Monday, 30 December 2013

nDo and dDo

Two pieces of software in particular, nDo and dDo by Quixel have been creating a buzz in the industry. With nDo you can create a normal map from a texture based on a huge array of pre-sets, but you can also draw in Photoshop and it will update the normal map, therefore speeding up the traditional workflow of generating normal maps, by creating high-res sculpts and baking the detail to a low-res mesh. So I wanted to get to grips with the software as an alternative to sculpting.

For my character texture I used the chipped metal pre-set to generate the normal map. Once generated it opens up a view-cube in Photoshop and lets you see the material with real time lighting and how that will affect your model. You can also go in and paint on the document and control the pre-sets to customise the normal map how you see fit.

Once you've created your normal map, with dDo open you can put the diffuse and normal map in their respective slots and then pick a pre-set based on the effect you want to create. For my own texture I used Edge Scratch with White Worn Weapon to create random scratches around the edges of my UV's, it also adds effects such as oxidisation and random dirt to the material.

As with nDo, once dDo has baked the textures it opens a view-cube in Photoshop giving you a preview of how light will affect the material in 3D, you can also load your own mesh into the preview window. As well a diffuse and normal map with the added scratches and dirt, it also bakes out a specular and height map with these additions. The document is still fully customisable and updates in real-time to show any changes. It really helped to make my first colour pass texture feel less flat and naturally aged.

After exporting all the maps generated by dDo I then applied them to my model in Max for such a low resolution model I was really happy with the results. Rather than looking clean and new my character was looking aged and worn just like how I wanted.

The Final diffuse texture still needs work but I'm still learning both nDo and dDo. It's certainly helped randomise the dirt and discolouration applied to the underlying texture but perhaps overdone it! I also need to add more scratches around the edges of where the metal is worn to create a more natural look.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Digital Skills: Game Character Unwrapping and Texturing

At this point I have a huge amount of work to do with three ongoing projects that I've set myself. Uwrapping, and texturing my character, environment, and buildings, but also creating the cinematic for the opening of my game.This module was designed to give us the chance to experiment with new digital techniques. One of the major areas that I felt I needed to learn was UVW mapping and unwrapping, with all the assets I had for my brief I certainly wouldn't be short of models to practice on.

Previously I'd just used multi-sub object materials with simple box/cylinder mapping to texture my models relying on materials rather than textures. I knew this wasn't the way game assets were textured and it was a big gap in my 3D skillset. I shouldn't have been worried about the process, once I learnt the tools in Max they made the process much easier.

To begin with I had to optimise and remodel my character base mesh, some of the armour pieces were separate elements from the main body of the mesh where they would be better extruded from the base mesh itself. This would keep the topology clean for animation, reduce the poly count of the model, and help simplify the UVWs, but keep the overall silhouette of the character.

Once I was happy with the optimising I applied a 'UVW unwrap' modifier, to the mesh in Max. With all the UV's selected I used the flatten tool in the UV editor with a polygon angle of 80 degrees to flatten the mesh onto the UV texture space. As you can see it does a good job flattening the mesh but it's certainly not readable for use by a texture artist.

From there it's a question of selecting each part of the mesh and then stitching them together, it's up to the modeller how the UV's are laid out but it's important to make the final UV map readable, for example the chest-plate is stitched back together to create all one element as it would be in the real world. This is also where texture space comes into play elements can be scaled so they are all the same size using the normalise button but then areas such as the face can be scaled up a little to allow for more detail, although for now my character is wearing a helmet so the I haven't given him a face. It's something I plan on doing especially if the game narrative requires him to take off the helmet at any stage. Once each element is stitched back together they are then relaxed to avoid stretching the texture.

From the UVW editor window you can render and export the UVW map, to an image file. This image file can then be opened and textured in Photoshop, and then reapplied as a material in Max. This means you can work on texturing the file in Photoshop and it's updated in real-time on the 3D mesh. I already knew what I wanted my character to look like from the work I had done on my character sheet, so I created what is known as the first colour pass, it helps to quickly see how your character will read with lighting applied in 3D.

I added additional details such as bolts using the bevel tool in Photoshop and added other details such as edge scratches on the metalwork, and seams and clasps on the leather elements.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Weekly Targets

  • Finish modelling and optimising my Knight character
  • Unwrap the mesh
  • Create a first colour pass for my Knight texture
  • Take some time off and enjoy Christmas :)

Friday, 20 December 2013

Cathedral Interior Level Concept

Whilst working on my exterior environment I quickly created a piece of concept art to show my design ideas for the cathedral interior. I already had a few assets that I had made as part of the shadow test I had done for my cinematic so I used them to expand upon my ideas.

Obviously the the scene would need texturing and lighting but it certainly portays the style and feel of how I want the set to look.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Blocking out my level

With the assets and terrain I created I started importing the buildings into UDK to rough out the early stages of my level design. The ability to bring the elements together so quickly, focus on building placement and then jump into your level and walk around, was a dream in UDK. Preview mode gives a whole new perspective on how your assets will look in-game and gives immediate feedback on whether the placement of your assets will work.

There's still a lot of work to do including, optimising, UV mapping, and texturing but as an initial start to my level design I'm pretty pleased with the results. I imported all the elements into a new scene in 3DS max to get a better render of the environment and experiment with a plane with a water material to create an ocean around my islands.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Weekly Targets

  • Import all my building models into UDK and place them on the terrain based on the sketches I've created.
  • Start blocking out the interior of the cathedral for my animatic

Friday, 13 December 2013

Illuminated Knight Building Assets

In conjunction with making the terrain of my level and based on my concept imagery  I started sketching and blocking up simple building assets. At this point I wanted to keep things as simple as possible as it was just the layout stage for my level, but also keeping polygon budget and UV unwrapping in mind (I knew there was going to be a lot of unwrapping!).

The first few buildings were designed with the starting fishing port/village area in mind. They are very simple but should be easy to unwrap and texture with a low poly count. Once textured I'll distort and warp the geometry to give a more aged look to the assets as you can see in the sketches. Doing it this way means the texture will warp with the geometry as it deforms.

As the player winds through the streets the buildings become more sturdy and opulent to show the wealth and status of the citizens in the world. This medium townhouse asset acts as a halfway gap between the poorer, port buildings and the large townhouses that ring the market plaza.

The large town house will be packed closely to create the narrow shady streets that branch off the main square. I followed my reference material closely so the upper floors over-shadow the street below. Levels can be broken down in a modular fashion to create new buildings of various heights.

A medieval environment/game wouldn't be complete without a traditional tavern. It could act as a quest hub or a place to team up with fellow adventurers. I spent so much time inking up my initial building sketches however that I didn't have time to build this asset. I have made a few smaller props such as a well and outhouse but for now the assets I've created should be sufficient to block out the level.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Snowdrop Next-Gen Engine

At Games Horizon earlier this year head of Massive Entertainment, David Polfeldt was tight lipped about their upcoming games, however he did say that 2014 was going to be a year to be excited about in the games industry. After seeing this video demonstrating the engine for their upcoming game, 'The Division' we can now share some of their excitement.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Weekly Targets

  • Draw simple building assets based on my environment research
  • Ink up my sketches using Mischief
  • Start blocking out the buildings in Max

Monday, 9 December 2013

Creating Landscapes in UDK

This would be one of the first levels I've ever worked on using all my own assets in UDK. I needed to create the terrain of my level based on the top down concept map I'd made, so I decided to create it in UDK. To help me do this I followed a tutorial by Digital Tutors on creating maps for MMOs but adapted it to suit my purpose.

One technical issue that must be adhered to, whilst starting a landscape in UDK, are the map sizes that UDK uses. This handy table helps insure the map you create conforms to those constraints.

Whilst in UDK with the landscape edit tool enabled and the desired map size created as a plane in the viewport, you can use a tablet to paint the landscape. Building up forms with the additive brush and the clay tool enabled, it's very quick to sketch out mountains and plains. You can flatten, and smooth areas where required with the respective brushes, and to finish chisel ravines and erosion into the landscape with the erosion tools.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Illuminated Knight Turnaround Sheet

A lot of work went into the creation of my character turnarond sheet. It was also a great exercise to practice my Photoshop skills. I used the same technique we were taught last year with my Kung-Fu Druid character, starting with the highlights and shadows and then overlaying textures over them to give a 3D look to the illustration.

I paid particular attention to the layout of the finished piece, setting up guides in Photoshop to act as 'safe frames' on the canvas and make sure all the elements of the image have the correct placement for print or screen.

I'm pleased with the final piece, it was good to practice my illustration and 2D skills, but I doubt as much work would go into a character sheet that was being used internally in a studio where the image would be used to help the 3D artist. To improve the image further I'd need to work on the shading a little more, and 'weather' the character's armour to give it a more 'lived in' look. It will certainly help when it comes to the texture and colour choice of my character when texturing it in 3D.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Illuminated Knight Environment Concept

Creating game environments is a very similar process to that of character design, in fact during development there will be a lot of back and forth as each inform the other during the course of a games development. Of course all of a game's assets are derived from the initial game concept to create a strong sense of unity between the characters and the environments they inhabit. As with characters, the shapes within the environment have a huge influence on how the designer wants to make the player feel. The relationship between the character and environment may change over the course of a game to create different emotions and enhance the narrative.

 As I did with my character design, my environment design started with a lot of research and reference material. Then I created a mood board using the images that best captured the themes and details I wanted to convey.

Based on my initial storyboard I knew the first level was going to be the games' main hub. The player would be washed up or dropped off at a medieval fishing port, the path would wind around the city to a market plaza where the player would get quests and equipment but also to be introduced to the games mechanics. In keeping with the 'Stained Glass' environment I wanted the mechanics and game designs to be based around the properties of glass, such as using sand and fire to make/destroy glass, and use glass to reflect light or change colours as puzzle elements in the level.

However the main focus of the environment would be an enormous cathedral that would dominate the landscape. Initially offlimits to the player, once the player has learnt the basics in town, a final puzzle challenge would open the doors. From then on the majority of the game would take place inside the cathedral's many levels.

 To help realise my ideas i quickly sketched a top down map of my environment. Multiple pathways add interest and exploration to the level but is also in keeping with the tightly packed medieval street design I wanted to convey. In conjunction with this I created an asset list of the props and buildings I would need to dress the level, it's pretty daunting!


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Weekly Targets

  • Start creating a mood board for my environment concept
  • Draw a plan view of my basic level design
  • Find out how to create terrain in UDK
  • Shade and colour my character profiles
  • Create a turnaround sheet that fits with the themes of my character design