Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Side Scroller Project-Post mortem

“Game Art is a fast moving industry and it is necessary to be able to work quickly, effectively and as part of a team. This project should give you the opportunity to understand what your chosen specialism would be like. Together we will be working towards a large goal (Game), this will have separate elements (Levels) and these levels should have individual content that you can put towards your portfolio.
This project has elements that will allow concept artists, character artists, environment artists and engine artists to develop their skills, and hopefully allow you as a year group to create something larger and more impressive. “

The job role I was assigned was Environment artist, and I was part of the Cold team. We were tasked with creating a “cold” level, which would sync with the other levels throughout this project. The style and feel would need to feel consistent within every level, so we needed to make sure that we worked in collaboration with all of the other teams.

We started by first making mood boards and working out what’s cold, but not too cliché. While we sorted the first stages of concepting, we also tried to organise a time scale and looked into making an asset list based off our most probable ideas. We looked at what objects we would need and them what others may be good to add as a stretch goal. We each looked an individual idea each and produced concepts based on that. I began to concept some icy caves and underground tunnels; we had a layout and because of this we started to work out areas of the level to fit the “shape” of our level and to show a progression through the terrain. We eventually went along a quite classic idea of cold, with ice and snow. We decided the best route to go, was to make out level similar to a Nepalese mountain range with traverses past or through a religious artefact and deep into some icy caves towards the scary level.

Cave Concepts and Style Progression

During our concepting stage, we all as a group found it difficult to pinpoint a specific style for our project. I decided to produce some style progression boards to help us pinpoint the exact style we were looking for. Eventually as a group we decided we wanted a style very similar to that of the Trine games; this meant that the shapes of our models were stylised, but the materials were realistic.
Once we were settled on an idea as a group, we mapped out a potential route around the level and how we could traverse it and use all the space possible. We then assigned different world assets to each of us in the group to produce. I was given the task of producing the statue hero asset, bell tower and other smaller bits; as well as tweaking.

Early Level Layout

We made the whitebox of the level to start with, and updated the models over time. I sculpted the statue and some of the stone damage on the bell tower using Zbrush. I found it quite tricky sculpting parts of the statue due to the lack of skill using Zbrush and modelling organic objects. However, I managed to reproduce our concept quite accurately in my opinion. I had some trouble baking some of the normal down from my high poly sculpt, but I soon resolved these and managed to get a decent Normal map which really pushed the detail with the materials. The materials were quite simple to produce, with PBR, it is quicker to texture and gives a much better result, so I was quite pleased with the outcome of my assets.

Final Statue Concept
Being a cold level involving ice and snow, we obviously had to work out a way to coat our assets with snow. Dom found a way of simulating snow falling in a scene in 3dsmax, this produced a layer of snow as a separate mesh. This was used to give a sense of thick snow. However the rest of the snow was added using vertex painting within Unreal Engine 4. Once Dom had applied it, I worked on improving the mask used in the material to make it look a little more convincing as real snow and not fake spray-on snow.

I think the Cold team produced a convincingly cold level. We produced some nice concepts and assets and managed to get it functioning as a level how we wanted it to within the six week restriction. However, we did come across problems which hindered and slowed our progress. As a group of 4, one concept artist and 3 environment artists, it’s not surprising that some of our ideas conflicted and that compromises had to be made. But the problem I found was that at times, someone would start to work on something they hadn’t informed the rest of us about. This meant that there were occasions where things were almost produced twice, or something had already been completed and forgotten about. If I could change this, I would have liked more communication between the lot of us, so that the pipeline process was more fluent.

Overall the project was a good test for the year group as a whole to work as a production sized group and to produce a decent looking, four level side scroller. There were highs and lows, but I think many of us produced portfolio worthy pieces and learnt a lot about the software we use, themselves and each other. Hopefully this will help us work in collaboration during our Final Major Projects.