Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Wrapup! Foliage and awkward bugs edition

Hey all!

This week I attempted to focus on gameplay which was a lot of fun and made some good improvements, albeit somewhat stymied by a persistent bug.

The gameplay was mainly focused on providing good user feedback and making the combat a bit more "snappy". I was looking quite a bit at the isometric Tomb Raiders as reference for this, even implementing a version of the trigger-able mine seen in those games. Also touched up the effects and feel of the primary weapon which I'm pretty happy with for now.

Unfortunately I have been stuck with a bug where the player mesh is lost every time I leave the editor so until I sort that out I can't really make a build. Frustrating but I will keep on it, I'll even rebuild the main character from scratch if I need to.

Due to the bug and migrating the project to the newest version of Unreal, I also spent a little time adding some more foliage. I'm excited about the new broad leafed plant as it was my first test in migrating the foliage over to gradient map texturing. The plant uses a height map to define the shader driven gradient mapping so I can easily swap out colors or stack them using indexes. My hope is that this will make them easier to use over a variety of environments and easy to balance the color in the scene. I will migrate the grass and other plants over soon as I start tightening up the environment more.

Hope everyone has a good weekend, and this is the last post prior to the holidays so there won't be any post next week.

 Happy holidays! - CJ

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Wrapup! Workflow and UE4 stream edition

Happy Friday!

This week was a fun one for me as I had a bit more time to delve into the game than usual. The two things I chose to focus on were artistic process and management design.


I've always been a bit fan of workflow improvement and optimization and was really inspired by Michael Pavlovich's GDC talk "Blurring the Separation Between Concept and Production." This led me to try out a new twist on my modelling process with the intent of getting things in engine faster. In general it is:

  1. Greyblock model - Quickly test something a very block, ugly version in engine to test overall scale and sillouhette
  2. High poly - Still focused on large shapes and not on details, using tools like Zbrush's Zremesher to get sculptable topology.
  3. "Auto" low poly and unwrap - Using tools like decimation master and unwrap in zbrush to get quick representative models
  4. Batch texture - Pipe low poly and high poly into Substance designer or Quixel suite to both bake and texture.
  5. Import into engine.
There are still a lot of steps I would like to streamline and automate more but I really like this process because it means in a very small time I can go from high poly to having something in engine that I can actually look at. Where this really shines is the fact that I can go back to any step in the process, refine something, and everything will update with very little to no effort.

Using the above process I made this crate, medical tub, and partition curtain. I'd like for everything to feel almost like a handpainted miniature, very tangible when I'm done so they all were piped through the same slightly dirty clay substance for now. I will be doing more of this work to flesh out the other models in the base before refining anymore textures too much so the area feels more lived in and less empty.


I also made some headway on the management portion of the game. I wanted to get some of the managment gameplay in and working as soon as possible to balance and give context for the more action oriented parts. I know that this isn't quite as exciting but I think will be very important for the overall game feel and balance. Right now I'm developing it as its own module so I can play through the days very quickly but will hook it up into the main game as soon as I feel it is more complete and balanced.
Right now it is loosely functional, you can cycle through the day's with a placeholder section that gives you a random amount of resources that you would normally fight for in the missions. I'm hooking up the UI so you can assign personnel and choose destinations now, with base upgrades to follow.


Finally, I also sat in on the weekly Unreal Engine twitch stream. This week they talked about developing the characters for Paragon and rendering challenges. Lots of fun to watch and interesting to hear them talk about some of the more technical aspects and developments. New upcoming tech includes:
  • New hair shading solution - Anisotropic highlights on masked hair with supporting techniques that get rid of most hard edge penetration issues.
  • New eye shading solution - Similar to skin shader but allows for more convincing wet surface. Coupled with material techniques for recreation of the lens, iris and other physical phenomena associated with the eye.
  • New cloth shading solution - Based on research and work done by Ready at Dawn for the Order, adds "fuzziness" which enables the recreation of a wide range of cloth types without fresnel fakery.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!     - CJ

Friday, December 4, 2015

Introducing: Evelyn

Hey all!

Hope everyone had a good nice Thanksgiving and are gearing up well for the upcoming holidays. With the hard drive debacle finally behind us, I have been making good headway on rebuilding the lost work and pushing forward with new additions. A new build should be coming shortly but due to the setback I would like to take a little time to fully playtest the game and make sure it is as functional as the previous build before putting out a new one. I'm shooting for next week assuming everything is relatively stable. Again, I apologize for the holdup.

In the meantime I have been working hard on designing the main character for the game. Though I'm sure it will change and evolve over time, I'm proud of the way the design turned out. So may I introduce you to the protagonist for Simulacra, a VI by the name of Evelyn.

Evelyn is a virtual intelligence in charge of the medical facility that the game's main base of operations. As such she is able to possess and puppeteer different machines, computers, etc. Her main form is that of a basic medical frame, designed for basic surgical and caring needs. I wanted her body to primarily represent an intent to help/rescue as that is a big theme in the game, and also didn't want it to read as a cyborg or human hybrid but as an advanced machine. Some touchstones of her design:

  • Medical color scheme and materials.
  •  Monitor for face represents both corporate culture and virtual being inside, not a fancy helmet.
  • Fiber optic hair wraps around and connects information to all parts of the body.
  • Machined legs informed by climbing prosthesis, support industrial design.
Please let me know what you think as well as what you would most like to see next. I've updated the poll with a few options for concept design after the game is back up and running at full steam.

Thanks all!

- CJ