This actually happened weeks ago, but I just realized I never posted anything here about it: I built a 3D ivy painting tool called Hedera. Each time you paint ivy, the Hedera "AI" will grow and simulate an approximation of real-life ivy behavior, clinging to surfaces and climbing towards the sun. It's pretty magical to watch in action.
Much of the core technique is based on Thomas Luft's C++ code from 2006 and a much more recent C# port from 2016 by Weng Xiao Yi, but I found both of their implementations to be very bare-bones proof of concepts intended more for engineers and less for artists, with little concern for workflow or usability. Most of my work focused on front-end user experience stuff -- making the simulation more predictable, conceptualizing a layer-like planting system, optimizing the procedural mesh generation, and getting it to play nice with the Unity Editor's arcane IMGUI and file serialization rules. I definitely learned a lot about tool-making.
|ivy mesh wireframes / process from "Crysis 3 - Ivy" by Tom Deerberg|
Perhaps when we stop oohing-and-aahing at the fidelity of game ivy and demystify its creation, then we can finally appreciate a more subtle and artistic use of ivy. As I've argued before, many indie game devs often have a (misguided) knee-jerk reaction against realism, but I think realist aesthetics have an important role to play in any visual culture.