Transparent and Opaque, Lit and Unlit, Up and Down.

Another week in and I’m still kind of up and down about the project, though I feel like I’m starting to settle down a bit. I’ve decided to stick with my group, and we have a pretty solid asset list with everything distributed among us at this point, so it’d kinda be dickish to leave now. I finished creating concepts for the environments, and moved on with modelling my first asset. Here are the rest of my environment concepts and other bits and bobs to start;

Concept Montage

The bottom right concepts are for a couple of houses that will be submerged in a ‘lake of tears’, as part of Alice in Wonderland’s story, which you can see in the second concept on the left. My progress so far, below, is what I did Thursday and Friday. I’ve made all the tilables, so now it’s just the uniques that I need to texture, which should take me less than a day. Then it’s on to house number 2! I’ve been using photo textures that I’ve taken for my texture library in the past, and heavily manipulated them to make them feel more hand-painted and match my concept. A tool that I’ve found indispensable for this is Photoshops’s ‘smart blur’. It’s great for blurring out photo noise while keeping the sharp details of things like gaps between roof tiles. A little bit of hand overpainting to remove shadows and other unwanted details and you’re sorted.

Snip 1

So far so good, but still a lot to do and the wall texture is bothering me.

Our actual level file is starting to come together too. I made a grass texture/mesh, working off the one I used for Container City (CC), and Mark put it into engine and made it move much more nicely and naturally than in CC. The grass has some patches with grass seeds on too, and it creates an awesome variation in the height of the grass. It looks great. True to form though, UE4 is not cooperating with shading our grass. Our very dodgy workaround is to make two versions of the grass material; one ‘unlit’, so shadows don’t affect it or anything, and one ‘unlit’ but with the colour of the texture heavily darkened. The darker one, as you may have guessed, is for shadows. The lighter one looks lovely in the sunlight. Once we have everything placed in level we’re going to have to tediously go around and paint our two different grasses in their respective light/shadow. That or we find a fix, because I can see the frustration it will cause on the horizon already.

Week 2 - B

Pretty pretty pretty.

As you can see, we also have still water in our level now, which Dom and Mark worked on tirelessly this week and for which I am eternally grateful. We’re also going to have to make a moving water for a river. Frustratingly, we couldn’t have water that was both reflective and transparent, so we had to choose. We opted for transparent water, which looks much prettier and is supposed to be less system-heavy. It’s unfortunate that it will lack reflections though… it may end up looking a little weird in the grand scheme of things.

So our level is definitely starting to grow, slowly but surely. I’m still not 100% sure how we’re doing time-wise, and if we’ll get everything completed for the deadline, but I am relatively positive. Ideally we need to budget our time more carefully so we know exactly where we’ll be in 2 weeks time and so on, but I don’t know where to even start with that… I think our group needs to sit down and start allocating time for assets properly. I keep thinking of extra things we need to do that I forgot about initially, and it’s quite alarming.

Week 2 - F

Level overview.

I’ve also started to notice that the performance of our level is taking a hit due to it’s size and things like the amount of grass (I think). Lighting builds take forever so it’s really frustrating when we’re testing materials and constantly rebuilding lighting to see what it looks like. We’re trying to find ways to reduce this issue, and I think that having our grass in unlit mode is helping on that front, since the engine doesn’t have to generate any lighting for it. We also have a section of our level in a totally different level file, which should help, though I’m feeling pensive about how loading times might affect the player’s interest in our game, particularly when re-loading the huge main level.

Week 2 - H

The Mad Hatter’s teaparty.

I think with careful attention to detail and hard work, everything will come together eventually. I think we just need to be a little more organised in some things. For instance, I noticed that upon putting some plants in our level, their colours completely mismatched that of the level and looked really weird. Keeping on top of things like following the style guide and keeping colours cohesive is essential from the start so we don’t have to deal with it later. I’m beginning to enjoy the project as things start being put together though. Onwards and upwards.

Happy Valentines Day!

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