This project has had a huge impact on me as an artist. I’ve had a fair few problems along the way, but through all the problems has come a huge mass of knowledge.
The project we intended to create was a duo environment piece with a large space ship vehicle in one side and a series of characters to suit the world. The aim of the project was to have two individual environment pieces separate from each other, yet still connected. We decided on a contrast of sci fi futuristic and dystopian. I did the dystopian environment, as I wanted to include a mix of some foliage, industrial textures and a variety of landscape materials.
The idea behind our project is a town split by some kind of ideology, which resulted in the erection of a large wall and barrier between them. Much like the Berlin wall. Sharn’s side (the futuristic side) retained all the power and money, so their side build up and flourished. Whereas my side (the dystopian side) crumbles and became more decrepit and rustic.
Personally for my side, I wanted my area to have a sort of home hub feel. So it would include things like a weapons stall, apparel shop, repair place and somewhere for food. Maybe even a house for the player. This idea sparked from the central hub in borderlands 2, which I took inspiration and research from. Looking at the layout from multiple angles, including the building placement. Thinking about how the player moves around it really helped me build the foundations on my environment, especially when it comes to the different layers you move up and down in when you progress through the level. From this research I gained valuable knowledge of composition and environment planning.
|Borderlands sanctuary research.|
At the start of the project I set a plan out, that would aid me through the project, so I wouldn’t deviate and get side tracked. My plan included setting time aside for things like modelling, texturing, engine work, group organisation at the end etc. I also left myself a two week buffer period at the end, thanks to the suggestion of my mentor, Dan. Just in case anything went wrong. I stuck to my plan throughout the majority of the project, but started to become overwhelmed at the end as I gave myself a large amount of work to do. I ended up cutting a few smaller elements from the project, such as the particles. I did this because I’d never used particles before, and knew it would take a bit of time to get used to using them and learning the basics. Because this would have taken a fair bit of time, I didn’t need to cut anything else, and the rest of the project ran fairly smoothly.
Throughout the project I feel I have progressed a lot as an artist. I can see a very noticeable improvement from the style matrix projects. I started using substance designer and got to grips pretty fast with the workflow and interface. I have a long way to go with using it, but I still feel the textures I produced using the program are well made. Not only did I start using substance designer, but I learn about how to import parameters and make changes to the materials in engine will ease. This process gave me a good amount of flexibility when working in engine. Having the ability to change texture colours/densities/ brick amounts etc with the use of a slider really sped up workflow and gain better results.
|Substance designer bricks.|
|UE4 brick parameters.|
Another program I really enjoyed working within was marvellous designer. This program allows you to made detailed pieces of clothing. Its main use is for fashion students. But I found it very useful for making canopies, banners, tarpaulins etc. I found its workflow easy and efficient. The act of adding fabric and cloth to my environment really pushed it as a whole and broke up the hard surfaces that I had filled the level with. From this workflow it lead me have a large amount of canopies with the same texture on them. So I used a blueprint with a colour parameter setting on it, to alter each colour individually. I also used other programs to help with my workflow, such as Zbrush for sculpting more organic assets. 3ds max plugin’s for the wire fence, which reduced my workflow time. Leaving me with more time to spend on other things too. I feel I learnt a great deal within unreal engine too during this project. Things like using the command prompt, a further understanding of materials, decals, the foliage brush and more importantly the landscape editor. This project has been the best so far for the sheer amount of things learnt.
|Marvelous designer progress.|
All these things have really helped me progress as an artist. I’ve not only learnt a lot when it comes to the programs I’ve used. But I’ve also learnt a lot with team work and working on a larger scale project. With both physical size, and time spent on a project. That was one of my biggest downfalls overall though. I had it in my mind that a larger environment would be better. But in reality, it’s about quality over quantity. I scaled down my project twice during the project. Once at the beginning near the end of the block out and secondly about 14 weeks in when guest lecturer Ben Keeling came in. If I hadn’t scaled it down then, It would have been unfinished a failure of a project I think.
If I was to do the project again I would have only done an environment the size of the market. This way I could have taken a lot longer on assets to polish them to a higher standard. Another thing that I would do differently, would be adding more geometry to the assets I created. Giving them smaller sections to each asset. I was told half way through the project, that it’s nice to see smaller sections to an asset that you can focus on. Such as things that extrude from the side or top of the object. This can’t work for every asset, especially when basing models off real life. But I feel I could have done that for a handful of them in this project.
We encountered a handful of problems out of our control too. Such as the foliage not being able to cast shadows due to the limitations of the engine. Which I confirmed by importing my grass in UE4.9 and testing. Decals didn’t shade properly either, again due to the engines limitations and not being able to render them in shadows. This problem is a reoccurring one and as far as I know it still isn’t fixed in the latest version. So this was unavoidable too.
What went right though, was my workflow, minus the reduction of the level. I feel I planned out the project pretty well, and the things that I changed, have only thought me what not to do in the future. I’m also very happy with the overall layout. The modularity of it all, and how I can make changes very easily. Building up sections and swapping things out is a great feature to have with a playable level this big. I also feel my textures are really coming along and growing by the project.
Teamwork was a huge part of this project. We wanted to retain the teamwork essence. But still have individual things to show for it at the end. I definitely think we achieved that. Jake has his characters. Sharn has her side of the wall. I have my side and Emily has her ship. Despite us not having very entwined sections of the project, we still needed to work together towards a style, colour pallet and feel. Which again I think we achieved nicely. Jakes characters fit well in each environment. Emily’s ship looks like it’s a part of my environment and finally Sharn’s and my environments clash and have distinct contrast, as we planned. Group work does have it’s problems when you’re sharing an engine file. But we couldn’t find a way to all have access to the file at once. This became slightly more of a problem towards the end of the project. But it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.
In conclusion, I deem this project a big success in my opinion. I have defiantly learnt a lot about various software, teamwork, workflow and other general things for when I start my next project. I had fun doing it. At no point did I feel overworked or too stressed. My routine was a steady one with a lot of hours put in and I can appreciate what I’ve achieved in this time. I think this will make a great addition to my portfolio and I can’t wait to move onto making improvements to it before degree show and then moving onto something else.