Monday, 31 March 2014


Not updated in a long time...hopefully the work I've done since then is satisfactory then! Ever since the last assessment, getting the whole level together was my top priority, so I've spent a large portion of my time ensuring the ground is in properly, alongside bordering off the non-traversable areas.

I also began work on my general assets for the level, in order of priority. Below you can see that I've added wind turbines (which surprisingly didn't take long at all) and the tram supports in. The turbines were the first things I didn't add a normal map for; mostly because I did some basic ones (as turbines themselves are very minimal) and they looked rubbish, but also because I then realized I need to speed up my asset creation and normal maps on something that you never get very close to is pointless.

Sorry about the horrendous quality, I hated camstudio and filming off my screen was the quickest. It was in 720p but I guess Blogger had other plans...

I also began to look at animations, something I wasn't particularly looking forward to, 1. Because I'm a Game Artist, not an animator, and 2. Because CryEngine doesn't have UDK's Matinee, meaning I had to animate in 3DS Max and export into CryEngine. It turns out animating is the easy bit, it was the endless exporting with slightly different configurations and settings that was the hardest part and after now having five or six unique object animations, I'm still not 100% sure what the exact set up is. I've now began to look at animating my tram properly, as last time just went completely wrong. Below is the set-up for the animation on my air conditioners. As Auto-Key in 3DS Max doesn't allow pivot points to be edited on the fly, I had to detach things that moved independently from the main mesh, using the schematic view to attach them to the parent node.

I'm a little worried that this is all a bit too colourful, that it looks more like an amusement park than a Chinese City. Once my assets and decals are in, if it still looks childish I'll look into colour grading it to be a little more desaturated or tinted to a certain colour.

CryEngine's rope tool also proved hugely beneficial as it means I don't have to spend ages intricately placing specifically modeled hanging wires. I can also use them to add a little more variation to my docks. Below I've started to make my modular pipe pieces as another thing to break up the alleys and buildings.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Assessment Feedback and stuff

Whoops, I didn't realise it had been nearly a week since my last update. Last time I mentioned how I was trying to find a solution to my blending issues. Due to the time we have left I decided to just take the more memory intensive route and create four individually coloured textures in Photoshop for each tiling texture that needed it, therefore not using CryEngine's colouring tool for those specific textures.

While this does mean I had to use an extra 36mb or so of textures instead of 12kb (ouch) worth of material files, it also means that my buildings look a lot more realistic, and the paint effect wearing off near the water and other areas adds a huge degree of verisimilitude to the overall scene.

Here's a shot of my level before assessment, not much has changed here since last time though. Assessment was a realization that I really need to get the rest of my level done as soon as possible. I am falling behind on schedule, but I think getting all my basic building shapes in by Friday will help quell some of those worries.

Over the weekend I also got my trim pieces done for things like stairs, window frames, door frames and vents to break up all the space on the buildings. I think I'll need to make some tiles too to break up the floors when I get them in and also for roof area's that might be visible.

Finally, I threw together a watermill with existing texture sheets, making that patch of missing paint make a lot more sense now! Hopefully this'll look great once I get it animated and throwing up water particles.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Vertex Painting, Edit Normals, Docks and More!

Woohoo, I finally started vertex painting this week, and it's a lot easier than I thought it would be. Literally after the slightly confusing set up it was smooth sailing from there on out. I did have to add some loops here and there to allow the blending to look more natural, but at the end of the day, tris are a lot less expensive than texture sheets so it's worth it.

Luckily my texture planning paid off, so I could do things like giving the impression that the wall had stopped being painted nearer the water. I have run into some trouble, seen below. As I'm using desaturated textures for my paint texture, and colouring it in CryEngine, it means when I use a blend layer with concrete, the concrete also takes the colour of the material. I want the concrete to retain its original colour as this looks far more authentic (as painted concrete with no visible paint strokes makes no sense next to a texture with paint strokes). The only other solution I can think of is to ditch the CryEngine colouring for vertex painted objects, and have a few base colour texture sheets instead, but this is way more expensive. This is completely viable, especially for an FMP, but I'm still hoping for someone to present a workaround that'll allow me to stay cost efficient as it's literally the difference between a 3mb texture or a 1kb material file for each object. I've posted it up on DMUGA Technical and the Crydev forums so all I can do is wait for now and focus on other things.


Focusing on other things mean I did get my modular docks done in about two days. While I reckon the boats will take a lot longer, it was nice to get these out the way so fast. They were too small (first shot below) but a quick up-scale fixed that. I also think the specular and gloss maps came out really nice, giving off a damp and grungey look.

I can't really stress how useful peer feedback has been throughout this whole project. Constantly posting up my work means people can keep suggesting new things, like adding a slight chamfer to hard edges to stop them from being a completely sharp change in faces.

It's also about time I start putting together my level properly, so with the buildings I have I started to build on and around the whitebox. I can alter the textures on each building at a later date, but for now I'm just getting the final bases in before I start adding things like windows, pipes, signs and the like.

Friday, 7 March 2014


This week seems to have gone super fast. Basically all week I've been slowly piecing together my level, building by building as I said before, and reusing them where I can. Alongside this construction I've been creating the modular pieces to place on the buildings, such as prefabs of existing models, doors and  more oriental inspired window boxes. Everyone seems to be pretty impressed with my discovery that the eye shader makes fantastic looking gold, so that's something to be pleased about. I'm also happy with the frosted glass effect on my doors; achieved with a noisy-ish specular map and high gloss map.

I started to create my coloured materials from my existing desaturated textures so that I could save on memory and quickly realized I'm going to need a lot more textures and variation. I know I need to do vertex painting and blend some sheets together, but I don't think this'll be enough. So yet again I sat down with a pen and paper and tore apart the default 'Forest' level in CryEngine. I did this to learn some more about dirt maps, as I initially thought they were basically identical to blend layers. After doing a lot of shader tweaking and texture inspection I think I finally get it (and if I'm right then that'll make vertex painting a lot more enjoyable). I'll also talk about other maps and techniques I can't wait to incorporate.

- Blend Layers/Maps is what it says it is; you get two diffuses and their respective spec and normals, and use a blend map (typically a noise map or height map of your dominant texture) and vertex paint in 3DS Max what areas are what texture, with the blend map nicely, well, blending them. This'll be great for my general buildings to break up the tiling texture where my modulars can't, such as buildings submerged in the water; they wouldn't have painted the buildings deep into the water. I can also use it for algae building up and general watery grime.

- Dirt Maps, again, actually basically what it says it is. I think the main difference here is that a dirt map is heavily dependent on your original map, whereas a blend map needs to be different enough to warrant using it. Dirt maps again help to break up tiling textures but with a variance of the texture itself. The way the Forest level uses it is on the wooden houses. The tiling wood is a dull faded wood plank texture, and the dirt map is again vertex painted on in specific areas. The dirt map looks almost identical to the diffuse, but desaturated and heavily lightened, and is colour tinted on different buildings for different shades of painted wood, so the overall effect is that of painted wood that has worn out. I can use this on the boats in my harbour area, allowing me to basically construct them all with the same texture, but a few different CryEngine materials, heavily saving on draw-calls.
I initially thought to use this on my window frames too, but I think the vertex painted areas would be too obvious as the windows are so substantial in number, kind of defeating the point of it. Instead I'm just going to go back into Photoshop and reduce the noise on the diffuse, as the black is far too intense and changing the colour of it at the moment looks pretty bad.

Also had some good talks with my tutors about how my project was going, mainly regarding how best to balance out engine work and asset production. I don't want to focus too much on assets and have a lifeless but full level, but I also don't want a really nice looking alleyway, instead of a whole city. It mainly came down to planning and thought as usual. The way things are going at the moment I may have to axe the garden area. I'm going to have greenery all over the city regardless as otherwise it would be way too artificial, moss and vines coming out of the buildings, plant pots and window plant boxes and the like. I may be able to re-use these assets to construct the garden anyway, but I don't want it to look half-assed if that ends up happening (so basically, go big or go home).
In regards to planning and thought, I've been neglecting my asset list lately and just focusing on building the level, so today I sketched out another page of important assets like bridges, signs, hanging lanterns and stuff, and tomorrow I'll put that list up properly in Excel.

Also, this happened; my computer basically decided to corrupt my explorer.exe file. Luckily I managed to use the cmd prompt to restore a back-up explorer.exe though so all is good. It was just extremely annoying as I basically spent all evening trying other methods as sketchily replacing what is basically the most important executable was the last thing I wanted to do. Still, I did get some more 2D done while I was backing my PC up and virus scanning it (just preparing for the worst, which luckily never came).

We also had Laura Hutton from Ubisoft Reflection Studios today to give a talk, critique and offer some internships at the studio. I keep saying this but it's very reassuring getting positive comments about my FMP from people that are in the industry and urges me to keep going at the pace I already am. My character project was also received better than I thought it would be, mainly as I place characters at the very bottom of my skills list, so more good feedback! I also asked to be put down for the possibility of the internship, so tomorrow I'm also going to update my CV and Portfolio with some FMP progress shots, as my current environment skills are far better than what I currently have on there.

Monday, 3 March 2014

FMP Update: Attack of the roofs, part 3

Above is just a poor quality flythrough of my whitebox. I should have probably done this a while ago, I just never got round to it. In my last update, I said I'd try plan my modulars as my current method was just so so awkward and time consuming, it kind of made the whole point of my level being 'efficient and affordable' quite moot. Luckily, I've kind of got into the swing of things. Below is my current to-do list, alongside March's asset list (which is mainly extra details like pipes, signs, shopfronts and the like). As I've said I don't really want to have to compromise anything for time, so I'm really going to have to up the pace (I have still been working at least 4 or 5 hours a day average anyway, so...). Now that I've (mostly) worked out how to do my modulars, I just need to start churning out building after building until I have enough variation to populate the entire level. For now I'm just literally building along my whitebox, and if I get to a building shape I can't construct with my current buildings, I'll make a new one. The roofs caused even more trouble and I had to very slightly alter their shapes over and over again until they tiled properly (and thankfully Nikita helped me set up a grid system that is the same in both 3DS Max and CryEngine so I can ensure my exported buildings will fit right).

So yeah, I've started just building around my whitebox and adding parts as I go. I think it's looking pretty good at the moment, although I can't wait to start vertex painting and blending those texture sheets to break up all that repetition going on at the moment.

Below is another video, just demonstrating the speculars in my level, as it's not something you can really demonstrate all that well in pictures. I may yet have to change the gold as its currently using CryEngine's Eye shader - which does make it look super nice as it has that extra depth - but I'm not sure how expensive this shader is when compared with other ones.