Monday, 30 November 2015

Narrative Project: Sound Refinement

I had been meaning lately to get this out of the door to progress with other elements due to an approaching deadline. However so far I think there is a marked improvement. Some sounds could do with further improvement but the key ones such as the sound of the fish swimming and struggling in the water were the priority.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Narrative Project: Environemnt Refining and Mapping

   With some of the sound refinement completed I looked into tightening up the model of the ravine. Some final tweaks merely to make things a little easier come the later stages. This included adding more crags (it was suggested to me that given the harshness of rock and the concept art we might be able to use an unsmoothed model),

  I had thought about keeping the ravine floor smoothed. The material could have been sand that was blown over the ledges by the ocean current and settled on the floor, depositing itself unevenly down below. This could also act as  rooting material for some of the plants, as sand is easier to push roots into than rock.

   The lattice deformer tool was used to give the ravine floor a rise on the ends, while an accompanyinglattice near the surface was used to give the sense that the split was more extreme in terms of elevation nearer the centre. This will allow the connecting part of the floor to better sync with any ground plane extension we use

 I removed some of the geometry along the ledges as it was giving some slightly odd shapes in the shader engine that did not feel natural. While also tweaking some of the vertex positions to smooth transitions.

  Finally I created some workable UV maps for the various surfaces. Because of the sheer scale of the model I had to resort to cutting up the UV maps not just to fit them on the UV square but also to ease the rendering times as it will allow us to use smaller texture maps.

  Perhaps an alternative when it comes to rendering is to create two models. The seabed will be out of focus or distant so we may be able to get away with a small-ish texture map. But the ravine walls there could be two maps - high-resolution and low-resolution, each on their own separate model that we key to alternate depending on the camera distance. But this might involve more maps and more cutting up.

Ravine bed
left-hand wall

right-hand wall

Ledt-hand ravine floor

right-hand ravine floor

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Character Workshop

Today's workshop was unfortunately the final one for this term. So we signed off with a rather interesting scenario. We were given a brief that explains that we were working as content designers to make a re-imagining of a game based on classic 1940s and 1950s science fiction. We were put into groups of three and asked to make three environments and six characters. So most groups decided ot split the work into one environment and two characters per person.

  I agreed to design Kromar'zun and LX-ER, respectively the main enemy of the protagonist and the protagonist's trusty but snarky medical droid. The brief gave some advice on Kroma'zun's race; intelligent, good with augmentation and highly intellectual but emotionless. So I decided on basing his look around the sci-fi classic of a bigheaded wiry alien. This particular one had an affinity with genetic splicing so I had to find a way to fit that into his character. A bit of a morbid one but I had thought he could perform injections using needles on his fingertips. Pre-Trek science fiction had a thing with freaky use of genetics as DNA was only a few years from discovery.

  Two elements about LX-ER that I was given was that 1) he was a medical drone and 2) in the scenario the plan by the fictional game developers was for him to be voiced by Alan Rickman. So I looked into designing something that was snarky, grumpy but during the presentation I hadn't hit the mark with the sort of arrogance that you can get with Rickman's performances. LX-ER's design was affected by what came up several times in the presentation - sudden emails from the client asking for something to be changed. In LX-ER's case however I had the foresight to imagine a drone as something small and floaty, which the surprise email said 'flying robots are in, let's make him like that.' So I developed the flying drone idea further.

  The environment I agreed to do was Kromar'zun's splicing chamber where he conducts all his genetic experiments. And here would be the big final boss - a Splicer Leviathan that thep rotagonist would have to beat ot reach Kromar'zun in an overhanging command pod.

  During development of the splicing chamber, a surprise email from the fictional company asked for designs for the Leviathan itself, which according ot the brief was a squid-like abomination. So that gave me something interesting to do. It was fun to look into a squid monster and avoid making Cthulhu in the process. He bears some resemblance (mostly because both squids and octopi and cephalopods but also the general theme of portraying Cthulhu is to have an octopus-head and a massive humanoid body) but, especially with the mouth, I think the leviathan might be distinct enough to make you think of Cthulhu but only loosely resemble him,.as the similarities were honestly unintentional.

Character Project: Refining the Sha

  I have investigated some tweaked versions of the Sha for the character project. I think giving him a shorter neck was a good move as it does not feel as disconnected from the character's body. I also did some testing with Hokusai-stylesmoke doe the lower body. Because of the upper body, I imagined the lower body would have a similar flow to the spine, meaning the line of action can extend though the lower body.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Narrative Project: Developing the Ravine Part 4

  I decided to make progress with the ravine, adding some ruggedness to the ledges. Some crags and points have been added but from now on it is going to be more tweaking. Textures such as a bump map will definitely useful from here on out to give the ravine a rockiness to it. The next stage so far will be to do something about how level the ravine floor is. I might taper it at the ends; have the floor rise upwards to indicate a point of origin.

  There could be some more pushing back of the upper ledges, in theory at least. But the main thing that I feel now with the model is I can move on to rocky outcroppings because with the time at hand, I can't risk spending too much time on the tiny details as there is still plenty to do. Plants and rocks are needed for one.

  Perhaps the area around the ravine is also extended. To get the effect these were displaced chunks of rock, instead of relying on further tweaking the angle of the ledges, I also changed the incline of the ground around the ledges to make a more defined incline.

  In terms of scale there is still plenty of space, although most of the action might be away from the ends of the ravine. But this is yet to take into account how much space will be used by rocky outcroppings. Which will be the next phase after adjusting the height of the ravine at each end.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Character project: Developing Card Designs

  Along with a workshop on interface design I gained the chance yesterday to develop more on the aesthetic of the Character project. I mainly looked at how to make the cards would work and stand out. At present I believe I have my rules established: Cards can either be good fortune or bad fortune, will have a predetermined strength and can be visually identified based on their colour.

  I looked at elements that I could use within the cards and one pattern stuck to mind that I will need to look at further: A knotted disk. Something about this pattern is distinctly Chinese but I will definitely need to look at it in more detail to get a better idea of just how to design it as that is one of my struggling points at present. Rather than plus and minus icons drawn with a brush, there was the idea that instead of these (which could be placeholders) I look at graphics that would more accurately fit my theme. The use of the disk is useful because the current rules mean that the fortune cards can be no stronger than +4 or -4 and there are no "zero-strength fortune" cards, and these disks that I have in mind can be easily divided into four corners.

  I also took some time yesterday to experiment with Hokusai's style of smoke. Nothing major but it does have a much less 'permed' feel to it. It definitely looks like something strange now. Though I do feel more refinement is needed.

Character Workshop: Interfaces and Werewolves

  Yesterday was another character workshop that looked at interfaces for games. We looked at the various ways that computer games, card games and board games use interfaces to convey the required information in order for the player to get though the game effectively. The workshop task was to create a visual language for a card game based around a particular monster, and as can be seen below, for me that was werewolves.

  I discussed with Justin the idea that the focus could be on hunting. The various cards, traits and abilities within the game would be designed to have players stalking each other. Cards and actions could also have counters, so for instance if one player pulled a 'tracking' card that gave them clues to the location of the other player, their opponent could pull a card or trick that makes the moment a distraction, leading the first player away from the other rather than leading them forward.

  The final thing that was started before the end of this stage of the workshop was to consider a visual style to give an idea to the players an idea of what kind of atmosphere this game is set within and an idea of what environments they would be playing within.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Narrative Project: Ravine Development Part 3

  Some further work done on the ravine. As was suggested some further depth was added (and as it turns out we need the ravien floor) and the ravine mouth was openined up more. The next step will be to add some ledges and make the rock more jagged. But so far I think we're making steps in the right direction. I also give ends to the ravine as it would be surrounded by a seabed in the final production.

    The sphere represents our fish. As can be seen this ravine is pretty large, which should give us plenty of time for the fish to travel upwards. It was suggested that there could be a sharp turn to encourage the fish to swim up but that proved slightly difficult to insert without tearing the lower sections of the ravine which would make moving the camera more difficult as we would have less space to work with.

  Some defenition was added to the ridge to make the mouth look sharp. But further polygons will be needed to give the ledges a degree of jaggedness. Which should be easily doable.

  To add ease to contruction and animation I have divided the ravine into three sections that can be switched on and off in the layer view depending on on what angle we need to look at. One for the left-hand side, one for the right-hand side and one for the floor. I suppose it also makes seeing the floor a little easier in the wireframe view. In theory these can all be stitched together for the final model. But for east there could be be a construction layer set and a final polygon set with all the lines connected. Currently the join between the rock and the ground looks rather artificial when smoothed out due to the sharp line. Being presumably sand or part of the rock shelf, it looks too neat.

  Although thinking about it, the join could do with some unevenness to it anyway as it currently all joins on the same level which is unrealistic.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Narrative Project: Development of the Ravine

  Today I looked into some progress with the ravine, the main location for the events in the narrative animation. This went though a couple of iterations as it initially got very complex, so I looked into some advice into how I could simplify the design. For this I went largely back to basics with the shape. Speaking with a first-year the thought occurred of giving the ravine more space in the middle, in order to give the camera and the fish room to move about without an ever-present opening above.

  There is still a little more work to do with this. As I might give the ravine floor more depth and see what I can do with the ravine mouth. But the important part right now is the bowels of the ravine, as that will be where the second fish spends most of its time.

   The concept art I am working from included rocky outcrops, another thing that could be added to give us room to work. It would also give a platform for plant life as the thing about a ravine is it is a very steep drop to the bottom and there might be little place for plants to settle and grow. Developing this will be my next step. The other thought was closing off the ends, especially as that is what the ravine does on the surface, and right now it seems a little jarring that where the crack is closing, the tunnel is just as wide as it is in the middle.

  To get a sense of scale I brought in some of the blocked out plants of the last version of the model and set them somewhere. The fish will be smaller than these so the camera could find itself very close to the walls.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Character project: OGR Feedback Development

  I had a talk with Justin today over the direction of the character project and by the sounds of it, I was mostly going in the right direction. But there were a couple of pressing issues with what I had done so far. But as I see it nothing that I don't think could set me back too much. 

  The most pressing concern is the hero. While the man I had designed was distinctly Chinese, Justin didn't think he stood out very much. He could have been anyone with that hat and staff. We talked about the general issue that in my circumstance while it is relatively easy to create a villain that people can get their teeth into because I'm designing monsters. My current character falls into the pitfall that as a hero that will be one of a roster, is anyone going ot pick him out? I need a character that looks cool and draws people to want to use that guy in the game. Being distinct and appealing would encourage people to use him.

  So I looked at my outlines to see if there were any heroes that could draw the player in. Previous feedback indicated that a certain large guy with a sledgehammer could be an interesting character. So after the feedback session I decided to sketch some initial poses and ideas for this guy. Who unlike the other hero is big, powerful and a draw that he looks like he could cause a lot of damage. His hammer won't hurt Nian but as I have discussed in prior posts, its not just Nian this guy has dealt with in his life.

  Other feedback included the smoke effect I was drawing. It was admittedly getting a little tiring drawing the same curls over and over again so I was recommended the work of Katsushika Hokusai and primarily look at the way he drew smoke. I needed something that will look less like tentacles or a perm which I may have developed a habit of doing. It was also suggested that maybe the Sha's horns should be more angular as he's pretty angular already with lots of sharp lines over his body. There was also some suggestion of back adjustment.

  This morning I also decided to draw some other designs for cards. The idea of tokens went down well but I wanted to make the cards look less like Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh cards for the sake of being distinctive, but more practically I don't need to include lengthy game rules unique to that particular card. Which leaves more room for graphics.

Narrative Project: Blocking out the Ravine

  With roles organised the project goes ahead full steam. We have a project framework folder and my task so far is to create the environment we will use to stage our animation. We agreed that for the sake of design and continuity that we would build only one scene that we would use for the entire animation, so the action of both fish will be rendered an animated from one location. This might also make the use of render layers more important.

  This is only a blockout. Over the coming weeks my plan is to refine the shapes so that we can get a much more naturalistic appearance without the render preview turning the whole thing into mush. Vlad agreed to work on the orthographs so more detailed plants will come later. But for now the priority is the structure of the ravine itself.

  After an initial draft design I talked with the group on how the design could be improved and I agreed on a couple of key changes based on group feedback: The first is that the ravine needs to be deeper. This will give our fish more time to swim up to the mouth of the ravine form the bottom.

  The second is that the ravine could be wider so that it does not feel so claustrophobic and gives more freedom for the camera. Understandable but the need could be further investigated by using a  basic shape such as a sphere to get an idea of how big the fish will be in our scene.

The start is promising. The feedback on the arc was positive but perhaps the ravine could be a little more jagged at the mouth. This is a crack in the seabed, probably cut out with tectonic movement or ocean currents, so rough edges are to be expected.

  From a ground-level perspective yes, maybe the ravine could be a little deeper. Although a camera-eye view could be worth testing out to see if that does anything ot the feeling of claustrophobia. The fish might end up tiny anyway..