Done and Dusted… and proud as hell.

Hand in day today for the Container City project. I’m writing this from my mum’s candle lit living room, taking a break from Leicester for a couple of days before I head back for the new project… more on that next week.

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Mmm colours.

This is our final level. I’m so proud. And so glad it’s over.

I was mostly in charge of the engine stuff, and that meant fiddling with countless blueprints and materials (that would never work properly DAMN GRASS), lighting, and making a lot of the other creative decisions like where to put everything and what colours to make the containers etc. I feel like I’m beginning to understand Unreal Engine 4. We’re becoming good friends, but with that comes the responsibility of knowing his every flaw. We fell out a lot, like when moments before hand-in the grass decided to break again, and when UE would crash every time I tried to fix the light maps on certain assets. We’re still not on great terms, I’m afraid.

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There are a few things that could be better. Building the lighting on a production level wrecked everything, so it’s only on preview settings. The landscape still has those annoying shading issues, which in fact decided to get worse on hand-in day for no apparent reason (and trying to fix it broke the grass… again…). The shadows are completely black in some places, which is probably my fault on a post-production level but so help me I tried. Forgetting all the negativity though, I’m so happy with how it turned out. It’s exactly how I imagined the atmosphere and quite similar to my concepts too, but perhaps maybe that’s because I lit/dressed everything.

4 concepts montage

Little things like trying to make godrays drove me completely up the wall, because I was trying to make them quite complex and it didn’t work. But I also managed to code some things myself using blueprints and I feel much more confident with them now. When you approach the open bird cage, text appears saying “The bird’s escaped again.” and how you have to go find him, which is the aim of the game. So we have a bit of narrative going which explains why you’re wandering around the level, and it gives you an aim.

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Distant spinning turbines.

In terms of what I’m going to take with me to our next project, the list is endless. I have a better idea of how to make various materials for what I want, I know how I’ll make trees for next time that’ll look better, and I want to try out using height maps to merge two textures in a more natural looking way. As you can see above, the two ground textures blend flawlessly together over a gradient, and I don’t want that. I want the sand to go in the cracks of the stone and such. The list goes on and on, but I won’t bore you with the details.

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A last minute addition to our level I created to give a feel that there is more to our scene than just the corridors you walk through.

Our project brief was created with an emphasis on atmosphere and composition, and I feel like we’ve succeeded with both of these. From concepts to the final thing I was thinking quite carefully about how shots were composed as you walked through the scene, particularly with how lighting affected this. I’m pleased with how the lighting halos the well while the areas we don’t want you to visit remain in shadow. I used the colour of lights with quite a lot of thought too, keeping them as mostly warm oranges, but I also used some white lights and areas of complete darkness to keep you moving through the level as it felt less pleasant to be in.

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I think the above shot shows off the best of the indoor of our level, and I really love how cosy it feels (but it would be better with godrays). I’m so so pleeeeeeased. I’m trying to think of things I would do differently next time, in true project evaluation style, but I’m finding it hard. As a team we worked in labs as much as was necessary and communicated really well, which was one of the keys to our success, and there was no need to go back and pester anyone to re-do assets or hurry-up-because-our-deadline-is-tomorrow-and-we-have-no-work. We were totally on it time wise and almost nothing was left too late for comfort. Personally, maybe something I would do differently is my assets. I’m not overly happy with them because they’re a little rushed; I was enjoying the engine stuff too much. I took a look at a flythrough of a scene based in a Paris apartment and I was like damnnnn I need to up my armchair making game.

But. We done good. I can sleep (since my UE4 riddled dreams prevented me from doing so last night) knowing we did something we can be proud of.

VFX festival on Wednesday was so, so good. I can’t wait until the chance to do a more game-related event. Never mind that I probably won’t go into VFX. It was fascinating. Seriously. Looking at the making of the SSE advert (see below) and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Groot’s rig and the freakin’ 2.4 billion tri wireframe of a scene from the movie. Hearing how they hand placed every light in GOTG, seeing the making of Lumino City, how they made every hair on the SSE orang-utan’s body, learning about new things such as Macbeth colour charts. Man. I could almost go into VFX myself. It’s cool! I’m definitely going to do more events now. Industry Workshops is way up there on my hit list.

To end the week we had a talk from DMU graduates Ben Keeling and Del Walker, who have gone on to achieve every Game Art student’s dream and make games for companies like Splash Damage and Sony. It was both daunting to see Del’s first year work and inspiring, but I can’t help but feel ‘well, shit, he was better than me in his first year than my second and now my window of opportunity is gone’. Either way, the rest of the talk and the Q&A was enlightening, and I feel compelled to push my waking up times even earlier and start doing more with my day. Also, I now own a pair of trainers and am going to start attending the gym.

I’m serious.

Operation ‘sort life out and walk up stairs without dying’ is a go.

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