The graphics team always has the potential for more work to do, but here are some of the primary goals for the upcoming releases. Take your pick of what you're interested in.


The game currently uses one background, except recoloured to create three biomes. However, we will eventually want to have a wide set of backgrounds to create a diverse possible set of alien biomes the player's microbe could begin in in each playthrough.

New UI

Replacing the current clunky user interface with a more intuitive, less invasive and future-proof alternative. This post shows the consensus on basic layout. This task will require an understanding of XML scripting, and animating different GUI sections is the most difficult part.


Bacteria will be a big part of the Microbe Stage. Some of a cell's organelles will come from assimilation of free-roaming bacteria. These are small AI entities with only simple processes and no evolution mechanics. They need to be created as 3D models.

Organelle models

We have some organelle models in the game at the moment, but we'd like them to be more active with animations, more intuitive with clearer differences and more coherent with similar art styles.

Cell animations

Currently the death animation is an immersion-breaking red splurge and engulfment doesn't involve any animation. This will be changed in future to something based on the dynamic membrane.

Dynamic membrane

The current membrane is static, but gives the impression of fluidity by having some predefined set of rippling. However, we ultimately want a fully dynamic membrane; one that responds to the pressures of the surrounding environment, and can also stretch and warp in response to the cell's movements and to engulf other cells.

This list isn't fixed. If you can think of a feature you'd like to start working on that we didn't mention just let us know. There are also innumerable ideas you could try to prototype if you wanted.

Online Resources

README on GitHub (Assets Section)

A guide to experimenting with placing art assets into the game, linked with the SVN repository below.

SVN Repository

Stores all the game's assets. Here is a guide to installing Tortoise SVN (steps six and seven). Once you've created an SVN folder on your machine, you can right click to update (giving you changes made by everyone else since you last updated) and commit (adding your changes to the master SVN for others to receive).

Thrive Typeface

To download the official Thrive font and use it in any sort of game-related art, visit the link above.


GUI Tutorial

For interface programmers, this tutorial will outline the basics of Lua scripting within the CEGUI framework.

Blender and Ogre Tutorial

A guide to using Blender and exporting for use in Ogre (our graphics system).


How do I join the Graphics Team?

See Application Process.

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