Saturday, 1 June 2013

FMP 32 - Final Conclusion (and more shots)

Looking back at the four months I had overall to do this project, I feel I have made a positive personal progress with my general production of work within deadlines. With previous projects I always got started positively then half way in between, slow down then put it off till I began to panic at the last minute and either not have completed it or the quality is not an example of what I have learnt. It happens to a lot of people but my reason is a struggle of where to start and all I do is spend time thinking about it. I think this final project has given more than enough time for me to get my head together, get my ideas together and have a finished product and I’m glad I managed to do that. Everyone's finished project will vary in size and quality depending on experience, knowledge, time given and motivation.

My brief was to achieve a natural, realistic foresty environment that displayed life, mood and atmosphere and a mix of rustic and clinically clean objects. I wanted it to be current gen Xbox 360 / PS3 / Wii U. That means hdr and bloom lighting, bump and specular maps, many assets on screen with highish tri limits but not stupidly high depending on object. Looking at my finished product, I am actually confident to an extent in saying I have achieved most of this. Then again, me saying 'most', the only thing I think I wanted to add more of in general was more assets with which would lead showing off a wider range of textures and baking more lighting and good shadow effect. The area I am talking about is the house section at the end.

I really could have added more around the windy turbine spot as planned, such as a fishing tackle box and a couple of fishing rods reaching into the lake. To add to that, a couple of fish varieties in the water would have been great. With the house itself, I think the cleanliness and foundations and room sizes are bang on what I wanted to achieve however, I could have broken up the upstairs a bit into two rooms maybe and added simple clean, geometric assets to indicate a bedroom and a bathroom so bath, shower, sink, bed, cupboard. Leaving it open plan though does leave a nice view when you climb the stairs, turn round and walk to the balcony. To break up the clean white spots, I could have added more to the outside or inside walls like that dear head I shown previous gathered reference, photo frames or weapons on display.

The forest, even though it looks busy with the three types of trees and two types grass and bushes all varying in size, adding a few non repeated and more interesting assets could have been made to break up repetitiveness if somebody wanted to search the forest. I could have made a small hut or a couple of gravestones visible from the plank path, inviting players to find a way into the forest and explore a bit.

I planned to make more weapons than just a simple axe and I wanted to fill up the shack more with interesting assets like rough or burnt paper on the walls, a few objects sitting on the table like a lamp or a carving knife. I learnt how to vertex paint in UDK also while finishing my rooftop project and, even though I dirtied up my "ikea bought" plank path, a few noticeably large patches of green moss would have blended nicely the make a more dirty swamp. A couple unusual swamp plants sticking out the water would have been a bonus alongside a murkier, less see through water pathway.

That’s enough about what could have been anyway as what I have achieved is more than I thought I could achieve. A warm atmosphere with a vibrant glowing sun, strategically shining through lightly moving leaves. Moving grass and bushes, firefly swarms during what looks like mating season around the open lake and a realistic flashy fireplace. A pathway broken up on your way to the house, forcing you through swimmable glittery water and candles that give off a bright flashy effect. I achieved bright glowing lights by adding a small bloom scale the level so that when the lights I set up shine on my emissive materials, they shine brighter than normal materials. This affected the fireflies too as they are made with emissive too. The house is clinical and clean which is what I wanted and makes a difference to the average run down, dirty, broken house everyone would expect in nearly all computer games. I indicated that the house is for sale too so it gives the idea, it might have just been built recently and is open plan for somebody to build it up more and make their own changes and give that homely touch it doesn’t yet have.

I reused a heck of a lot of the same wood texture but edited and painted a lot of variation around it to get different effects. I am comfortable with painting on grime or scratches, bright specular and effective normals using Photoshop and xnormal. I didn’t have access to crazybump at home and I found xnormal a lot better and easier for me to use, especially since it's free and I wanted quick results. Concept wise, I mainly went with a lot of what I found and after drawing out my plan, I saw in my head how I wanted it to go. Because my experience with digitally painting good looking scenes is still not very good, I thought, if I spent time trying to learn effective techniques and constantly start painting a bunch of concepts, I would waste a lot of time and become indecisive of the results. Watching and following tutorials is great but everybody’s technique is different and they all use their own set of favourite Photoshop brushes. I found some brushes I was comfortable with and stuck to them.

Unwrapping and light mapping was not a problem for me at all and i found new techniques especially with the more difficult curved objects. I would just cut some the edge verts into seams up to a sensible spot, use pelt map to stretch it really wide. Then to finish i would relax all polygons by face angles and most of the time they shape perfectly and evenly for neat looking textures. Sometimes aligning the uvs along 1 horizontal or vertical line (theres a button for in in the uv editor somewhere) then relaxing face angles also makes the uvs set out even neater.

I didnt really limit myself with tris or textures but i didnt go crazy and turbosmooth anything, except i was tempted to turbosmooth my dead tree asset at one point but i didn't. Most my relevant textures were 1024x1024 to make them more crisp in general. Some dead simple or tiled textures were 256 or 512. My package never exceeded the recommended UDK package size which is around 400mb. The sound only exceeded (one file being around 64mb) it which is why i put them in a separate package, also because the sounds are not mine, i found it better to keep them separate.

UDK obviously came with its faults along the way. Mainly the trouble I had with setting up my trees in the terrain editor affecting the lighting and the dynamic shadow issue leading to pretty annoying lag. Also, light mapping was a long and annoying process to get right, a problem I wouldn't have had if I used cryengine. Some of my plank posts were not lighting properly and as much as I would try to increase the lightmap resolution of some of the larger objects where shadowing was important, such as the house, it would only bake weirder. That was the only issue I had which was out of my control.

I hoped everything I created and set up makes sense. For once I completed a project on time and I am rather pleased with it. I can safely say my project was not a complete success, but a rather large visual and personal success and a great learning experience for future personal projects.

FMP 31 - My Fly Through Render

As required for hand in, i have recorded a kismet operated fly through of my level. Kismet allows smooth movements when setting up the keyframes. I takes a while to get through the whole level, about over 2 minutes. It does not include exploring the forest as a lot is repeated anyway but you can still identify all my named assets and so on. I will embed the full HD fly through on this post when it has uploaded to YouTube fully (it's taking a long time because the file size is massive). I recorded with Fraps after pressing play level as I set the fly through cut scene to play at the very beginning. You can then explore the environment after that. I may just make another video of me randomly walking through the level after everything is complete.

FMP 30 - Project Complete (chosen degree show shots)

This project is finally complete and i will not do anymore to it. My final conclusion will be posted soon explaining my overall feelings of the processes i took to get to this stage. Below are the 5 main screenshots i took and chose to go on my degree show poster. Hopefully these show the best of my level. I had to bump the brightness of all of them up by 50 otherwise it would have printed way to dark. To take the screenshots through UDK, you press tab while playing the level, then type in 'tiledshot' then a space then a number to say how many times you want to expand the original picture size by. 'tiledshot 4' is about the right size to get a big resolution for when it needs printing.

FMP 29 - Clean up Process and Organisation

Really i don't think i had much of a needed clean up period as i like to pay attention to detail, and if a problem came up, i would try to fix it there and then. Most of my fixing up was just adding more of the forest assets in sparse areas, removing a few trees to get sunlight to shine on the right parts. Since i manually placed in the repeated forest assets, i had to make sure that most of them weren't sticking out the ground and they were not all facing the same way or that too many were the same size.

Lightmapping was a pain, especially if i wanted add extra parts to one asset which i did do, meaning readjusting the lightmap channel and giving parts less space. So mainly my clean up and checking issues were UDK common problems. Otherwise my package was organised properly and reimporting textures or assets then rebuilding lighting was a doddle. Build time on my computer at home for my finished level is around just over 30 minutes while building in the university labs was less than 20 minutes.

As shown below, my two packages are organised well. It makes finding and adjusting things really easy.

FMP 28 - Adding Sound

For sound effects, i carefully gathered what i thought should be the right sounds for my level. Sounds i mainly wanted were:
  • A constant background ambient and bird sounds
  • A gentle fire sound
  • A harsh blowing wind sound from the turbines
  • A gentle watery flowing sound near the house
I gathered the sound effects from a website called containing a large database of users uploaded sound effects who place them under a creative commons licence. I found the sounds i wanted and checked to see if the users allowed them to be used in any way and commercially by others.

Adding sounds was easier than i thought, just by placing the sound actor into the level and importing the wav sound files and attaching them to it. I could change the radius of how far you are from hearing the sound from vague to getting close meaning it would be louder. Any sounds i gathered that were not wav file types could easily be changed online by uploading the sound and re downloading it as the desired wav.

For the background ambient sounds i had to create a sound cue, add the wav file and make it loop, then in kismet, add the sound cue and make it play upon level start.

Because the sound files were rather large and exceeded UDK's recommended package limit, i made a separate package that now needs loading up with my main one if you want to play the sound.

FMP 27 - Quick Water Update

I followed a tutorial online to make my water for the environment, however i wasn't fully happy with it as it was too see through. If i want a swamp, the water should be murky. I did want it to be slightly see through but not fully clear. Looking back at the material in the editor, i saw that i wasnt using specular, even though the water had a shinyness to it. I thought of adding the same texture coordinates, panning and bump offset nodes to the reflective material then connecting it to the specular to see what would happen. Success! It seemed to have added an extra shiny and slightly boggy coloured layer to the water which you can see in the light. I also think it breaks up the repetitive boring clear previous water that had no other visual depth.

FMP 26 - Quick Boat Asset

FMP 25 - Furniture for the House

The way i built the furniture was in the same Max file as the house. I left it as a separate object so i could use more space for light mapping. So i set up the assets in thier rooms ready so that when i import them, i can just fit them into place, saving some extra time. Because of the fact that they are extremely simple, one colour assets, that is the reason why i kept them together. Like the house, i unwrapped them separately and converted it to a multi sub object and added the shiny black, pale white, shiny grey and pale grey colours to the right objects.

Due to the time i gave myself i couldn't carry on with making more furniture. I really could have added more items to the house since they are pretty simple and geometric but it was coming close to the end of the last week and i needed to clean up and start taking screenshots and the fy through for final hand in. I left upstairs open plan, so the lights and balcony and plug sockets are still there but the space is empty and bright. From what you can see, i made a dining table and chairs, a central fireplace, a table in the coridoor with a vase on top, a small kitchen sink with some wall cupboards to go with it and a wall mounted tv.

I would have liked it filled more such as a picture frame, a carpet, sofa and chair, fridge, cooker, wall mounted weapons, bathroom shower, sink, toilet, bed, bedroom storage. See i could go on and could have gone crazy with things to fil into the house but by the end, i didnt give myself enough time.

FMP 24 - Tree Problems and Update

I originally attached my trees to my terrain editor which allowed easy distribution and dynamic live shadows. The problem with this was that i wanted lots of trees for my forest and it created problematic laggy frame rate issues when playing from the beginning where you see most of the trees in the distance. The shadows from the leaves were brilliant but another problem that came up was that the trees were not affected by global illumination. So where the sun was shining, you could see the tree texture but when you looked behind it, it became pitch black. That isn't true to real life especially when my scene isn't night time but quite bright and warm. Light should be bouncing and creating a darker shade to the non lit side of the trees.

The only way i could do that was to take the trees off the terrain editor and place them all in manually which seemed to do the trick. It was major time consuming ball-ache but it made the scene look much better and more natural with better lighting. The shadows became still but it removed the lag. For this busy scene its best not to have the dynamic live shadows. I quickly placed trees into the level by selecting the asset in the package,  holding alt and S on the keyboard then left clicking into the area in editor to place it down nicely. I still had to manually re adjust the the rotation, scale and tilt of each tree which took time but it was all worth it in the end for the final product.

Since the last trees, i added more leaves and stretched them out and down a bit to get more bend. After reimporting the ASE file, the whole scene transformed and become more drastically filled, and less sparse. That was all it needed to now look like a deeper more immersive and slightly claustrophobic and mysterious forest. Compare it to one of my older posts where the tree leaves were more empty and very plain and straight and you will notice the difference.

FMP 23 - Open Plan House For Sale

I added this one object the the beginning of the level to back up the empty and clinical brand new effect of the house. It shows it is for sale and open plan. I placed another sign face down in the main lake as it looks like a fresh asset in a different state such as that. The wood is repeated but i drew lines the match the geometry and made a new specular the make the painted message shinier.

FMP 22 - Dead Trees

This is a separate made tree to my main repeated tree and i placed less around the scene to break up the repetitiveness a bit. The tree texture was just darkened and slightly dirtied to show the tree isn't as fresh as the ones that are alive. I made this with more branches too because i didn't wat to add any leaves onto it. I made a concentrated area around the main lake where the land is less raised as if to say the damp muddy watery section has slowly killed the trees. Kinda looks a bit creepier too.

FMP 21 - Changing the Plank Path

I easily changed the plank UV direction from vertical to horizontal to look less stretched and more detailed. Besides, you would need to carve some pretty long planks to make the long ziggy zaggy pathway to the house eheh.

I broke one section down into the water a bit near the beginning to force the player to swim to the other side and to take the long boring wonder through the path away a bit.

I added walls to the second plank path asset, so to avoid falling while zigzagging through to section 2. It's just there for extra effect to build up to the house scene anyway and easy to add parts like this if im using the same texture.

I added 2 slopes to the section 2 plank path too, just in case you fell into the water and needed to get back up.

FMP 20 - Making the House

Here is some reference for he sort of futuristic open eco bright, neutral, white natural kind of houses i wanted to go for. In 3DS Max i started to piece together a few ideas i had and went with what you see further down below.

I used simple foundations similare to those as seen in my gathered reference to build my desired house. I made a funky roof, a white plank edge, large open windows, showing the inside of the house and letting loads of natural light in. Pillars were made to hold the house up in the water and around the house to show it is being held up well. Upstairs has an outside balcony. The outside roofs have circular lights with udk spotlights shining downwards while the inside lights are long bright rectangles with udk pointlights. Rooms are an open plan upstairs, a large downstairs lounge where the stairs openly lead you upstairs. There is a long corridoor from the entrance that takes you to the lounge and the long backroom which will be the kitchen. Simple furniture will be added later and the water wheel will be added to the sides and back of the house.

I made the windows a separate asset and slotted them in and gave it a simple udk transparent material.

I made the house a multi sub object and gave it mainly plain and neutral colours. Thay are; shiny black for the foundations and guards, white for the ceiling, floor and some walls, a cracked white for the back walls, a yellow emissive for the outside and inside lights and the white brushed wood for the outside floor balcony.

In case anybody wonders, i wanted the plain, simple, geometric look as seen in my found reference pictures. I wanted it to be a clean and original contrast to blend into the warm deep foresty main environment.

FMP 19 - Tree Stumps

I built a tree trunk from scratch to add to the tree and bush varations in the forest. I think it makes total sense to have lots of these lying around because of the amount of wooden planks it must have taken to build the plank path and the shack and the barrels and so on. I placed them in the editor manually.

FMP 18 - Forest Bushes / Ferns

I made texture variations for my bushes. I painted the fern bushes myself and then i basically used the tree leaves, shaped them into the UV layout of the bush and painted over a different colour of yellows and reds to make it different to the trees and to give the forest scene some more colour to go with the warm orangey sunlight.

I added the same movement calculations in the material editor and, turn them into material instance constants to get them reacting to the wind the same as the tree leaves and the grass.

FMP 17 - The Post Lanterns

I strategically placed these within the path posts, one in one line then a space then another in the next line but on the other side. It worked well i think. The candle tip uses an emissive material meaning, because i have bloom lighting in the world properties, when you walk past the candle light and because i placed a pointlight above it, it looks like it is glittering and glowing without needing to change the material in the editor.

FMP 16 - The Path Posts / Axe

These are the posts used to hold up the plank path and the axe is just a simple weapon used and barely repeated to break up the assets repeating too much.