Aug 102017
 

So it’s been quite a long time since the last update, but here are some exciting news about me, Ambrosia, your pet Hippo, remember?

 

 


J Due to me having never really gotten as deep into rigging as I’ve wanted, this dev diary has somehow been over 2 months in making! The sad/funny part is that what I’m showing off isn’t even finished…

So what have I been doing over the last two months? Well other than private maters and generally creating some scripts to help me with rigging; rigging is exactly what I have been doing.

Below you will find a lot of images of Ambrosia inside of Maya as I slowly but surely create a rig that even a very meticulous animator would enjoy working on.

Body joints and first IK leg setup | June 5th

First up we’ve got this image of Ambrosia’s body skeleton, may have gone a bit insane with those tail joints, but as long as I end up with somewhere around 100-120 joints including the face, I’m not going to fret over it.

Looking at the front left leg, you can see that it has brown joins rather than purple ones, this is due to an IK-chain having been installed, what an IK or Inverse Kinematic solution allows you to do is to, in this case, move the leg using the foot rather than by bending the knee.

Here you can find a rather more technical explanation without Game of Thrones references for what IK vs FK is.

First pass on facial joints inside of Maya  | June 6th

Next up is the first facial joint pass and with this I landed on 104 joints, a small enough number considering it’s a character with a face setup, however, with too much control, the animations would take a whole lot longer to create and with the relative low resolution of the mesh and the distance she’ll be from the camera, this will more than suffice, it’s not Uncharted 5 after all!

What may be interesting to some who are just getting into rigging, is that the joints seen in the picture above are not the skinned joints (this is actually true for the first image as well) instead this is a second skeleton to which the skinned skeleton has been parent and scale constrained.

Why do this you wonder? Well, one reason is that doing something wrong is less likely to break the entire rig, more importantly however is the fact that this new rig doesn’t have to have the hierarchy needed in a skeleton which is going to end up in a game engine! What this means is that I could for example create a reversed foot, allowing me to animated her fot rolling from her heel rather than from the ankle where the final IK-handle is positioned.

WIP Ambrosia controller setup | July 3rd

Here is a view of the first controller setup, roughly one month after the skeleton was finished, let’s just say I learned a lot during this time and no small part was spent reading books on python and starting my own rigging library.

The legs are the only things actually done in this picture, but they can do pretty much anything you could ever want, including automatic and/or manual squashing and stretching!

I found that creating custom controllers can be quite a pain, especially if you want two curves or more in one, but with some scripts which took… Days to write, I now save a few minutes every time I need a new controller, in a few years I will have made up that time for sure!

Body controllers version 1.0 and facial controls version 0.1 | July 23rd

Twenty days later, minus twelve days of vaycay in Murica and the body rig is finished, this includes a very cool spine controller allowing for some rad squash and stretch action… yo! Look at her, isn’t she cute?

First version of the Ambrosia Substance and facial controls version 0.7 | August 9th

Jump to today, or yesterday as midnight was now more than two hours ago, we’ve got brow, eye, nose and cheek controllers. Exciting! Other than a preemptive turning 30 years ancient party which lasted for 3 days and a 4 day visit to Lion Game Lion in Croatia I’ve ben working on this little girl.

From the last picture to this one, roughly 42 hours of work has been done, the next rig I make will definitely go a lot smoother and faster, those weights are driving me mad, mad I say!

Ambrosia Facial Rig V 0.73

Since moving images are a lot more interesting and well, since I figured you may want some proof that I’ve not just created some splines in a Maya scene, here’s Ambrosia going from upset to happy!

Important to note is that other than opening her mouth, none of the mouth controls have been setup, so look forward to much nicer looking smiles, aimed at you inside of the game!

Perhaps more important still is the fact that this texture is far from done, due to a new UV setup and engine change, I decided to create the new texture using only Substance, so again, look forward to a much cuter Ambrosia in the future!


That’s all for this recap, I’ll do my best to get a new one up faster next time, with that said though, KJ has just started working on its new official project Beneath the Waves, this game will be produced in conjunction with Red Line Games, make sure you check it out!


 

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May 202017
 

Oh boy, oh boy! Look at how sparkling my skin is in this new engine the “Unreal Engine”.

Word on the street is that this isn’t even my final form!

 


JHello Eco Tellers or… rather Eco Listeners,
I want to welcome you to a new stage in the life of Eco Tales’, one where it’s gone from being the studio’s main game to a Jona’s favorite side project.

I want to start off with what has been going on behind the scenes and then at the end of the post, I’ll write a bit about what this means for the project and why this has happened.

First up, an image of Lech posing inside of the Unreal Engine, this is the first version of my Eco Skin shader or… I guess they’re called Materials now, that’ll be hard to get used to.

I think it’s a very good start, especially considering that the textures are auto-generated inside of Substance Designer, his eyes do look a bit dull and dead, but he doesn’t have retinas in this version so worry not, Lech will be his old grumpy self soon enough.

I’m going to test Dev videos and see if those are of interest to you all, please leave a comment on the video or on Facebook if you like the thought!

I will also create art asset overviews something I loved to watch when I was a student and Wolfire Games showed off their game Overgrowth.

(In the future I promise better audio and more interesting deep diving videos, a moving image says more than an image which in turn says more than nine THOUSAND words!)

Onto some Q&A.

Why has this happened?
Eco Tales : My Item Shop is a very large project, it’s two games in one and for a budding studio, it’s just too large of a commitment.
(Don’t be sad, I’ve no longer got a working Netflix account so I’ve got all the time in the world!)

What does this mean?
This means that Eco Tales : My Item Shop is now a one man project, but don’t worry about me!
I’ve always dreamed of one day creating a game all by myself; and Eco Tales : My Item Shop has been brewing inside of my grey head goo for almost two decades by now, long story short to me this is just a fun challenge.

What will KJ do now?
I will take the fifth on this one but let’s just say it will be VeRy exciting!


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Apr 252017
 

Well we’re trying a gif this time since the over all theme of the post is motion, let’s hope it doesn’t free… eeze. Annoying, some kind of stuttering going on I can’t seem t… o be able to keep moving my face.

 


J Here we’ve got the first iteration of a Humanoid root-motion rig driving the movement of Lech, with an overriding generic rig for the facial bones to keep that beautiful face smiling!

Continuing on I’ve created a system for combining meshes in real-time, I say I but google and Simple LOD was of more than a little help!

The characters and animation systems of Eco has as you see been my main focus this week, and after looking through my import settings I found why my feet were slipping around all over the ground.

As you can see, the sliding feet is no longer an issue on the Lech below, additionally you can see one of his feet are planted firmly on a high ledge, the back of his hand is planted on a pole and his face is angled towards the camera.

Other than the sliding feet issue, this is all due to Final IK a powerful and easy to use IK-system which we’ll use to get our little Ecozens to feel more firmly planted in the world, literally, it will also be used to make the characters look at things of interest as well as, pick up and hold items, without having to create tens of new animations and animation overlays.

Looks a bit washed out though doesn’t he? Here’s a preview of the current lighting!


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Feb 242017
 

Some weeks ago we got together with Red Line Games and felt inspired to learn more about game development for Virtual Reality but this time we wanted to work with the Unreal Engine. Guess what we did? That’s right, we sat down for a weekend jam.

After a short brainstorming session we decided upon the idea of the player standing on a few rooftops while fighting of hoards of enemies trying to knock down your buildings, one level at a time. For your aid you can not only jump freely on the rooftops to gry and get to the best vantage point but you also have an array of weapons like a crossbow, different types of boms and can pretty much throw any lose objects as weapons like throwing knives and boulders.

Now this video only exists on Facebook because of reasons but it creates the perfect opportunity to come  visit us or Red Line Games there, so enjoy.


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Jan 112017
 

Jona is working hard on making me look better, seems something about the lighting is off… Well, I look like this, this week, I wonder what I will look like in the next recap…


J So I’ve been sick as a dog the last two weeks with fever and what have you, but before that and even some time during I’ve been able to stay sentient long enough to create some much needed and some less needed but very cool things!

Starting off with something we really needed, new counters to put smaller items on, these don’t look too interesting but, they actually are, these are generated using my new Houdini counter generator, it’s not a digital asset as that would’ve taken much longer without giving any real advantages.

Instead it builds counters inside of Houdini based upon a curve, these are then exported as FBX-files which get a UV-pass in 3ds Max before moving through my counter Substance.

Since December is in my mind a time for creating quick finished assets within the scope of a single day, I wanted to take this chance to create an eye generator, here’s the first iteration, for this I’ve also created new eyes and a new retina which should look a lot better when PBR is applied.

Here are the new eyes rigged on Lech, there’s something missing, doesn’t look too good without shading does it.

In designer however, it does look a lot better and this should also be a lot closer to what it’ll look like inside of Unity.

Next up, with the eyes so much improved I wanted to go in and create some new teeth as well, here’s the final result.

For the moment I’ve created a new texture set for teeth and eyes, however, since I’m using the same EcoTales PBR shader, I’m probably going to add this into the character’s main texture, that’s the true beauty of Substance, I can just change the UV layout completely, blend the final eyes and teeth on top of the character and bam, done!

By now I’ve made this look a lot better again, but this pre-pre-alpha picture still gives you an idea of where we’re at with the art currently.

With that everything made before Christmas has been posted, Happy Holidays (in retrospect) everyone!


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Dec 202016
 

We’re exiting the third week of December and with it a new artifact list has been made and followed, the boys have also thrown out almost every single asset store pack related to code and systems that they had bought and are starting fresh.

So far things are going much better and despite the more or less complete restart of the project code-wise, they’re already further along than after a year of trying to get the asset packs working.


J Luckily, the game is mainly graphics heavy, and everything done along those lines is still useful, but that’s not what you’re interested in, here are the new assets that I’ve made this week. Let’s just say that #OneHourGamedev has been more like 8 or more hours most days!

I started off with reworking the Counter so that it can more easily be upgraded, on display here is the third tire Counter.
After staring at my scene for a bit, wondering why everything looked terrible, I looked over my import export settings from Substance and changed all of my normals to OpenGL, imagine the normal blend an mix nodes outputs when the bake was OpenGL and the graphs were not. Makes you shudder doesn’t it?

I also worked on an incredibly silly digital asset, which in the end just turned out a simple static mesh.

In the second image from the top you can see the final result of a semi-advanced Houdini cloth simulation for paper pile creation, in the image above is the final non-optimized mesh.

As this was my first time using cloth systems, it took a few hours to figure out, especially difficult was getting rid of the insane flipping the thin paper meshes produced.

My conclusion is this, while it was fun to get into something new, there are better ways of doing this manually, on the other hand, I’m quite happy with the final result so I’ll probably look deeper into the cloth system when I’ve got the time!

I won’t post a more high resolution image than this, cause it’s a trade secret, or rather, knowing everything in advance would make playing the game rather boring. Anyway, almost all of the 14th went to writing things related to design and writing it down in the design document.

Starting to work on some tileable PRB textures using Substance Designer, still got some ways to go but I feel like I’m slowly getting there!

Got the lectern done as well, this one, like the counter is also a Tire 3 upgrade, wouldn’t want to show the shop off at the lowest level now would we?

Here are a few simple books which can be automatically placed along a curve using the Houdini Engine, placing these manually would take a few minutes, now I can do it in seconds!

A lectern without a book to write down your transactions wouldn’t be very useful, here’s your new receipts book! Also made in Substance Designer, I think it turned out quite nicely, in the future we’ll have a shader to allow your player character to write down things line by line!

 


K How trying to save time caused us to waste time. That’s the title for this past months working on this great game.

So what’s the issue then; well, the packs we bought are great in a way but often they try and do too much making fitting them in with the rest of the systems way too difficult. We had an animation controller that also had its own inventory system.

This inventory system wasn’t good enough and made it difficult to fit into our other bigger, better and bought inventory system that was also working on adding a quest system, which wasn’t going to work with our quest system. It all adds up and soon enough you’ve forced all the systems with duct tape to play a long without actually liking each other and adding a new system just gets increasingly difficult.

What we decided to do is slope all those bought systems, and sure some we will (might) use later on but after a much more thorough look on it because some things are just easier to do yourself and never ever will I again forget the design principle of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

After ripping out all that junk, all that junk inside our trunk (do you get the joke here? some nice programmer humor for you) I started with building a very small base for our inventory system. It will grow in a steady pace.

I also started working on a nicer GUI for the shop inventory, being only a two person team we decided to spend some money on the graphical assets of the GUI making it look good since we just don’t have the time for it right now.

WIP Shop Inventory

Progress of the Shop Inventory GUI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Dec 062016
 

happy_villain_03#OneHourGameDev has started, it’s a very nice concept started which we joined last year, well, we won’t be worse this year, just look at me! My face and eyebrows have been updated by way of substance!

Isn’t technology wonderful?


J I threw the first days of this week into the last post, so if you want some Ambrosia, check it out!

For me the most important thing about this recap is December 1st, this means the start of the one hour game development initiative and while one hour doesn’t sound like a lot, it is if you count it as one additional hour of game dev!

That’s how I’ve chosen to interpret it and this one hour I’m spending on things which will be easy to show off and hopefully started and finished within a single hour!

dec1_substancewindow

First up a window substance, I’m thinking it’s probably too photo-realistic for Eco but some minor tweaking should fix that, just the albedo with a normal map, alpha and no roughness should work well!

dec2_rooftilesubstance

Second is this roof tile substance loosely based upon this tutorial, because, learning from your seniors is the way to go!

dec3_bitvssbsar

Another few hours of work on the roof tiles, most of them spent on trying to make the sbsar work inside of Unity and while the substance can’t be used currently (it looks horrid despite the CPU engine looking good in Substance Designer), I’m still very happy with the ease of bitmap export. I’ve left a post on Allegorithmic’s forum but if you know why, please leave a message on Facebook!

dec3_shadersandroof

Here’s the old texture as compared to my final substance, it will be viewed from the ground so I think this will be more than good enough!

dec4_fourfirstcharacters

I’ve also finally found the Gradient (Dynamic) node, amazing node which allows me to easily change skin colors of the Eco characters. The names are liable to change but for now we’ve got Elvira, Dortmund, Lech and Triarii.


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