Wednesday, 11 December 2013

FMP Inspirations - Game Example: Remember Me

So in the weeks coming up to the beginnings of my FMP I figured I'd start doing posts where I look at what's specifically influenced me to do my idea, and how it's going to influence my FMP as a whole. It's mostly gonna be posts on games that inspire me, and artists who's style I adore or try to take knowledge from, but I may look at other stuff if its relevant enough.
First game up is Remember Me, a recent game by DONTNOD Entertainment. For their first game together as a studio, the result is incredible. While critics mainly attacked the linearity and dull combat (which I thought was actually pretty fresh and interesting), none of them criticized the graphics and art direction, which I personally believe is second to very few (Mirror's Edge is gonna hold best art direction for me for a long time). The game is probably the most beautiful game I've ever played, and the attention to detail is astounding. The reason it looks so gorgeous is not only because of the incredibly talented concept and game artists (go buy the artbook now, its amazing), but also the technical artists and the tweaked UDK Engine. DONTNOD used Physically Based Rendering (PBR), or Global Illumination, and as far as I know I think its one of the first, if not the first, to use it in a commercial game (could be completely wrong on this). S├ębastien Lagarde did a fantastic article on this (below), that explains how they went about using it for Remember Me, and even though there's a lot I don't fully understand, its a great read about how their team works and how they used PBR to their best ability. While I don't intend to use PBR for my FMP (mainly because I don't have an engine that supports it at my disposal), it is something I should be taking note of, as PBR is going to become commonplace in games sooner or later, because of the graphical advances it offers.

http://www.fxguide.com/featured/game-environments-parta-remember-me-rendering/


Alongside this great use of PBR, the game fully utilizes a whole range of dynamic elements, something I want to be very evident in my FMP; smoke and steam, birds flying about, moving air conditioners, etc. I'm now going to dump a load of screenshots I took earlier that I feel are relevant to the sort of level of detail and contrasts in space that I want to create. The lighting & shadows are also occasionally similar to what I want to aim for. Obviously I won't be able to fully imitate the sheer level of detail and realism DONTNOD achieved, but I'm still going to try my hardest to do it anyway!






  

The mix of shops, adverts and history in this area is probably the most inspiring point in the game for me, as it does a fantastic job of making the city truly feel alive. This is only helped even more by the PBR.







I took this one as it shows how DONTNOD openly sealed off certain areas, allowing you to see further on, creating the illusion that the playable area is far larger than it actually is.




  

Interesting to note here that the hose in the lower right seems to have a teal coloured texture underneath. I thought this was a clever way of making it look like more assets if they flipped it and placed it elsewhere, but I saw a blue hose later on that was a completely different model, so I'm not sure what their intentions were here.



This shot nicely shows off the multiple assets used to break up the otherwise rectangular geometry, and dynamic elements such as the AC unit and smoke from it.



When I begin properly concepting, I may include interior sections similar to this, with shops and large glass roofs, which could create some nice dappled lighting.


    

A nice shot demonstrating the use of LODs and 3D objects used alongside matte painting (something I don't think I will need considering the packed, yet vertical nature of my city).
  



These last two shots are taken from the next level, portraying the slums of Paris. While this grim and grungy style is not what I am aiming for, the imperfect building shapes and the way they are just built on top of each other is similar to the DIY style I want for certain areas of my city.

So that's the end of this post, I can now also refer back to this blog post to re-inspire myself, but not too much as I want to be more inspired by actual real-world locations as this would benefit me more, but the way DONTNOD has crafted such a believable futuristic Paris is something I am hugely inspired by for this FMP, hence this blog post (the screenshots really don't do the game justice, seeing all the dynamic elements and realtime reflections is equally as impressive as the design).

FMP Technical Specification


The Outline
To design and create an isolated, artificial island city of multiple Asian cultures, similar in theme to the works of the artist Imperial Boy and Studio Ghibli. The city will be structured fairly chaotically and mostly vertical, with a focus on contrast between large open spaces and tight twisting alleyways. The style will be realistic, with a strong focus on vivid colours and bold lighting.

Platform, Engine and Genre/Narrative
The environment will be modelled with current gen (PS3, 360, Mid-Range PCs) in mind, with a strong focus on realistic material definition and verisimilitude in relation to the setting. I will be using CryEngine 3 as the realtime lighting will benefit me greatly when creating bright clearings and dark alleys within the given time frame, alongside things such as dynamic elements like bobbing boats.
The genre will be akin to an RPG or MMORPG, with the city acting as one of the hubs for players, with areas that they can meet up, buy, sell & trade items, save progress, etc.
The narrative will be a fairly linear path to push the player from the starting docks/station up and through the city, culminating at a point that displays a vista of the city, and/or takes the player back to the start.

Technical Specifications (Rough Estimates)
Tri limit – Minimum 100,000 maximum 300,000 (not including instancing)
2500 Draw calls
Framerate ~30FPS
Texture size – Relative to one another; large important assets 1024x1024 or composed of tileables, population assets 512x512 or 256x256 depending on size and priority
Maps to use – Diffuse, Normal, [Colour] Specular, Gloss, Reflection, Glow

Scale & Extended Scope
The scale of the level will be of a believable city size, but only a portion of it available to walk around by the player. The ability to traverse multiple levels will increase the explorable aspect of the environment. For an extended scope I could add more layers to the city of various other cultures (such as Indian or Parisian).
  
List of Probable Assets
Modular buildings (temples, stackable apartments, shops, etc.)
Moss, Trees & Plants
Trams
Windows & shutters
Windmills
Watermills
Bicycles
Window boxes
Air conditioners
Clothes lines
Hanging Lights
Boats & Docks (or train station)
External wiring & Piping
Fire escapes
Aerials
Neon signs & Adverts
Bridges
Clutter (boxes, rubbish, bins etc.)

List of Dynamic Elements
Flying birds
Bobbing boats
Swaying wires & clothes lines
Interactive tram
Flickering signs & lights
Rotating mills & working air conditioners
Smoke & steam
Swaying plants & vines
Swaying cloth
Reflective pools of water
Dripping/Flowing pipes

Post Assessment Stuff


We had our assessments on Monday, in which we had to do a 5 minute formal presentation of everything we've done so far plus what we aim to do for our FMP. Didn't go too badly; I'm still very nervous when it comes to public speaking but this wasn't as bad as my mind kept telling me it would be. Overall a little disappointed with my feedback, I understand and fully agree with the negative feedback on my projects, it mainly came down to material definition and textures that I need to work on, but I would've liked a few more bits of good feedback to even it out. That being said I did only get a few negative points, and my tutor did say they only write down what was really lacking with the work, so hopefully that means everything that wasn't commented on (particularly my documentation, organisation, unwrapping and modelling) was up to standards. I just know now that I need to work on my texturing a lot more than I originally thought, mainly my understanding of how different materials are defined. Concepting is something that wasn't mentioned that I definitely need to improve though; these past few projects I've only done a few concepts, got a solid idea from them and then worked from it, which is fine, but I just feel my final concepts need a lot more polish.



I also need to start massively fleshing out my FMP idea. I have a strong idea in my head of where I need to take it, its just putting that onto paper and eventually into 3D; no point having a good 'idea' if no one can see it! At the moment, its becoming a sort of hub city for a game like an RPG or MMO where you would visit and travel up into to visit various shops to buy and sell items. I'll post up my initial FMP technical specifications after this so people can see the sort of scope I'm aiming for.

On a less formal note, I finally got round to completing Psychonauts the past few days. I finally get why everyone raves about how much of an under-appreciated gem it is. Fantastic and very ambitious art style, with good gameplay and platforming to complement it. It's one of those old(ish) games that makes you say 'wow, game developers have lost so much attention to detail lately', because of all the tiny things in the game you wouldn't have thought they'd have bothered with.