Research & Development

Water Shaders & Mobile Compatibility - Project Viz - Dev Blog

Project Viz is a bit tricky as not only should everything look the best it can, but it needs to run smoothly and be compatible with mobile and tablet devices. This has not been more difficult than on the water shader.

Fig 1: Mobile Compatible Open Ocean World

Fig 1: Mobile Compatible Open Ocean World

Typically, a water shader might make use of planar reflections coupled with tesselation to give a nice moving water effect. However for mobile this simply is not an option, working within the limitations of mobile can be difficult at times but nonetheless, perseverance pays off.

Fig 2: Water Shader UE4 Blueprint

Fig 2: Water Shader UE4 Blueprint

The final result is fairly small in size, this is to reduce the total number of instructions for the device to compute. We make use of cheaper alternatives to Fresnel effects and tiling.

It is also important to note that on a mobile device the number of texture samples is much lower than what you might find on a desktop machine, so it was important to make multiple uses of the textures wherever possible. For example, the roughness channel is entirely calculated from the normal texture and fresnel effects, removing the need for a dedicated texture channel.

Fig 3: Water Shader Colour, Roughness & Normal Map

Fig 3: Water Shader Colour, Roughness & Normal Map

The bulk of the work takes place above in the colour, roughness and normal calculations, this is what determines the colour of the water as well as the surface reflections and the height of the waves.

The secondary work takes place in the vertex tiling section of the shader, this efficiently tiles the textures using the meshes vertices instead of the pixels, massively improving the shaders performance across all platforms.

Fig4: Water Shader Vertex Tiling

Fig4: Water Shader Vertex Tiling

Overall we are happy with the final result and we have discovered a large amount of limitations and information on mobile compatibility that we can take forward within the remainder of the project and ofcourse any techniques developed during the course of this project can be used in future releases of Project Viz.


Germany Needs Interactive Computer Graphics Solutions!

Recently we took the opportunity to attend a trade mission with the Department of International Trade which took Big Nasty Studios to Dusseldorf, Germany! We were able to learn vital information on how we can sell our interactive digital solutions to the German market. It turns out the German economy would benefit from our skills in computer graphics design to help with customer engagement as most of their economy has been built up through cars, mechanical engineering and chemical manufacturing.

Efficiency and precision is vital to the German economy and it is clear through their work culture, for example their primary focus is on quality rather than price, they are long term oriented (and don't mind sending wordy emails to make sure the point is made clear) and they are big on data protection, many German citizens go as far as not using their name or personal photo on social media.

Economic Development Agency of the German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.

Economic Development Agency of the German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf.


What can we do to help and how it will benefit Big Nasty Studios?

For us as a business there is a lot of potential opportunity in computer graphics development or visualisations for the optimisation of production within the German Car, Machinery and Chemical Manufacture industries. Due to the lack of business likes ours in this country we also have the opportunity to help a range of other businesses engage with their customers.

Hermann Simon coined the phrase "Hidden Champion", this describes a small but successful company hidden by a curtain of inconspicuousness - Something we aspire to be

Statistics & What they mean for us.

The digital/marketing/creative industry in Germany is one of the biggest in Europe with 800,000+ employees worth a total of 145 billion in euros. From these figures there is only 13 million in hardware and 160 million in software development and production and although the future of Virtual Reality is unclear, current estimates show the industry growing to 1 billion by 2020.

This shows us that there is only a very small portion of the German market that is dedicated to software and hardware development/production which means an even smaller portion that provides the services we offer.

Why so serious?

It was not all business and statistics during our stay in Dusseldorf, after all the hard business-manning had been done, we had the opportunity to spend a bit of free time in the hotel and the city. The food at the Dusseldorf Sheraton wasn’t half bad, and the Thyme Creme Brulee with goats cheese and blackcurrant sorbet sounded absolutely disgusting but turned out to be the best course eaten throughout the trip. On our first evening, we had the opportunity to go and watch the England vs Dortmund football match surrounded by German fans. After our loss, a few of the German people we met were rather enthusiastic in buying commiseration drinks to make us feel better.

The Block House steak restaurant in Dusseldorf was excellent; sirloin steaks and glasses of Merlot were a perfect start to a great night experiencing the city’s bars and clubs, which ranged from twee cocktail bars to heavy metal bars and EDM clubs. All in all, a great trip!


Some of the things to take from this trip is that there are gaps in the German market that Big Nasty fit right into, the services we provide are scarce and not many other companies provide interactive visualisations or computer graphics solutions.

 The gaps are there because a fairly large amount of the economy is built on the Car, Machinery and Chemical Manufacture industries. We learned a lot about the digital/creative/marketing industry and that we can provide a well needed service to improve customer engagement... also, the nightlife wasn't half bad either.