Author: itslocko

Space Vikings

The Task

So this is the first meaty project of 2nd Year; hitting the ground running. Our task is to create, model and UV unwrap a 3D scene of our choosing. We have complete creative freedom, so we needed to settle on an idea quickly to begin the pipeline. Our main goals were to try to be unique, choose something the team will enjoy and create a narrative to go with our scene.

Our team and their blogs can be found here: [Update Blog links to posts when available*]

Dermott *              Glenn               Michael *              Jack

Below you can see our brainstorm of idea generation. We began with listing all of the fun environments we could think of. When this was done, we all chose a few examples we liked and went off to do some sketching and research to pitch ideas the following day.

Whiteboard

[Insert Pic of Sketchbook Drawings]

Eventually, we had narrowed it down to either a space station interior, or a viking longhouse interior. In the end, we picked both.

The narrative we decided to keep simple. These vikings were blessed with the knowledge of intergalactic travel (but not much other knowledge), and had set off to pillage the stars. However, the sea serpents they thought they’d left behind had suddenly become very real.

This meant we wanted to show our interior hull breached by a large space kraken’s tentacle, meaning there would be a vacuum created and things would be floating/violently flying out in to space. To illustrate this ironically within the scene, Glenn suggested a tapestry foretelling the events up to this point, and did a fantastic job creating it using reference from real viking tapestries:

 

The Ship

Below are some moodboards gathered by the team of various inspirations and theme directions to grip a feel for the designs we would create.

 

We looked at various reference images of replica viking longhouses, concept art of viking homes, themes of rustic futures as well as fantasy and sci-fi explorations of viking origins.

Two of the main artists I have looked at for this project are Adam Adamowicz (Late concept artist for Bethesda’s ‘Fallout’ and ‘Elder Scrolls’ franchises), and Ian McQue who has a great way of making industrial machinery look used and lived with; improvised by those who only know about 60% of what they’re doing and that’s what we needed.

Here are some of Adam Adamowicz’ environment sketches for Skyrim, a very nordic themed videogame:

And here is a link to a flickr album containing a vast quantity of his concepts.

Here are some relevant examples of Ian McQue’s work where he’s managed to capture a sort of “improvised junkyard” look while still retaining the precision required to build such machines:

 

Jack created two great, solid concepts for the ship’s exterior as seen below, influenced by Dermott’s designs which you can see belowerer.

Jack_ShipJack_Ship_2 Dermott_Ext_1

The general idea was that the ship was gonna be like a viking longship, but the bottom was duplicated and flipped upside down to seal it from the vacuum of space. Inside, the hull would replicate a lot of the key features of a longhouse.

The Crew

To get an idea of the look of the kinds of props and the environment we were gonna be crafting,  we needed to know who lived there. What size are they? Are they intelligent? What kind of clothing do they wear? (If any?) Below are some sketches I did to explore these ideas and see which direction we were going with this. I explored different exaggerated features to accentuate the bulkiness of the barbarian brutes, and looked at the idea of crude armour being fashioned (Stop sign embedded in helmet). And I know what you’re thinking and yes, we know vikings don’t have horns. We’re doing it anyway.

 

Initial_Sketches Character_Concepts

Exploration of colour, looking at rougher fabrics vs. more refined cloth and plate.

Shield_Concepts.png

An exploration of holo-shield designs, incorporating traditional shield designs with sci-fi materials and function.

 

The Hull

Interior_Concept_2

Tradtionally, vikings had a lot of key traits when it came to their architecture. One of these traits was their use of pillars and arches to build their structures, and so we felt that this would be necessary when creating an authentic environment. Above is a concept I put together of the interior hull, but I don’t feel it had a very viking feel to it. The large window is something we want to include as a way to let the viewer know that this environment is in space. Initially when proposing this, I had mentioned that vikings didn’t use windows in their buildings but I was then informed that “yeah, but they didn’t fly spaceships either.” Fair point.

Isometric_Layout

Above I’d thrown together a rough isometric layout map of the hull, so we could get a rough idea of the kind of areas we would have and the sorts of things in them

 

The Breach

So a main part of the narrative of our scene is that the hull has been breached by some tentacled, cosmic horror; causing the props around the environment to begin to move toward the vacuum. Dermott has done a few illustrations to show a few concepts of this event:

Dermott_Hull_1Dermott_Hull_2Dermott_Hull_3

I have modelled a tentacle, initially to be part of the scene as perhaps a food source in a kitchen/prep area, but we may use it for the purpose above. Tentacle was sculpted in ZBrush, ZRemeshed and then imported to Maya for UV Unwrapping.

Tentacle_Sculpt_1Tentacle_Sculpt_2

Experimented with texturing also:

[Insert Picture of Textured Tentacle.]

 

The Hearth

In my research, I discovered that a key part of the viking longhouse was the large hearth they placed in the centre of the structure. This hearth was mainly for heating and cooking, and a large hole was left open in the roof for smoke to escape. We wanted to adapt this idea, but firstly a fire pit seems very primitive for these starbarians and secondly would surely burn up more oxygen that the crew would rather have in their lungs. So how could we incorporate this design without losing functionality and/or necessity? I suggested we create a sort of “plasma exhaust port” that jets excess heat through the ceiling. Below are a few concept sketches to visualise this idea.

Interior_Concept

 

Exhaust.png

Below is some experimenting in Unreal Engine 4 where I made a rough prototype to simulate the motion of the exhaust that a drawing couldn’t capture.

UE4_MaterialUE4_Particle

Animated GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Props

The props are gonna be the key to making our scene look alive. Most of them will be flying through the air or lifting off tables. Others will be hanging on walls, or bolted down. Below is the list of props I’ve worked on concepts for or modelled.

Tools and Utensils – Concepts and Modelling

Cutlery Cutlery_Mesh

UV Unwrapping

Cleaver_UV

Cleaver Detail sculpted in ZBrush

Cleaver_Sculpt

 

Metal Bowl – Modelling

UV Texture Testing – Right bowl has obvious seam on the underside (right).

UV Map – 1st Attempt on the right, second corrections on the left.

 

(Bio-area for crops?) (Animal restraint area?)

 

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Teaching myself ZBrush

Helpful Tips – Learning as I go:

Symmetry – Transform > Activate Symmetry. Choose a world axis (X for Down the Centre)

To create a seperate sphere for eyes, Toolbox > Subtool > Append > Sphere.

You can position the ball, selected the subtool and go to Subtool > Duplicate. Then Move the new eyeball and merge them to the same mesh and activate symmetry to sculpt eyes.

Basic Brush Uses –

  • Build Clay: Adds Clay to the sculpt (Holding Alt removes clay)
  • Smooth (Hold Shift): Levels out a clay surface
  • Dam Standard: Creates sharp indents (like scoring marks)
  • Alphas are the shapes of the brush. The white area of an alpha gets used, and they adapt to transparency. Eg. using a gradient fading circle brush will apply a soft brush.

 

Helpful/Inspirational Videos

Speed Sculpt of Heimerdinger from League of Legends.

Step by Step of Heimerdinger and Singed.

Dynamesh – a tool that allows you to create a clean grid topology over distorted sculpts.

 

First Sculpting Attempt:

There are some problems with stretched mesh on the shoulders and lower cheeks as well as the ridge above the eye. I’ll have to research how to properly utilise dynamesh and zremesher to keep a clean mesh to sculpt on in future. I’m pretty happy for my first sculpt, took around 40 minutes.

Also figured out how to make a progress video:

Pipeline for Champion Project

  • Research Riot process and existing champions
  • Come up with base idea that sounds cool
  • Light research and some a lot of idea sketching
  • Revisit research, delve deep
  • Revisit sketches, apply new knowledge
  • Finalise sketches and settle on an idea
  • Play around with colours and poses
  • Paint a rendered version
  • Produce detailed concept sheet
  • Begin sculpting in ZBrush
  • Learn more about sculpting, topology for videogames and rigging
  • Retopologise
  • Rig model
  • UV Mapping
  • Create texture
  • Finish Model
  • Animations for auto-attacks, critical strikes, abilities, idle, walk, run, gate and death
  • Apply vfx to spells and model where necessary
  • Finalise product
  • Create a skin if extra time is available

 

Visual FX in Videogames

 

 

So as part of my training to become better I want to learn a little about VFX in videogames. This is also part of my effort to be experienced in every area of art at Riot Games to boost my shot at an internship. What I like about VFX from what I’ve seen is structured and logical everything is. The breakdown above of the “Sunfire Cape” is very simple and inspiring and by the end of the week I’m going to see if I can produce something similar. The guy that made the video, Jason Keyser, works as a VFX artist for League of Legends and has a few breakdown videos. In the comment section, someone had asked him what would be the best tool to use to get something close to League of Legends and he suggested Unreal Engine 4. Apparently it has a steeper learning curve than Unity, but I’m willing to tackle it for the challenge.

I’m going to be following this tutorial series to teach myself the basics of UE4’s Cascade for particle effects. In this post I’m going to summarise the videos/take notes on anything important I want to come back to.

Here is a document containing a summary of different FX types and particles.

First video is all about terminology for particle effects.

Particle – A point in space that may be assigned attributes/behaviour.

Sprite – 2D plane that will always face the camera.

Particle System – The assets that reside in your content browser.

Emitter Actor – The physical object in a scene that acts as a reference to a particle system.

Particle System Component – I think this is a blueprint…for an Emitter Actor…?

Cascade – The particle editing system inside UE4.

Emitter – A column in Cascade that holds all of the properties for an individual particle.

 

I saw a tutorial by Dean Ashford and decided to give it a go, here is my first result:

Very basic, but a good foundation to start tinkering with things.

 

Crafting a Champion – Research for Riot

I recently discovered the Riot Games Internship Program, and holy s*** I need this so bad. I can’t think of any better way to jump-start my hopeful career in concept art, and with the odds against me (at least 6000:1) I’ll have to try and prove myself. So that’s what I’ll try and do.

I’ve decided I’m going to follow the Riot Pipeline for character design and make a champion or two of my own while thoroughly exploring each idea. I’m going to start by reading some different Dev Blogs posted by Riot about their champion process and write about my research here. I’ll link each blog as I read them.

*DISCLAIMER: No images belong to me and are all property of Riot Games*

Developing Dark Star Thresh

This project involves creating a ‘skin’ for a pre-existing character. It starts by identifying ‘Thresh’s’ core idea and how to “multiply that by 100”. They spend some time identifying the reason and personality behind the skin. They give Thresh a purpose and a motive, helping anchor the design.

One of the concepts they enjoyed involved a “cloud of space” emanating from Thresh’s head, but they needed to deem whether it would look as good in game and so they ran tests to confirm it was possible. It took four weeks to lock in the skin’s visual direction, on top of the initial week of brainstorming.

He was initially designed with a red colour palette, but this was changed to distinguish him from his other skin (Blood Moon).

The rest of the article delves in to aspects past concept art, so I’ll be moving on from it and leaving on this awesome process shot of his loading screen splash art.

 

On the Champion Rework Pipeline

So apparently it takes around 9 months to create a champion of visual update. I’m gonna be doing mine a little quicker…

First Phase: Open ideation phase (about three months). A small team of writers, concept artists, designers and a producer works on this phase, and there are usually about 3 going at once.

Some early Yorick thumbnails

Ok, so there’s not much in this one along the lines of concept work. Moving on…

 

Narrative Hooks

This article mainly focuses on backstory and behind the scenes plot that goes in to making a character’s background believable and solid. I love this image of “Bilgewater Slaughter-Sheds” which are never mentioned in the game at all but are exactly the type of thing I’d expect to see in the brine-soaked town.

Maybe I could use this as a background for one of my characters…

Leave your bundle of threads loose so the curious can pull on them to find how they tangle together. League of Legends isn’t a single narrative, it’s an existing universe with characters that are anchored to it.

“For the audience, dangling story threads and hooks provide areas of intrigue and speculation, a tiny glimpse of events that hint at bigger things yet to come, or suggest a deeper and richer world history/backstory. They can also function to suggest a much bigger world out there, one that is vibrant with stories just waiting to be discovered. Finally, they also give the audience a chance to voice what story hooks they’d like to see developed, giving the creators a better idea of what they should focus on.”

“The one thing that’s most important, however, is avoiding creating frustration by dangling out a million story hooks that are never developed or followed up. That kind of thing can be irritating, and can have a detrimental effect, not just with the audience, but on the narrative universe as a whole. It can start to feel like there’s nothing behind all those hints and nods – it’s just a facade of depth, with no actual substance.”

There is a balance to finalising stories for closure and leaving ends open for audiences to wonder. That’s the hook. There are some interesting points on narrative in a world on this article, so give it a read. Moving on to something more concept-y.

 

Jhin Development Process

So this is a lot more of the “meat and veg” type stuff I wanted to get in to, and highlights the early stages of a concept that I crave. The team started with an initial idea, they wanted a champion that felt like you were using an old bolt-action sniper rifle, and wanted to differentiate between this character and the other sniper wielding character, Caitlyn.

Ok so on a side-note I started looking up Caitlyn’s visual update after typing that last paragraph and stumbled on to a freelance concept artist who does a lot of work for Riot by the name of Thomas Randby and some of his work is really awesome stuff.

So, back to Jhin. Bolt action sniper. Robotic Cowboy. Bounty Hunter. These were the buzzwords initially used in crafting him. Some of them were chipped off through the design process.

They thought the term “Deadeye” resonated very well with this new champion. They started looking at the idea that “ever shot counts” as it does with a bolt-action sniper. They implemented an ammo system for his shots before he has to reload, something that no other champion has. The point of his abilities were that even though they had extremely long range, they could also miss (which is not the case with Caitlyn.)

After further playing around with the ammo mechanic, they decided that the fourth shot should deal the most damage from a gameplay perspective but why would this be the case in a real-world idea? That’s when they hit the sweet spot by making Jhin an artist. He doesn’t just want to kill his targets, he wants it to be so perfect that their deaths are his art. He becomes a Virtuoso.

“In carnage, I bloom; like a flower in the dawn.”  -Jhin

After discovering his artistic identity, the team incorporated rose imagery in to one of his abilites and heavily referenced opera in his personality, design and aura. His ultimate ability, aptly named ‘Curtain Call’ has four extreme long-range, high damage shots. And as soon as you enter this stance, a violin can be heard playing as you paint the canvas with blood.

They removed the robot element from his identity because they wanted him to appear human. They invented a mask to cover his face with a calming, confident yet sinister grin. They placed him within a faction of their world, Ionia; a place of intricate design that favoured form over function. Makes sense. This was a true psychopath.

The best part about Jhin’s design is his rifle. It’s actually a four chambered pistol, that he then constructs in to a rifle for long range, paired with the asymmetrical hump on his shoulder to create a piercing cannon. They also gave the barrel a fountain pen-esque nib at the end to emphasise his personality as a “creative”. His colour scheme was that of roman emperors, because “while Jhin’s very much equipped to kill, he’s also dressed to impress.”

With Jhin’s final release, they also released a skin called “High Noon Jhin” which is a nod to the robo-cowboy that inspired his initial creation.

This is the kind of depth I want to go for with my design. Research, themes, tropes, aesthetics, playstyle, factions; everything. I want to take it as far as I can.

 

There’s a bunch more blogs that I’ve read through and enjoyed but instead of me summarising them you can read them directly here:

Tahm Kench – a large fish demon dubbed the “River King” with quite the mouth on him (In both senses). A personal favourite of mine.

Kindred – a snow white lamb and an ominous dark wolf spirit combo that sew and reap life.

Kalista – a culmination of vengeful spirits manifested in to one form. She throws spears.

Sion – a resurrected juggernaut equipped with a battleaxe and a blood lust. His newly-fitted lower jaw is the crown of a King he slaughtered.

Aurelion Sol – creator of stars, wanderer of galaxies. Narcissist. This enormous space dragon was a leap for the game design team to implement.

Galio – A stone-bound sentinel seeking to supersede strength as a sentient shield. He’s a big gargoyle.

Taliyah –  A weaver of earth and rock, she hails from humble beginnings.

Kled –  A redneck squirrel that rides a lizard.

Ivern – The friendliest tree man you’ll ever meet.

Camille – Her legs are blades.

Enjoy reading these! They’re great insights in to professional storytelling and design.

 

12 Principles – Character Design

The Twelve *Gods Principles of Animation!

*Skyrim Reference*

Numero Uno – Squash and Stretch

Squash and Stretch is used to apply a sense of gravity to a character, or to show collision. It is done by “squashing and stretching” the character proportionally to the force it is experience, for example if an object had fallen a great height and landed on the ground, he would squash quite a bit. The style of the animation also controls this attribute, as it is important to decide whether or not you want things like metal to squash/stretch. One of the key things about making squash and stretch believable is to attempt to maintain a sense of volume in the character, so ensure that their squashing and stretching is proportional to the parts of them that are squashing and stretching.

Number Two – Anticipation

Anticipation is the build up to an action. If a character is about to throw a punch, they might wind up their fist before hand, perhaps lean back before lunging forward. Anticipation makes an action flow more naturally as opposed to just happening. It takes away that jarring sudden motion and adds an element of realism to the action while also directing the viewer’s eye and where to look on-screen. It allows the viewer to “anticipate” the next action.

*On a side note, the above gif  from Popeye uses DryBrush smear animation which I remember Mike had posted about on the facebook wall before of Elmer Fudd thrashing Buggs Bunny. Interesting technique to show motion blur.*

Numéro Trois – Staging

Staging is the presentation of an idea to make that idea clear to the audience. This can be an action, character, mood or anything that the director is trying to portray. This takes a number of factors in to consideration, such as camera placement, object movement (or lack there of), camera movement, silhouette of the action etc. Staging also works with anticipation in guiding the audience’s eye to allow the scene to flow more clearly.

4. – Straight Ahead and Pose-to-Pose

Straight ahead action is drawing each frame right after one another. It is best used to create realistic motion due to its precise nature. Pose-to-Pose is when key poses are filled in first and then the remainder is filled in at a later point. It is best used when trying to capture more dramatic scenes with more advanced camera movement.

E) – Follow Through and Overlapping Action

This section is two different parts that work together. Follow through is considering how an object behaves once it has moved and performed its main action. It is the termination stage of the action. When a wire antenna on a car is travelling with the car it is curved backwards to imply drag, but is rooted to the car. When the car suddenly stops, the antenna continues to move, bending forward and backwards decreasing its oscillations exponentially over time until it too comes to a halt. The speed at which it does this can indicate things such as the speed it was moving, the abruptness of the stop and the mass of the antenna.

Overlapping action is simply the beginning of one action whilst another is ongoing/finishing. It is used to keep the flow of the actions more natural and keep the audience interested.

VI) – Slow In and Slow Out

Slow In/Slow out is in reference to how an object behaves with motion. For example, a ball rolling to a destination is more believable if the ball slows down over time rather than travelling at a constant speed and then halting. This is an important attribute to consider when attempting to portray the impact a motion might have. This is controlled in Maya through Velocity/Time graphs in the Graph Editor.

(I’m gonna be a nerd here real quick)

Velocity is the speed of an object in a particular direction. When using Maya’s Velocity/Time graphs it is important to understand that Velocity and Speed are different things, as well as Distance and Displacement. Velocity and Displacement are the vector equivalents to Speed and Distance. A vector depends on relative distance.

This means that if I start at a point and walk 5m to the right and then come back to my original starting position, I have travelled a total of 10m, but my displacement from my original position is 0m. Using the same example, if I walk at 2.5m per second to the destination and the same speed back, my speed was a constant 2.5/mps. However, my velocity would change halfway, from 2.5/ms to -2.5/ms showing that I am moving in the opposite direction. This is an important idea to grasp when understanding the Velocity/Time Graphs in Maya and mastering “Slow In, Slow Out.”

七 – Arcs

Arcs reference the natural path an object should follow in order to appear normal. This can range from anything such as a ball being thrown and following a parabolic arc, to the motion of a hand waving. The curve of the arc tells things such as the speed of the object, for example a fast moving ball would travel in more of a straight line over a short distance, in comparison to a slow ball over a long distance which would arc more. If an object moves outside of its motion arc too much then it will appear erratic/unnatural.

∞ – Secondary Action

Adding a secondary action helps add meaning and emphasis to an initial action. For example, a character looking for the source of a delicious smell would swivel his head while looking; to bolster this you can have the character lick his lips and perhaps drool to show how desperate he is to find it. It is important to remember to not overshadow the main action with a secondary action, and also to not add secondary actions where they will not be seen. For example, do not add a “wink” when the character is turning their head fast.

Nein – Timing

Timing is used for two key reasons. The first is to attempt to elicit and emotional response from the audience in how a scene is timed. A character’s death, for example, should have more screen-time and build-up than a character throwing an apple in the bin. The other use is portraying the properties of an object and how they obey physics. For example, a 100 ton weight will fall extremely quickly compared to a feather. Timing is ensuring you don’t lose the audience’s attention.

Decem – Exaggeration

Exaggeration covers a broad range of areas but in its essence it is used to exaggerate an action or idea. For example, in this scene from Tom and Jerry the artist has exaggerated the point that Tom is a “jackass” by literally transforming his reflection in to an ass. This robs some realism from the short, but it was never intended to be strictly real.

Jackass

((6^2)-25) – Solid Drawing

This is in reference to the skill of the classic animator. It involves being able to understand proportion, physics, depth, 3D Space, perspective and a range of other things that boil down to being able to understand how to draw something as you intend it to be viewed. In John Lasseter’s interpretation of the Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation he has chosen to omit this section due to the technology that has replaced it. This may be true when it comes to actually animating, but I feel that other fields such as storyboard art, concept art and more that this section is incredibly important when attempting to portray an idea or concept.

High Noon – Appeal

Appeal is the broadest area on this list. Appeal does not need to necessarily be a positive thing. For example, an evil person can be appealing as a villain, the audience needs to feel the character belongs in that role by the character’s actions, voice, design and pretty much everything else. Appeal, when it comes to character design, is the same reason why Hugo Weaving usually plays bad guys, or why Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is consistently playing comedic characters. In Hugo Weaving’s case, he looks like a bad guy. His stern face and arched brow just scream “villain”. Whereas with the Rock, it’s a juxta-position to his past career as a professional wrestler and large, muscular body (paired with his charming smile) that allow him to be cast in these roles and fit.

 

The Design

 

Rotation_2Rotation_3Rotation

Collaboration with Gianni

So I’ve been talking a lot with Gianni from second year and he was showing me a viking model that he’s working on as a personal project. We were having discussions, sharing opinions and showing each other various inspirations that we knew of to help further the project. I was talking to him a bit about concept artists and the industry for them and how it’s something I was interested in, and so he suggested that I could help him out with his design and it would help bolster some of my concept art portfolio, as well as give him some cool ideas to model with.

I started by designing some different axe variants. I did some research in to basic Viking axe shapes while taking inspiration from games like Skyrim as well as from Norse mythology. I tried to incorporate things like Celtic patterns as well as viking runes and imagery whilst playing around with various shapes to get something unique but practical. In time I will design further axe designs as well as armour/swords to match the design.

Gianni Axe

After the axe designs, I decided to get stuck in to a quick full-body sketch based on what Gianni had already modelled, with a few tweaks in places. I added things such as decorative bolts, shoulder plating and chain mail, as well as moving some things around to add more practicality to the design. I will further finish this painting in future and dive in to more variations and details on more intricate designs (such as the antler on his head that is not visible at this angle.)

Concept

Gianni also was talking about how he wanted to pose the character, and so I threw together a quick sketch of the pose and how it would look silhouetted. Gianni had originally said that he wanted the flag to fly horizontally instead of vertically, however I suggested that that seemed too “elite” for a viking, and that a vertical banner read more as “this is my land” and he agreed.

Pose

Below is an image from Gianni’s Artstation where you can find more angles and progress images of the viking so far.

Here is a link to his blog for development of the project: https://giannifrancescodegiuseppeblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/viking-einar-lonar/

I’m really excited to really sink my teeth in to this project, and future projects we have discussed working on. It’s great practice for both of us and he’s doing a fantastic job. His passion for teaching himself has inspired me to start my own small personal project.

gianni-francesco-de-giuseppe-einarfixedup

Current progress of the model by Gianni Francesco De Giuseppe