Down Current (2022)

VFX & Technical Artist | Adventure game created in Unreal 4 under the mentorship of The Chinese Room

Venture into Kipbury Chasm, a land like many others tarnished by the Dhymire, a toxic sludge-like substance. As a Filterer, your duty is to purify this land's water sources with the aid of your giant elemental companion, Genhu. Within these treacherous lands lies the threat of an oppressive regime of raiders who have staked their claim on the chasm long before you arrived. Get ready to explore Kipbury Chasm and discover more about the people, the places, the mysteries, and the apocalyptic event that regressed the world to ruin.

PC Standalone: Download

Down Current was created by a team of nine master's students at Abertay University under the mentorship of The Chinese Room and was developed over a period of 12-weeks working in Unreal Engine 4. For this project I worked primarily as a VFX Artist and Technical Artist. Most effects were created in Niagara or the Material Editor in UE4, with custom assets created in Substance Designer.


Every effect was made with Niagara, Material Editor, and Blueprints. The sprites and textures used for these effects were procedurally generated using Substance Designer. Below is a short breakdown of the key VFX featured in the game.


Down Current's gameplay consists of purifying pools of sludge in order to reach new areas and clean up Kipbury Chasm. I needed to develop a shader that could transition between the states of water and sludge. Current's gameplay consists of purifying pools of sludge in order to reach new areas and clean up Kipbury Chasm. I needed to develop a shader that could transition between the states of water and sludge.

The level's design includes a river that flows through the centre of Kipbury Chasm; this sludge cannot be purified and so must reset to sludge after purification. Also, because it is a river, it needs to flow as it runs down the chasm. I used the free software, FlowMap Painter to paint a flow map onto the river mesh.

It looks unnatural when Genhu wades through water and it does not react to their movement so I added a niagara particle effect that emits disks attached to the surface of the water where Genhu intersects it. The river is not flat, so the disks orient themselves to the normal direction of the river.


Genhu is the player’s companion throughout their journey in Kipbury Chasm. The character was developed by Dundee-based character artist, Emily Blane. Genhu has glowing veins that cover the surface of their body, providing a medium for visual feedback to Genhu’s state as well as adding character.

I was given an emission map to work with, and so I split it up into 3 separate channels, allowing me to control the eyes, arms and body separately. Emily had kindly arranged the UVs, so that a vertically panning effect would transition smoothly up Genhu’s arm and towards their centre point. During gameplay, Genhu becomes increasingly corrupted by the sludge in the environment. This is signified by their veins becoming increasingly purple, sludge dripping from their joints and sputtering from their vent.


Genhu is programmed to teleport to a location selected by the player. I was tasked with hiding the abruptness of this transition with VFX. I opted to have large boulders shoot from the ground, then dissolve to reveal Genhu within them.


The invocation effect is the summation of a shader effect on the tuning fork, a shader effect on the staff, a sparks particle effect and a point light. The tuning fork simply increases the emissive depending on the vertex position in object space. The staff has two emissive maps with RGB values corresponding with specific runes. This allows for the runes to light up independently.

Meet the Team

Production - John Venters
Level & Gameplay Design - Neve O'Neill
Narrative & Sound Design - Jak Knowles
Character Art - Emily Blane
Environment Art - Aaron Petherbridge & Elena Severson
Technical Art & Visual Effects - Innes White
Programming / Engineering - Linxiao "Damien" He & Mingyang "Morgan" Wang
Audio Consultants & Contractors - Avery Mullen, Robbie Peden, and Jan Huss