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*]
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.
[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:
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.
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.
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.
Exploration of colour, looking at rougher fabrics vs. more refined cloth and plate.
An exploration of holo-shield designs, incorporating traditional shield designs with sci-fi materials and function.
[GIF of Shield Spin]
[Render of Shield?]
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.
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.
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:
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.
Experimented with texturing also:
[Insert Picture of Textured Tentacle.]
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.
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.
Here is a finished model of the Hearth done in Maya. Below that you can see the detail sculpt I added in ZBrush and then implemented with a Normal Map in the final scene.
Plugins, Scripts and Tools
[Nightshade UV Editor]
[UV Transfer etc.]
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
Cleaver Detail sculpted in ZBrush
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.
Chains and Sconces
[Insert Gif of Fireball Test]
360 – VR Experience
Reflection on Task
So as this project draws to an end, I can say I’m quite happy with what we’ve accomplished. I knew when we put this team together that we were all going to try to make an ‘outside-the-box’ project, and that’s exactly what we did. Through redos and refinement through constant feedback and inspiration from each other we managed to construct a scene that stayed true to our original vision and stay fairly coherent in terms of style. I also went in to this project with the hopes of getting to practice a little more VFX I’ve been learning and was able to get an opportunity to display some and practice this new tool.
Ranging from basic Maya Modelling and some fun ZBrush sculpting, to learning UV Mapping, Texturing/Normal Mapping and being able to implement VFX and 360 degree cams; I would definitely say this project has taught me quite a lot. If I could redo it, I would try to pull the style back more to a viking theme as I feel like we slightly lost the original vision slightly in the sci-fi. The Space Vikings was definitely my favourite team to be on so far in the course, both for the project and the team mates I had. I look forward to more.
I started by playing around with the Jack rig and experimenting with posing. From the very early stages I kind of had an inclination towards Ninja and Samurai. I crafted a weapon for my warrior and thought he could use an opponent, so I threw in my enchanted deer and some compositing in Photoshop to create a little scene. Turned out rather nice.
Below are some other poses I experimented with; a man dropping eggs, a girl with a minigun and Glenn O’Neill.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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
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.
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*
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.
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.
Ok, so there’s not much in this one along the lines of concept work. Moving on…
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.
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.