Water Room and Door Opening

Today’s work on the prototype focused on the door blueprints and the first of my fx rooms. I started by creating a blueprint that opens the door when you come near it. I had originally wanted the player to click to open the door, but this got complicated when I had multiple trigger boxes, as every trigger would open one door. There will be a proper way to do this, but for the sake of getting a prototype running it was easier to do it this way for now.

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After this, I created a room based on the water drip fx I made previously. I placed a few of them in a row, so that players can stand inside the water and see the distortion up close.

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To get this working, I needed to create a small body of water shader, to make it seem as if the water is filling up the room. I based this off of Unreal’s ocean and lake shaders. I found a water photo on cgtextures, made it tileable, and generated a normal map from it.

The base colour of the material is created by panning the diffuse texture over itself but with different uv tiling, to create a more random look. This is then lerped with two different shades of turqoise-blue to add some variation to the water colour. The lighter colour is faded slightly to create a softer look.

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There are three sets of normals that are blended together. One creates large waves, one small waves, and the other a panning water normal texture. The big and small waves are the normal texture with different uv tilings that are panned at slightly differing speeds. The water normals are a sine modulated panning texture, who’s frequency can be changed by the size of the water.

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The waves wobble and fade out when far from the camera. This is achieved by adding a perlin noise texture to the pixel depth, so that the amount away from the camera that the wave will fade changes.

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I really like the way this room has turned out so far. Adding the material to the walls and a slightly blue light keeps everything in the room thematic. Its nice to be able to walk under the rain, and I think this adds a sense of realism as you see the water distort in front of your face. I would like to add splashing foot prints and rain dripping sounds to this room, before testing it on some players.

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Prototype Test

How Does Sound Affect the Player?

Me – Sound draws me into the experience and takes me out of the real world a little, possibly due to headphones. Footsteps make me feel like I am in the game space. Without sound I was still drawn into the mandala and still thought of myself making a choice at the doors, but the impact wasn’t as good. Visuals are working, they just work better in tandem with sound.

Playtester 1 – Didn’t notice the footsteps. Sound enhanced the experience, thought sound was appropriate for the game and was relaxing.

Playtester 2 – Felt that footsteps were too fast and loud, and it seemed as if they added a beat to the music, detracting from the experience. Music itself was appropriate and was better than silence.

Real Environment or Abstract Environment?

Me – Abstract environment. I feel it fits better thematically with the start of the level, and keeps me in an introspective state after seeing the mandala and the sign instructing me to make a choice. This is because it feels almost like you are in your own mind.

Playtester 1 – Abstract environment, felt it better suited the relaxing theme. Suggested adding subtle lighting to the portals to suggest presence in the space but not show a real environment. Thought the space felt dreamy and was drawn into the center of the screen.

Player 2 – Abstract environment, though thought it might change depending on where the prototype goes.

Portals, Cloth or Doors?

Me – Doors are more representative of a path than the portals, could doors and portals be combined? Coloured portals are better than them all being the same. The cloth might work well if it was more refined, it also has a mystic vibe to it. I don’t have a clear choice.

Playtester 1 – Cloth felt tranquil, doors were subtle. Thought portals were very in your face.

Player 2 – Thought doors were boring as the other two had movement that drew the eye. Cloth would work if kept abstract and bright coloured. Was unsure about colour differences in portals – depended on how much agency/hints you wanted to give the player.

Conclusions

The music is needed, though it isn’t overpowering the visuals. My current placeholder music works well. No preference on weather footsteps are there, but they need to be less overt and slower if they stay. The environment, at least for this example should remain abstract (possibly I can include a more environment heavy scene behind one of the doors for comparison?). Portal choice should be moving and vibrant, no clear decision but leaning towards the cloth.

Prototype – Hub Room

Today I’ve been experimenting with the sort of hub room that leads into the rooms with the fx. I started off by reworking the sign, creating a sort of applause sign style thing. I think it works for now but might change it later depending on where the theme of the game goes. It took me quite a while to get the texture right, defining what areas should be emissive.

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I then did some different versions of the doors. I wasn’t sure weather I wanted to stick with the more real theme that the sign had started, or do something like the mandala portal. I also thought about using my cloth shader. The first thing I tried was a sort of magical portal based on the mandala portal. I liked this idea, as it keeps the theme solid, but I think the sign might then need changed to reflect this. I also had the idea of doing different colors of portals, to represent the fx or feelings behind them.

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Looking at the mystical nature of the portals, I wondered how they would look without the ability to see the room, perhaps going a little more abstract. To do this I set the light to off and the materials to the world grid material, but set them to change to the emissive portal materials when the player enters the room. This used the same logic as the material switching for the sign that I included in my last post. I think that if I want to go down a more abstract, mystical route this would work well, though I did specify earlier that I wanted to be more in the realm of proteus, flower and journey in terms of abstraction, so it might be a bit far.

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After this, I tried both lights on and lights off with a cloth shader. Thanks to my laptop breaking, I didn’t have the original shader, and my recreation isn’t quite as good as the first one – the movement is less flowing and natural. If I decide to move forward with this idea I’ll refine it. I really liked the cloth in darkness, but not so much in light. I think this is due to the unrealistic nature of it lacking rails and a proper diffuse texture.

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The last thing I tried was actual doors. The model is from the unreal example props as I wanted to test the idea quickly. This one worked much better than I had thought it would, with the style matching between the sign and the doors working well. It also works nicley in the dark space.

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I plan to test all of these setups on myself and friends to figure out how each provokes feelings.

Starting the Prototype

I am working on a small prototype that shows off the effects I have already made, and will hopefully allow me to judge how these effects are making people feel. Lynn suggested that I put each effect into a room and see what reaction each one gets.

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I started off by creating a trail into the rooms, as I wanted an opening moment similar to Proteus, in that you are introduced to the concept of exploring and get a bit of a wow moment.

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My first decision atmosphere wise was to remove the hands and the crosshair. The crosshair reminds the player that they are in a game, breaking immersion slightly. I really want the player to feel like themselves in the game, rather than a character, thus the hands went.

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I then added footstep sounds, as I feel that hearing footsteps grounds you in space as a player. With my choice of darkness, this really helps get a feel for where you are. I used the velocity of the player with a break to make sure that the sound played only when you are walking.

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The darkness was chosen to utilize the meditation and mandala ideas that I’ve been researching, where the tunnel like space that I have made leads the player into the heart of the mandala, which I used as a door/portal. This central focus draws the player into the experience, much like is used in Diablo’s lighting and mandala designs.

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The shader for the mandala uses an orange to reflect the colour of the candle lights, and a purple, as this colour is generally viewed as magical or mystical. I added the circular shapes and black center motifs that are characteristic of these images.

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I achived the warping effect by taking two clouds textures with different panning and uvs and adding them together. I then multiplied this with a colour. I made a second version of it but panned it vertically, to create the look that the two forces and interacting and clashing. I then lerped them together, and multiplied this with an rotating alpha texture to create the motif. Lastly, I used the alpha channel from the texture I used to create dust a while back to fade out the edges for a less harsh look.

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With the entryway set up, I created a block out for the branching rooms and started to work on functionality for this room. I decided that there should be some kind of event on entering, as I think the mandala sets up expectation for something to happen.

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I set it up so that when the player enters a trigger box at the start of the room, the light comes on and a sign is displayed. I put a slight delay on to make sure the player sees everything switch on.

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I made a sign that illuminates the words choose your path. I thought that implying that there’s a choice to the game adds a some interaction and gives the player a sence of agency, whist the use of the word your reinforces the idea that the character is the player themselves, and gets them ready to be introspective.

There’s already a few things that I can test with this really small prototype – I can look into how the colour choices and wording effect people’s emotional states and whether sound is a large part of the atmosphere. ( I think it is, which is a bit worrying as I want the visuals to speak more than the sound – sound is important but I am a visual artist in the end) My next steps with the prototype are to create a proper model and material for the sign, create doors/portals/curtains for the rooms, and start to populate these rooms.

 

Flame FX

I made a simple flame effect that can be used with a model or alone for a more abstract effect.

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I took the flame from a cgtextures photo, and passed a rotating sine wave though this to get a little flicker effect. I made the colour editable within cascade and added a brightness parameter to change things easily.

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I took out the velocity module, so that the particles stayed in one place, and reduced the spawn a bit.

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After that I added a light to create a nice flame glow and added an orange colour.

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It lights up the scene nicely. The outline of the texture is a bit too obvious, but at the kind of distance this effect would be viewed at its not a huge deal.

candles

I made a candle model for some context, and just because I’ve neglected my modelling recently. They are high poly, AAA aimed I suppose. The normals and topology need improved here – there’s some awkward lines that shouldn’t be there.

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Meeting and Next Steps

I met with Lynn today to talk about where I’m headed with the project. She assured me that my research and technical work was fine, which was great to know, but said that I really needed to start bringing it together in the form of pre-production. This is something that I’ve not really known how to start and I’ve been very aware that I have made no progress towards an actual project. Thankfully Lynn had some great suggestions to help me get going. I was told that focusing on the experience is ok, and it won’t undermine my portfolio (this being on my mind had actually affected my progress worse than I thought), and that I should be making prototypes that demonstrate the concepts that I have explored in my reading. I really like the idea of prototypes and iterating on an actual game, as the idea of sketching and concept development was really unappealing to me and I had no idea where to start. With a prototype, I can chuck in what I’ve done already and then start to build something around that. After I’ve got something really basic, I can start to look at what makes my influences good and incorporate those elements.

So this week, I have to ditch the worries, ditch the reading and just make. The ideas that come out of a prototype should inform what my next research steps are anyway and I can come back to it then.

Weekend Work

Over the weekend, I worked on a script that creates nurbs shapes and uses them as control shapes. I had started an advanced biped rig, using a digital tutors tutorial, but found that the tutorial wished you to use its MEL scripts as part of it. Figuring I may as well use it as a chance to improve my python, I thought I’d make my own.

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It was quite difficult converting some of the stuff, particularly with unique naming issues and attributes having to be used in place of MEL commands that are much simpler. Regardless of that, I learned a lot about scripting curves, and I’m on my way to making a  tool that can create a wide range of shapes. Once I get this completed it will make my rigging a lot faster, which might be needed considering I have three rigs in the to do pile.

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To finish this up I need make sure that every shape has a unique name when created. This works with the independent shapes, as a wildcard can be used, and with shapes after they have been assigned their control name, however I want to preform operations on the individual shapes to make them into one, which has been tricky without direct referencing. At the moment only one of each shape can be put in the scene. I also need to figure out how to delete transform nodes without removing the shape node. I feel like this might be possible with the listReliatives command, but the naming issues are preventing me from trying it properly.

I also did some more sketching and drawing, my figures are looking a little better though I’ve still got a long way to go!