Wednesday, 31 October 2012

No time left to loose

From what I've noticed in the years of art related courses i have had is that most art students ( and maybe even professionals) have poor structure and planning. Very often ( and i won't deny i'm part of this neither) assignments get left till the last moment and suddenly you see people being online till 5 o clock in the morning. Unfortunately this often won't give the best result and obviously in a paid environment isn't very desirable.

So how could this be changed ?

Planning.. having a reasonable planning where there's a good buffer for things that might either need further investigation or things that go wrong / need improving is very important. It's fairly obvious and i'm sure i'm not saying anything world shocking here yet it's something that can best be learned by experience. With my summer project I've made several plannings only to see each of the plannings didn't work out due to unforeseen problems and/or not having enough buffer. more towards the end of the project I've started to get a better view on things and better idea on how much work i'd realistically do on a day and how much information i would be able to absorb in one go.  Also being able to look critical at my skills I've started to understand and accept that things like texturing would
Take a lot more time than i was happy to admit.

What would the best way to go be ?

My personal time distribution would most likely be different than that for other people. Mainly due to having different pipelines and things i would like to focus on in certain projects. For example we have an Environment project where there are 2 buildings premade and we have to make a matching building in between. This is without having given any limitations other than make it blend in/match the other 2 buildings.  A rough planning i made for this project was making sure the research of existing buildings / assets was done the same day. So i know what i'm dealing with. Knowing what to deal with is important as this way i understand roughly how to model and texture. This was done the same day. The next thing i wanted to do
was looking for reference pictures. So the same Tuesday and Wednesday I've spend walking around town making pictures of buildings or parts of buildings i think would match the style.
Also looking in the library and on the internet for idea's on what to do. After having a folder full of possibilities i wanted to have the modelling done within the first week. It's the easiest
And least stressing part of the whole process. Having this done my next step would be unwrapping on Tuesday and the next set of days spending texturing so i have the last week to spend on importing things in UDK. Messing around with assets and/or maybe do some tweaks here and there. It would give me a full buffer of a week as I've used UDK before and am familiar with the whole process. Even if it would give me issues having a buffer of a week seems enough to catch things up.
I expect in a professional / 8 hour work day environment to have less time and trying to improve my workflow is therefor very important to me so whenever i work on project i always tend to think things out before i start. Some little tricks I've discovered to help me are making a quick sketch( blue box) in 3D on where i want to place things and blocking out what it should be without having the intend to instantly over complicate things. while texturing i color code so i know my unwraps will be on the right places and then slowly start building up layers checking often back and forth to see if it matches my expectations. and finally depending on whether things stay in 3DS max or in an engine i use my references to see what sort of feel it should represent and if it matches.

all this helps me to get used to a better and better planning and working more and more efficient.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

 A busy summer - part 1

Over the summer I've been really busy doing my summer project.
I decided to make a level. However rather than just go crazy on making a level i set myself some goals.

- Get better in texturing
- Learn how to bake textures properly
- Get a decent and playable level
- Aim for the current texture quality in games
- export the level into UDK.

Unfortunately the last point didn't work out due to the complex shapes of the level and struggle to make a bounding box for it and getting the texturing right. But a lot has been learned through this. If I were to make a level again I would make this in a more modular approach making small chunks and separate assets so I can puzzle it all together in UDK. However the brief said it had to be handed in in a max file so this wasn't an option to start with.

At the start of this project I decided i would really like to make a level inspired by the Half-Life 2 level called Nova Prospekt. This is an abandoned prison which is now being used by the Combine and through the level it get's over run by ant lions ( spoiler ?? )

So the first step was gathering inspiration. Coincidentally the steam sales were coming out and this gave me a good opportunity to buy some new games that could set the standard for my texturing.
a few games I decided to buy and look at were: Max payne 3, Bioshock 2 and Rage. I already owned all of the Half-Life games but decided to do a quick play through and make several screenshots.

After researching these games i started listening to the developer documentary of half-life learning how they have done their level design and why they made certain decisions.  Because the tri limit was amazingly low I'd have to be very efficient with scene's / game play and optimalize the assets as much as I could so looking at these games i notice how scenes were being re used quite often. Making the player walk back and forth over the same area. After writing down plenty of notes and little sketches i started up UDK only to figure out that the program has changed quite a lot since I've last used it ( 3 years ago ? ) removing the option to make subtractive levels. After looking things up on the internet people recommend making the level first in max and then bringing it into UDK. So much for blue boxing in UDK then..

Once in 3DS max I've started lay-ing out a path puzzling what would be an interesting route and how i would like to make things. When I was satisfied with the lay-out I've started modeling this process took long and was pretty difficult due to the low triangle budget and high expectations I've had. A lot of assets and plans had to be scrapped because of it and will unfortunately not see the light of day. However the difficult part had yet to come.

Part - 2 soon

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Reflection of year one , and ambition for year two.

Last year it was all about the fundamentals. For those who had never used 3DS Max to get familiar to the program, for those who hadn't had a background with drawing .. oh wait.. let's not go there. This year however things will go a step further., with trying to enhance what has been learned and trying to reach a decent level of expertise in the area desired. For me it is still unchanged... 3D is my thing and becoming an environment artist is my aim/dream. As I'm currently writing and will continue to write in my blog through the summer I have spent quite some time improving my skills, and even now I'm still working on things. so what has been improved last year and what would I like to improve this year ?

 Last year I learned how to unwrap properly, I already knew how to make normal maps but I've learned how to make them more efficiently and apply them. I also like to think my modelling has improved slightly as in a little bit more efficient and a better idea of distribution.

Then through the summer with help of websites such as: , and good old I've improved my texturing, learned how to make better specular maps and bake textures.
Baking textures...

I think this year I would like to keep improving on my texturing, get a more efficient/faster pipeline, learn about lighting scenes ( no ! not just the skylight !!!! ) and get a good idea of triangle/texture budgets for assets. I hope this year will give us a little bit of freedom to make stylized and/or different assets/content for the area we would like to work in, in the future, as I can already imagine my future employer sitting behind his desk seeing 400 darleks / transit vans etc, etc.
Darlecs from the tv serie DR Who

To reach all this my first goal would be to finish my second summer project: "The decimator" The Decimator is a project based on the character with the same name of Privateer press Warmachine. I set it up as a project to improve my texture baking and texturing but haven't had the time to finish it yet. The baking has worked out quite well however there is still plenty that needs doing. and through the year I'm planning on working on it every time I improve in key areas. For now it's these small little projects that set me apart from other people and will hopefully get me noticed in the industry.

Privateer press: