John Wolz

UE5 Nature Photography Project


Game Designer / Level Designer


November 2023- Current

Starting in November of 2023, I began working on a project that has been a long time idea of mine, a nature photography game. In a day and age where so much of the world is so loud and negative, it's easy to get caught up in all the stress. I want to make a game that can feel like a true escape from all that, that feels like you've just been dropped off in the wilderness where nothing matters except the nature around you. This is a type of serenity I greatly enjoy in real life, so translating that feeling to a video game is the main goal with this project.

Gameplay wise, I was inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. One of the aspects I found myself enjoying most caught me by surprise. Sure the sword play and adventuring was great, but I found joy and peace just hiking around the forests of Hyrule, taking pictures of all the flora and fauna I encountered along the way. My goal became to combine those photography mechanics with my personal enjoyment of the serenity of nature into full nature photography game, where the only objective is to document the strange creatures that inhabit a serene untouched landscape. Ultimately, I would like this to eventually become a sort of grown-up, free roam, Pokémon Snap type experience.

This project is the largest open world project I have taken on, and as such, level and environment design is one of my top priorities. Since the game will take advantage of the openness with little in the way of traditional game objectives, it is imperative that the map is interesting enough for players to want to get out and explore it organically. One of the most crucial parts of the level creation process is sightline consideration, and that is something I am carefully considering throughout this project. Sightline control can be extremely effective at making a level seem larger and more exciting, and can be used to hide certain sights from view until just the right moment, creating an organic sense of discovery that can only be achieved in this medium.

With this in mind, I strive to produce a world where every angle looks like a painting, no matter where you’re standing or where you’re looking, there should always be something new and beautiful.

So far, I have completed the first tutorial area, with plans to expand into several new areas, with many more types of animals to photograph. In the near term, I plan to add selling of pictures, purchasing upgrades, dynamic camping, varied animal behaviors, a day/night cycle, as well as improved models and animations.

Sneaking in for the Perfect Shot

Full Gameplay Video of the first Area

One of the starting sections of the game. You can see a randomly spawned deer walking towards the left of the frame. I was extremely considerate of tree placement to ensure the cabin on the hill was fully visible.

Overhead view of the same section of level