Monday, 28 July 2014

General Progress

(Progress so far on the level)

As this is the last full day I'll be working on this I thought it would be a good idea to give a general update as to the state of the project so far.  As you can see from the image above, it's far from finished.  The reference map it was standing on is finally gone and the models moved to ground level.  Over half the models have been UV mapped to display the texture properly.The main texture need a few more bits added to it and the terrain need a new one made.

So what does this mean?  Well I've decided to get the map as close to finished visually as possible.  The gameplay will most likely not be included in the submitted build, which will be a real shame (I am a bit stubborn though, so I haven't given up entirely on it).

I will be putting some images up of the finished assets in the next post together with some images of a finished map (hopefully).

Saturday, 26 July 2014

UV Mapping

(UV mapping process for one of the models)

Following on from yesterday's post, I've been UV mapping to try and get the textures to display properly on my models.  The image above shows the process of packing the UVs into the space, which will allow me to add more colour information to the texture for other models.

(Testing the texture in CryEngine on the newly UV mapped model)

The image above is a screenshot of a test in engine to make sure it looks good.  All of the bricks are going in the right direction and are the same scale.  Still quite a few models to work on though, so I'd better get on with it.

Friday, 25 July 2014


(Untextured whitebox model of Whitby Abbey)

I now have Whitby Abbey mapped out with 3D models and it looks okay.  I will be adding a little bit of extra detail to a few of the models but most of them are likely to remain as they are.  The next step is to create a texture I can use on them.  Most of today was spent hand painting a texture from scratch (no photos were used in its creation), with various stages of testing to see what it looks like on a model.  I'm not trying to create a photo-realistic recreation of Whitby Abbey; instead I want a painterly look as stated in the Style Guide post.

(A small section of the texture I've been working on today)

I can't apply it in engine yet, as I will need to redo the UV maps to use the texture properly and efficiently.  For those who don't know what a UV map is, it's a 2D representation of the geometry of a 3D model.  It dictates where an image will be displayed on the surface of a model.  As you can see from the image below, the texture looks quite good on the model even though it hasn't been mapped properly yet.  I am aiming to map them tomorrow or Sunday.

(A test render of the texture on a model without finished UVs)

The texture will be merged with some others onto a single material so that multiple meshes can use the same texture space in engine.  This increases efficiency and demonstrates optimisation for game development.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Troublesome Day

Yesterday ended up being slightly problematic in terms of being able to work on the project.  Most of the day was spent in the hospital waiting for a rather unpleasant gastroscopy procedure.  Despite this I returned home and got on with some 3D modelling, working on the tower section of the scene.  The day was made worse by an untimely power cut, which corrupted the file I had open and forced me to use a backup save, costing me around an hours worth of work (really wasn't my day).

On a brighter note, I've managed to finish the tower model and can continue to work on the project next weekend.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Whitebox Models

(More place holders in engine, looking a bit more like an abbey)

As I expected, I have already fallen behind in my schedule, so I've spent as much time as I could today 3D modelling.  First of all I worked on finishing the middle and upper sections for the inner walls and importing them into CryEngine.

(Basic shape of one of the abbey's main walls)

The next stage was to create one of the big walls at the end of the abbey, together with the two spires either side.  The wall is only a basic model at the moment, although more detail will be added at a later point.  It's probably worth mentioning that most of the detail will be added through the texture, as it will be a lot quicker.

(One of the spires to go next to the wall)

The spire model I made has a bit more detail and was a lot more difficult to make.  There are actually two different meshes for this (one for each side of the wall) because of the way they are shaped.  Ordinarily I would just use the same model and rotate it in engine, however there is chamfering on part of the model that would be in the wrong place if I did so.

I'm hoping to get most, if not all of the basic shapes built before Monday so I can start texturing or adding gameplay.  Hopefully no more unforeseen events prevent me from working on it.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Whitebox Stage

(Early whitebox stage with place-holder assets in CryEngine)

I finally started 3D modelling various place-holder assets to get a general feel for how the game is going to look.  It also means I can test the designed gameplay mechanics sooner, giving me more time to fix any potential problems.  I'm using 3D Studio Max to create the 3D objects for the world (both whitebox and finished versions of them).

I will be researching how to implement the game mechanics using the documentation provided by Crytek on their site, as well as any useful tutorial videos I find (I'll provide links to everything I use in subsequent posts).

Once all of this is done I can start replacing the place-holders with the actual game assets.  Texturing for the final versions will be done using Photoshop.  I will post images of finished assets as well from time to time.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Style Guide and Schedule

(Project Style Guide)

I've been working on a small style guide / mood boards in order to maintain graphical consistency across all my work, as well as give me something to refer back to if I start to struggle with any of the artwork.  Whilst working on this guide I produced the project logo which will become the header for this blog (it's also a requirement for submission).

(The first version of my project planner)

I've created a schedule / planner to help me keep on track, as well as ensure that I don't forget anything.  However, I have to say it is incredibly optimistic, with no room for anything to go wrong and for me to burn myself out.  There are a number of aspects I am willing to remove in order to achieve a completed project but they're listed in case I actually get a chance.  The deadline is marked as the 1st August rather than the actual competition deadline which is the 4th.  This is because I will not be able to work on the project after the 1st.

Monday, 7 July 2014

World Scale

(Reference image in CryEngine)

Unlike the Mystical Wings project I worked on last year, where everything was giant in comparison to the player character, this project uses real-world measurements to the correct scale (or as close to it as possible).

(An object created in CryEngine used to measure scale)

I imported a reference image into CryEngine to help determine how big the structure will be in comparison to the terrain and player.  The image has a scale that I converted to metres (originally in feet), as this is what the engine uses.  I then used the CryEngine's 'Designer Tools' to create a box shape to the same length as the converted measurement.  Using this shape I could scale the reference image up until it matched the length of the shape (see image above).

With the scale set I can move on to sculpting the terrain to resemble the real location's, adding another element of detail and allowing me to create assets to scale.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

A Shadow in Whitby

Though the project name (A Shadow in Whitby) is remnant from the Dracula design, I think it's still applicable as the player is now being thought of as the shadow (also, I don't want to have to rename everything I've done so far).  First is a bit about the concept itself, followed then by some actual design and artwork.  Included throughout will be explanations on how the source materials provided by The British Library  has helped inspire my ideas.

The main mechanic of the game is finding and collecting Jet artefacts and placing them in the correct place to unlock new areas and items.  Objects and structures will appear, indicating what the next part of the puzzle might be.  The initial play area will be quite small, with the hopes of expanding if there's enough time.

(North West view of Whitby Abbey)

(South East view of Whitby Abbey)

My main sources include the images above, which were among The British Library's assets provided to everyone.  The first thing you might notice is that the abbey shown is a bit more intact than the abbey's present state.  The addition of the tower in the middle gives better scope for the level design.  I also managed to find an artists reconstruction of the abbey on the English Heritage website, which has helped me understand how the current architecture relates to that shown in the images above.

(A View near Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast, Francis Jukes, 1804)

The art style I have chosen to use was inspired by the image above by Francis Juke.  I particularly like the colouring of it.  There will be further details on this in the style guide, along with a mood board to help demonstrate the effect I'm going for.  Moving on to some designs and concepts, below is a quick concept showing the start of the game.

(Concept image of starting area with the bridge made of light active)

The starting area will be a small, circular area next to the small pond near the abbey.  The player is trapped there within a fog barrier with a pedestal and an artifact carved from Whitby Jet.  The bridge shown in the image (above) does not exist and is something that will appear when the first puzzle is complete to allow access to the next area.  To complete it, the player simply needs to put the artefact on the pedestal, demonstrating how future puzzles work.  Below is the design layout that goes with the concept showing the placement of objects, as well as notes on how each bit works.

(Level design for the start of the game)

Though specifics for the general layout of the abbey section is still being confirmed (finished design will be shown in a future post), I have definite ideas on how particular aspects of the puzzles will work with each other and roughly how many I will need.

(Rough designs for the abbey section of the game)

There will be an altar at the head of the abbey, which when activated, will reveal a platform with indentations in it.  These indents require artefacts that are found in other places (sometime needing the player to complete a puzzles to obtain) to power it.  Once all are found the player is moved to the tower where the player will collect the final artefact.  Players will then be shown a door that has appeared at the perimeter of the play area (a way out), which the player has to use the last artefact on to end the game.

(Concept of the final door that ends the game)

Unfortunately there is no guarantee I can actually achieve this, despite how small it is.  I only have 10 days to work on this project between now and the deadline (due to other commitments), including making and texturing all of the models, researching and implementing the puzzles, blogging my progress and fulfilling all of the submission requirements (videos, images, packaged build etc).

Wish me luck!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Third Design

The important thing about the newest design change is the size of the playable area.  It is now confined to Whitby Abbey and its immediate area, reducing the number of assets required.  Hopefully it will also help emphasise my abilities at 'game design' and technical ability with the CryEngine SDK.

In terms of the design itself, it's apparent that my concepts for a game that includes Dracula are quite long (or would at least take a reasonable time to complete).  With this in mind I have decided to remove this as the main plot device and concentrate on something that's a bit more versatile but equally as important to Whitby's heritage.

The new design incorporates Whitby Jet as a component for players to use in solving puzzles around the remains of the abbey, which in turn unlocks new parts to a bigger overall puzzle.

(A Whitby Jet carved brooch)

Whitby Jet was used to create various artefacts and pieces of jewellery, which extends as far back as the Bronze Age.  It is probably best known for its popularity during the 19th century as mourning jewellery.
The Whitby Jet Heritage Centre website has quite a bit of information about the mineraloid and its history.

It is supposedly easy to carve (though difficult to achieve great detail without breaking it), which means I can use quite intricate shapes  when creating the puzzle elements.

Linking this new design concept back to the maps provided by The British Library is a very important aspect of the competition, so in the next entry I will provide details on how each aspect relates to them.  On top of the design documentation I will also be putting together a small style guide to ensure that I maintain a level of consistency when producing assets like models and textures, which I will try to make available for download at a later point.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

General Update

It has been a very busy and hectic last couple of weeks for me, which I thought I'd share here, as they are definitely affecting what I can manage to do with the competition entry.  As you know I started working on this project late into the competition due to university commitments, which was worth it as I got a 1st.  Since then real-life things have been eating away at the time I can spend on the project.

I've recently started an unpaid internship with Wales Interactive as an environment artist that will help me get the experience I need that is relevant to the industry I want to work in.  This also means I need to battle to get income and look for work as well.  This and various other things that happen means that I only get around two, possibly three days a week to work on this project.  However I really wanted to continue with the competition and push myself to my limits in order to produce a finished piece that I can be happy with.

With this in mind I think I can justify needing to simplify my game design even further, so the next post will be looking at the newest (and hopefully last) design change.

Design Change

You may have noticed that the entries on this blog have been written close together.  This is because I haven't had a chance to update it until recently, however they still show the order in which things happened.

I say this because this post is about a design change, which happened about a week after the initial design was made, and it would probably seem strange otherwise having a change so quickly after the other.

The new design was an attempt to reduce the workload and length yet keep some of the fundamental concepts.  I really liked the idea of having the Demeter crash and definitely wanted to include the abbey, given that the theme is gothic horror.  The idea came to me when I was lying on my bed thinking about the design, and I quickly storyboarded it.

(Storyboard for new game concept)

Given the lack of detail in the storyboard, I'll explain what is going on.  The introduction would remain the same but cut short as the ship crashes (relying mainly on a strong sound effect), at which point the player character would wake up from a dream (first-person perspective).  The character could then look around their bedroom, where they would find the book of Bram Stoker's Dracula on the bedside table (hinting as to why they were dreaming of it).  If they tried to leave the room the door would shut on its own and a light would shine from the cupboard (indicating that they may still be dreaming).  After approaching the cupboard the player would be engulfed in light and would be transported to Whitby Abbey (removing the town section from the previous design), where they could explore an eerie environment until finally being attacked by a shadow.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Initial Ideas, Concepts and Dracula

(very, very quick concept for game intro)

My first idea was for a game where the player is chasing shadows around Whitby, following a trail of death all the way up to the abbey.  Players would glimpse and subsequently follow a shadow, which would lead them to bodies or clues, working towards the horror aspect of the brief.

Having watched the library video again I felt inspired and realised that I could do an extended version of this, right from when the Demeter crashes on the beach.  This extended version would have a menu screen showing the ship off the coast waiting (see 10 min concept sketch above).  When the game starts the ship will crash on the coastline.

At this point I realised I didn't actually know what happened next, having never read Bram Stoker's Dracula.  The problem with this is that I'm quite dyslexic and my reading speed is atrocious.  In fact the chances of me finishing the book before the deadline of the competition were slim at best.  As a result I hunted for an audiobook version, which was difficult to find because they all used LibriVox (I found it impossible to listen to something that sounded so lifeless).  Thankfully I managed to find one that was actually quite well read by a human and so proceeded with that one (Dracula Audiobook Playlist).  I also took the opportunity to watch the film, which I quite enjoyed.

Most of the information I needed was in Chapter 6 and Chapter 7, however, all of the story up to that point had given little ideas that I could include in my game.  For example, the crates from the crashed ship containing earth.  Another idea I liked was to place the book that was in Dracula's library with the map of England and circled locations on the beach to indicate to players who or what the shadow might be.

The path the extended design takes would be shorter then the original idea, given the additional assets that would need to be made, with a structured path that again leads to the abbey.

Choosing to do something based on Dracula has meant that I actually got to know the story, thanks to the audiobook and film, which I may never have done had it not been for the research conducted on this project.