Monthly Archives: March 2016

What do we want? Data!

Large parts of the Antarctic have been surveyed thanks to the huge efforts of Antarctic scientists over the previous few decades… this gives us a great opportunity to use this data to inform our game world and get it into the hands (and minds) of our users and the public.

We’ve been cooking up a workflow that allows us to take large data sets, optimise and stylise them and bring them into Unity where we build them into Ice Flows. This should be perfect for the environment backgrounds and level selection maps…

BEDMAP2 data in Unity

For the curious the workflow goes a bit like this…

Raster GIS data > Geotiff > Photoshop > 3DSMax > Unity

(See for details of the data sources)

Developing a style

What goes into making the style of a game? First we must consider…

  1. Your audience – will it be liked?
  2. The capabilities of the team and budget – can we do it?
  3. The learning objectives of the game – should we do it?
  4. The technical capability of your platform – will it work?

It needs to be fun/eye-catching/engaging, work well on all devices, and leave the player with an understanding of ice flows and their subtle nuances.

So far, we’re developing a look inspired by the master of low-poly, Tim Reynolds. It’s fast, it’s fun and can provide a visually coherent world in which to set our game. It also makes for some awesome landscapes….

Art style prototype
First style prototype published to web.
Antarctica low poly from GIS
Then using BEDMAP2 GIS data to create low poly terrain.
And mapping onto a sphere to create the southern hemisphere.

(See for details of the data sources)

Hello world!


Welcome to the Ice Flows development blog! This blog will describe & document the development of a game about how the Antarctic Ice Sheet responds to changes in the climate system.  Please leave feedback on any developments that are posted here in due course.

Why is it called “Ice Flows”?*
Because it does!  Ice behaves like a fluid and flows due to gravity, much like a blob of treacle does, though a bit slower…   Snow falls on the top of the ice sheet, and ice is lost at the edges and underneath through iceberg calving & melting.  If the inputs and outputs are equal, the ice sheet finds a balance – a “happy place” (or more scientifically, an equilibrium state), where the ice flows at a rate to balance these inputs and outputs.

An important message this game aims to get across is that melting & iceberg calving are a normal part of an ice sheet that is in equilibrium.  Melting & icebergs become a source of concern when the amount of ice lost is greater than that going in, and the ice sheet becomes smaller and sea level rises.

What are the gameplay elements?
The game player will be tasked with controlling the size of the ice sheet in order to get penguins to their desired destination.  By engaging the player with the environmental controls on the ice sheet, the player will learn immersively how ice sheets grow and shrink.

Where is the game set?
The game development is being funded by a NERC (UK funding body) science grant investigating the Weddell Sea sector of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.  The initial levels will relate to this region of Antarctica.  We plan to develop the game for other regions over time.

How can I get involved?
Research Community: We’d love feedback on the development of the game from a science outreach point of view.  Also, if you want your research area or process to be represented, get in touch and we can make this a whole community resource.

Gameplayers: Watch this space for news on developments of the test versions.

Teachers: How can this be best turned into a teaching resource – what do we need to provide to facilitate this?

Watch this space for more information as we design and build the game!

*Not to be confused with “ice floes”, a term relating to sea ice, a different entity altogether!