Monday, 29 March 2010

Week 11

29/3/10 - I prepared the slides for a presentation which the Showreel group has to do this Wednesday; we have a meeting today to go over the slides together.

I also started posing the characters for their turnarounds: I'm going to leave the skin painting until they have all been posed, so there are some deformations here and there. Any problems with the texture maps will be fixed too, of course. Below are some unshiny renders of the characters I have posed so far.

Harry is not quite finished yet, his hands grasping the switches need to be tidied up.

Arms could do with some skin painting on his, uh, arms! And fingers.

Dark Arms may require some skin painting on his fingers too.

Worker needs his UV map fixed and some skin painting on the arms.

30/3/10 - The Showreel group had another meeting, in which we finalised our slides for our presentation to Belinda tomorrow. I also repainted the texture for the Buzz the Soldier Bee so that it would fit in with the style of the other textures, and posed the remaining ants.

Buzz now has soft shading rather than the toon style. There are a couple of visible seams still.

The Generic Ant and the Dark version have the same pose.

Some skin weights need to be painted on the fingers, as with the other models.

I made a start on Chapter 5 of the dissertation draft, which is the final chapter before the conclusion. So far, the structure has not changed from its original layout:

5.0 Adapting game art for a portable platform

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Low detail 3D models
5.3 2D renders of high detail 3D models
5.4 Pure 2D assets

At this point I am not sure if this chapter will need some sort of conclusion; I will see once the rest has been written if a conclusion is necessary. This chapter will likely make good use of some images to illustrate each art method.

31/3/10 - Today I painted the skin weights for the posed models, most of which are ready to be rendered this weekend. Following a supervisor meeting I have thought about making the turnaround videos more exciting in some way - like personalising each plinth, perhaps. Buzz needs to be re-rigged and posed with bones rather than the biped, so that will be my next main task.

1/4/10 - I re-rigged and skinned Buzz the soldier and designed some different plinths to reflect the characters which stand on them.

The spiked plinths are for the Dark iterations of the ants; the chunky and tall plinths are for the Heavy enemies. The bottom centre plinth is for Harry. I may work on these a little more if I have time - but the plan at the moment is for the ants to have silver plinths and the bees to have gold ones. The Bumble bee would have a gold plain plinth, Buzz would have a spiked one and the Worker would have a chunky one.

With the camera scene set up and all the models ready, I can soon commence turnaround renders. Each one will probably take a long time with 100 frames to render, and I have several to get through what with high and low poly versions of each character!

The generic ant is ready to be rendered in full, so I will not submit stills of other characters until he is done - it took a little while to set him up!

Now for something visually pleasing (I hope): nice renders of everybody we have so far. That is, a full roster of enemies and two out of three bee types. They're not on plinths, but are otherwise ready.

Low poly enemies

Low poly bees

Hopefully I will be able to create the last bee soon (the Queen Bee and Queen Ant are being left out of this project but will stay in the final game). Once I have turnarounds of all the models, the next step is to create mock-up environments to showcase and compare the low poly models to the renders as possible solutions for the iPhone.

2/3/10 - I spent time creating enemies that would not have their back set of limbs culled in Unity; this involved duplicating all the flat faces. The enemies were then skinned, animated and put in the engine. There is still a slight problem with some missing faces on Arms, which I will have to look into since according to 3DS Max they are neither missing, nor facing the wrong way.


Abi also pointed out that I had put Harry's arms the wrong way round *facepalm* so I fixed that and re-posed him. His rocket arms are now the front set, as was intended. I might try a different pose, such as moving the switch hands forward so that they're more visible, but this is what I decided on today.

Actually, here is an alternative pose. 3DS Max was still open and I couldn't resist.

4/3/10 - Today I commenced rendering character turnarounds and writing some more of chapter 5 of the dissertation. Rendering is time consuming and slows down the computer, so sadly I have not been able to get much else done, but I hope to get all the character renders done by the end of the day.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Week 10

22/3/10 - I started drafting chapter 4 of the dissertation. So far, the original structure seems to work so this chapter will consist of 3 subchapters:

4.1 Introduction
4.2 How the platform affects game design
4.3 The importance of visuals in the context of game design

I found that a case study of Resident Evil: the Umbrella Chronicles came in particularly useful for chapter 4.2, as the game has clearly been tailored specifically for the Wii platform and its audience. It's a perfect example of the platform having a major influence on game design, especially considering that Umbrella Chronicles is part of a well known franchise.

With the jet plane ant model approved at mid poly level, I proceeded to UV unwrap him and add a very basic texture. See below!

The next step is to smooth the model and perhaps add some more fine details, before rigging in preparation for posing.

23/3/10 - I smoothed out the jet plane ant in 3DS Max (not ZBrush). Smoothing wreaks havoc with the UV co-ordinates, and it is made so much worse if you smooth in ZBrush too. There are still some fixes to be made with the UVs, hence the model below is untextured; I also added some extra details which will need to be assigned co-ordinates.

Look at all those rockets!

24/3/10 - I finished Chapter 4 of the draft dissertation and drew out a texture map for the high-poly jet plane enemy after fixing some of his UV co-ordinates. There are still some tweaks to be made, so I will not show a progress shot for the time being; there are more important things to be getting on with, such as texturing the other enemies and building a rig for this one.

25/3/10 - Today was spent rigging the jet plane enemy and drawing textures for all the high poly enemies we have so far. I did the texturing for practice really, since it is one of my weak areas. It also means that Abi doesn't have to texture any of the models if these ones are satisfactory.

These ants are asking for hugs because I'm going to leave posing them for near the end of the project, when I will put together nice little videos of character turnarounds.

26/3/10 - I worked with Unity some more and managed to get animated models working. It is really simple to import, separate and play the animations! Here is a quick video capture of animated enemies:


There are some issues with backface culling, which I shall look into however it might just mean that I have to make some of the planes double sided. Removing culling from the shader did not seem to work, however I will keep trying.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Week 9

15/3/10 - I started the week by completing the jet plane ant and UV unwrapping him. I also assigned a very basic texture.

I then proceeded to work on chapter 3 of the dissertation; again I broke it down into smaller pieces, so the chapter now reads as such:

3.o Popularity of game franchises and handheld platforms

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Growth of the casual market
3.3 Success of portable platforms
3.4 The situation with game franchises

Chapter 3 originally only had two subchapters, but I decided to give the introduction its own heading and discuss the casual market separately from the recent success of portable platforms - even though the two are inevitably linked.

16/3/10 and 17/3/10 - I completed chapter 3 of the dissertation and started modelling the mid-poly version of the jet plane ant, which can be seen below. The body is complete but his accessories have yet to be added.

18/3/10 - Following the critique session I was able to continue with the work as planned; I also acquired a free version of Unity, which means I can run tech demos with the team's game project and test the assets myself. I worked on the jet plane accessories and hope to start fixing and UV mapping the mid-poly model this weekend.

19/3/10 - Success!! The problem that had been plaguing us concerning asset integration from 3DS Max to Unity was finally resolved! I got to grips with the basics of Unity this development Friday and was able to fix a horrible rotation problem that was causing the bees to fly on their backs. Now they face the right way, and I know how to implement them myself.

I also imported the static enemies that I have built so far, and made a litte video capture which shows the 3D swarming motion with the static assets in-game. Our three programmers Hazel McKendrick, Ian Copland and Kieran McGrory are responsible for the scene setup and swarming bees.


Very basic tech demo to show 3D swarming.

I'm pleased to have become acquainted with Unity; I can offer support in a technical art role, which will save the programmers' time considerably. I can also continue to run my own tech demoes now, which is a huge bonus for the personal project.

20/3/10 and 21/3/10 - I spent most of the weekend setting up my own portfolio website, but was also able to devote some time to creating a plinth and lighting scheme for character turnarounds, as well as drawing my own texture for the high poly Worker bee.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Week 8

8/3/10 - My essay structure was approved on Monday, which leaves me free to start writing a draft. The chapters are as follows:

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Graphical capabilities of current gaming platforms
2.1 Gaming platforms from current and previous generations
2.2 The iPhone's capabilities in relation to gaming

3.0 Popularity of game franchises and handheld platforms
3.1 Key factors in the success of casual games and portable platforms
3.2 Successful game franchises

4.0 Game design and visuals in relation to platform
4.1 How the platform affects game design
4.2 The importance of visuals in the context of game design

5.0 Adapting game art for a portable platform
5.1 Low detail 3D models
5.2 2D renders of high detail 3D models
5.3 Pure 2D art assets

6.0 Conclusion

Aside from this, I worked on generating UV maps for all the ants I had modelled so far - this was very difficult in the cases of the high poly models which had been smoothed in ZBrush, as some of the original mapping co-ordinates had been overwritten.

9/3/10 - On Tuesday I finished off the remaining UV maps and sent them to Abi for texturing, as well as creating rigs for the low poly ants (which have changed somewhat from their original formats). See below:

The generic ant and Dark version in low detail models - around 200 triangles each

The heavy ant and Dark version in low detail models - around 200 triangles each

These models now have their arms and legs separate from the bodies, which saves polygons. We reasoned that the ants will probably move in a 2D fashion and as such the 'cardboard' arms and legs shouldn't be too obvious.

This method is an alternative to the original idea, which was to use simple planes for the arms and legs and draw the detail on; the idea was abandoned since overuse of alphas is discouraged in iPhone development. Fully 3D ants, no matter how optimised, still reached polygon counts far too high to be feasible.

These models have been UV unwrapped and rigged; I hope to try one of them in the engine on Friday to make sure there are no pressing problems. At this stage our approach to the 3D ants is very experimental and it would be good to know which method works best.

10/3/10 - I started writing the dissertation proper and almost completed chapter 2; already the structure has changed slightly, since 2.1 ended up being huge. I broke it down so chapter 2 is now as follows:

2.1 - Introduction
2.2 - The history of gaming platforms
2.3 - Innovation and new directions
2.4 - The iPhone's capabilities in relation to gaming

I intend to finish the chapter by the end of this week, and perhaps make a start on chapter 3.

11/3/10 - The low poly ant models are now fully rigged, as are the high poly heavy and Dark heavy. The next step is to try some animations in the engine tomorrow, before commencing the low poly model of the jet plane ant. Once he has been modelled, that will be our main roster of enemies ready. Although many of the high detail models are ready to be posed, I am going to leave this for the time being as it is less important than putting assets in the game.

12/3/10 - I made a start on the low-poly jet plane ant, but as group we did not make much progress since the Unity licenses ran out and there were various interruptions.

14/3/10 - Today I continued with the low poly jet plane ant, who is now very nearly finished.

Perspective view - like the other ants, his limbs (and accessories) are flat.

Side view. This is how he will look in-game.

At the moment I'm not sure whether this model needs arms, but everything else is complete and can be UV unwrapped.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Week 7

1/3/10 - Monday was mostly taken up with meetings; at the show reel group meeting we brainstormed and came up with some ideas for transitions between clips. I created a document with the information we have obtained so far concerning students' work for the show reel; unfortunately the list is still only half complete at this stage.

2/3/10 - Today I wrote an in-depth plan for the dissertation, with the proper layout including table of contents, abstract, declaration etc. Each chapter has been planned out with notes and I've roughly split the word count across each section.

I also made some changes to the heavy ant model after receiving a detailed model guide from Abi. Here is how he looks now:

I think he has much more personality now. Once this initial model has been tweaked and approved, it will be UV unwrapped and taken into ZBrush for smoothing.

4/3/10 - Today I worked with my Professional Practice group on a show reel for the Grad show fundraiser and collated the data for everybody who will be submitting something for the final show reel. I also UV unwrapped the heavy ant, who will soon be ready for detailing, and optimised the generic ant so that he is now just over 500 triangles.

I also experimented with rendering using Ambient Occlusion; the result can be seen below.

I'm tempted to try baking Ambient Occlusion to the texture map and use it to aid my texturing, since at the moment my abilities in that area are not very strong. It's also useful to look at ways of rendeing characters nicely, as good setting really can make such a difference.

5/3/10 - Today was our development day, so I spent time further optimising the ant model and I also used baked ambient occlusion to create detailed textures for the small ant and the soldier.

Baking ambient occlusion has added some nice detail to these otherwise simple textures, and I think it looks quite nice. Hopefully it'll still make a difference at a small size.

6/3/10 and 7/3/10 - I spent the weekend adding detail to the heavy ant, creating the dark version and building a heavy skeleton. The original heavy ant is rigged, but the dark heavy isn't at the moment. I also created and textured a low poly version of the dark generic ant. Below are the dark heavy ant and low poly dark generic ant.

The dark ant is instantly recognisable by his bright colours and spikes on his limbs.

Dark heavy is also recognisable by his spikes and will have the same bright colours.

I drew up a list of tasks concerning character creation, since this will be the largest part of my project; I'm keeping tabs on which characters have been created, and whether their low and high poly versions have been textured and rigged. Low poly models have priority since they will be in the final game, and at this point I am still unsure if all the characters will be ready for submission.