Thursday, 28 February 2013


Now I continued on with the tree making. I wanted to create a basic tree first, following the tutorial, and then I would use what I learned to make variations and different species of trees.

First off was making high poly branches. Here I learnt how to use the branch tool in the graphite modelling tools. I was really impressed with this and really got into creating the branches and twigs.

Then created a high poly leaf. I looked at some of the stripy patterns of some of the plants I saw when I went to the botanical gardens. So I painted the diffuse based on those, of course keeping my colour scheme.

I also learned how to utilise the object paint tool to arrange the versions of my leaves all along the branch. Again this would have took an extremely long time without such a simple yet powerful modifier. And creating it all this way makes for more natural looking textures when they are baked from actual 3D objects.

Eventually ended up with two different looking branches, and then all their materials were baked out the same way as the grass previously.

Created the same kind of planes for the branches and then got straight into modelling the tree. I had modelled trees before using the spline and NGon extruding technique, and I found this really helpful. But I also learned a few new ways of creating a tree. Using the path deform modifier I was able to edit the tree very quickly using the splines. The same goes for when adding the branches. This also taught me the value of instances!

 Once all the branches were done, I then arranged the leaf planes to a smaller branch, and had two variations of them. These were then added to the main branches with the path constraint tool, which allowed them to snap to the spline within the branch, and it would always stay in this way thanks to the pivot point arrangements. With this I quickly filled out the foliage of the tree.
And finally the finished tree! I had to manually edit the normals to get a better shading.

Making the Grass

I followed some tutorials for the grass. I made high poly versions of each blade, and then grouped them together against a plane to make chunks of grass. I learned how to use the FFD modifier to edit the mesh in a smooth and flowing way, this will come in handy for the other plants I have planned to make.

I then created a series of materials to be baked out as a texture for the grass, there was the base diffuse, different highlights, colour variation between the blades.I really like the aqua/turquoise colours in the grass. I think they will look really great once spread out in my level in UDK.

 After all the baking, I'm now a lot more confident in using it and so much quicker in doing so.

 Then created separate planes and alphas. All the materials that were baked out were combined and masked in photoshop to enhance the whole texture overall. I had some problems with a grey line around the edges of the grass blades, but I played around with the settings in the material editor for a while until they finally went away. I took screenshots of the settings to make sure that doesn't happen again as it really interrupted my work flow!
Also learned how to use the bend modifier properly to get the planes looking more interesting from all angles. 

Then arranged all the plains in different sized patches, these are to be used in the level throughout.

Terrain Creation!

I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted the level to look, so I did a quick birds eye view of the layout. The pencil sketch shows the basic features and shape of the level. I also want the tree's canopy layer to cover a lot of the sky so its more jungle like, so I placed circles that merged together to show this effect. The cross at the bottom shows the player start.

 I decided to use the terrain editor in UDK for the base of my level. I created a large plane and started using the brushes to create the terrain I wanted. I found that the brushes were intuitive and I had a lot of fun shaping the landscape. I did have some worries about how to block in the player though. I didnt want to have perfectly straight up mountains perfectly enclosing the area. And one thing that always bugged me in games was invisible barriers! I hated the feeling of being trapped unfairly when I can see more land and things to look at in the distance. I think invisible collision walls are definitely a big way of damaging the player's immersion in the game.
So I tried to make the mountains seem more natural and created varying depths and made some encroach on the area.

I also made two rock textures and two ground textures. I found out though that the tiling is really obvious on such a large area.
I made some tweaks to them, going back and forth between photoshop. Eventually I realised that once all the trees and plants and rocks are in the level, it would greatly decrease your line of sight. When I played on the level, the ground in front of me looked perfectly fine, and since jungles are so dense, you wouldn't be able to see the tiling on the ground or even the mountains.

I'm keeping with the bluey/green theme in my level, so there's patches of blue moss on the ground throughout.

I'm adding more detail to the terrain now, added the ramp formation that leads to a ledge, and also a deep area for the pool and waterfall that will go in the top right, and another depression for a smaller pond. Also painted the terrain textures to correspond with this geometry.

I did encounter one problem when I suddenly got really harsh shadows on certain parts of the level mesh. After some searching as well as checking the settings in the single dominant directional light, I found that I had accidentally duplicated the terrain. This is easily done when painting terrain, textures and panning your view since you're having to hit so many keys.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Asset List

Terrain: Build in UDK. Need three tillable textures for it.

Water: Need to create shader in UDK.

Rocks: Three or four types to distribute around the level.

Trees: Two or three kinds of trees, need varying sizes.

Grass and small plants: Need long grass for use throughout the level, several kinds of flower type plants and some shrub type bushes.

Skybox: Sunny after noon time, interesting colours and animated. Add in some planets as well?

Research Tent: Tent, microscopes, boxes, crates, tables/work benches and cages. Modular?

Creatures: Four or five kinds of creatures, some in the trees, some on the ground.

Other: Sounds, particles lighting effects and wind effects!

All these should be the main requirements for my level, once they are all created fully and arranged in the level, it should hopefully look how I am imagining the level to be.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Coloured Creature Concepts

 Painted "Tree Ray" concept.

The "Grass Stalker" concept. I think he turned out a lot more colourful than originally planned, but I like how it turned out.

I'll call this one the "Feather Ghost", as it silently glides across the ground with an eerie but beautiful glow.

What's Been Done Before

I've decided to do a quick run down of things that have been done before which are similar to the ideas I have for my level. This is research of the ideas that have already been produced, as well as inspirational material, but it will also serve a purpose of being a reference point for not duplicating things as I would like to be as original as possible.

Of course, one of the main things would be James Cameron's Avatar.This was a visually amazing film and I personally thought that the environment design was astounding. All the creatures were very unique, as were the many plants in the jungle on the planet. This is a great inspiration for my level and it motivates me to come up with the designs for an alien ecosystem.

Some things to note about the creatures, they all seem to have three pairs of limbs, this is a common trait on most of the animals seen in the environment. Plants are colourful and very large in size. There is also a lot of focus on how the plants and animals look at night. They all have almost fiber-optic looking spots on their skin; bioluminescence is one of the main trends of the environment. Even the grass has a glowing effect when in contact with a living creature, I guess a reaction to their electromagnetic fields or perhaps heat alone.

There is also Blackreach in Skyrim. This is one area of the game that is underground and has lots of giant glowing mushrooms. It has a very interesting atmosphere.

Another game with interesting colourful plants and environment is Guild Wars 2 in the Grove area. It has some very interesting plant designs and it has a very vibrant feel.

I would also like to point out the Jim Henson film "The Dark Crystal" made in 1982. They had made some really interesting and unique environments, and the video below shows one of the best scenes in the film to show this. The uploader designed their own audio for this as a project, but it does show the exact scene I wanted to point out.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Creature Designs

So I have done a few sketches of some creatures that would inhabit the jungle. I had a lot of fun designing them. At the moment there are 8 creatures, but I might drop or redesign one that is slightly too generic. I'm currently in the process of finishing off final concepts of each of the creatures in photoshop. 

I've nick named the one above the "Tree Ray" I plan to have a few of these on the trees throughout the level. These creatures have moss growing on them and are the same colour as the trees they live on. I'm also thinking of a triggered event where one can fall out of a tree in front of the player, and then scuttle to cover.
Top left is a kind of mosquito. It would be great to have a few of these flying around the jungle. Right is an interesting creature that floats along on its feather like appendages, I plan to colour it a vivid purple/blue. Bottom one is the one I've decided is too generic and may be dropped or redesigned.
This is a small creature that would slither through the grasses in the level. I prefer the head design of the one on the right more than the first.
The creature on the left will hang from trees in large numbers. They have a sticky appendage that flies are attracted to. Top right is a creature that could live in between rocks, it has spikes on its back to protect it from being eaten by larger creatures. Bottom right is a creature kind of similar to a snail.

Final Concept of the Tree Ray. Working on colour version.
Final concept of grass creature. Lets call it the Grass Stalker for now!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Decided to make a trip to the botanical gardens to collect references of tropical types of plants for my FMP. It will be a good idea to look at the interesting tropical plants that exist already, and use those as a basis for my own plants, to get them to look realistic and believable, but also to make sure they are not too Earthly.
Here are just some of the photos I got during the day there. 

 There were loads of plants that lived on other larger ones, I think parasitic types of plants are quite interesting, and it could be an aspect to explore in my designs.

 I saw a lot of moss type plants that hang down from branches, I thought those were pretty cool.

 One of the few flowers in there. Might have something to do with the snow outside!

 The plant above is literally stuck on the wall! Very strange.

 Ones growing where they weren't intended to, up by the roof of the building!

 There's many variations of colour, I especially liked these red plants.

 Love these moss/heather/lichen type plants.

 More tangled hanging plants.

 New shoots coming through.

 Leaf detail.
 The one above looked really interesting, but they have gone and stuck it's sign right onto the plant, covering half of it, nice idea!
Looks like cobwebs but its actually how the plant was.

I got some very useful textures on this visit and some great ideas for plants in my level. I will get on to designing them next.