Thursday, 14 March 2013

Post presentation - List of things to do

Everything updated up to now was done before my presentation on the 8th March and in it, i made a list of thing i have done and things i need to do so i will add them here as a reminder as they are quite important.

Things done so far:
UDK - Created planned structured terrain with textures and assets attached.
Made swimmable textured water.
Few essential assets - pathway, trees, etc.
Added sunlight with light shafts and fog to set scene and colours.

Things to do next:
Complete unfinished textures for current assets.
Make skydome then the sun disc for my main directional sunlight.
Make leaves on the first tree variation to populate forest more.
Complete plans for house exterior and begin to build.
Begin to make important assets for section 2
Section 1 - Make a small shelter for the first checkpoint along the plank path.
Clean up and finalise terrain shape/accessibility.
A few more tree/bush/grass variations.
Make swamp plant assets for section 1 pathway.

FMP 8 - Terrain update and adding small lights

So the trees are a bit more varied now. I added the muddy texture all around the edges and underneath the water and made a pathway with it before you get to the plank path. A couple more minor assets were added and lights for the lamps across the path were made to add a slight difference. I raised the land more around the edges so it is hard to go far enough to fall off the edges or look beyond if i was to open the fields out. A lot still needs to be done.

Extra assets added so far since last update:
Post lamp
Wooden plank path - section 2

FMP 7 - Grass update

So i painted my own grass texture combining some downloaded grass silhouette brushes for photoshop then painted more colour and detail into the strands to make them my own.

I followed a rather detailed complex tutorial on how to set up wind movement for the grass. It also has custom lighting and specular built in. The way it was built is that when i add the wind setting and values, this material equation will tell the wind how to affect the vertex paint (or so it said).

When it was all set up, i created a material constant and the parameters within, allowed me to change wind speed and other settings. You add that to the grass static mesh and the then that should make the effects begin.

Adding a wind actor and changing the direction arrow allowed me to also change the direction the grass was blowing which was a bit of a nice bonus. You can see a difference in movement when you change direction but its only slight. You can also affect the speed to show how powerful the wind is blowing the grass.

I also did something new in 3ds Max which i have not done before. It was using the edit normals modifier to paint in values onto the grass mesh allowing me to control which part blows in the wind and which doesn't. I obviously don't want the grass attached to the floor to move so i learnt how to prevent this from happening while keeping the top able to flow freely.

To make the grass more breezy i changed the mesh from a single poly plane to a 2 poly plane which might have been risky since i wanted to use the grass to populate a lot of the terrain.

To add the grass mesh fast and randomly onto the terrain in UDK, i used foliage mode which allows me to change the size and density of the grass when placing all over (like deco layers). Its easy to add or clear up any areas later.

FMP 6 - Water update

I followed a simple tutorial on how to make a water material using one normal map i made it myself to look slightly wavey. Another texture was made to cause its own specular light reflections since the material is unlit. The normal map is duplicated and varied in movement and speed using panner and texture coordinates. I toned them down to make the water calmer but still have movement like there is a wind blowing. The only thing i didn't learn was to make the water not fully transparent. If i want swampy water, it should be a bit more murky and hard to see through with more transparency close to edges of land. I know this can be achieved but i will look into it later because i don't want to spend too much time on this and i am still pleased with my current outcome.

Using the fluid surface actor layer and building a water volume and a post process volume underneath with the builder brush, i was quickly able to make and adjust swimmable water with the slow movement when you jump in and move about to the typical blurry effect when you are submerged. They can all be tweaked later but i have rather realistic settings already in place.

Since it is a rather big area of water throughout the level, i made the volume cubes quite big but i dont think it matters greatly as the lowest ground is the water and everywhere else is higher, just so you dont start swimming randomly about in weird spots.

FMP 5 - Adding last plank path and blocking in house

This second plank path is for section 2. It uses the same texture as the first path but i can make it a separate texture and vary a few areas and marks to moss it up a bit since it sits not far above the water.

I blocked in a simple housey shape just so i could see it from a distance, get ideas of size and how light and shadow will affect it.

FMP 4 - Filling environment and testing light

By "filling environment" at this point, i only meant adding simple low poly trees to the terrain editor so i could get an idea of the random placement and how dense i should make the area look. All the trees are the same height in these pics but i adjusted them to be more varied using the min and max values within the deco layer settings. Leaves will be added later and should change the look of the scene entirely.

While working UDK i was messing with my dominant directional light, enabling light shafts so i can hopfully get good light coming through tree leaves. I also changed the colour of light shafts to be a warm glowy orange because when i eventually make my skydome and sun disc, i want the time of day to be when the sun begins to set. With this, i can display sunlight but also a mild darkness around the scene. This may change depending on outcome so i will see.

I added an exponential height fog just to cover the scene in a earthy colour toned surrounding until i make my skydome.

FMP 3 - Adding terrain textures

I made, edited and added a grass terrain texture for the whole of my terrain as the editor makes it easy to do this. With the terrain editor layer chart, you can add materials and common assets such as trees, rocks, grass, basically things you want repeated in the environment.

Obviously 1 texture on the whole terrain would be boring and with other games you see multiple textures blended everywhere. The editor makes this easy so i made a second texture and tested it. They blend very easily and very well and you can select and paint over the areas you want the terrain to change. The second wet muddy texture i created is for the edges and underneath the water making it look more varied and realistic. So far i have 2 textures for the terrain but i may add more especially for section two where the surrounding will be more raised and perhaps rocky.

The mud texture is not added at this stage because the water texture is not down and you cant see below the fluid surface actor plane, i just tested a small section and i am happy with the blending.

FMP 2 - Making and adding important assets.

I was still adjusting the terrain as i went along. Some assets at this stage are not textured but i just wanted to build, unwrap, and export them to block in the environment. Tree made was only simple and may be changed and placed differently in future.

Assets shown so far:
Wooden plank path
Path post
First tree variation
Wooden Barrel

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

FMP 1 - Building Terrain

I built a terrain with terrain editor and began to shape out the path shown in my plan. It needed to be the lowest ground so i could add a fluid surface actor and build water since it is covering quite a large amount of area. In the distance, section 2 is all the raised part as my path will have stairs towards the end to lead you to that section and land will be more raised and closed in with more editing. Terrain editor makes it quick easy to adjust and smooth out areas and the collision is already built in.

These are the main foundations down. They are edited later to fit.

I added the fluid surface actor (shown vaguely below) and water into my level pretty quickly so i could get it working properly and ready to texture because the water is an important part overall and constant throughout the level. I will show my water in detail in another post.

Speed paint over sketch

Just a quick paint over to give across some sort vision of my intended outcome of the pathway. Bare in mind it was a speed paint and im not the best at concepts, i just like to paint over sketches that i scan for quick results. I could have tried different colour and variations because my fog and sky have not yet been decided but i can always change them easily within photoshop and UDK to get my desired look. With the work i have already done i can paint over blockouts or screenshots in future if i want to change anything too.

Final Layout 1 Sketch + Change of Plans

So i just drew this up quickly to finalise the whole level structure, its a bit crappy but hey. I will actually make an updated one and edit it in photoshop if i make any changes or just to label and identify key areas of interest.

You begin at the bottom of the picture on or near the pathway and work your way through the turns. As discussed in my presentation, since the pathway is long, i want to add points of interest at each turn to give the environment more edge and reason such as different tree variations, unique plants, floaty effects and so on. The shaded area is the rest of the terrain that is a more raised ground and will contain the trees and grass and busy foliage. the whole section around the outside of the house is Section 2 which will be the more lived in area with more man made assets.

My change of plans are to cut out section 3 so to decrease the amount of work to complete the environment in general. Because i am going to make section 1 quite interesting and section 2 around the house i would rather make the inside of the house inaccessible but you will still be able to look inside of it through large windows. I can focus my details on other sections then, if i have time, perhaps i can open up the house to exploration and interest.

I think i have made the right choice for this project so i will undergo procedures with the best of my ability and try and learn more new UDK skills along the way.

Level is being built and foundations are set so more updates are on the way soon.

In-Game environment reference

I took these screenshots for my recent presentation on the 8th March to show similar outcomes my environment could look like. Mine will of course have distinct features but it is nice and interesting to compare other successful games to each other. The first 2 screens are Skyrim and the other 2 are Black Ops 2 screens. They are 2 totally different games with 2 different paces.

Skyrim pictured above is open world so you have vast calm landscapes showing variations in changing land from barren land to more busy foliage. For them to blend well and look good is important as you will be going over these lands again and again, backtracking or looking for secrets.

Black ops above, on the other hand provides a very populated and closed in land with a linear path to follow meaning less exploration. You could take your time to look at effects but if you (like most normal people) will be focusing on the mission you may not spend any more than a minute in that certain area. In that case you can add more effects and assets to make the area look good but you can also skimp on the LOD of some objects in the distance and reduce texture sizes and extras if they will be easily ignored. It also depends on what the engine can handle too of course.

Since my level has a single path (section 1) leading to a slightly open path leading to section 2 and 3 i could block off the surrounding terrain around the path or open it up to make it slightly explorable. To begin with i will make the path linear but if i feel comfortable and i have time i will try to open it up a bit.