Monday, 28 April 2014

Final Week!

Well, one week to go, and quite a bit to do! I have got all my foliage done though so, which is great because it adds so much life to the level, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. They're pretty much purely alphas with a bit of shape definition. Luckily CryEngine's vegetation tool does a good enough job on its own at animating them, but I may vertex paint them to be more accurate if I get the time. I'll probably also desaturate and tweak the colours a bit more as its all very neon green still at the moment.

I initially made my tree trunk and branches, then used 3DS Max's tree primitive and stripped the leaves from it and placed it over the top, generating a random seed that looked appropriate. This didn't look entirely right though so I created a clump of leaves and branch alphas and used the paint tool to dot it all over the trunk. Below is the final model (left) with edited normals to light more realistically, middle is it before edited normals and the right one is the automatic leaf generated one. I also changed the leaf texture to a smaller one since these screen grabs.

Saying consistently that my level is meant to be efficient meant I had to create LODs for pretty much all my vegetation, even the stuff that was only around 100 tri's to begin with. It wasn't too bad, I did the usual stripping loops and stuff for the tree trunks and flowers, but also used the ProOptimizer modifier which actually did a pretty good job of stripping the leaves of tri's without losing much of the silhouette.

Still animating my tram...I spent a fair while making sure it turned properly with the wires and everything stretching and retracting as it went up, exported it and it did the usual thing where it just breaks and I don't know why. I have a part of the tram that works, and one part that speeds off for no reason, so...

I'm also in the process of creating my much needed clutter assets, as my level is very barren still at ground level. I'm hoping to get all this done by tomorrow at the latest, as I really need to get started and done on my boats as soon as possible. Right now the tram animation is probably actually my lowest priority. I know it's been a key part of the project from the start, but I don't want to have to compromise a lot of detail and verisimilitude just for one asset to work properly.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Quick Blog on Stylisation Choices

This isn't meant to be a passive-aggressive rant or anything, just a re-iteration on something I feel may have been lost over the past few months, and something I've also neglected to mention in my posts.While I've said my level is meant to be a post-Global Warming world set in the 90s, this is still a very loose description of my level, and something that I'm almost sure would look drastically different to what my level presents. A lot, if not most, of my inspiration is drawn from East-Asian artists, which often focus on strong colour palettes and surrealism that is still partially grounded in reality. Spirited Away is a prime example of the sort of surreal/realistic blend I want - just enough realism so that you don't immediately question it, but enough surreal elements that it still creates a sense of wonder.
While I have said my level is grounded in reality, I still want these sense of surreal qualities to it. As a result, some of these qualities include slight over-saturation (strong colours and vibrant skies, etc.), questionable architecture (large spires and the general building-on-top-of-each-other chaos of it). This isn't meant to be an excuse for poor lore or unrealistic city structure or anything, but more of a homage to classic anime and JRPGs. So yeah, this was basically a blog post just to say I'm not aiming for a entirely realistic result, but more a JRPG styled world.

FeiGiap (link)

Bravely Default

Spirited Away

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Pretty slow week I guess. I started animating my tram, and ensuring it lined up fine in both 3DS Max and CryEngine so that it wouldn't go off-rails randomly. I set up all the pieces and stuff in schematic view, and did a test animation of the doors opening and shutting, which worked so that was good. I keep getting a problem at the moment though where it's animating even when there's nothing in the keyframe saying that it is, so I've put it on hold for now while I wait to ask a tutor about it.

I started my foliage sheet, sticking to 256px areas for each part. I'm going to use that to break off parts and bend and copy them into many different parts for things like hanging bushes, potted plants, bushes and trees. I remember reading that you should crop your alphas as tight as possible, as CryEngine still renders blank areas of alphas, so the few extra tri's used to keep it tight are worth it. I'm hoping to get that all done by tomorrow, Friday at the latest so that I can focus on populating my level with lots of clutter assets (which I've started modelling).

Friday, 18 April 2014

Tram Model Finished

So here's my finished tram model, just gotta animate it now. Quite pleased with how the colour scheme turned out, but I do feel I could've done a better job on the model and texturing, but it does fit with the overall theme of the level. Besides, creating a highly detailed one that's constantly running through the level may have caused performance issues. I may push the interior and exterior diffuses up to 2048s if people remark the textures are quite muddy though.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Posters and the TRAMMM

It's always reassuring to check the date of my last Blogger update and see how much I've done since then (or in some cases, not so reassuring). Basically the past week I've got the shopfronts done and  finished, and I'm working solely on my tram now until its done and animated (I'll worry about how the player will get in it/trigger a cut-scene later). I added some more decals to my level too, and my trip to Chinatown proved useful again as I was able to extract some textures from images I had taken there and combine them with some more worn and torn ones from photos I obtained online. Below is a shot of how I was combining them into decals. As I've said before, the focus of my FMP is to deliver a large environment as efficiently as possible, so instead of create decals for each bit of paper and stack them together in engine (which would create a lot more unique results) I opted to create four or so composition in Photoshop and export them as decals, which I could still stack, but just less uniquely. This keeps the draw-calls a lot lower as decals are relatively expensive.

I don't know why CryEngine loves to use extremely dated software, but as long as it works I'm not complaining. I had to use what is literally a program for Windows95 to create my skybox, and once I finally figured out how to get the plug-in working for Photoshop (tip: if it's not working in 64-Bit Photoshop, it's probably because it's a 32-Bit program) it was actually quite pleasing to use. You basically save out 6 sides of a cube as tga's from Skypaint, then place in your photos to use, open it in Skypaint and voila, a box comprised of your images in a 3D Previewer. You then pan to where there are seams, mostly on corners, hit Enter and it opens that scene in Photoshop for you to paint out. Then you simply use the plug-in to update it Skypaint and continue. Setting up a grid and marquee tool of a fixed 1024x512 ratio helped hugely here. I used a panoramic photo I obtained online to create my skybox. I purposely chose one that had a slight greenish-orange tinge to it, similar to my FMP logo as it captures that 90s filter you get on a lot of holiday photos that I am trying to emulate in my level.
Once I was finished painting out the seams I saved the images out according to how CryEngine supports it; I wondered why the suffixes had to be '_12, _34, _5' but learned on a tutorial that it's because you stitch the sides together, and the numbers correspond to the sides of the cube (the sixth being the not needed bottom face).

I extracted some photos of some clouds and used a feathery brush to create some more, tiled them and created this image for my cloud shadows texture, seen below in the two screenshots. I'm not sure how I feel about this at the moment, when there is a cloud shadow panning over a portion of the level it flattens out a lot of the contrast and speculars, making it look very boring, but at the same time that's what clouds do and as such it adds some nice realism to the level.

Just some more progress shots showing more graffiti and placeholder trims for the little tree area.

For my shopfronts I just used photos of window displays I took in Chinatown. The spot healing and clone stamp brushes worked wonders here and helped me remove a lot of unwanted woodwork and reflections.

In this shot I've overlaid my normals map just to make a point of me being a bit stupid with my texture space. While I have planned out all my texture sheets that I need to do, I decided to add a metal door to my level and I had some spare space on this shopfront texture sheet so I added it to it. When doing my normals for it and baking them down I realized that nothing else on the texture sheet needed normals, and my metal door ones were quite intricate so I couldn't save it out as a 512x512. So, just a point of me wasting a lot of space by accident...

Finally, some shots of the tram being textured. Normals are done, and I'm doing the diffuse now. I'm pleased I managed to do all the normals in a day but at the same time wish I could spend more time on them, as they mainly come down to the standard panels and bolts everywhere. I did sculpt the cushions in the interior in Zbrush though, so there's a little redemption there...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

More Decals and the Tram

Just a quick little update from the past few days of work. Got some more decals in and sorted the reclections on the windows by fiddling with the glass shader and placing 5 or 6 environment probes around the level. Below are some shots of the barnacles decal I placed liberally around the docks and a water stain that I can put pretty much anywhere that's sensible.

I also fiddled with the lighting even more and applied one of CryEngine's default sky-boxes for the time being. I may add in clouds to have pan round the level too. I added a panning cloud shadow texture (again, a default one for now) which I've set to slowly move across the level, which creates some really nice dynamic soft shadows which really help add to the feeling of it being a cool summers day. I also looked into CryEngine's water, and from what I've gathered it doesn't actually use a texture, and is purely determined by multiple parameters in-engine. So I tweaked the fog depth of it and how rough it is and all that so I have a greenish, murky yet still slightly inviting look to it.

Finally, I decided it's time to get the tram done and out the way. The first two screenshots were what I did way back in January because I wanted to get an early start on it (hah). I'm glad I left it though as when I went to work on it today I made a lot of weird choices that I wouldn't have today (mainly about how to do the interior and top and bottom of it). So it was good to have a base to work from at least, and I tweaked it a fair bit to the finished result above. I was going to have proper seats in it but have stripped it to two benches and some handrails in the sake of time. The mesh is probably 90% done, I just need to unwrap it and make room on the left side for the doors. It looks pretty basic but I'm going to add a lot of paneling detail in the normal map. A lot of reference I looked at showed some intricate machinery on the top and bottom, but the design of mine is that it is pretty much suspended from the top two leverages, which adjust in length to balance out the tram (so that it doesn't tilt crazily like my first roller-coaster-tram did).