Thursday, 26 February 2015

Dailies #2

My daily sketches over the past month:

A general gathering of the portraits and people sketching done this month
Near the end of the month I decided to draw people without reference, to make sure I could still do it.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Week 21: Rabbits and Block Outs

For the most part this week has been spent working on my White Rabbit designs for Off The Map. Continuing from the favourite design from last week, developing it in terms of clothing and body shape to get a design that I could then take to the orthographic stage.

Design 6 was taken to the orthographic stage
However when producing the orthographic drawings,  I found that the design was very bland and I wasn't really feeling it. 

So I went into the values of my design and painted  a few iterations, trying the find the character through painting in some details. I began by focussing in on the face, as I felt I lost a lot of my original design in the orthographics. I wanted to keep the slightly tired look of the Rabbit and convey  character that at first glance gave off an "I don't have time for you or your nonsense." personality. something that I gathered from the original text with how the White Rabbit quickly left the scenes where Alice is messing around with her size, and the authoritative way in which he addressed her, when mistaking her for Mary Ann.

Eventually I found a face that I liked for the Rabbit, but then ran into the problem of the clothes being too simple, so I decided to go back and look at the  original illustrations and played with having the rabbit in its red queen outfit, as opposed to the waistcoat that he starts the story in. which helped inspire the later clothing iterations of the rabbit. 

Design 1, with aspects of design 5 was the favourite in my team
orthographic drawings based on the combined design
With That I began modelling a base mesh for this character, and promptly ran into another problem, his ears.
The big floppy ears of the rabbit was something that I loved in this design, but they will clip into his arms. Unless I can somehow set up free flowing physics within the ears they'll have to go. So it's time to back pedal a bit on this guys design, replacing the ears, probably the hat as well, and tweaking him a little bit.

Near the end of the week I dabbled in producing a block out scene for my water level, though I've found that I'm not great at it. I'm completely fine with the 2D designs but when it comes to engine, things get difficult. So it may be a case of passing this on to either Jake or Emily, the engine people of the team, or at least getting some help from them.
2D silhouettes design
The current, basic Ue4 block out

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Week 20- Rabbits and Silhouettes

This week was very much about finding our feet as a group, and trying to figure out where our game was going in terms of level design. Since we didn't have  concrete art direction we all set out to concept some level environments and look into overall style of our game. Most of this was done via photo-bashing, however I'm not great at that (luckily my team makes up for it) so I focused on  shapes and silhouettes, which helped add some depth to the levels.
These silhouettes provided enough information to start making levels out of, so I can put off photo-bashing for the time being
various combinations of the above shots
The second half of my week I dedicated to studying rabbits and putting out some potential designs for the White Rabbit character. It was very difficult for me to get anything decent for these, since I haven't had much practice with drawing animals, though I can't really fault the job since it lets me look at adorable rabbits all day. By the end of the week I selected these White Rabbits to present to my team:
Funnily (or frustratingly) enough at the end of the day the top right rabbit was chosen for further iterations, one of the first rabbits I drew. This design was chosen for his "speedy" look and unimpressed expression. Though I love how the bearded rabbits came out, they did not look quick enough to fit the part of Carroll's illusive rabbit.  I'll be exploring the White Rabbits design and look through out the coming weeks.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Week 19: Off the Map

Now that the Container City project has come to a close our final  project for second year has been briefed to us. We've been put into groups for the Off The Map competition run by Game City, in conjunction with the British library. The competition is centered around Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the book. The Off The Map competition accompanies the British Library’s forthcoming exhibition on Alice in Wonderland. Selections of maps, text, sounds and illustrations from the British Library are available to us for the competition to take inspiration from, or directly use as assets. Three themes have been chosen especially for the competition. Oxford- where Lewis Carroll lived and met his inspiration for the books, Alice Liddell. The Underground - where Alice travels through the rabbit hole, drinking potions and eating cakes that alter her size. The final theme The Gardens- is where Alice travels through to finally meet the famous Queen of Hearts at the end of the book.

For this project my group decided to focus on the Underground theme, and Alice's journey from reality, laying bored on a river bank with her sister, into the rabbit hole and Carroll's nonsense filled world.

This week was spent mainly on research, we all read the original manuscript Carroll wrote for Alice Liddell and decided to base the majority of our game on that. The bulk of our game will be  a 3D platformer, so a lot of time was spent just figuring out what game mechanics we would like to include in this project, and how to make them happen. This week was also filled with moodboards, trying to discover the look we wanted to have for this game. It's currently something we're struggling with so we'll see how things pan out for that later on. My personal tastes leans very much towards 2D stylized games and old school animation, with beautifully painted background and simple characters. Whilst being visually stunning, the focus of these games and films is to tell a story, a main aim of this project.
Mood-board of potential art styles
One of my main ideas for our Alice in Wonderland game  is inspired by a classic game and childhood favorite of mine Rayman. In one of the early levels of Rayman the player has to escape a flood of water by planting seeds, which then turn into the platforms that you escape on. Reading the original text Alice falls into a river of her own tears, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and make a Rayman style "water level" where Alice must escape the rising water of her own tears.  At the beginning of the week, when I pitched this. I had no idea how to make it happen, if it could even happen. But with some help on the basics of matinees in UE4 I managed to make a small test level with the rising "water" that will reset the level if you fall into said water.

I'm also in charge of creating the  white rabbit character in Alice in wonderland.  This is something that I have mixed feelings about, on  the one hand I love drawing characters, but on the other hand these characters are always human. I've never drawn a (decent) rabbit in my life. Regardless I think this will be a good challenge for me. This week I just spent a little time researching rabbit anatomy and looking at inspiration. Next week I'll dedicate some more time to getting some rabbit ideas sketched out. Currently were not sure if were going for a stylized or realistic rabbit, so I'll explore both later on.

Before this project we were asked to put down our "specialties" for the project to help balance out the groups. I'm down for character design and texturing, so that'll be my focus. However there are 3 character designers in our group, and texturing is happening later in the project. So I'm going to be dabbling in environments, level deign and engine, to keep myself useful in the early stages. Especially  as I only have the one character to concept for this project (so far).  Maybe when plans are more concrete I'll settle down a bit and really focus on my specialties,but until then I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Container City:Post Mortem

With the Container City Project I found a lot of my time was spent just designing the layout of the assets, making sure all of the exported assets worked correctly, population the level, making blueprints, and just building the level in general. Though I'm now more confident in engine the experience was very stressful with the added pressure of group work. In some respects I actually feel like I put too much into a project that should have been more of a fun learning experience, being the first time that Iv'e even touched level design.  Ironically on the day of the hand in there was a talk by Del Walker and Ben Keeling with one of the main pieces of advice being not to work yourself to the ground with projects. Something I definitely did for this project, but will not (fingers crossed) do for the next.

Post Mortem Q&A

Q: Did my end result represent what I wanted for this project?
Yes and no. Visually I had no idea what I wanted for this project, nothing was really set in stone . It felt like we kind of stumbled into the end look for the level and the just built on that, which turned out well, but I would have liked some more planning to have been done. Though we were encouraged not to put a lot into concepting, I found that actually it's something that is needed regardless.

Q: Strengths I found during this project
I tried out texturing realistic assets as opposed to the hand painted textures I normally do, and found that I'm pretty good at it, though realistic still isn't my first choice when it comes to style. I've found that I'm not to bad in engine in terms of blueprinting and level building, though again not a task that I would choose for myself again.

Q: Weaknesses I found during this project
Not really a weakness but there is a lack of improvement on my modelling, it's about the same as ever, and I didn't really challenge myself in terms of 3D.

Q. What stressed me out the most during this project?What I found so difficult and stress inducing about this was just the difference in work ethics within my group. That caused a lot of problems with the amount of effort that was put into this project by some. Unfortunately that's something that couldn't really be fixed .Though as a silver lining, being with those that don't share your work ethic for a project has definitely made me appreciate the people that do.

Q: What did you learn?
I learnt a lot about blueprints mainly, and though I'm no master at UE4 I feel confident enough to just mess around with it and figure out mechanics. I learnt a bit about  creating texture decals (as well as fixing the issues with placing them) and basic level design. I also learnt a few tricks when it came to modular asset building, though It's not something I used much in this project.

Q: Things I'd do differently if I were to do this project again
I would have passed in my assets to a team member to do so I could focus purely on engine.With the extra time I think I could have populated the level a lot more, polished things up, and figured out how to make extra blueprints and particle effects, to really bring the level to life.

Q: Was this project successful?
Definitely, though there are things that I would tweak and add, the basis for the level is there, and I'm happy with.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Week 18: Finshed Container City

Friday 30th January marked the end of the Container City project, and when all was said and done we came out with a pretty decent level, met the brief and had a good reception of the level in our final presentation, which is great! Here's the final level play through:

Now some beauty shots from the level:

The area where you start the game

If you look back you'll find this collapsed, abandoned area

After walking a little you have the option of going through this alleyway

at the end of the alleyway you'll find a locked door and will need to travel back through the town to find the "keys"

The town being filled with various stalls and places of business:

and a utility room, where you find the keys to the lock (which are actually bolt-cutters)

 From there you can open the chained doors and walk through to the end of the level

The End!

Now for some of the things I personally worked on during this project:

Though the original container mesh was not made by myself I think the slight variations in the containers did help break up the monotony of the levels landscape wall a bit.

My container base textures and decals are one of my main contributions to this level asset wise. As they were the building blocks of the level I really wanted to make them look good without making them look to duplicated. I believe I achieved that with the use of 2 separate base textures, and an assortment of decals. Learning about material instancing and decals in the process was also plus.

Though my assets weren't the best, I did learn an efficient way of texturing more modular components (the doors and windows) by building the assets straight out of a texture that already adheres to the  "snap to" grid format. Though it wasn't that appropriate for our level as the container blocks could not snap to the level grid. it was still a cool thing to learn. hopefully I can use it in another project. There is more that I want to do on this level,  but its mostly little additions and fixes with lights and  particle effects.