Helpful Tutorials!

Another one! Last post I think before bed 🙂

So throughout the trimester I’ve been going through oodles upon oodles of tutorials from all different sources: Digital Tutors, Youtube, Unreal Help Forums, Yahoo answers, and just general Google searching.

The ones I’ve found to be most useful to me over the trimester are:

http://www.digitaltutors.com/tutorial/1732-Quick-Start-to-Unreal-Engine-4-Volume-1

(And it’s following volumes)

This was a great way to introduce myself to Unreal as a whole. The tutor very clearly went through and explained how everything worked, gave assignments to finish at the end of each volume, and just set his videos out in a way that was easy to navigate and accomplish.

This volume was the beginning point for me with particle effects. I was taught how to create and alter a dust particle system completely, and as can be seen in my show reel, I have produced my own dust particle effect for my specialisation level. I would have made more, but due to time constraints I was absolutely unable to create multiple, complicated particles like I had initially wanted to. I’m still learning how to use Cascade effectively, but I think I’m well on my way to becoming a Particle Master soon enough 😀

The videos also went into detail about lighting, and he used an example of a cave and the different effects and moods you can achieve with just simple, subtle changes in lighting colour, attenuation, intensity, etc. I wanted this to be in my final level to show that I’d learnt from his lessons, and I feel I did that effectively.

Another set of tutorials I found particularly helpful (I honestly watched tens of hours of videos, but I’m just going to pick the ones that really helped me get out of a mental pickle) were the ones explaining how to use Matinee for my cinematic.

https://wiki.unrealengine.com/Matinee_Basics:_Creating_Your_First_Matinee_Sequence

This was a particularly helpful link, as it showed the absolute basics of how to do a fly-through of a scene, with cuts between cameras and everything. I found this particularly useful for my show reel, because without this knowledge I’d never have been able to show you guys what I had created this trimester. Clearly my skills with show reel, camera capture, movie making and such still need work, but I’m not particularly upset by how everything turned out 🙂

until next time, folks!

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Hologram Production Pipeline

Okie dokie!

Production pipelines!

So one of the aspects of my specialisation task was to make a Hologram effect to be used in the final Creature Project. I vaguely remember researching production pipelines early on in the trimester, plus taking extensive notes when Steve talked to us about it in class that one time, but didn’t really do much thinking, pipeline-wise, until the very end.

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I’ve found that as a person who loves to make lists, I’m constantly creating, altering, and implementing production pipelines in everything I do. For a uni project, there’s an easy to follow pipeline of what the final product I need to make is, and the steps I need to take to get that final product.

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This is me, by the end of every week that I live my life.

For my hologram effect, it started off with a lot of research. That means pictures, videos, movies that implemented holograms, you name it. These were just a few ideas that I wanted to keep in mind when making my holographic projections:

326 avatarbrain Iron-Man-Movie-Prologue-Hologram-2 show TRON_GFX_SS_27

What’s a common shape here? Circles. Common colour? Cyan. Common movement? Rotation.

OH HELLO TECHNOLOGY.

At first I started researching Particle Effect videos, because I thought this would be the best way (They ended up being useful for other parts of my specialisation though), however I realised I was wrong, too late mind you, but at least in time to create the desired product before the exhibition.
Example: http://www.digitaltutors.com/tutorial/181-Creating-Interface-Effects-in-3ds-Max-and-After-Effects

I decided that I’d try some basic circular shapes, try and move those around or something, pretty much figured that it would be a cinch, and I could smash this out within a day or so. Nope, nope, nope. It took weeks to find the right video explaining how to correctly make a holographic projection that could be usable in UE4, and it was only in the week before exhibition week that I found this fantastic human’s video:

MY SAVIOUR. So, I started my creations:

I never ended up using all of these, BUT, at least I learnt many things. Namely, RGB channels in Photoshop are a really cool thing. And learning how to utilise them for animation in UE4 was really exciting and fun 😀

I don’t have videos of the hologram test level I did, but I’ll take screenshots soon and post them in here as an edit later on 😀 Too dang tired right now XD

I ended up with these two images in the final levels:

Level1_Crea_Hologram Level2_Crea_Hologram

which I’m actually super proud of. I was able to create an animated material in Unreal, and apply it to these textures effectively. In my level 2 i was even able to implement a red flashing light onto it also, to give it a more dark feel.
Overall, I feel like I followed my personal pipeline well, and really, compared to that first picture of a production pipeline, I feel like I actually followed it almost perfectly XD Regardless of how time limited I ended up being :SS Hahaha

Creature Menagerie – Post Mortem

This may take a while… hahaha 🙂

Okay, so this is where I evaluate everything. I’m going to be honest, and I’m going to be very critical of myself.

Overall, I feel the project went well, considering the time we had to learn how to use an entirely new game engine, and how much other work had to be done outside of this project. I think our teams worked mostly well together, and that we’ve all definitely learnt something about teamwork, and how to communicate best with others to come together for a final product.
Steve told us that we’d gotten further than the last tri’s class, since we were actually able to stitch everything together, however I still feel like it needs to be polished, and that we should definitely not forget about this project, considering how much more incredible it could become. Our show reels could really reel people in. hehehe.

Now for the cold hard truth.

Some things that I feel I did well with:

Ensuring everyone knew exactly what had to be done (Messages, Trello)

Giving constructive feedback via blog commenting

Trying new ways to help everyone learn together (Weekly 1-hr tutorial viewing, which stopped after about 3 weeks sadly.)

I feel that I, as a team leader, failed. I feel that so strongly that it hurts. I should have been more on top of getting my team to contribute their parts, I should have been meeting up with members in our spare time to work together. I should have spent more time on my work than at work. I should have been more communicative with our facilitator about which methods would be most effective to keep everyone on track, and overall, I should have been more authoritative over my team.

The project was very broken by the time of the exhibition, which means that we definitely needed that one week of polish that we’d set out to do in our Project Proposals, however we did not meet that deadline in time, and so we had what we had.We needed to stick to our project timeline, and ensure we completed our work on time, and to a satisfactory level.

I think I personally need to go over Work Breakdown Structures again, to properly be able to analyse a project, and know which method would work best to get the project done on time, and to our initial expectations.

Over the holidays I’ll be researching this, as well as other possibilities for organisation and data asset workflow. I may also look into more production pipelines, and attempt to create some works implementing pipelines that I create for myself, as good practise. I feel like this is something everyone else should do as well, to hopefully come into next trimester with as much preparedness as we can have in these areas.

One more thing that we needed to stick to were our naming conventions. We had set out technical frameworks for this project, and almost everyone (myself included) forgot to ensure that all of our assets were named accordingly, by the standards we had set out in the Art Bible. They were simple, and most of us failed to remember them. This needs to be worked on most definitely. I know that upon stitching together all three levels, Kate, Brandon and I ensured each asset in each level was named according to the level they belonged in. This was both for peace of mind, as well as a way to prevent problematic file migration in Unreal. It was a good idea, but we hadn’t actually specified to do that to our class whatsoever, and it should have definitely been something to document in the Art Bible earlier on.

To be honest, I’m not too sure how a post-mortem goes anymore, and I’m much too tired to check examples, but I feel like I’ve covered all the bases I wanted to… so I’m not too upset.

Birdlife Data Asset Workflow

Hey guys!

Just wanted to do a quick blog post on the effectiveness of the way my Birdlife group handled all their assets and data between members 🙂 (Let’s be honest, they organised everything a lot better than we did for the Creature project XD)

Okay! So the primary location for all our usable assets to be stored was Google Drive. Everything was organised well into different folders, and I came up with my own naming convention to allow ease of workflow later on. (e.g. Tree_01, Tree_02, etc.)

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Each asset was uploaded from USB/PC/etc to the drive, under its folder name. These were easy to navigate and make sense of.

2 As we worked on files, we would put place holder assets into the ‘Prototypes’ folder, and any assets that weren’t going to be for the absolutely final build were placed into ‘Working Files’, i.e. Files that you’re still working on until everything is finished. Made sense to me XD

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Aside from the occasional asset that a programmer would make and haphazardly chuck into my beautiful folder, everything worked well and ran smoothly due to the care taken by the team leads. Great job guys!

For the programmers/designer, they used Github to store their game builds. Now I’m not too certain on how this is used, but essentially Github saves all previous builds you ‘push’/upload? to the repository, to act as backups in case your current game build has problems that you can’t figure out the solutions to. This was really useful for them, as it meant any problems they encountered could be solved by simply ‘pulling’ the previous game build, and checking the code to see what’s been changed since. My programmer boyfriend wants me to learn how to use Github for future projects as it will be useful to me later on in my professional career, buuuuut he’s also scared that I’ll mess up everything and forget to push/pull the old and new builds… something something… I’ll destroy everything. I’m pretty certain he’s right to be fearful with that. XD

All in all, Birdlife was handled really well, and yes we will be polishing it later on when we’ve all recovered after such a long, stressful period. And yes, I’ll definitely still be using my personal naming conventions, and shunning all who don’t follow it 😛

Well

My particle level cinematic…? Is still rendering, and my goodness it had better be beautiful when I’m done xD

I left it rendering for the 6 hours I was at work tonight and it’s still going. So I’ll be up pretty late getting my showreel and such done, Huehuehue. Don’t be scared of I’m weird and creepy/loud tomorrow guys. Probably the lack of sleep I’ll be getting 😛

Visual Fundamentals in Games

Line:

Lines show you where an object starts and ends. It creates the illusion of form. Depending on the line quality (thick/thin), you can add different varieties of form to an object. In games, designers are very creative with how they use lines to express a certain art style, and to give shape to objects.

Okami is a very beautiful, Japanese calligraphy-styled game, which is expressed through painted illustrations and stunning visuals. bigger objects usually have thicker outlines, but every frame is able to be viewed as a beautiful painting.

Okami-HD-PS3-Rumor okami-beauty

On the other hand, LoZ: Windwaker lacks any form of line ‘quality’ whatsoever. However, this only adds to the style and visual effect of the game, and to this day is one of my favourite games, visually.

ib1yGGDWPyMbJO

Deponia is another game that uses line well, every scene looks like a picture, and even the characters moving throughout it don’t deter from the overall look and feel of the story.

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Texture/Composition:

Composition is all about the way the viewer’s eye moves around the page. When deciding on the composition of a level, you’re deciding which direction to lead the eye in. Where to stop, where to follow onto next.

Composition plays a big part in the game experience. If the composition of a level is correct, the player will have an immersive, enjoyable experience. If not, the player will then feel disoriented, and not as though they are actually ‘in’ the game, resulting in an overall bad experience.

Texture for games refers to the way something looks as if it would feel if it were touched. For convincing, immersive experiences, artists need to create realistic textures for each object. Objects that would be rough in real life need to look rough in-game. This is done by normal maps, lighting and colour correction.

The one thing artists and designers have to keep in mind is how efficient everything is, so that the game can run more smoothly while still being visually appealing. So it’s better to use low-poly models with great normal maps and textures, as opposed to incredibly high-poly models with sup-par textures/maps.

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As you can see in this screenshot below of The Last of Us, the ground still looks convincing, even though it’s just a very well done material (comprised of textures and normal maps).uncharted32012022921212

The same goes here. As a viewer you can tell that the sand close to the bottom of the image isn’t high-poly, but it’s still done well enough to not detract fully from the visual experience. This is the usefulness of great texture.uncharted-3-drakes-deception-20110816001230248Skyrim

Once you play a game with these fundamentals in mind, it’s easier to see where designers have focused their attention, detail-wise, and where they’ve tried to optimise performance through poly count. However, due to their careful use of great textures and normal maps, everything is still effective at producing a great visual experience. 2011112919394820111129193224

A lot of these images highlight where designers have cut down on poly counts, however as you play through the games normally, these parts aren’t obvious. The main features that the designers wanted to be the focal point look fantastic, and these not-so-fantastic features are still enough to keep the viewer immersed. 201111291931542011112919224720111129192217

Player Composition:

Almost all recent games I’ve played compose their scenes really well. If it’s third person, the player character is to the side of the screen, allowing the viewer to fully see the rest of the scene composition. All designers lately have been paying close attention to detail in their composition setup, which allows for an incredible visual experience.

In this scene, the designers have cleverly used lighting to really focus the viewer’s eye to the mid-to-background area. It focuses on where the ‘alien spaceships’ are flying.

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In Skyrim, this viewpoint can be achieved in game, from third person playing. Many of the areas in the game are well composed, allowing an almost film-like experience whenever you discover a new town, or a new major area in the plot line. 012

Foreground/Middle/Background:

When designing a level, it’s good to keep in mind that the human eye will separate environments into these three parts. To try and direct the player’s eye where you want it to go, it’s good to know how to highlight these different aspects effectively.

This article from Gamasutra is probably the best I’ve found to describe such elements. I’ll explain a small portion of what he explains here.

He says that levels must be designed in a Foreground, Centre of Interest and Background layout.

Compo_perspective

The Foreground layers are closest to the viewer. It’s used as a frame to focus the viewer on the dominant/important parts of the scene.

Compo_1_foregroundComposition_foreground-codg_1

The Centre of Interest is obviously where the player is meant to look. It has to still blend in well with the rest of the environment, but needs to be enough of a focal point that the player knows that this is where they need to go.

Compo_2_centerCounterpoint-dishonored_1

The background layer is used to just finish the scene. They close the composition but don’t detract from everything else. it helps the Centre of Interest remain so, and really helps to tie everything in. The colours are normally used to bring out the dominant aspect’s silhouette, create depth and eliminate scene isolation. Never use strong lines, bold colours or lots of detail.

Compo_3_backgroundBackground_rage_1

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Colour/Lighting:

Lighting/Colour:

Lighting and Colour are both effective ways to draw the viewer’s attention. It highlights important parts, and makes the less important aspects less noticeable.

The Last of Us is quite a linear game, however, the way they get the player to continue along the story line is very clever. Every important part of the plot that the designers want you to focus on, are done with a great use of lighting and colour.

Here in this scene below, you as the viewer are distracted by something going on outside the building, which is achieved by this great use of bright, warm colour in such a cold environment.

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As you continue playing, it’s clear that this use of lighting and colour will be a continuous effect throughout the game to lead you to the next stage. It keeps the player immersed with surrounding sounds and visuals, and even though it’s so obvious here, while you’re playing the game you can hardly tell you’re being lead around. 014

In Tomb Raider, designers cleverly used camera movements and mini-cut scenes to highlight where to go next in the plot line.

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Tree canopies along bush paths are also a great way of directing the player’s attention to where the action is.010009

Lighting/Colour:

Lighting and Colour are both effective ways to draw the viewer’s attention. It highlights important parts, and makes the less important aspects less noticeable.

The Last of Us is quite a linear game, however, the way they get the player to continue along the story line is very clever. Every important part of the plot that the designers want you to focus on, are done with a great use of lighting and colour.

Here in this scene below, you as the viewer are distracted by something going on outside the building, which is achieved by this great use of bright, warm colour in such a cold environment.

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As you continue playing, it’s clear that this use of lighting and colour will be a continuous effect throughout the game to lead you to the next stage. It keeps the player immersed with surrounding sounds and visuals, and even though it’s so obvious here, while you’re playing the game you can hardly tell you’re being lead around. 014

In Tomb Raider, designers cleverly used camera movements and mini-cut scenes to highlight where to go next in the plot line.

2013-03-07_00001

Tree canopies along bush paths are also a great way of directing the player’s attention to where the action is.010009

In Mirror’s Edge, the designers use colour really well in such a bright, fast-paced environment to alert the player of where to go next, and what actions should be performed leading up to that area.

Color_mirrorsedge_1

Using dramatic lighting in a dark scene is a great way of directing the player’s attention to important areas. Color_alanwake_1

These next few screenshots from CoD: Black Ops 2 and The Last of Us have used lighting and colour in a very effective way to direct the player throughout the levels. It’s very subtle when you’re playing it, which is amazing. COD_BO2_0068ccs-14074-0-92058000-1415809356 (1)

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When lighting and colour don’t immediately show the player where to go, designers use events such as characters, etc., to let the player know where to go next. ccs-14074-0-34703300-1415809695

That link I pasted earlier has so much more information, it’s super interesting, please read it if you’re interested!!!

Overall, this was very eye-opening. I’ve learnt a little bit more about how to direct a player’s attention to where it needs to be, how to direct a player throughout the level subconsciously, and just overall how to design a level layout in the most effective way.

Woo!

Excuse the lack of correct citation, too many links, Dakota might cry.

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http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MateuszPiaskiewicz/20140817/223513/Composition_in_Level_Design.php

http://www.mapcore.org/page/features/_/articles/level-design-in-the-last-of-us-part-one-r46

http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/232819-The-Secret-to-Composition-tutorial

http://fox-orian.deviantart.com/art/Perspective-Composition-Pt-2-125042592

http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1310/level_design_using_the_elements_of_.php

http://thegame-pad.com/?p=510

http://www.diva-portal.se/smash/get/diva2:603788/FULLTEXT02.pdf

http://www.fdg2014.org/papers/fdg2014_paper_35.pdf

http://www.worldofleveldesign.com/categories/game_environments_design/11-things-i-learned-from-dream-worlds.php

http://normallyrascal.com/2014/11/29/final-fantasy-vii-camera-and-composition-part-1/

http://www.smashandpeas.com/the-five-basic-rules-of-shot-composition/

http://howtonotsuckatgamedesign.com/2014/11/color-theory-game-design-1-fundamentals/

http://thevirtualinstructor.com/artfundamentals.html

https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Color_Theory_in_Level_Design

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131581/lessons_in_color_theory_for_spyro_.php

http://www.gamesradar.com/why-okami-one-greatest-games-ever-made/?page=2

http://www.gamesradar.com/why-okami-one-greatest-games-ever-made/?page=2

http://fox-orian.deviantart.com/art/Perspective-Composition-Pt-1-118068853