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.

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