Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Mortal Engines Update

So I’m moving along with this project as quick as I wanted too, which makes a changed, and because of that I’m feeling less stressed and motivated – win win situation.

Since my last post I've managed to get the high and low poly finished, as well as the unwrapping. Which I've done in a fairly short amount of time, but im putting that down to using new software I've been meaning to use a a little while now.

The highpoly was mainly made by sculpting and a bit of hard surface modelling. Hard surface modelling is something I want to do a lot more of, as it’s a very hard skill to master and because of that, pretty valuable to potential employers.

I am happy with the results, I especially like the boots which were made by hard surface modelling then touching it up in zbrush. The anatomy’s not too bad, it’s fairly accurate, but getting that skinny toned look has been troublesome. But I think my biggest weakness are the folds on the trousers, they don’t look overly natural and don’t reflect the material too well (which is cotton). Next time ill study more references, possibly by take a picture of myself wearing them in a pose and use that. Im tempted to get this too : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dynamic-Wrinkles-Drapery-Solutions-Practical/dp/0823015874/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359450304&sr=8-1

The low poly was an absolute breeze for me because of a handy piece of software called Topogun. This allowed me to import my highpoly and place each vertices and triangle accurately onto the high poly. What would have usually taken me 2 days at a push, now takes me a day. Anything to speed up my workflow i'm happy about.

Ill be back soon with a texturing update.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Mortal Engines update - Highpoly

So I'm getting on with this project and I'm actually enjoying in quite a lot, interesting themes and its character art. Double win.

So I've got my concept pretty much nailed down, but have yet to produce a final pretty concept as its time to get the modelling done. Below is a selection of silhouettes I produce, and so far I'm loving number 3, its got an interesting  silhouette and reflects the character really well – lower class’s work in the guts so they’re skinny, a lot of skin showing as they work in hot environments, because of this their skin will be loaded with burns, boils and dirt. Then a few satchels to carry tools, and a rag stuffed under his braces to wipe away the sweat, and a piece of salvage as jewelry.

Currently I’m in the sculpting stage. This is my first proper attempt at sculpting someone with a very low fat content (usually I’m sculpting super buff people or fully clothed people), and I’m having some trouble with it, especially the back/scapula. Even with a handful of references and a few anatomy books by my side I’m not 100% satisfied with it. Some parts don’t look natural – 2 different muscles/bones don’t blend in well (maybe too many hard edges/lines?). But I've been at it too long and so I've got to move onto the over items to hit my daily milestones, something I’m determined to do these days. 

Zbrush sculpt WIP

Should have the final highpoly done in the next few days.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sound in video games

Sound in games is overlooked a lot these day by the ‘casual gamer’. When a new game comes out and we talk about it, it’s usually ‘Ah man the graphics are amazing’. I’ve never heard ‘The sound is amazing’ or the like. Which is a shame, as audio in games is just as important as the visuals, and in some cases it’s more important, as I find sound effects entice more intense emotion than anything visually. But they don’t get appreciated.

Sound in games has come a long way since its beginning in the 70s. As technology improves so does the sound. When you played games in the arcade the only sounds you got was to notify you that you fired your weapon or just died, and the difference between these sounds was a Bleep or a Bloop. Fast forward 40 years and we have a whole range of sounds, from ambient bird chirping and the crunching snow as you walk on it to bassy explosions and full orchestrated scores.

 Sound engineers back in the beginning of gaming had to actually program the sounds into the chip, which would play when triggered by an event. Now when and how to play the sound is all developed by the game engine.  Game engines can fade several different sounds in and out at the same time depending of what the player is doing, making a wide variety of sounds. Below is an interesting snippet about it with a sound engineer from Namco Bandai's Cook or Be Cooked:

"I tied [RTPC] in with the cooking times, so when a steak sizzles, it actually sounds more realistic than fading in a loop over time. This allowed me to actually change the state of the sound needed over time to give a more realistic representation of the food cooking as its visual state changed. It's totally subtle, and most people will never notice it, but there's actually a pretty complicated process going on behind that curtain.

"I (had) roughly four states per cookable object that went from beginning, all the way through burned. There were loops for each of those states that fed into each other. These were also modified with one-shots -- for example, flipping an object or moving it to the oven. We tried to provide as much variation as we could fit into the game, so almost every sound has a random container accompanied with it."

Sound has always been about to support and enhance the players experience. Unlike films, sound engineers/designers have to create music and sounds that are influenced by the player. So for example when a player fires a gun you can hear the startled birds by flying away, then after words there’s an eerie silence and you can only hear the natural environment around you, no wild life. Before the gun being let off you can hear the hustle and bustle of the jungle. This adds so much to the experience.

I’ve notice in some games players seem to lust for a certain sound, and they’ll keep playing to get that sound, that satisfaction. For instance, the COD series – Shooting and hitting an enemy online gives off a ‘tick’ sound, and something about it is so nice to hear, you want to keep playing to hear it again, making the game more addicting. So addicting I’ve read personal reviews of similar titles where people would complain saying there’s no hit sound. It’s also used to great effect in MMOs and RPGs when you level  up.

Top 5 Memorable sound is games.

There are many top name composers working in the game industry at the moment, some of my personal favourites are (in order):

  •           Harry Gregson Williams - Famous for composing the Metal Gear Solid series as well as many Hollywood hits  which is known for its superb cinematic feel, which the music and sound really help to sell. Many epic moments ive played in the MGS series I remember because of the music.
  •          Jeff van Dyck – Composed the Total War series. I Really love his work. Total War takes place across the roman empire, middle ages and feudal japan. All of these eras have very different sounds, and Dyck replicates them perfectly, and you truly feel immersed in the game.
  •          Nobuo Uematsu - Who composed pretty much all the Final Fantasy’s out there. Again just like the others, the orchestral score helps make the player have an emotional connection the story and characters.
  •        Koji Kondo - Composing most of Nintendo’s franchises over the years, such as the Zelda and Mario series. Both very emotional games.

Many games who have top notch composers (like the above) on board usually release a separate game soundtrack album as the music is so good it can hold its own as an album, and many people go out to buy it.

Good Times by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards has been one of the most influential tracks about,  despite the ‘Disco sucks’ trend 1979 it still reached number one in the charts. It also kicked off hip hop popularity in the 80’s, and because of that it’s become one of the most sample tracks in rap ad hip hop.

Useful links:

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Start of the Mortal Engines character.

So I've been waiting for this project since last year, it’s been a long time coming. I've always had a massive passion for character art and just want to create characters all the time. Pity the course doesn't have more character based projects as I think they are a great way to learn game art as they’re so complex. But on the flip side it can be overwhelming at times.

So for this project we have to create a character inspired by the book, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. I read this book through the summer, and while it is a pretty tame book it does a great job of painting a mental picture of characters and environments. Which is a concoction of Victorian post-apocalyptic steam punk (mouthful..)

Before jumping the gun and I start modelling, I’m going to do extensive research as I really want this piece to shine. I’m currently re reading the book to jog my memory, and I’m gathering inspiration from similar themed films, I've just watched ‘Book of Eli’ and maybe later ill dive into the Mad Max films. As I’m surrounding myself with sources of inspiration I’m making many notes, and creating moodboards (see below). So far I’m liking the ‘Salvage Men’ in the book, who work in the gut of London surrounded by fumes and fire as they dismantle and salvage anything from the recently consumed city/town. I think it’ll be fun to really play on their poor, dirty twistedness.

Ill be posting some basic concepts within the next few days. Check back.

Monday, 7 January 2013

New Year, New Semester, New me

I think ive made this post several times, but this is the last time, promise. I’m sick of feeling like this. This is also the last self pity post im making too.

So while being dropped off from  home to uni by my brother I had a 2 – 2.5 hour lecture/motivational speech. While he does go on, he does have a point, several of them. He gave me several tips on how he deals demotivation which I think is my biggest problem. One of them is to think about how not doing that bit of work now means you’ll have to deal with it later, so something else might not get down, which means ill fail at the module, then maybe the course, then what do I do if that happens? Basically I got to think of all the negative things which could happen and their knock on effects if I don’t do it, and that’ll motivate me to do that piece of work.  

Im going to start the gym back up too. I did it over the summer and I just felt mentally better and motivated. Its seems to set me up for the day if I do it in the morning, which im going to need as the work load is increasing this semester. Healthy eating too, my brain needs food, and its not cheap pizza, burger and chips.

Oh yeah, and 'Man up' too.

I’ll be putting all of these into place asap.   

Expect a new blog post soon.

Friday, 4 January 2013


Even though we are art students, so we communicate mainly through visual means it doesn’t mean we shouldn't can’t use words to communicate ideas. Sometimes reading something is just more clear cut than pictures, it gets to the point straight away, especially for technical stuff.

We have these documents  to explain areas which pictures cant. Such as technical specification, target market, story, gameplay elements, funding etc. Its these documents which gets your game approved and funded in a professional setting, so if you can’t do this well then you won’t be producing your game.

Documentation in my third year is going to be a major aspect of all the work I have to do. So to get some practice in (as practice makes perfect) im going to produce a small document on a game ive always wanted to produce. Due to some lucky circumstances I kinda did when I joined an indie team,  but like with 95% of indie teams we disbanded  and the game was left 25% finished - it was still an experience nevertheless.

Project Outline

To create a fast paced, online, third person action game based around the height of the roman empire conquering Britain.

Up to 64 players (32 players each side) choose to play as either the Roman Legion or Barbarians, with the choice of 4 classes each side supporting different play styles. Players battle it out through several match types to earn experience to upgrade their class and attributes, as well as cosmetic appearance.

PC exclusive to provide an excellent online gaming experience with superb visual quality, and to keep costs down to a minimum (less licensing costs)

Rated 18 -To offer the most realistic experience to the player (War is not pretty)

Software – 3DS Max, Photoshop, Zbrush and UDK.

Learning Outcomes

Create realistic character models
Historically accurate weapons and armours
Photo realistic textures
Strong player silhouettes to differentiate between classes easily

Technical Specification

  • Lead Character

For the base model the players chooses between a selection of pre made head and hair types for each class to stick on the body. (This keeps art quality high compared to ‘feature sliders’ while still having a personal touch for the player).

Heads - ~2000 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal
Hair - ~300 tris with 256*256 Diffuse/Alpha
Body - ~6000 tris with 1024*1024 Diffuse/Specular/Normal

Depending on what class the player picks, and the level of their class , the armour and weapon specification can change, but the max is as follows:

Armour -  ~4000 tris with 1024*1024 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha
Helmet - ~ 1000 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha
Weapons -  ~ 750 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha

  • NPC

As this is an online only game there is not many NPCs, but one of the levels is based inside a gladiatorial arena. The stadium is filled with a crowd, 100s of NPCs. As there are so many NPCs the poly/texture budget has to be very small so not to effect performance.

Male - ~ 1100 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Normal
Female - ~ 1100 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Normal

Example of the male crowd character

  • Vehicle

Players who reach a certain level will unlock a horse to use.

Horse - ~ 5000 tris with 1024*1024 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha
Equipment - ~ 500 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha

  • Environment

There will be many different environments to reflect Britain at the time, such as thick forests, mountain ranges, small villages, fortifications and gladiatorial arenas. Triangle and texture budgets for these level would differ greatly as some levels have more detail than others.

Gladiatorial arena in its early development stage

  • Props

Many props will be scattered around the environment to make it more visually appealing. Below is just a few examples of them:

Selection of clay pots - ~ 1000 triangles with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal Tools - ~ 1000 triangles with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal Crates - ~ 500 triangles with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal