ANI210 – Aftermath Post-Mortem

For the whole trimester, my teammates and I have been working on our Aftermath project. The brief for this project asked us to create a game environment in Unreal Engine that showed the aftermath of some event. My team chose to create the aftermath of a bar brawl (come on guys! What’s wrong with the aftermath of an office Nerf war?) set in the Wild West.

Plans & Pitches

First; let me show you my concepts.

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Wow, it has been so long since I looked at these images, it’s almost jarring to see. These images were born from much research into Wild Western saloons. As you can see, I was quite bad at perspective at certain angles, but I do like to believe that my perspective skills have improved.

The research process felt a little chaotic, as if we were just collecting images without actually knowing if they fit with the style and time period we were going for. But we managed to figure out the style we wanted for our saloon, and our group leader told us the year that we were looking for and we were able to start piecing together our style guide.

We wanted – note; wanted – to create and texture our assets in an Overwatch style so we got a whole lot of images of the Overwatch map ‘Hollywood’. (For those who don’t know; Overwatch is a game made by Blizzard Entertainment.) This map has wild western buildings that we could use as reference, and we grabbed images of other Overwatch maps to get a feel of the style.

With the rest of the images on our style guide/mood board, we collected images of the interior of saloons from the time period and other small props that lay around the saloon, such as bottles, barrels, spitoons, wanted posters etc. From these we could keep concepting and finish pre-production.

We typed up a project plan we continued to draw concepts and/or started modelling. However during our project, we never looked at the project plan, it just sat in our Google Drive, not being touched and we progressed. We should have followed this plan closely, perhaps then we would not have handed the environment in so late. Without the project plan, it is most likely safe to compare our progress during the project to a blocked up funnel. We needed better planning for this project and we needed to stick to it.

Creative Work & Processes Used

From there we went onto modelling. One of the main problems faced was backwards compatibility between 3dsMax 2017 and 3dsMax 2016, for when we were modelling at home and at uni. I, personally, kept forgetting to save my files in a format that could be opened in 2016 version of Max, which really impacted how quickly I could finish assets. I also discovered that an asset you create in 2016 doesn’t stay in the 2016 format once you save a new version of the asset in 2017, that caught me up a few times while I was working.

There’s a few of my assets. It was interesting trying to work out how to make the round tables (I made a small and large one), and chairs. It was also interesting trying to work out how to break the crate. I didn’t have many problems with the modelling part of this project, and my favourite asset that I made was this one:

Saloon_model

For some reason, I just really love this model, it’s so amazing! *hem hem* Enough self praise. From modelling come texturing, and well… you’ve seen a few on my models, so I’ll show you some of my texture maps.

I enjoy texturing a lot, and the floor, dartboard and the texture for the saloon sign were some of my best this time around. The yellow texture in the corner there is for some gold bars that were in the environment. The floor was the hardest out of all my textures to make, the dartboard being the second hardest, as I had to determine the length of the floor plank, however, once I had worked that out it was a simple matter of copy and past to get the rest of the planks there.

When everything was textured we then began to place it all together in Unreal Engine, though in all honesty, we should have started this step sooner, while we were modelling and texturing. I had a problem with my broken crate pointed out to me, in which the inside of the crate was invisible due to the way I rendered out the image. Unfortunately I did not know how to fix this until yesterday, when our lecturer showed me the settings that were incorrect, as such, it was not fixed in the environment.

We discussed what triggered events we would add to the environment, and at the beginning of the project we had a lot of triggers, unfortunately, due to us running out of time, and a lack of assets, the only trigger we ended up adding was a proximity trigger on the piano that would begin playing “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin when the player moved near the piano.

From the screenshots above, you can see that we didn’t end up sticking to our planned style of Overwatch. This is because when we began texturing, some of us tried to stick to the style, whereas others went with a more realistic style, so our textures ended up being mixed matched. However I think our environment turned out alright anyway.

Project Management & Teamwork

Our project was handed in well past its due date. This happened, first, because we overestimated how much work we needed to do to create the environment, and then later, because we all decided to focus more on the next project; our obstacle courses, over finishing our environment.

While working on this, we never realized how close the due date was or how long it would take to put the environment together in Unreal. All the weeks up to the due date were filled with modelling and texturing, and a week to import it into Unreal, then export and upload. Our project was almost too ambitious. We should have noticed the amount of backlog in assets that was happening and cut less important assets from our list.

Another problem was communication and misunderstanding. Using Slack to communicate is both harder and easier than talking face to face. While, yes, it was easier than waiting till we could meet up to discuss the project; over the internet, you lack everything you use to communicate except your words. The group would discuss details in the group chat on Slack, trying to explain their ideas, but since we were unable to gesture to images effectively, these discussions grew more heated. We should have organised to meet up at uni more often to have group meetings so that these details could have been sorted out properly.

Near the time when we were meant to hand in our environment three of us were discussing the possibility of asking out team leader to step down as it was felt that she wasn’t doing her job to the best of her abilities. I had noted that it was far to late to be considering a change in leadership, and while my teammates conceded to my point, it was easy to see that they still wanted to press the point further. Any problems with leadership should have been dealt with in the first weeks of of the project, not talking about it towards the end of it.

But aside from this, I enjoyed working with them, and I am happy with the end result of the project. I hope I have more chance in the future to work with an amazing team.

~Icetail~

Updated: 9th of May, 2017, 11.45am. 1.15pm. 4.12pm

First Game Environment

Let it be said that I am a 2D animator and have no joy for 3D modeling or animating. However, messing around inside Unreal Engine is fun, especially when I can test whatever I piece together by shooting it with the default gun supplied by the program. For the past week and a bit I have been working on a game environment at the prompting of my lecturer as a “Bootcamp” to teach us the basics of Unreal Engine so we can use the skills in later projects this trimester (and in our following trimesters).

To start off with we modeled a wall section, a roof section and a floor section. We were also supplied with boring, but somewhat interesting textures that showed how big each asset was in square metres.

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These textures graced the models that were made for a while and we moved onto building the environment in Unreal. This was interesting, dragging all the assets around to create a game level of sorts, no matter how weird and incomplete it looked. It was also fun discovering how high the default player character could jump and experimenting with my different assets to create platforms and stairs.

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As can be noted in the images above… I might or might not have messed with the light colour and made it a blood coloured tint.

After we finished blocking out the environment we were told to create our own textures for the blocks we used. I was unable to work out how to attach the different maps to materials in the material editor in Unreal, that will require some extra research in the future. These are two of the texture maps I created, however they are not present in the final itteration of this environment.

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They are meant to be wall panels, however I preferred the supplied textures in Unreal, and because of due dates, I didn’t have the time to mess around in Photoshop to create my own. So instead – this is what my final environment looked like:

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EDIT: I forgot to add this when I first typed this, so I shall add it now. Continuing on about textures, the most common texture properties used in material shaders in Unreal Engine are the diffuse, roughness, normal and metallic maps. The diffuse map controls the colours of the asset and this works alongside the normal map, which governs how light reacts when it hits the object. The roughness and metallic maps control how shiny an asset is and whether or not the asset is meant to be made of metal or not. Roughness and metallic maps are either black, white or a shade of grey. Normal maps are usually a blue, with darker blue and purple patches that show depth.

This modular approach to building game environments is interesting, I’d love to see what my group and I manage to create with Unreal for our Wild West themed “Aftermath” project. This Bootcamp to making game environments is useful, and I’m glad to say that I learnt much.

See you all in my next post!

~Icetail~