Sunday, September 23, 2012

UDK Greybox Map

Below is the 2D map design for my alley, some screenshots of the current mockup in UDK, and some shots showing the fixes I've made so far.

Although my proposal for the alley didn't get selected, the winning proposal was so similar to mine that I pretty much got to make the map that I would have anyway. So yay for that.

The biggest issue the instructors had in critique was over that big circular ditch in the middle of the map. It is technically based off of an actual structure seen in ancient cliff dwellings, called Kivas, which functioned as sort of community centers slash religious buildings. Thing is, I didn't actually know what they were called or what they were for until after I'd built the map, I was just basing it off of pictures of big circular ditches in the ground, so the "kiva" in my map is totally empty on the inside, and doesn't seem to be serving any purpose. Next step from here is to do some more research, then I can deck out the inside with some structures that should make it actually look like what it's supposed to be. Hopefully then it'll seem more appropriate in the space, and more interesting to look at and move around in as well.

cataloging some of the revisions I made.

I think I'm just going to get rid of this ledge. I thought it would be neat to have a small "hidden" area off to the side, but it's more trouble than it's worth. It's still too easy to die, and there's nothing there, so it's not very interesting. Plus, this is meant to be more about environment art than making a playable level, and if this area is hidden, then no-one's going to see it.

Even with the wider alleys and better light, I've observed that some people still don't actually see the ramp. They never go up that way, and they don't get to climb on the buildings, which I think is the coolest part of my map. My hope right now is that I can use lights and props to draw attention to that space when I'm set dressing the level, but I may have to widen the alley even more regardless, or find some other way to draw people to it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

DIY Trailer

Here's a trailer I made for Assassin's Creed: Revelations, using footage from the game. I tried to make use of what I learned from the Reverse Edit assignment.

I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out. The only major issue people had in critique was that the dialogue occasionally got lost in the music. This is a problem that had been mentioned to me prior to when the final version was due. I had played with the audio a little bit the first time, but obviously it's something I should've spent more time on.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Repost Two, Electric Boogaloo!

A sampling of my favorite works from the Spring semester of last year. Overall, I think I improved a lot.

Hands and feet are looking a lot better than before, though there's still some wonky stuff going on in places.

 He's wearing clothes, how bizarre!

This one was a pain in the ass, but I really like how it turned out.

Looking back, I'm pretty dissatisfied with a lot of what I did in Drawing 2. I think that's partly a result of the higher-ups who designed the curriculum not knowing or clearly stating exactly what they wanted. It wasn't uncommon for the requirements for an assignment to be altered more than once. Still, I don't want to give the impression that I'm making excuses for my work, and I'm well aware that I'm fully responsible for anything I create. In most cases, I think the poor quality of pieces came from me overthinking it. I spent too much time fussing over minutiae and making sure the perspective was exactly right, when I should have been focusing on good composition and strong narrative. 

3D Design was easily my favorite class 2nd semester, and the Kitbash was easily my favorite assignment. I love the improvisation and problem-solving that arises out of being given a pile of random plastic junk and told to make something meaningful out of it. I also ended up getting pretty involved in the narrative portion of the Kitbash assignment. This is definitely a concept I'd like to revisit someday!

I'm not exactly sure what form, if any, the GAD 3D Design class is taking this year, but I'm pretty sure the Thorne Room is not a part of it. The scope of this assignment ultimately proved to be too much, and ended up cutting a big chunk of time out of the Ecorche assignment, and scrapping another one entirely! Regardless, I had a lot of fun making this. The room is a lot barer then I initially intended it to be, and most of the pieces don't have the level of polish that I would like (though I'm pretty proud of those bat-wing doors). Still, everything is clearly identifiable, and the narrative, simple and hackneyed as it may be, is at least evident. I call this one a win.

As mentioned, the extended time taken on the Thorne Room project ended up turning the Ecorche from "let's take the last several weeks of class to make an in-depth study of human anatomy" to "guys, can we make something that at least sort of resembles a human being before the class is over?" Not that the teacher would ever say it in quite those words. The final product here isn't exactly something that I would ever want to use as reference, but I still learned a lot just from making it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Looking back at my work from first semester of last year, my first thought is amazement that so much of this stuff that I was totally satisfied with just a year ago now looks like complete shit to me. I guess that's a good thing. My second thought is how on earth did my teachers let me turn in these crappy phone-camera pictures of my assignments? Below are some of the less-shitty, less poorly recorded pieces from my first semester at Ringling. (P.S. I'm not trying to hide my Perspective work. I just wasn't being forced to catalog everything digitally for that class, so I don't have any pictures of it.)

 I don't remember being particularly enthralled with this one when I made it, but it stuck out to me while I was looking through all the stuff. I like how the fact that the last drawing is unfinished almost works with the rest of the drawings. It gives it a sort of transcendental feeling.

This is probably still one of my best figure drawings, or at least one of my favorites. I remember that I loved drawing this model, because he was so skinny that you could see his whole damn skeleton, but he somehow still had enough fat and muscle to give the drawing interesting curves.

I got some bizarre work out of myself for 2D Design and I'm not entirely sure why. I've never painted this way before or since. Every time I look at these I feel like they shouldn't work: they're too busy, too colorful and kind of childishly executed. But I still like them.

Reverse Edit

Some thumbnail sketches based on the above trailer for Assassin's Creed: Revelations, done for the Reverse Edit assignment.

Y'know, film language was one thing I'd generally considered myself pretty knowledgeable about. But knowing what all the words mean and knowing how use the techniques are two entirely different things. As grueling as it was at times, sitting down and really picking apart this trailer to see how it works was an enjoyable experience. This is probably something I'll be doing a lot on my own time now. Just don't expect a write-up on it every time.

Simple Map Tutorial

A collection of screencaps cataloging my progress through the development of a simple map in Unreal Development Kit:

The overall shape of the room was copied directly from the tutorial.

 Most of the materials I used were the same as in the tutorial as well, though I opted for a grated instead of a tile floor, and put that heavy stone slab texture on the ceiling.

Starting to put some static meshes into the room. In general I went for the same intent as in the tutorial, but tried to put some of my own spin on it. Here I went for a radial pattern of supports, as opposed to the archways used in the tutorial.

 Ended up adding some crossbeams anyway. It should be noted that all the static meshes used here come preloaded with UDK. I didn't model anything.

The idea of adding foliage came up because I thought it would be neat to see some grass and shrubs peeking out through the grated floor. Initially there was only a handful of greenery, but I liked it so much that I just kept adding more. I probably could have gone even farther with it.
The glowing green blob things are listed in the content browser as "bio-blob" or something like that, but work equally well as cartoon-style toxic waste. Again, I was originally only going to use it as a small accent, but I liked it so much I ended up applying it to the whole level (in the shot below you can see one of the blobs magically floating off the side of the barrel. Good thing I caught it when I did!)
 I'm not sure if the juxtaposition of the "toxic waste" with the creeping foliage is somehow profound or just confusing. It's not super-visible in these shots, but I added some mushrooms popping up around the piles of waste on the ground. What does it mean?

Shots of the other room. Those big vats to the right are full of even more toxic waste.

Here's the level with the work lights taken out and the final lighting put in. I experimented a lot with how much of a "glow" to have coming off of the toxic waste.

You can't tell from the picture, but the gate opens and closes and makes sounds when you walk through it. The tutorial called for the gate to slide sideways, but I couldn't build the groove for it correctly because of the trim I added to the doorway, so I opted to have it slide upward instead.

The toxic glow is a lot more visible in this room. Below is a shot of the room with its final lighting, and then with a post-processing volume to tweak the colors just a little bit more. Although I've just now noticed that I forgot to rebuild the lighting before taking the second screencap, which is the reason the walls are completely black. The final version doesn't look like that, I promise!

More black walls! I wasn't sure about the super-bright glare off of the walkway there, but I decided to go for it since it adds a nice focal point, which is especially fitting since that area is pretty much the very last place you get to when "playing" the level. That would probably be a good spot for an event to trigger; maybe the vats of waste start to overflow and you have to evacuate in a hurry. Or maybe a boss bursts in through the ceiling and you have to fight him on the narrow walkway. Maybe both!

Added this shot to show off some of the other assets used. Along the wall and ceiling you can see the lights I added, and inside the door is the trigger that allows it to open and close when the player interacts with it.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with this. First impressions of UDK were great, it gives you a lot of great tools and seems pretty intuitively set up compared to something like Maya. Of course I've only just scratched surface here. I'm sure in the months to come I'll be butting heads with UDK over all sorts of stupid crap. But for now, we're good friends.