Well, one month remains and I am in 100% lets-work-all-day-except-for-eating mode. It's extremely draining, but everyone works better under pressure and this is the final month before Uni is completely over, so one more month of intense work and May 6th is gonna be extremely satisfying to relax on.
Above was me just fiddling with glass shaders, as it was previously on Illum and not properly reflecting the cubemaps either. Below were my parameters I was fiddling with; I'm still not 100% done with them yet as I'd rather get more of the level assembled before doing the polishing work.
Basically my plan for this month is just to plow through my asset list. I've made some quick plans in my trusty notebook detailing what I am having on each texture sheet, which is very useful and reassuring as I don't need to worry as much about what to put on each texture sheet anymore. Below are some shots where I've started to add assets like the pipes, wires, aerials and using CryEngine's rope tool liberally for the docks (which as I've said before is great because it lets me break up the modularity without needing to model loads of slightly different length and taut ropes).
Another crucial thing I'm working on is the tram. Before I finish the model and texture it I want to make sure it actually moves through the level alright. While the animation won't be too difficult to do, just time-consuming, actually letting the player get in it has proved troublesome. I would keep clipping through the proxy no matter how slow it was going, unless I was constantly moving. So now I am going to look at having the player trigger a 'cutscene' as they walk into the tram, where the camera would place itself in the right place and follow the tram path up the top, where the player will be given control again.
Modelling a load of planks meant that the unwrap got extremely messy, but to keep it efficient I made a general wood texture that had been worn in the middle, to simulate the path most people take over a bridge (the centre), and moved all the planks around slightly on the unwrap.
After our final assessment I got straight to modelling signs as my level, apart from the rooftops and bridges, was lacking anything substantially Chinese. I keep worrying about my tri-limit, but I also keep forgetting CryEngine (and most other engines) can handle an intense amount of tri's - it's the textures that consume tonnes more memory. Plus, CryEngine's water is constantly hovering around 350,000 polys, so I don't think a few wires on some signs will make too much of a dent in that (and besides, the wires make it look so much more dynamic).
In order to add more contre-jour elements and strong chiaroscuro to the level I fiddled with the lighting again. After failing miserably at a sunset feel (which made the sky super ugly and the ground super orange) I settled on an early dawn-ish time, with some fog/smog (because it wouldn't be China without some level of pollution). While the day-time lighting kept the level looking happy and positive, like I wanted, it's extremely difficult to get nice contrasts in lighting with it. I may revert back to it if I get the time to add clouds and their shadows (something I was reading up on in CryDev earlier) as they would add some nice dynamic shadows to it all.
That being said I added some mountain planes to the backdrop so it wasn't just endless ocean which actually looked a lot nicer than I thought as the fog I had already created added a really nice silhouette to the ones against the sun. I used photo's online of the Zhangjiajie National Park as they have some really striking mountains and spliced them into a long panorama. Then I masked them out for the alpha and crushed it into a 1024x1024 (which kept the details surprisingly well) and applied it to a huge cylinder around my level. Below is the first result - I removed some of the mountains, fixed the fringing and duplicated and pushed it out some more to create even more depth, without cluttering it with too many mountains.
Luc rightly pointed out that these particular mountains are formed by river erosion so probably aren't as tall as other more viable Chinese mountains, but I'll keep them for now as they are really great silhouettes.
Right now I'm working on the non-neon signs and possibly adding some low poly mountains a little closer to the city. Once the signs are done I'm going to create the boats as I can't possibly leave the level finished with a completely vacant dock. I originally wanted to put sails on the boats but I'll see how that goes, as I can't afford to get wrapped up in little details now.