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.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Lounge & Hall (Concept)

Learning from past experiences, I decided it was the smartest idea to make sure I knew exactly what I wanted to do in each area before I started modelling. On that note, I've begun elaborating on my whitebox, making sure it is the right scale and that everything feels the right size. Already I've begun resizing areas to make them feel more like the size they should - the Lounge has become smaller and the Grand Hall slightly larger. 

Anyway, that's all stuff that will be coming soon enough. Right now I wanted to post a painting/paint-over I did of the Lounge area, trying to think of colours and textures and whatnot. 

I want to do one of these for each area, so that I have a colour picture to look at whenever I'm stuck modelling an area. Like I said before, I need to be ready, I can't just jump into modelling like I've tried to in the past. It'll just end badly.

More to come soon.

Like this!

Just mucking about, trying to settle on colours and what not.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Finally, a working layout!

This past week I've totally lost momentum. I enjoy the creative side of planning but not the technical side, hence why the layout planning has left me truly stumped. However, I finally settled on something.

The problem was compromising between a believable layout and an interesting one. When two of your rooms are on different sides of the ship, it's hard to connect them without having a labyrinth of corridors confusing the player. I think I found a solution, anyway.

So, the main focuses of the level are, in order;

The Front Deck
The Lounge/Bar
The Grand Hall
Captain's Quarters
and the Bridge

You start on the front deck, and proceed around the side of the ship to enter the Lounge. There'll be a cloth cover overhead, like on the Belfast, flapping about in the breeze. 

You leave the Lounge through a set of double doors, and proceed up the staircase and out into the Grand Hall. 

You go up to the second floor and out the side to leave the Grand Hall, moving across the side of the ship (in the storm!) once more to reach the next deck with the Bridge.

You go into the Captain's Quarters to get the key to the Bridge, and then proceed into the bridge.

...that's essentially how it goes. I tried to think of an interesting way of getting from room to room, one that didn't involve the same thing over and over again. 

Right now, my main concern is making sure that this all lines up, and is the right scale. This layout only uses about half of the ship's full length but that was always the plan. After all, most of a cruise/expedition ship is made up of cabins and other uninteresting spaces.

Here's a rough visualisation of said layout;

Tomorrow I'm going to sketch up some detailed versions of each room to work from, and after that I'm steamrolling straight into modelling the interior. Considering I'm now a week behind I need to start jumping into the production, even if it means I have to concept along the way.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Re-exploring the Cruise Ship theme

So, yeah, I was doodling up a layout when someone wanders into my room and proclaims, "Hmm, that might look a bit shit. No-one wants to explore a small ship". Well, that sent me into an epiphany. Should I do a larger ship afterall? Really this isn't something I should be considering a few weeks in, but it's got to me regardless. So, to cure the itch, I doodled up some ideas and generally got some interesting thoughts going.

The above mash-up is a quick poke at the idea of setting the whole thing in a stormy environment, which would bring in rainy weather and a dark moody atmosphere. I thought this might gel well with the overall vibe.

I had some thoughts regarding rooms, this time choosing more interesting rooms to pursue, such as the dining hall and observation deck. I also was thinking about having the player leave the interior and venture across the side of the ship in one part of the level.. who knows..

Monday, 18 February 2013

Quick Update

I felt it was important to update the blog just to indicate that, no, I've not stopped working on the project. It's just that the work I'm currently doing has no visual output, and any information I currently have is going straight into funding the next set of research/planning.

In short;

I hit a wall in both planning and concept artwork as I had not nailed the final layout of the ship. This is very important for both elements. So, I've been going over layout plans (final ones, not concepts) and the arrangement of rooms and the flow ect. Right now I'm putting together a final plan and planning where story elements will be (by story elements I simply mean spooky atmospherics).

That probably made no sense. Basically, I'm working on paper right now so I can't show it without scanning it.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Photo Mash-up #2

So after spending all day trying (and failing) to get a decent paint out, I just fell back into the old photo mashing technique to make sure today wasn't totally fruitless. It essentially was, though. I'm really struggling to get this idea out visually, I think I may need to do some more research tomorrow to help clear the mental fog.

A very "meh" set of mash-ups but hey, it's experimentation, at least I'm getting some ideas out. I tried a lighter setting, and to be honest I'm liking it. The ship stands out as something that shouldn't be there, and doesn't blend in as much as in the darker scenarios.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Photo Mash-up

These past few days I've been at an impasse. I really wanted to paint my concepts, but I found it really hard to get my ideas down on paper. Most attempts these past couple of days have ended in me scrapping the painting after hours of work. So, in an attempt to break through this block, I experimented.

This is the result of said experimentation. I just jammed a few photographs together and painted over areas, adding some rudimentary effects and whatnot to try and establish a theme. It's very rough around the edges, but it only took me around an hour to put together, so it's a fast method of visualisation.

I didn't really want to use this approach to generate concepts, but I've spent too long fumbling around with no result. At the very least, this has given me something to work with.


Here's another experimentation. Figure I might try some lighter ones tomorrow, to balance out the rather dark tones in both these mash-ups. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Environment Sketches - Rock Islands

Thanks to the reference I gathered earlier, I was able to confidently sketch up some different rock formations and clusters for the environment. My main focus was to create sharp, jagged rocks, that carried forward the "lost world" theme I intended for the surrounding environment. 

I experimented with the sketches I had created - merging, flipping and cutting away pieces to quickly generate variations. It was a very handy process that allowed me to take my work and use it to create more experimental shapes and forms, such as the very last image.

Deck Design Elaboration

An elaboration on an earlier deck design..

USCGC Healy & Half-Life's Borealis

The USCGC Healy is a Ice Breaker ship owned by the United States Coast Guard. USCGC stands for United States Coast Guard Cutter, cutter being the name for their commissioned ships. It is capable of breaking 1.4 meters of ice at a steady speed of 3 knots. It also containts 390 square metres of laboratory space, sensor systems, oceanographic winches and living space for up to 50 science staff.

In Half-Life 2, there is a lost ship called the Borealis. It was an Aperture Science research ship that was involved in a large-scale teleportation experiment, which mysteriously vanished from Dry Dock. Since then, the Combine have been searching for the mysterious vessel. 

I didn't know about this before, but it turned up in my search for the Healy. Obviously it is inspired by the ship, or at least a similiar Ice Breaker. I might see if I can find the Borealis in-game and see it for myself.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Some Deck Designs

I tried a few variations of deck designs to experiment with potential layouts for the upper deck area. The darker grey areas are the interior segments, and the lighter grey are the open deck. The first image contains some rough layouts I doodled up, to experiment with potential layouts. I then took two I liked and elaborated on them further..

From Silhouette to Sketch

I took two of my favourite designs from yesterday's experimentation and developed them further, to better visualise the exterior of the ship. After that, I took my favourite of the two and experimented with differing levels of exposure to the elements, and to sea water. In other words, I put a picture of rust over the top and fiddled with the settings.

Friday, 8 February 2013


So I've been doodling about with some ship silhouettes today. These aren't important as the main focus of the ship is the deck and interior, but I felt it was important to be able to visualise the ship as a whole rather than in pieces.

I sketched a number of silhouettes based on ship reference I'd gathered, experimenting with shape and form. Afterwards, I threw a bit of colour on some of my favourites. I tried swapping the top and bottom halves of the designs around, to create some quick variants.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Nuclear Icebreaker Lenin

So I was just doing some research and I stumbled upon this, the Lenin, which is a nuclear-powered Ice Breaker ship. Basically it ploughs through all the ice and clears the way for smaller ships, like merchant and trawler ships. It was the worlds first nuclear powered surface ship.

It's a very bizarre looking ship, internally. It was launched in 1957 so design wise it's a old looking ship.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

HMS Belfast #2 - Field Trip!

Today I got up nice and early and went down to London to visit the HMS Belfast. It's a Town-Class light cruiser that served in Normandy, D-Day and Korea, parked in North Greenwich Port, just outside Crown Court.

I took around 350 photos of the interior and exterior of the ship. I knew there was no way I could document every nook and cranny of the ship, so I set about taking photos of anything I found interesting or important. I got a good feel of how large these ships are, and how foreboding they are just to look at from a distance.

Straight away I loved this area of the upper deck, which was sheltered by a fabric covering. It made the area feel enclosed and separate from the rest of the deck, and dimmed the light slightly. I think it'd make an interesting playable area.

Another thing I liked is the asymmetrical layout of the middle section of the upper deck. It'd give the player a space to explore, and it'd give me much more artistic license to tell a story through decorations and decals in each half of the deck.

This huge radio mast.. thing was cool too. Sorry, you'll have to excuse my lack of brain activity right now, I'm pooped. Anyway, I liked how it loomed over you as you were in the mid to rear half of the ship, a silhouette in the corner of your eye. It's eery, it's like a totem. 

These doors were groovy, and they were everywhere. I'd probably use a different design, but I like the idea of these bulkhead type doors that are ultra-tough.

The bridge was a lot smaller than I was expecting, it was tiny. You could probably fit about three dudes in there comfortably, with elbow room. And if that was the Captain's actual chair, then he must've had a lot of fun in an engagement, being thrown all over the place. It was cool still, got a good view of the front of the ship and good accessibility to the lower decks and exterior. Definitely an area that's going into the level.

I was disappointed with the interior segments of the ship, from a research point of view. It'd all been refurbished, so it wasn't very interesting visually. It'd clearly been refitted with accessibility in mind, so the floor was different to what I was expecting. As you went deeper into the ship it got harder to move around, so I have very few photos of the engine room as that a mess of pipes and railings. 

I meant to add this photo too but strangely it didn't happen. Odd. Anyway, there's a series of "trenches", as I've likened them, on the deck, that are claustrophobic and awesome. I couldn't get a good angle on where they are on the deck and how far they stretch, but it's a good idea regardless.

Pretty much the same thing as above.

I couldn't get a good grasp of what these were, but they were around the AA guns so I reckon they're some sort of targeting/radar/recon thingy. 

It's interesting how she's deceptively big on the inside, but fairly compact on the outside. You can walk the whole deck from end to end in about 2-3 minutes, I reckon. This is where the problem lies, however, in terms of this project. While she's a manageable size, it's the small details that will make the difference, and a ship like the Belfast is littered with them. I reckon they'll be the real time consumers. 

The clear front deck could provide an excellent starting area for the level, giving a good view of the surrounding environment, too.

It was a fairly miserable day, but at least it didn't rain on me. 

Love the wooden flooring here, and the splash of colour in the shot. I'd really like to keep this level of colour in my level, just to break up the otherwise monotone paint of the ship (up close at least).

It must've been painful trying to work underneath these guns firing..