Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Project Conclusion

Initially, I set out to keep this blog up to date with everything that was going on with the project. Sadly this fell apart later in the project. I'm not going to make excuses, I just got carried away with things towards the end.

So, what's changed since you last saw the project? Probably the biggest thing is the revision of the exterior, which has had extra things added to the surrounding scene, and the change of the dining hall skylight.

I added shipwrecks and jagged rocks to the exterior scene, and tweaked the colour of the fog and the lighting to try and add to the spooky atmosphere. One thing I'd initially forgotten to include was the moon, which I added through a simple 2D plane.

The deck of the ship has seen some more assets but otherwise it's just seems some tweaking.

I'm not sure if the lifeboat was in earlier, but there are a few lifeboats now. They rock, too, but I tried to keep it minimal as I didn't want it to be distracting. A niggle I had with this is that the lifeboats had to be dynamic, and this meant the light sources had to be tweaked to fit. So they lit slightly differently to when they were first put up.

The side of the ship saw similar treatment to the deck, with new assets and tweaks added to it. One particular niggle I've only just been able to identify is the lighting on the walkway. I didn't duplicate the flooring to create an underneath as the original texture didn't require it, but since it uses the same lightmaps it's causing unusual lighting. This is unfortunate, as I did not identify the problem until after the project was over :C

The lounge and interior received a lot of new assets and decor, mainly in the form of decals and clutter assets. I also tweaked the lighting and added light beams to highlight the light source. I decided to focus mostly on natural light, even though the scene was set at night, because I felt it helped the theme more. In retrospect, it would be much darker inside, but I didn't want to use man-made lights.

The transition area was perhaps my least favourite part, simply because it's so empty. The reference I had gathered dictated that these corridors are empty, and this matches the purpose of the area as they had to be easy to navigate. However, this wasn't great for the level in general, as it made the area rather uninteresting.

The revisited skylight for the dining hall was, I felt, a much better shape that both what I had previously made and the original flat roofing. I feel it helps to make the room feel taller than it actually is, and it gave me a great way to raise the lighting level in the area without feeling like it didn't make sense.


Designing and realising the ship itself took a huge amount of time, and I had to redesign elements as construction progressed. It was an ever changing process that soaked up a lot of my time, and could've been avoided with proper thorough testing beforehand. I was too eager to begin construction, and I tripped myself up it seems.

I'm disappointed that I had to cut out the top floor of the ship, which contained the captain's quarters and the bridge. This was a combination of a concern about time, and about the route which the player must take to reach these locations.

The layout was originally designed to incorporate a dining hall with a staircase, allowing access to the second floor. However, with the redesigned dining hall, this no longer fitted, and so the player instead had to walk up three sets of stairs. This turned out to be tedious and ultimately uninteresting. However, I did not have time to design and implement a new method or reaching this second area, which combined with the lack of time required to make the second floor, meant it ultimately had to be cut.

While I feel the redesign of the dining hall ultimately benefited the project, it was something that took away time that could've been spent elsewhere. Overall, though, I'm happy with how the project turned out. It's rough around the edges, and needs more polish, but I feel that I captured the spooky atmosphere I set out to create. Though I modelled all of what I planned, I wish I'd had time to properly incorporate the second floor.

Friday, 3 May 2013

In Progress #16

This past week I've been working on getting the lounge and dining hall up to scratch, and well, progress has been slow, to say the least.

As far as the lounge goes, it's nearly done. It needs some decals, some extra clutter (modelled, just not arranged yet) and final lighting. But I've made progress with it so I've moved onto the hall.

The dining hall has been where I've been spending most of my time. I've been experimenting with some ideas, like a open roof skylight and a scattered tables. I've given a lot of the textures a reworking, including the floor which has some scattered dust and debris across it now. 

I'd go into more detail but right now I'm just trying to get things done. Things seem to be progressing at a painstakingly slow pace, which is frustrating considering there's not an awful lot to show for a lot of time spent on the project.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

In Progress #15

I've been trying to bulk out the dining hall lately, adding in some assets like tables and chandeliers. They're all wip textures at the moment, and they're going to be scattered about too. I initially wanted to give the impression that this ship was still set out like nothing had happened, but feedback I've received points more towards some organised chaos. 

The textures in the room have to be swapped out, as it's still using the lounge set. That's tomorrow's job. 

For the curtains at the back of the stage, I used the cloth modifier on a plane, but now how you might think. At first, I tried to be really clever and set up a rig and an animation to simulate the curtain being drawn back, but that didn't work at all. So instead, I made a zig-zaggy plane and went through a series of simulations and whatnot to crease it and ripple it.

The tablecloth was actually made from a circle shaped plane, instead of a square one. I tried a simple square plane at first, but it left some nasty jagged corners, so I tried a circle and it worked. I used Max's cloth modifier to get the plane to fold around the table. I might revisit it and redo the cloth, as I feel it looks a little bit like a pastry right now! :P 

I first tried modelling the shiny beads of the chandelier as very simple spheres, but even at about 8 triangles a bead they still came in a little too high for my liking (each chandelier ring was about 6000 triangles, I think, I can't remember exactly). Instead I baked these spheres down onto a plane, and did it that way. So far it's looking alright, Mike came in earlier and said it was convincing so I'm happy with it for now.

Anyway, enough jibber-jabber. Tomorrow I'm going to work on the geometry textures for the Dining Hall, and finish up that bar for the lounge so it can be imported back into the scene!

Monday, 22 April 2013

In Progress #14

I've been messing around with the interior textures, adding normal maps for some materials and special properties to others, like gloss and cube maps. I've also been making some props for the lounge, though the textures for those aren't done so I'll reserve posting those until tomorrow.

Kinda wanted to show off the normals on the wallpaper, I'm quite proud of the effect even though it's fairly simple. The basic effect is a sort of rippled wallpaper, like it's soaked up some water. The second effect gives the impression of it "warping" or "bubbling" from the water, something I've seen first hand at home;

Thursday, 18 April 2013

In Progress #13

The core of the exterior is now done and in engine, with tiling textures forming the majority of the diffuse maps. While not visible in the playable area, the rear of the ship is present, so that the ship still retains a form when viewed from cinematic angles. 

I've settled on a night-time lighting setup, with man made lights illuminating the vast majority of the ship. The idea here is that, despite being abandoned, the ship still feels "lived in", which hopefully will add a weird vibe. Also, it helps bright the overall lighting level up, as a dark level isn't fun to explore.

The side of the ship is modelled and playable, you can get to the top floor using the staircase here. Strictly speaking most cruise ships don't have a side that works like this, but it was something I wanted from the start.

The interior geometry is all in now, and is unwrapped. Each area will have unique patterns and colours, but currently they all use the same as I unwrapped each section one after the other, and used the lounge set as reference for the unwrap.

The lounge area, the first interior segment.

This corridor simply connects the lounge to the dining hall.

The dining hall, minus the decorative columns (which I forgot to unwrap, dammit)! This area will soon be full of set tables and fabulous decorations.

On the top floor resides the captain's quarters and the bridge. The bridge is only half unwrapped currently, I underestimated how much there is to unwrap there.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

In Progress #12

I've been assembling the first two rooms of the interior these past few days, seen above in unlit mode because I'm having a headache trying to get my lightmaps to work correctly. It's seriously causing me some trauma, I've made sure they're unwrapped with no bleed or overlap, and that the density is good.. but still no dice. 

Getting there though. I just need to stop pissing about with stuff that ultimately doesn't get used, such as all the time I wasted today trying to fix lightmaps. I lost a lot of time last week trying out different unwrap methods for the exterior, which is time I could've been using better.

Got the dining hall all setup for unwrap tomorrow, so that's my job for the morning. I'm shattered right now so I'm going to drink some tea and relax!

Edit: Actually, I should point out that I forgot to unwrap the bar in the lounge. Hence why it looks like poop. That's something I'm gonna have to get around to tomorrow too.

Friday, 12 April 2013

In Progress #11

So yeah, it's been a while since I made a post, and there's a reason for that. Progress has been slow, almost painfully so, and it's kinda demoralising. Still, made progress finally.

It's taken me a fair few tries to get my head around how best to unwrap the ship. At first I tried to use Vertex Painting to break up the large spaces, but I felt it lacked specific detailing. Then I tried using unique textures for each segment, which not only required multiple large sheets but gave low texture resolution. Eventually I settled with a reworking of the vertex painting method using a blend of 3 textures instead of 2, which creates a better look. I might go back and compress this back into two, but for now, I like the 3. Most of the ship uses a tiling texture and vertex painting to mix, using a blend texture. The hull uses a tiling texture that tiles only horizontally, and the staircase along the side uses it's own texture.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

In Progress #10

It's nearly 4AM so I'll keep it sweet. Texturing is taking agees.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

In Progress #9, Exterior (modelling) done

I say done, there are some parts I'm planning to revisit but for now I'm marching on in the hopes of making progress.

So yeah, I've unwrapped the bottom of the hull and slapped a quick placeholder texture on it for now. I'm still undecided about whether to go with the white/red colours or the more rusted orange/blue of the SS America, so that's something to experiment with in the future.

I originally unwrapped the hull in such a way that it would use a tiling texture at a 1x2 ratio, like a 1024x2048 texture. The texture tiled horizontally, not vertically. However this allowed for virtually no unique elements, it had to be uniform to avoid artefacts. So here I tried unwrapping the ship fully onto a 2x1 sheet (it's currently 4096x2048 but it'll probably be knocked down from that). This allows for fully unique detailing, but it's not very efficient and requires it's own, high resolution sheet.

I'm still debating which method (tiling or unique texture sheet) to use for the hull, so I'll carry on experimenting with it.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

In Progress #8

Today I worked on the side of the ship. I created the side rail (barely visible here, unfortunately) for the ship,  the staircase and platforms for each deck, and the lifeboat cages. 

What's left? I've just got to work on the top of the ship, and then I'll be done with the front segment. Then I'll start modelling the rear segment, which has far less detail for several reasons; it is not visible from the front deck or any of the playable space, and unlike the front of the ship it's not designed for accessability.

An important thing to note here is that every ship I've looked at is different. Most don't even allow passengers to walk along the side of the ship, however this is something I planned to do from the start, so I kept it in. What I'm going for is a mix of, say, the Duke of Lancaster and the SS America, with hints of the MS Expedition.

Not much further to go now until I can start texturing. That's where this'll all finally come to life! :)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

In Progress #7

This is taking longer than I wanted it to. Gah. Hopefully more progress tomorrow!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

In Progress #6

We're getting there, slowly. Rough outline is there, right now I'm just refining it to look more ship-shape. Get it? hur hur. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

In Progress #5

I've been modelling the exterior of the ship, so far I've got the base of the whole thing done, I'm just working on making the front look nice before I do any of the rest.

The mesh has gone slightly wonky in places, which is something I'll have to fix. It's difficult adding extra geometry to a curved mesh as it is, and as I do I tend to warp other parts of the mesh. It's unfortunate, but it's fixable.

Modelled from a box, strangely enough! Thank god for Free-form-deform!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

In Progress #4 -- interior frame modelled

I didn't get around to finishing the Captain's Quarters yesterday, something more important cropped up so I didn't get time for it. However, today I managed to finish off the last part of it and start the bridge, which is nearly there. Bear in mind this is just the frame, without props, so it looks bare. I might add some more detail to the entrance wall, as I feel it's a little sparse. 

Anyway, here's the bridge;

Sunday, 10 March 2013

In Progress #3

Today I almost finished the Captain Quarter's framework. I made some changes to the area on the fly, as I felt it didn't feel grounded enough. Generally speaking I've expanded the corridors that surround the rooms and eventually lead to the bridge. 

I wanted to finish this room off today, but I've still got to throw in some windows. I haven't eaten yet so I'm gonna call it a night now.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

In Progress #2

Today I modelled the interior framework of the Dining Hall, and the connector that joins it to the Lounge. There's a few things I'd like to change and add to the sections created so far, but I'm going to keep pressing forward so I can make progress.

Oh, and here are some UDK screengrabs. This is why, at this stage, I'm not throwing it in engine, other than to check the scale :D

Edit: Oh! I forgot. Originally you were going to leave through a broken window. As in, a huge window. Like a stained glass affair. But, no ship I've looked at has such window, so I decided to make it a regular door. Then I thought that was kinda lame, so now you crawl through a broken (regular-sized) window. Hence the one window along the side with no bars. I've tested this in UDK with collision and it works perfectly fine, so I'm sticking with it for the time being.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

In Progress #1

Originally, my plan was to make the exterior of the ship first, then make the interior. By make, I mean finished, as in put in engine and textured. However, recently I've been questioning this plan. First I shuffled it around, instead planning to make the interior first so the exterior can fit around it.

I've been talking to people and it seems like the smartest idea to make the core of the interior first, i.e everything but set dressing, and then make the exterior around it. I'm anticipating some trouble getting both sections to fit together properly, so this way I can make sure the core of the level is done before I start putting in props.

And on that note, I've started modelling the interior segments..

It looks very bare without the props - barstools, lounge chairs, tables ect. - but it works in engine and is to scale, so I can use it to make sure the exterior lines up properly.

More as it develops. Back to you, studio.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Expanded Whitebox

I decided to rework and expand upon my white box for two reasons; to create a base for some concept work, and so I could better preview the final level. Through this reworking I've drastically altered the scale of  areas and the height, meaning everything should now feel roughly the right size. In addition, I've repositioned some elements to better fit both a new layout and a more believable layout.

Currently, the segment connecting the Grand Hall and the segment connecting to the Bridge deck are bugging  me, as they feel too incidental and not like they're part of the ship. Part of my task tomorrow will be reworking these to make them feel like they are part of the ship rather than a connecting piece in a game level.

(Note, I took a wall out for the render.)

You may have noticed that the Grand Hall has changed. I had an epiphany regarding this area. To do the idea justice, I'd have to do a truly grand hall, with a big staircase and curves everywhere, but this would take a lot of time to do well. So, in the interest of progress, I swapped it out for a similar and more achievable room. This was inspired by a room in Ghost Ship that was a dining room with space for a playing band; 

So hopefully this replacement will still carry the grand feel. It's sharing the same visual aesthetic as before so I've lost nothing but a whole load of stress and worry about getting the area to work.

The bridge is pretty straightforward and will be overlooking the deck, for a sort of groovy view of the storm. In comparison to the rest of the ship, which will feel almost pretentious in it's grandeur, the bridge will feel cold and functional. It's not there to impress, it's there to work. 

The Captain's Quarters weren't originally planned, but they snuck in and have remained since. I've worked them in some way or another in every layout. I just like them, it'll be nice to do a small little room with plenty of story hints. 

Gonna do some paint-overs of these areas tomorrow in a similar fashion to the Lounge image I made yesterday, to solidify a theme/colours. After that, I'm going to start planning out my asset sheet.