Monday, 17 December 2012

Specialist Animation 2

It's been a while since I have posted because the project I've been working on is not the most visual project. We were doing an assignment in Unity in which we had to get certain game elements working. This was good as one of our biggest concerns for our major project game was that we do not have a programmer to create gameplay elements.

I'm pleased to see that the project went much better than expected, not just for me but for our entire team. We have gotten much more done than we expected to and it has allowed us to widen our scope and hopefully add even more to the game. We managed to get a lot of the puzzles done, as well as some we were not sure we had time to do and we managed to get certain elements like the camera and the AI working to a decent standard.

In the project I made a camera with 3 levels of zoom and a special fixed camera position for the boss fight, it's also possible to look around using the mouse. I created a door in which you need to pick up 2 keys, walk over to an object and press the F key to open a gate and I created some 'dragons' which attack you by breathing fire, this does damage and has a 1 in 4 chance of causing burn damage over time. The final thing I created was a box which you can go to, press F and it heals you to full health and stops the burn damage.

Here's a quick gameplay video:

There are a few problems such as the boss camera has a weird flick to it when it transitions between views but for a couple of weeks work in a subject I don't normally dabble in I was quite pleased. There's plenty more to do but between the members of our group using Unity we should have it under control.

We have also been using Playmaker, an add-on for Unity which you can get from the Unity Store which allows for scripting in a more visual sense, similar to Kismet in UDK.

We have now got until we go back to uni in January to finish the pre-production for this game so the pressure is on but I can't wait to get started on the production.

Here is a WIP of the Centaur:

I still need to do more work on the head, hair ect but I'm pretty pleased with it so far as drawing is not exactly my strong point, but I can see the improvement over last years major project work so that's always motivating.

I also found a digital painting I did over summer which I never got round to finishing because I ran out of time so I might as well post that here too. I attempted to recreate someone else's art work as I saw it as a good way of working outside of my comfort zone and to see how other people have done things.

This is my drawing:

Here is the original made by justaman78 over on DeviantArt. It was produced for the game HAVEN.

Mine is clearly better... what?.. fine their image is much better, but then learning from people better than you is a great way to improve.

I enjoyed learning some new styles during this drawing and I think it has helped prepare me for pre-production and even helped with the above centaur picture, so time well spent I think.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Unity work begins

I didn't realise how long it was since I had updated the blog, much has happened.

Most of the work these past few weeks has been in unity, focusing on seeing what is possible in the engine as well as getting a decent pre-vis game working for the pitch we did to see if any 2nd year students would be interested in joining.

We have been using Playmaker in unity which is a visual scripting add on which is great for artists or people who do not know the specific syntax of a  coding language but understand how it works and what they need to do.

I began by using Playmaker to create three different camera systems which the team can look at and decide on.

The first one was an automatic camera which follows the player character and orientates itself slowly and smoothly to behind the character.

The second one was controlled by mouse movement, when you moved the mouse it looked around the environment by rotating around the player character. This allowed the player to look in different directions to the way they are running and made it more intuitive. This is personally my favourite camera type I made.

The third one I made was more of an experiment, it used fixed cameras which follow the player as he runs through the environment and when the player hits certain pre-made triggers it switches to a different camera. I liked this idea as you can have it as though the player is being watched by some unknown entities hiding among the trees but this didn't really work when I tried it. Further work could produce a better camera system but I still don't think it would work as well as the mouse controlled camera.

Right enough with the text, we are visual people after all.

I've done a few particle effects in unity, they're quite fun  and very easy to do. I'll show you the ones I have so far.

Dragon's fire breath attack (my favourite):

Impact Sparks:

Item Highlight:

I also did a quick promo like picture for the pitch of the characters in their current state. Although these were not used in the end it's good to have a more finalised picture so I can visualise it better.

Here's the centaur:

And here's the Player Character:

These are far from final, but it's pretty much where I am with the character designs atm.

And erm...yeah I think that's everything up to the present date.

The next thing we are working on is scripting in unity, I'm currently writing some pseudo code for the poison that the dragon can inflict on the player. Hopefully by next week this will be finished and working.

I also got my first grade of the year back, which was my presentation based on my final year dissertation subject. I got a 1st for my work on 'Aesthetics as Metaphor: A Study of Embedded Narrative' which is a focus on environmental storytelling and what effect this has on the player.

One final, final thing. I have just completed Movemeber and raised £44 for charity. So thank you to everyone who donated and congratulation to my Mo Bros on completing the hairy month.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Back to Pre-production

So it's been a while since I posted any work up here, mostly because I've been working on pre-production which is always a weak spot for me, I generally find myself unmotivated and struggle to get any work done. I am glad that pre-production for major project is it's own project however as it stops me from getting to this stage and then just jumping into production before I am ready.

That said, it hasn't been going too badly so far, the pressure to do well this year as well as getting the animators and directors everything they need is keeping me going for the time being. I find that I enjoy the end of pre-production anyway as I have trouble coming up with initial ideas and designs but enjoy tweaking solid work.

So far I have basically what I put up here for the Centaur a few weeks back, even though some tweaks have been made to him, and I now have the player character design down, at least in terms of his size and shape so the animators can start thumbnailing and planning the animations and rigs.

So here is the Fae player character design so far:

The one on the left was the original design, then we had the idea of using the vines running along his body to roughly plot out the veins or follow the nervous system. I then came up with the one on the right. I really liked the idea but I'm not sure it comes across to well. I like how it grows up onto his face and down his arms, but I think I'll need to play around with it some more before I enjoy it.

I also have a list of props I'm making for the summer court environment as well as weapons, these include:

A bookcase made out of a tree
Musical Instruments
Tholos Arch (Similar to the Oracle of Delphi)
General Ruins
Tree Stumps
Bow and Arrow 

So far so good, just got to keep this up and keep knocking these designs out in preparation  this should be an amazing project, lets hope my blog posts stay this optimistic over the next few months.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Changes to the blog

As some of you may have noticed I've redone a fair amount of the blog to make it more interesting and to add more content, to do this I've actually combined 3 blogs together to allow more freedom. This also works well as if someone is only interested in part of my site then they can follow it and only get updates for it. On the other hand it can be a bit awkward to set up, but it should be able to be used seamlessly  Hopefully I will set up my own website soon so everything is much tidier.

So if your interested the 3 blogs are this work blog, where all of my uni and spare time work will be posted, there is my personal blog, where I will write game reviews, recommendations and anything else that takes my fancy, finally the last blog is the tutorials tab which is where I'll post any interesting tools, programs or bug fixes I come across.

So it's up to you what you follow and what you take interest in, so you won't get spammed with simple tutorials below your skill level when your really interested in my personal blog ect.

Hope you all like the new blog

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Specialist Animation Project Part 1 Complete

So it's been a little while since I updated my blog, this is due to the rush to get this first assignment in and then sort out a 10 minute presentation for the next day, so things have been a bit hectic. But it's over now, it turned out well and I get to have more of a laid back week now, which I could really do with. Well probably not...but it's nice none the less.

Anyway, enough babbling, time to show what I handed in for Spec Anim 1.

First off there was Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, and Loki's Sceptre. I already posted up the basically finished screenshots but now I have some with proper lighting as well as turnarounds so here goes.

Mjolnir, 379 Polys:

Loki's Sceptre, 655 Polys:

The image renders are quite low quality, I do apologise but these were screenshots as I went along rather than final renders. Hopefully the turnarounds will turn out better.

Overall I was quite pleased with the props, I think they came out at a decent quality even though I felt I could have improved on them quite a bit given more time, but I need to get into the workflow of producing things faster so this was a good practice for me and I'm happy with it.

After we had produced these we had to model and unwrap a a character that went along with the props, and I'm afraid this is where my work goes downhill. I would claim it was getting used to Maya or something, but I think it was my own fault, I rushed into the character way to fast without getting the basics down and this had a pretty bad effect on my model, I managed to improve some of it, but I fear the damage was already done.

In my haste I appear to have submitted the screenshots without making a backup for myself...smooth...but they were only basic renders anyway as we haven't textured the character yet, but I still have the turnaround so here you go.

Thor, 6813 Polys:

It's not all bad, I was quite pleased with how the face turned out, even if it doesn't look much like Chris Hemsworth (The actor who plays Thor in the Avengers and Thor movies) I still like how I managed to get a level of detail out of the face I haven't been able to previously. It's all learning and everyone has their bad pieces of work. No point in hiding them and pretending they didn't happen when you can learn from these moments.

Just to touch on the presentation as well. The feedback I got from the tutors seemed promising, especially as nerves usually get the better of me during presentations. I think I was pleased with the quality of work I had in the presentation so I didn't feel as nervous about presenting it. The presentation was to pitch the idea we have for the final year dissertation, mine was titled 'Aesthetics as Metaphor: A Study of Embedded Narrative' which is a study of environmental storytelling and how subtle background cues can influence how a play experiences and game and what emotions they can evoke.

If I feel confident enough I will post my dissertation on here for people to read, but I've never been a very strong writer so we'll have to see how it turns out.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

On to Specialist Animation Week 3

Week 3...the final week...for the first part of this project anyway.

I've mostly textured the two props now, which was expected to be complete by the end of the second week, so not too bad timing there. The 3rd week we need to light and render them as well as modelling a character, this is where it gets interesting.

First off though, here is Mjolnir:

And Loki's Sceptre:

Things are turning out quite well if I do say so myself. Although this is where things begin to get difficult. I've never been great at characters, and I have to make it in Maya by Wednesday, so less than a week. Not to mention the rendering coming out with some very weird results. I also have a presentation which is due either this Wednesday or the week after. Here I will be presenting my study of how visual themes effect the narrative of a game and pitch the idea for my dissertation.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Loki's Poki Stick

I've had the last few days off in terms off university work as my Mum and Sister came up to visit which was nice, and we went out on Sunday night to see my comedian Ross Noble for the first time and that was a pretty awesome night.

But as for work, I've mostly been texturing my props for the current project, got to have these completed by Thursday so I have the last week free to model and unwrap the character. I've spent a fair amount of time these past few days trying to render out an ambient occlusion map which I have had partial success with. It is working but I have seems around the edges of the model, even though i have turned up the 'fill seams' option in the baked map setting.

So here is Loki's Sceptre, with the not quite working AO map:

So far it has a diffuse and a specular map on it, so I still need to start my normal map for this as well as finish these maps, but I'm pretty pleased with how this has turned out so far.

I have done some work on Mjolnir as well, but I have spent the majority of my time on the sceptre as the work seemed to be flowing quite well on that prop.

The hand strap is going to be changed, as having it all the same texture makes it look very boring, but the normal maps are working to a certain degree without spending too much time on them, and the tweaks that need to be done should be pretty simple. The spec map is only basic at the moment too so that will require some changes, but overall I think I can have both of these to a pretty good level of quality by Thursday, which would be great considering I've been learning a new program throughout.

I've also been posting bits and pieces to Polycount which is an awesome website based around game artists. Some of the work on there is incredible and it's a great community. Eventually I'll start a thread of my own work...but I think I'll build up my portfolio a bit more before then.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

By Thor's Hammer!

Just a quick update, unwrapped both weapons and started texturing the hammer now. All seems to be going well so far, and I'm enjoying the texturing a lot more now that I have my new Intuos 5!

So here is the hammer so far:

The black pattern is going to be normal mapped on it, it's just there as a place holder. There still isn't a spec map on it either, plenty more to do before this is finished.

I'm going to be moving on to Loki's sceptre soon, so I have a good basic texture for them before working on the details and I will have plenty to get feedback off during the tutorials on Monday.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Beginning of the last year...

So, this is it... The last year, after this the big scary world.

Anyway, we've begun a few projects at uni so far, the first of which is the pre-production from the final major project. For this project everyone has 4 projects to complete, which we can split between any amount of collaborative or personal projects, as long as 2 of the projects are part of a collaboration. During this time I will be putting all 4 of my projects into the same collaborative project, which is the Fae game I briefly mentioned in the past. For this project we have 11 people, all of which are artists or animators, who are putting various amounts of their time into the project.

In short it will be a game demo created in the Unity game engine about a faerie player character who has to defend a you girl who has found herself trapped in the Fae realm. She will face many dangers while in this unknown environment and you will have to use your abilities to defend her. The player starts off in a forest environment where they will be attacked by tree like creatures and small wyverns and will eventually end up in an icy environment plagued by centaurs.

For the project I have been tasked with creating the player character and the centaur enemy as well as various props mostly centred around the forest environment. The final part of my project will be using the unity game engine, as I did with the UDK game last year. This year however we have a much larger group with more people working within the game engine, so we will hopefully be able to achieve much more and get it looking closer to a stand alone game rather than the mod of last year.

So enough talking, lets have a look at the designs I have so far...

First up, here are some early designs of the player character, it has a forest theme to it so I was thinking of the bulk of the body being made of rocks, with vines and branches reaching between them holding together:

This is also the most finalized idea I have for the Ice Centaur so far:

The designs are still in early stages as we have only been working on the pre-prod for about a week. In this time I also managed to get camera to follow a moving player in unity by recycling code that people are sharing on the internet.

And that's project 1...

The pre production is done over a large period of time during which we have other projects to do. The first one of which we are half a week through. We have to model a character and 2 props in Maya, which is a new program for me to use and one that I really need to get a good grip on when looking for work. We are allowed to use existing characters and props but preferably ones that have not already been rendered in 3D. I chose to do Thor from the avengers movie as well as his hammer Mjolnir and Loki's Sceptre.

During the first week we need to have designed turnarounds and modelled the 2 props as a warm up for using Maya. I have already finished the majority of the modelling, with just a few tweaks needed here and there.

Here is Mjolnir, weighing in a 312 Polys:

And here is Loki's Sceptre at 494 Polys:

I'm pretty pleased with how these have turned out and how quickly I have managed to make them as I have had quite a bit of trouble adjusting from my 3Ds Max workflow, but it is starting to come together now and I should be ready for moving on to modelling Thor himself once I finish off his turnarounds.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Year 3

Well it's back to Uni next week, really looking forward to it although I am quite nervous, what with this year's grade is basically my final Uni pressure...

Honestly though I can't wait to get back into it, summer has been a nice break but I really should get back to work now

In the past few days I completed a tutorial from Digital Tutors which came free on the CD that came with my 3D World mag. It was quite an interesting tutorial which focuses on the basics on unwrapping and texturing, but it has made me rethink may workflow and I was pleased with what I it can't have been bad

This is the final image, the model was not done by me and was supplied with the tutorial, as were the photographic textures, the unwrapping and texturing (Diffuse and Ambient Occlusion) was done by me:

I think this turned out well for saying I consider myself to be a weak texture artist and I always rush through the unwrapping stage which makes texturing harder. So hopefully this will help me with my projects that start in under a week

Monday, 16 July 2012

More broken stone

So after completing the wall a few days back I was quite pleased with how it turned out and tried to do a similar thing with another model. I was going to sculpt the bricks for the end part of the wall I was making in conjunction with that one, but I'm not sure I could take carving away at more bricks yet...

Instead I made a few floor stones or stepping stones which were quick cuboids which I added some subdivisions to and then quickly moved them around to a more organic shape, I then took them into Mudbox and did the same as I did with the wall

Here are the results:

In Mudbox:

In 3ds Max as a normal map:

It 288 polys in the end for the low poly mesh with normal map on it, perhaps slightly high for what it is but it was just a quick exercise so isn't too bad. The things that look like folds near the corners of the stones is due to my bad unwrapping (surprise surprise) I could clean them up but for what its worth I'm just going to leave it

Theres no diffuse or spec on there, just the normal map

Thursday, 12 July 2012


Just a quick update from the wall from yesterdays blog post, set up the normal maps, but a quick diffuse and AO texture on it and sorted the spec out. Overall? I think it turned out quite well, take a look for yourself.

I think it looks best from front on, but then thats normal maps for you isn't it. It turned out to be 1532 polys, perhaps a little higher than I would have liked but it could be cut down if the brief required it, its quite flexable but it looks good at this level with a decently low poly count.

The top hasn't had any work done to it, and I would want to do something to that before I thought about using it in a game or submitting it for an assignment. I still have an end piece of wall which I was creating beside this that could be placed anywhere along the wall for more customisation during the map layout. And...come to think of it I saw this wall as being able to be placed side by side to make a longer wall, but I could have laid the stones out better and sorted the top out so it would connect better...isn't hindsight a wonderful thing...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Back to work!

So's been a while peeps...

And erm...I haven't done much work tbh...I found the free time thing quite addicting and have been doing nothing but seeing my girlfriend, friends, family and playing games...

But its been fun!

I started getting back to work over the last few days, I started making a fairy character in preparation for next year university project, but that hasn't been going oh so well... I think jumping straight back into a character was a mistake, should have gone for a prop or weapon first really. I'll keep working on the fairy and see if I can get it to look half decent, then I'll post it up on here.

Other than that I started modelling a wall yesterday, and it went quite well... then I put it into mudbox and it went great...then I kept mudboxing it and I don't think I looks so good now, probably overworked it slightly. Either way here is the mudbox mesh, I have tested putting it into max on a low poly model as a normal map and it works fairly well, but I think with a bit of tweaking I can get it to look better, if I works well I'll stick that up here when i get round to it to...

anyway here it is in max before sculpting:

And here it is in mudbox after sculpting:

I think the stones towards the top of the wall work better than the ones at the bottom as I think I overdid the damage a bit too much but I wanted the damage to be more severe towards the bottom of the wall, like it has been hit a clipped by things passing it. Hopefully that came across in the sculpt.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Summer time!


It's summer and I thought I'd give myself a few weeks off just to chill and get everything sorted at home before I got on with working...and it's been gooooood.

I haven't done any work as such since I have gotten back but I have been doing some research for our 3rd year project. I have been reading up on Celtic folklore, faeries and a like and there's some really interesting things out there. It's an overlooked area my most mainstream media but it has such an interestingly different look on fantasy rather than the same kind of mythologies used over and over such as the Greek gods.

I've also been looking at shaders in the Unity game engine and it's....erm...confusing... It's going to take a lot of work to get into shaders, which is something I would like to do, but I think I will still look at doing simple shaders in this 3rd year project as I think I can get some simple shaders working and it should help the project get an otherworldly feeling.

Lastly I've been looking at particle effects in Unity and it is surprisingly easy to create something quickly and seems to work quite smoothly in Unity, which is great. I made a 'wisp' which was one of the things I was researching for the folklore which is just simple round particles that vary from light to mid blue colours and move towards the centre of the particle system. They also stretch towards the middle as I set it to use a stretch renderer which I think makes it look more mystical.

On a more personal note... I've finished my favourite game ever yet again. Final Fantasy 9 is such a good game, the end of the game gets a bit weird and the ending isn't anything special, but overall the game is amazing and works so well even in this day and age. Some other games I've been playing recently include Bayonetta, another game I've played through many times, and Botanicula, and indie game by Amanita Design studios. Both games have very awesome art styles, I love the angle designs in Bayonetta and the unique take on the otherwise divine creatures. As for Botanicula I have loved Amanita's work since Machinarium and their games are so unique and interesting. I usual don't go for point and click adventures but this games always have me gripped and the sound effects...oh my god... I've haven't cried from laughter so much in ages.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

2nd Year grades

This post doesn't have any work unfortunately, been busy getting ready for the move back home and spending time with friends after an awesome year.

I got my grades back for the major project (the UDK game I have been waffling on about for the past few months) and it was good news! I managed to get score 72 giving me a 1st! Adding that to the 63 I got for pre production it averages out at about 69.75 by my calculations which will hopefully be rounded up to a 1st and then overall I should come out with about 65 or 66 which is a nice solid 2:1 which I can fall back on next year if anything goes wrong which is handy.

My critical studies and visual forms grades let me down, getting a 60 and a 57 respectively, but my minor project came out as a 65, so about my average and my major project and my advanced tech project came out as 70 and 71. So overall it worked out pretty well, just need to work on the side projects a bit more, especially seeing as the dissertation next year counts for a big chunk of the marks.

But overall it is looking good, the Major 3rd year project will be very similar to my 2nd year major project in that we will be making a game in a game engine (Unity this time) and I'll be producing art and working in the game engine. This year though we have a much bigger team and will be able to do much much more and I wont have to spread my work thinly to try and get everything done as I did this year, so I'll hopefully score even higher (fingers crossed).

I'm really going to try for a 1st next year, I know most people, if not all, will be thinking exactly the same but I have definitely proven I can do it when I really put my mind to it and as long as I pull up the marks in my dissertation I believe I can do it. If I can leave uni with a 1st and recommendations from tutors it would help so much trying to find a job in such a difficult market. And who knows, we might even get a Glammies nomination next year and catch the eyes of some industry people... but thats some time away yet.

So get ready 3rd year! I'm coming for you!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Let the free time commence!

so yeah...I'm posting a lot less now that university is done for the year, I've been out enjoying myself with friends a lot and generally having a great time

In between the fun I've been trying to get a bit of work done, I've mostly been working with Mudbox as it is an amazing program that can produce some amazing pieces of work...but I'm not very good at it. It may be my lack of traditional art skills or maybe I just need to get used to all of the tools and tricks of Mudbox... but at the end of the day a bit of practice will help.

So first I took the basic human male mesh that comes with Mudbox and then tried sculpting onto that adding muscle definition using the Classic Human Anatomy by Valerie Winslow. I had some problems with getting the general form right, starting with the base mesh I found it more difficult to move the mesh around to get the shape right, for example I struggled with the shoulders and arms as I wanted to add a bit more muscle to them areas.

Never the less this took about an evening to do, I was quite pleased with some bits, others not so much, but it was still fun to make...

Another thing I decided to work on was a gun, something common in games which I still haven't gotten round to making since I moved over to art this year. I started making it in 3DS Max using a side on view of a M4 Commando and then took it into Mudbox to sculpt on to. The modelling took about an evening and the sculpting took around 3 hours. I set myself a poly limit of 1000 and it ended up being 1044 polys, so close enough...

I'm quite pleased with how it turned out in the end and proved to be very useful for improving my hard surface sculpting which I didn't really know how to do. After playing around with different techniques for about an hour I managed to find a way which worked for me so I stuck with that for the remainder of the project.

I intend to keep working on fast projects like this so that I can improve my work speed as well as practice lots of different techniques while I have the free time. Very soon I'll be beginning work on the 3rd year major project to get a good head start on that, so I will have some more complete works then.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

and rest...

Finally... major project has been handed in. It's been fun and a brilliant learning experience that has set me up for next years project and I'm kinda sad it's over. But now I have this thing called free time, I don't know if you've heard of it or not, its quite enjoyable.

For now all I have to do is make an industry standard showreel by tomorrow evening in preparation for this years Glammies in case we get a nomination, not going to happen but making the show reel should be a decent experience so I'm not complaining.

During this free time I'm going to start working on my 3rd year project to get a nice big head start so there is less stress and more time for polish. We've already gathered our group together and we are having a meeting tomorrow after the showreel hand in to get everything sorted out and come up with our initial idea so we can dish out the work and get going. Also over summer I'll be working on a few of my personal projects just to improve my work and keep me busy. For one I would like to take someone's concept images and model a character based on them, this is a test as I feel many of my models and textures are lacking and this is probably due to my pre production, so I will test this theory and see what happens...

But enough about theoretical futures... here is the course showreel I handed in for my major project.

Credit also goes to Matt Watson and Hollie Sheppard who provided some of the Ogre animations and to Joe Hornsby who created Ogre animations as well as setting up all of the UDK stuff for characters and animations and helped to set up the weapons and game.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

FMX and Stuttgart

Hey everyone, it's been a week or so since my last post and that is because I have been in Germany for the FMX festival in Stuttgart. It was an amazing trip, a great laugh and really interesting, hopefully I will be able to make it again next year, money permitting, and I will be able to show my work off to industry professionals.

There was some really interesting talks I went to see, and many that I didn't get to make, the highlights included Building Creatures at Weta, the many John Carter talks about creatures and environments, Animating Reptiles presented by Stuart Sumida and the Mass Effect 3 Tech Art.

Manning the University of Glamorgan stall was also fun, I got to meet some really interesting people from many backgrounds and had a good few conversations with people, and while I wasn't talking to people I was either talking to other people manning the stall with me or spending it looking up information on unity for next years project.

But back to major project...I didn't get any work done over the FMX week as I didn't take it with me, I thought it would be too much hassle taking it there and back and I wasn't going to get much work done anyway, but that obviously adds much more stress on this final week, and I have plenty to do for the Friday submittal.

Since the last post I fixed the problem with the club mesh flashing, I only had to make a physics asset for some unknown reason but trying to find a solution to this took quite a while, but I made it and then wrote some script to reference the physics asset so that works now.

I have also been working on the textures for lots of the models after the 1st submittal feedback, I have pretty much started the club and crossbow textures from scratch, in some cases I think this worked but in other cases it has made it quite awkward to work such as changing the firing mechanism of the crossbow from wood to metal.

No pretty pictures this time I'm afraid, no time to work on that, but will be posting some of my turnarounds and screencaps on here as I create them for submittal

Saturday, 5 May 2012

2 weeks to go....

And only one week of work time left...

Scary thought...

So the deadline is now 13 days away, and about 6 of them days are taken up with my FMX trip to Germany, so realistically I have 7 days left of work left on the project that I feel like I've been working on for years

The project is nearing an end (both in terms of the deadline and the production process) and I feel we've come quite far in the last 13 weeks, but I don't want to mess it up at the end so working hats on for double crunch time

Since the last post I had my feedback for the 1st submittal and while most of my work was not viewable due to an error with the video (most likely my fault during the rendering) I was able to get some really good, in depth feedback on my work, a lot of which was done over Easter which none of the tutors have seen yet. So it was nice to get a fresh view from them and it has opened my eyes to the errors of my work.

The feedback mostly consisted of my models being modelled too perfectly, with too many straight lines and everything looking like it was made in a factory, which is a very good point now I look at it as these are items made by Mongolian warriors and Ogres...

To remedy this I have gone back and edited a few of the models by only shifting around points so that I dont destroy the UV unwraps. This limits me a bit to the changes I can make but it also saves a lot of time, and time is something we don't have much of at this stage.

Here is the reworked campfire and weapon pickup points:

I also edited the UV unwraps and re-textured and viewport canvased it to get rid of the huge horrible seams it had on it.

And I have made the post on which the banner stands less straight, although I could not do too much with this as there were only a few edge loops on that part of the model:

It's a small change but I think it helps.

Another recurring theme in my feedback was that the colours were very flat, they sometimes had lighter and darker areas but they were all the same hue. This is another thing that I never noticed until it was pointed out to me, then it became obvious. So that is the other major change I am going to make over the next couple of weeks.

I have also added some more war paint to the Ogre. I was going to leave the paint as it was so it was more subtle than overpowering but because we can no longer make the teams into Mongolians and Ogres (due to me and Joe not fully understanding how to achieve this while also getting it to load my scripts) we are using the war paint as a team signifier. So Ogres on the red team have red war paint, and Ogres on the blue team have blue war paint.

On the same note the green cloth of the male Mongolian I modelled has now be changed to red and blue respectively. It is not the ideal scenario but as a quick and easy solution at the end of the assignment I think it works quite well.

Overall thought the feedback was good, I was told I had everything finished more or less, so I had nothing too big to worry about from now on, I just need to edit textures and models to make them look better and score extra marks, so that was encouraging to hear. And in terms of scripting and the like, I think I only need to find a way to remove the link gun on spawn and I will have finished messing with it and will leave it so I don't monumentally break everything in the last few days

On a side note, I just compiled my digital sketchbook for my Visual Forms hand it which is not until the 8th (or something near there) but I have had to complete it early as I will be in Germany then. I would have handed it in but the tutors still haven't put up a digital dropbox for them so I have handed them to Jess and she has agreed to submit them for me :)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Deadline No.1 Complete

So the first submittal has been handed in, and we get feedback on that on Friday... Hopefully it will be positive. Feedback from tutors since I have got back seemed to have gone well, but when the submittal is mostly concentrated on individual models rather than the game as a whole I fear it may fall short...

Most of my models have been quick and not particularly detailed, with many textures still needing to be completed so they may look unimpressive on their own, I also paid more attention to how the models and textures look in UDK rather than 3DS Max so they look slightly different, shouldn't be a problem though

I haven't got much more in the way of major project done since the last post, mostly been working on Visual Studies which needs to be submitted before I head of to Germany on Monday

We managed to get the Ogres and Mongolians I made and the female Mongolian Joe made and set up into the game on my level and with my script for weapons and everything working, so we had a semi-completed game running in time for the first submittal and we managed to get some screen recordings done to be submitted so the tutors can see everything is working fine rather than just having a load of assets

I have also managed to locate the code that was overriding the material for the flag base. So that's all sorted. Nothing major but a nice little find for me to get the ball rolling on sorting out the flag base.

On a side note, I'm heading of to Germany on Monday to go to the FMX animation festival in Stuttgart. I cannot wait for this, it's going to be awesome! My first time in Germany and my first animation festival, and there is so much there to see. Glamorgan University also has a stall set up there advertising the course and the work of it's students, and I will have to man the stand from time to time. Although it means I may miss out of seeing a thing or two I don't mind as I think it will be interesting to meet new people and talk about the course.

This does mean I lose a week of major project...which is a pain...but I feel I'm in a comfortable position with it as I've gotten loads of work done in the past few weeks so I hopefully wont get hit to hard taking a week off.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Almost 1st submittal time...

So tomorrow I have the first submittal deadline at 6:30pm so I have been rendering turnarounds like nobody's business...there are a LOT of turnarounds...

But as for work it's gone quite well over the last few days, I got the crossbow to face the right way now. It wasn't to do with the coding which would explain why I couldn't see it, it was just one of the settings on the skeletal mesh editor that told it to rotate at 90 degrees for some reason.

I've also scaled the crossbow up and the club down so it is more realistic. I tried doing this before but couldn't get the sizes so change, apparently you have to rescale and then re-skin in Max before exporting again. So I just created a used a Scale variable in the code to save me time.

I got the arrow flying more realistically, although sometimes it would mess up... either travelling very slowly or seemingly not appearing. But I went back on to the net and found a different piece of code for programming projectile static meshes and customised that one to fit the crossbow and arrow. This has worked much better now and I even have it so that the arrows stick into walls and objects! It goes wrong when you kill a player as the arrow floats where it hit the player but there is a chance I wont be able to fix that in time as I wouldn't really know where to start.

Here's a video of the crossbow working correctly and the arrows sticking into the walls:

I've also set up some sound cues for the firing of the crossbow, the impact of the arrow and attacking with the club (although the club hit is really annoying and needs to be changed). I then linked them through the code so that they play at the times specified and hey presto!

I've also used kismet for the first time in this project to change the starting weapons of the characters...but this has been met with limited success so far. I tried to get it so that when a player spawns it removes the existing weapon (the link gun) and replaces it with a custom weapon (the club) but at the moment it removes everyone's weapons and only gives them a club every time a player spawns, which is annoying when your trying to use a crossbow. I'll have to look into this more but for now I'm making it so the player keeps the link gun but also gets the club, for testing it's fine as the AI prefer the club and it never runs out of ammo so they don't use the link gun, but that will need to change.

Here's a screenshot of the simple kismet I have set up:

Joe did find an error earlier with getting his code and my code to run in game, as his code is run before my code due to its placement in the config folder but it references my packages. We cannot load my packages first though as they all expand on the default UDK code.

Hopefully this wont be too much of a problem come the final submission but we may not have it working in time for the 1st submittal which is a shame, but for the first deadline I don't think we've done too badly.

Friday, 27 April 2012

3 day post streak!

This is now the 3rd day in a row where I believe I have enough work to warrant another blog post, which is great. Although I really don't think I'll be able to keep this up much longer, I'm starting to hit roadblocks now and works beginning to slow down.

Today I managed to update the flag texture somewhat. I added a bit of normal detail to the golden part as was my first intention, I did this by finding an image and then using it as a Mudbox stencil. I also wanted to add lots of cloth folds to the flag...but I didn't think it through when I upwrapped it and lay all of the flag pieces on top of each other meaning Mudbox cant render it out...ah well... lesson learned I guess.

Here's the flag now:

Its far from finished...but get the picture.

I now have the crossbow firing arrows semi-correctly. The arrow mesh now points in the direction you are looking, so the arrow no longer comes out sideways, and it now travels at a more normal speed. I also rescaled the arrow so that it is more realistic compared to the crossbow and players. The problem at the moment is it has a wierd bug while flying through the air and I'm not entirely sure what's causing it. Either the mesh emitter is firing more than one mesh and it's confusing it or something is going wrong while rendering it and it's not showing correctly. I'm going to try and take a closer look at this soon by getting the AI to fire some arrows and trying to observe it from a different angle.

I would post a screenshot of the arrow going wrong but I could be here all day trying to get the timing right.

Another thing I have managed to figure out is the weird shadows being cast on the main tent. This was, as suspected, a lightmass unwrap issue. I just had to go back in and take the lightmass unwrap to more extremes and it seemed to do the trick. It took some time testing it every time I tweaked it though, as I had to rebuild the lighting in UDK which currently takes around 5 minutes.

And last but certainly not least...I managed to playtest it today, with bots running round and managed to make it a proper capture the flag game that the bots join in and play, which is great. I would love to have seen the smile on my face for the first 10 minutes of playing it until I realised I should probably actually be working. I screen recorded a video of the bots all running round playing capture the flag, the quality may not be particularly good on here but I'll be doing a better render sometime before Monday's deadline anyway.

There are no Ogres or Mongolians running around at the moment as I haven't added Joe's script files or USk packages into my UDK setup yet, but that will be easy enough to sort out, I'm just waiting for them to be completed. The weapons are not running yet either although I have re-done the script for the club now and the AI can use the weapons. (They can use the crossbow anyway, I'm yet to test the club but it's using almost identical code) I decided to leave the weapons out as they are currently firing lasers to determine impact and the club is long ranged and problems like that so I thought for the viewing it would just be better to use the UT3 weapons.

Tomorrow I will probably use most of my time trying to get the weapon scripts working how I want them too, just so I have some kind of working weapons for Monday's first submittal, but if I find I'm getting nowhere with it I'll get on with some texturing as a lot fo that still needs completing.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


It was only yesterday that I last posted a blog entry, and already I feel I should make another. For saying I didn't start work today until around 7:30pm I got a fair amount done.

First things first, I already figured out what was wrong with the UDK viewports...well I didn't actually find out what was wrong, but I found a fix. There is a menu arrow in the corner of the viewport which you can click on, then go to show, then return it to defaults. That seemed to do the trick.

The flag is now mostly sorted out, I have the cloth physics working on it, although part of it is wrapping round so I will have to check the skinning of that later. It has very minimal textures but all of the coding for it is already complete. I have a red and a blue flag, both implemented into the game and you can pick one up and carry it to the other flag to score points, so I effectively have a capture the flag game using my own flags now.

There's not much here I can show you in pictures as its mostly code work. But I can show you a picture of the flag. The opacity map is currently in progress and that's why the flags are only partly ripped.

As a bonus to this I made a custom flag base, so that it didn't use the very sci-fi style UT3 one. It's nothing special but it's rather small in the game and wont attract too much attention so I would rather spend my time on other objects.

This is the base, modelled, unwrapped and with a base texture on it:

Then finally, as I have the script sorted for the base too I can get the flag to spawn above the base and can be picked up and used as normal. Here's a screeny:

Interestingly it tries to apply the original UT3 texture to my mesh when you actually run the game. There is probably a texture override in the code somewhere that I haven't found yet but I'm sure that wont be too much of a problem.

The flag also sits at a 90 degree angle to the base, which in itself isn't too much of a problem but when a player picks the flag up it partly hangs in front of their face, which is annoying to say the least... but that will be a simple changing of co-ordinates in the code...I'm hoping...

Either way I seem to be getting the hang of the code now, and I'm able to edit it fairly fast without too much trouble. I feel like I could do anything with it at the moment, but then I keep looking at the weapon scripts and thinking maybe not... but we shall see...

As a final bonus though...

0 Errors and 0 Warnings! I've not seen that since I first started up UDK and now I'm managing to keep it this way, which is awesome.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I'm losing track on what's new now...

Its been around a week and a half since my last post... how bad of me...

Anyway, a few of the days of were spent on getting my essay done for contextual studies, I wrote it on the difference between Western and Eastern game titles and why they differ. It was quite a fun essay to write and research but I had some trouble getting quotes for it...I was pretty pleased with what I managed in the end though...probably one of my better essays...hopefully...

As the title suggests, I'm flicking between bits of work all over the place at the moment, trying to get everything finished of at least in a workable state before the 1st submittal this Friday... I highly doubt everything will be working as I want by then, as the weapon script is proving more difficult than I anticipated...but hopefully by the time the final submittal roles round they should be working...

I'm saying hopefully a lot, that probably isn't good...

But on to work!

I've solved the wall lighting issue where a seam would appear about 3/4 of the way up the mesh and it didn't seem to show on any texture maps. It was just a smoothing groups issue...the amount of times that catches me out... but that's all sorted now, and I even went back and made a slight improvements to the wall while I was there.

I got around the issue of not being able to fire inside the cave as I was using 2 landscapes to make the holes for the cave, as you cant make holes in the landscape as its still in early development. To get around this I just made a quick mesh in 3DS Max and then stole the UDK texture I was using on the other cliffs. It's by no means ideal and it still needs work, but it proved to be a fairly simple, quick fix so I'm not complaining.

I have rescripted the crossbow weapon using the UT3 shock rifle files and adjusting the code. I'm not going to post it all here because it is really long and in 5 or so separate files. But basically I have the weapon in UDK and you can fire it. Although at the moment the crossbow is held sideways, it shoots giant arrows that don't face the right way and lasers shoot out of it and explode yeah, not finalised yet. But I know how to solve most of them problems, or can at least work it out, the only thing I'm unsure about it the mesh emitter which is used to fire the arrows...but if worst comes to worst I can just use a particle emitter and try to make it look like a fast arrow.

Here's the crossbow being held wrong:

Here's the arrow not flying correctly:

As an added weapon bonus, I have the club pickup working, kinda... It's rotating above the pickup point fine, but I think the scale is too big and the pivot is just too high so when he holds it you can only make out the bottom of the handle, but that should be an easy change now that I have it working in game.

I've also made a flag tonight, working from since I left Uni and went shopping, I have managed to model, unwrap and skin a flag that will replace the default UT3 flag. It is 1144 polys, so that works out at 2288 tris in UDK. I have only got base textures on the flag at the moment, but I have a red and blue flag made on the same texture map so the team colours will work. I have not yet set up the physics and cloth on the flag yet so it is only static, but it should flow like the banners do on my environment.

I've made the game a Capture the Flag game mode now...but that only involves changing the prefix to the map name, but I have the flag capture points in now, so it's a playable CTF game!

Hmm, other things I have done...I have tweaked little bits of textures here and there, adding a few spots of mud or rips to the materials. But nothing too major there. Oh, and I made some blocking volumes to keep players for getting out of the level, it is a bit of a cheap way of keeping them in, but it saves no end of time play testing all the ways someone could escape from the map and then tweaking the map again so I'm not complaining.

An interesting error I have come across, which is almost 100% a user error not a program error, is that I have seemed to hide all of the textures and materials as well as deleting and not showing new actor classes. I have tried flicking it though all the different viewing modes but cant seem to figure it out, which is interesting...Luckily it's not just my map, the base UDK ones are like it too and the textures load when you play it, so I hopefully haven't horribly destroyed it a few days before 1st submission...

Makes it look snowy which is cool, but if anyone knows what has caused this could you just drop me a message with a fix? I'm sure I'll figure it out soon enough but any time saved on this project is a massive help. Maybe I only need a computer restart or something...but hopefully it wont stick around and be a problem...

I just managed to get no errors or warnings while compiling the UDK that's a nice little personal victory for me

I was writing this blog as I was working on my other screen and I'm just gob smacked at how fast I'm working at the moment, I cant keep up blogging with everything that's getting done, and that's a really good feeling