May 032016
 

eco tales sick of you villain

Recap 14 and you’re back? Guess the boys are more interesting to you than they are to me.

What they’ve been up to this week? Well Jona found 3ds Max 2017 and started boasting about knowing how the new UV mapping system works.


JOur Lech sure is a ray of sunshine, bet you can’t wait to meet him in game!
So what have I been up to? Well first of I’ve created this tutorial for the new 3Ds Max 2017 UV-mapping features.

It’s become quite popular as far as tutorials go, so why mention this here? It’s actually a part of our new marketing scheme, pushing out free amazing (we hope) tutorials which all reference Eco Tales in some way.

In this one it’s Lech himself being peeled by the new UVW scalpel, additionally there’s an ever present link to the blog, and once every so often I talk a little about Eco and tell people where to look for it.

In 72 hours it’s been viewed 750 times but there has not been any noticeable increase in traffic to any of our social media channels.

I also made this for Krister, I hope we’ll be able to show more of what this is soon!

EcoMay1st


Khas declined comment this week, I think what he did to my gcode has something to do with it.

FirstPrint

Krister’s print.

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Apr 132016
 

We’re almost at three months and things are starting to shape up, we’re still some ways away from showing off any actual game play, but behind the secretive doors of KJ Interactive studios, there has been sword swinging, that’s for real and for true!


J I’ve continued looking into shaders and post effects this week. Last week I showed off the first version of our main VFX shader.

This week I show off, what may very well be the final one, check out this fire burning in the forests of Eco!

 

I’ve also looked deeper into fonts, Alegreya has for many reasons been on top of my list for Eco Tales, but readability would be a problem within the game itself, so after roughly two seconds of googling I found Alegreya Sans, it was as you may imagine, love at first sight.

Not our logo!

Not our logo!

We’ve also changed the name! The old one was very descriptive, sure, but it lacked a certain… Punchiness… So, Eco Tales : My Item Shop, short and concise isn’t it?

EcoApril10th

ZBrush Hippo

The gear of our friendly little hippo is also coming along nicely, imagine filling all those boards with baskets and sword sheets! Quite the little carrier isn’t she?

Mainly this week I’ve been working on look development, getting colors and lighting to where I want it, more shaders are needed and while the standard shader looks good, it’s not possible to get where I want with it.

Going to further break it down and rewrite the overall light functions so that SSAO and other screen effects still work the way they should (my last toonish-reality shader really screwed the SSAO up).


K Well well well, lucky number eleven, just writing that sentence got me in the mood for Lucky Number Slevin, great movie, I mean not like The Room or anything but then again, what is? Anyways it is time for eleventh recapitulation of Eco Tales: My Item Shop so here goes.

If you remember from last week I’ve been working on the “soon” to be announced webpage for Eco Tales and it is getting ready, now we just need to set the texts and Jona needs to produce the graphics for it but as web development is not exactly what either one of us fancy and there is a bunch of more important and more exciting things to do on Eco Tales it just might take some time.

On that page you will be able to subscribe to our news letter and as an extra treat if you want to subscribe to us via E-mail so you don’t risk forgetting about us you can sign up here for future news letters, and I can’t stress enough that we will not misuse your e-mail adress in any shape or form, this is strictly about Eco Tales: My Item Shop and until our dedicated web page is up you will not be able to unsubscribe in any convenient way but that will hopefully soon change.


So back to what I have actually have done on Eco Tales, that is why we are here after all.
What we have now ins still early in development and requires different amount of work to make them as good as possible so keep in mind that everything you see is in test phase and considered temporary..
  • Player movement – WASD style moving the player in relative to the cameras view point.
  • Camera movement – Follows the player allowing for rotation around the player which snaps back to default view, zooming is also possible.
  • Inventory – With one equippable sword with temporary GUI.
  • Attacking – You can swing your sword around hitting things, a successful strike will not achieve much currently but the basic system is in place.

Below is a quickly recorded video with excellent programmer art and showing a small bit what I have done this past three months.

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Mar 292016
 

Easter week and despite some fever going around, a lot of days off of work!

Before we get to the recap, we’ve got exciting news, we’re now live on IndieDB! Check it out and follow us there for all the latest on Eco Tales!

Now, without further ado, here’s what we’ve done this week.


JDon’t know if you know this, but the 21st of March is actually International Day of Forests! In celebration of it, I created a new tree in, what else, SpeedTree of course!

Happy international day of forests!

Happy international day of forests!

It is ALSO World Poetry Day which we celebrated by using @CrazyMinnov studio’s SALSA.

I’ve also joined a challenge on Artstation, it’s to create a 3D transport, something we will need in Eco, I moved it up the priorities list though, I can do that, I’m the Lead Artist after all!

concept art

Hippo concept art

You can check out the challenge and Eco Tales new Hippo, here, below is a shot of the hippo in Unity with a very simple texture, there’s a lot more to see in the artstation thread which I linked earlier.

I will, of course, also be making a post on the entire Hippo-project once it is complete.

textures 3d coat 3ds max maya

Hippo in engine with test textures

Not a huge deal but while I was looking at the scene I got entirely fed up with the ugly green pants that have been hanging around for about three months, so I turned them into a light leather armor.

Ugly green pants turned into light leather armor

Light leather pants


K

Hello, hope you’re having a great time this eggcellent (see what I did there? It is Easter, a week we celebrate the egg) week.

This upcoming week is Easter and being a teacher I have that week off so I can dedicate that fully to Eco Tales.

Well anyway this week I’ve managed to squeeze in some work but not as much as I’ve wanted to of course so this recap on my part will be short.

I’ve really only done some ground work with the player input and the camera improving it and also some ground systems that really only effect us developers so yeah…. That’s it, no nice pictures, no, no interesting tales no nothing so hopefully I will have more to show you next week but I bet Jonas recap above mine was all the more interesting (I wrote this before him so I haven’t read it yet).

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Mar 082016
 

Another week another post, let’s see if there’s anything interesting for y’all to learn this week!

JIt’s been quite a week, this busy little bee has been going at it, hard. Even more so next week, can’t wait to write more about my SpeedTree adventures in the next recap! If you scroll past the shader section there’s some SpeedTree thoughts here as well!

Busy Bee

Buzz buzz buzz

So this week I’ve been looking deeper into shaders and the over all look of the project, I’ve had long debates with myself on whether or not we are going to have normal maps as part of the asset pipeline.

The quickest way for me to create characters is to sculpt them, thus, getting the normal maps for the characters is pretty much free. As for other assets, there’s no way I can sculpt them all and there will also be a lot of tileable textures for the majority of the environments.

Part of dissolve shader

Part of dissolve shader

We don’t have to worry about the triss amount with the art style I’ve chosen, so getting the tiled assets to look good won’t be an issue, normal maps or not.

While playing around with the shaders I always went back to the standard shader. This was to make sure that that didn’t look better. To be honest, with correct lighting the standard shader truly is gorgeous. Because of this I’ve started to break down the Unity standard shader to see what I can possible add, maybe I’ll want light ramps, I know for sure I’ll want transmission and Fresnel for some assets and effects.

So what have I decided upon you ask? Well have a look at the difference between these two screenshots, one is with and the other is without normal maps.

Normal | No normal

Normal | No normal

While this in no way resembles the final look of the game, it’s clear to me that skimping out on normal maps, especially on the characters, will give way less visual interest. Also consider that this is just a still image, when the light is playing over the surfaces, the difference is greater still, especially on the foliage!

So we want normal maps, but with me being the only artist, there is not enough time to sculpt all of these textures, what about generating them from a diffuse texture? Will it look good enough, the answer can be found in the next sentence.

When I went into 3D content creation, we had Nvidias Normalmap filter, great for small surface detail, but is it strange that people who have been in the business for a long time are still using zBrush for all their normal map needs?

New | Old

New | Old

With today’s normal generators being as powerful as they are, this, in my opinion is something we can consider skipping. At least for non-hero objects. If you paint a texture with solid lighting, you’ll get an almost sculpted looking result at a fraction of the time!

SpeedTree

Now then, let’s talk SpeedTree! (If you’re interested in SpeedTree, make sure to follow Gruckel and Eco Tales on twitter.)

I’ve modeled trees before, it was ages ago, and it took me a long time to create, look at it, it is there, up in the corner! Luckily this is the only image I can find on the net which contains content made by me that many years ago.

Fumbie Tree

Fumbies the Cloud Creatures

I got an opportunity to dabble into SpeedTree for a Landscape Architecture project last week at work, you can read about my first thoughts on SpeedTree here.

This weekend however, I managed to create for roughly 18 hours, straight. From noon until 6 am on the following day! Sure I was fueled up on some Red Bull with… “Condiments” but doping is luckily allowed in game development.

I started out by painting the texture, I wanted something for my larger trees first, something with a large gnarly pattern, after some painting I removed a lot of detail, don’t want people to focus too much on the trunks after all.

Looking at it now, I may return to it to give it some additional micro and possibly even mid size details (here’s some info on detail levels), then again, maybe not, I’m quite happy with it.

Hand Painted Gnarled Bark

Måla måla måla!

When I was done painting, I wanted to start of with the most enjoyable asset type there is to create, a hero asset, the tree on the right hand side is in this case my hero tree.

I used the hand draw feature to give it a nice interesting curve and added branches in the same way, branch level 2 I left up to the generators, I then created a few different leaf generators both billboarded and stationary ones with small branches which connect to the tree itself.

At this point I was still using the leaf sprites and leaf models from the free Broadleaf asset, I’m keeping the models, but the textures I am going to recreate myself, more on that in a later post.

SpeedTree:ing it up!

SpeedTree:ing it up!

With this tree looking as unique as it does, the next step was to create a base tree which with rotation and scaling can be used over and over again. For this I went with a standard trunk base and spent a few hours learning how to generate a tree by breaking down SpeedTrees mobile vs desktop versions.

Our triss budget for the trees is quite high, but you should never go overboard just because you can, we’ll see if these will need some polish in the future. For now I’m calling them done.

I will be creating some free basic SpeedTree tutorials in the future, I’m also considering a gumroad tutorial on how to create a fully featured hand painted tree in SpeedTree.

Let me know on Twitter if this is something that would interest you!

 


K Well well well, Jona has indeed been busy while poor me had to be away from Eco Tales and go to Prague on vacation with my partner, it was a few days filled with excellent food (I am some what of a Goulash lover) nice drinks, and a lot of walking and looking and enjoying life to do.

Needless to say life was great, but now I am back and life is still great, any time spent on Eco Tales is time of love and adventure.

So here is an image of me freezing my hairline of in an ice bar in Prague and I will see you next time when I have had a bit more time to actually work on Eco.

Cold in Prague

Cold in Prague

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Feb 262016
 

Yesterday I got a question about creating a quick sketch for a new boulevard in the municipality of Stockholm, naturally, having never done anything like it before, I agreed.

For this assignment I was given a 16 hour deadline and decided to use Unity as a tool to build up the area, I started up with a simple SketchUp model and a plan drawing straight out of AutoCAD.

Sketchup Base 3D Model

Base non-UVed boxes

With most things having to be done in post-production, I still wanted to get some nice lighting out of Unity, additionally, having the main textures already applied and corrected according to perspective when entering post would save a bunch of time.

Having used 3Ds Max for. Wow… This month marks my tenth year anniversary of opening the program for the first time, I went with that.

Look at that, my first finished model, isn’t it lovely… Hah, if I had a penny for every time I got bullied by my friends at Uni for it, I would never have had to start working at all. It’s even copyrighted, one of them still uses it as avatar on Steam… But I digress.

Ten year anniversary

Ten year anniversary

Modeling the street, UVing the parts that needed to be textured, the creation of some nice chamfered edges around all small parts of the environment, as well as the placing of most props was done here.

Finished 3Ds Max

Final 3Ds Max model

Next up was textures, the old classical workflow of tiling images from the area specified wouldn’t work for two reasons, it isn’t built and creating textures that way takes a long long time, therefor I decided to go with Substances, I love working those graphs!

Sadly though, while I would’ve loved to get deep deep into Substance Designer to create all textures, I knew there was no time, as such I used Allegorithmic’s Substance Share and merely adapted the graphs for my own specific needs.

Since the final product was to be a still image, I found that floating geometry can be used for things other than normal maps.

Substance Share

Fake it until you make it!

The area was close to a park and I wanted to have trees with a nice correct lighting throughout the leaf crown of every single tree, while this is certainly doable in Photoshop, finding and cleaning images still takes a very very long time.

Instead I risked a gamble, bought a license for SpeedTree and got started.

Roughly 6 hours into the process.

Roughly 6 hours into the process.

SpeedTree is wonderful, I will make sure to write something on it later on when I start using it for hand painted trees in our game, Eco Tales.

Here’s the final Unity3D scene, my screen shoot tool sadly can’t get any of the post processing in on the capture, so I had to forgo it, but with it activated and a few more hours, I’m sure Unity can measure up to Unreal Engine 4 when it comes to visualization projects.

Base picture from Unity

Base scene from Unity

A tip on layers when working on something like this, make sure you name them, doesn’t have to be spelled correctly or well thought out, but trust me, it saves you a lot of head aches, especially if you have to reopen the file again.

Name your layers

Name your layers

This is the final image after 16 hours of work and a lot of back and forth, more work will be done, the trees need to have a species change and there should be more people lulling about.

If you had to guess, what part of the image do you think this image is trying to sell you, which design element is for sale? Tweet me @Gruckel I’d truly love to know if I’ve managed to sell the correct ting here!

Version 3

Version 3 of project Opp

After initial feedback and some back and forth this is the final image we’ll be taking to the client.

Camera moved for final version

Camera moved for final version

The ease with which SpeedTree allowed for quick iteration of the look of the trees as well as species changes has been truly invaluable.

The pattern was moved to where it will actually be placed in real life, most post effects were reusable with slight changes to masking areas.

With the extra hours I also managed to add some post-rendering to the trees and some improved shading on the people.

Another thing which didn’t stick out enough on the original was the seating wall which will run along the entire boardwalk, with people placed there in a seated position this has become way more obvious.

Most interesting of all in a way was the fact that the original seated tables for cafés were switched out based upon how they looked in the last image, creating this image has in a way already payed for it self!

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Feb 182016
 

Here we are, the 4th recap week of Eco Tales, time sure does fly, we’ve done some work and had some fun, celebrated an old man turning 30 and two cruises having sadly stolen a lot of our time.

J I’ve been painting a lot lately, trying to get better at it, the progress is slow but steady and, in my own humble opinion, things are starting to look rather good!

A new workflow I’m trying out is creating a simple base in substance designer, it may look something like the following image, a simple tiling pattern that has some random rotation and lightness variation, I generally also add some scale variation.

These variations, at least as far as scale and rotations are concerned are extremely subtle, +/- 1-3% in scale and +/- 1-3°. Giving a range from 0.97 – 1.03 and -3° to 3°  respectively.

Substance base

Starting point

Next up as in case of these cobblestones, I select a base color and using the lightness variations from the base texture, I also alter the hue slightly on each stone.

In this case, the texture is of a seemingly grey material, however, nothing in nature is ever really truly without at least some measure of color. Here each stone has a unique hue at an intensity of about 3-5 on a saturation slider in Photoshop.

As you stare at the texture, I doubt you can tell that some of these has a green base and some a pink one, but that’s not the point.

In this case I’ve also laid out some base lighting. For all of my textures, the light will be coming at an angle similar to if the sun had been up but mostly covered by clouds, since, without a light direction, everything will look dull and washed out.

Cobbles Draft

Cobbles draft

Next up is an almost finished piece, a simple brick texture, next I’ll be adding some mid-range details.

Look at the brick second from the bottom on the right side of the texture, see that dent? This would be a mid-range detail.

After that I’ll be adding some surface details, scratches are a good example of this, but not too much, as these will tile, you don’t want anything which will make that too obvious.

In these the hue variations are even more subtle, ranging from slightly more yellow on brighter tiles and generally slightly more red on the darker ones.

EcoTales Bricks

Bricks at 90% done

This here plank texture on the other hand, I’m calling done, this is a level of graphical fidelity that I can feel proud about. There is room for more mid-range details and most definitely some surface details, but sometimes, very often actually, less is more.

KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid, remember this acronym, it’s true within all walks of life.

Another great tip while we’re on kissing, just say “Hi”, if the interest is there s/he will be more impressed by that, than any variation of ; “Hi, I might not be Fred Flintstone, but I can still make your bed rock.”

Aaand… Back to textures, were I to revisit this in the future, I would probably add some hue variations, writing this, I’m fairly sure I will.

Another very likely case is that I will use these textures as a base for broken and or dirty variations which I will “paint” onto my buildings and environments using vertex colors and a custom shader I’ve written.

Eco Tales Planks

Finalized plank texture

Finally we have something that I like to see in games, decals or big broken parts of otherwise perfect buildings etc, painting it like this, makes sure the breakage looks and fits into the background; see how the unpainted plaster leaks into the crevasses between the bricks? Pretty nice isn’t it?

Now consider that the purple plaster part is transparent and we’ve got a recipe for success!

We could even throw our planks and cobblestones under a nice broken plaster and whop, the house is suddenly unique.

Damage to plaster

Damage to plaster


 

K What can I say, it is that time of the year when students are beginning to care about their grades so I am totally swamped at work which leaves little time for ECO, I have managed to squeeze in a few hours at the expense of my social life but sometimes that is required, ECO deserves it, but I have not much to report I am afraid, hopefully I can squeeze in a few more hours this weekend.

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Dec 152015
 

Wow! The weeks sure pass by in a jiffy when you’re having fun, and by fun I mean devving!

So far at least one hour per day with some days being closer to eight and most at around five to six hours.

December 14th

J Despite my fever haze I managed to read up on advanced facial rigging and create/steal some nice scripts. These will increase the speed of future rigs, super exciting!

I know that I, in the end, will be creating a lot of morph targets to bring the characters to life in game. To avoid a lot of work, I’m going to expand my facial rig to the level of a last gen AAA character. Create all animations for one character then using a hopefully, relatively simple retargeting system, to fit the same animations to all other characters.

Wish me luck… This is unexplored territory for me.

PyMel Python MEL scripts for rigging

PyMel, Python and MEL scripts for rigging


K During the days I work as a teacher, I teach game developemt at LBS Stockholm in Stockholm (surprise surprise) and this week is the last week before all the students leave for their holiday break, needless to say there is a lot on my schedule right now. Enough with the excuses, I managed to scramble together some time and researched some tools that might cmoe handy later in the development, biggest concern right now is how to handle the procedural dungeons, roll my own solution or buy one?

December 15th

J You know those pesky helmets and hairdos where your ears and/or nose clip through, but you know the design works better if you don’t have to make it thinker and longer? After all, wouldn’t the helmet just push the ears in?

Well, considering that I may at one point want a character to scratch its nose or flip an ear, I decided to add three more bones to my rig. This brings the added benefit of allowing us a simple animation state where we can fold ears and nose into for example a helmet or bandana!

This could be a smart solution

This could be a smart solution


K More teacher stuff happening today besides my baby brothers birthday, well at least I had the time to record a instructional video for my students on how time works in Unity, so if you understand Swedish you can enjoy that and several other game development related videos from here.

December 16th

J You’re probably getting sick of this guy’s face, the fact is however that for new characters to be made, this rig needs to be finalized first.

I think that enough of the rig is done now for me to start creating some animations for out little friend.

Face bones, for happy and sassy expressions.

Face bones, for happy and sassy expressions.


K I have begun work on cleaning up and abstracting some systems to release on Asset Store for others to use or learn from.

December 17th

J Created most of the controllers I will use to create base animations and future blend shapes.

Controllers are done

Controllers are done


K Today I finished work on the settings system and prepared it for the asset store where it will be available for free for you to use or learn from.

It is a basic XML based system with a in Unity editor and easily extendable.

UNity3d Settings Editor Window

XML Settings

December 18th

J Made a few expression tests, neutral, happy, shocked and angry which are now driven by a single float value, it’s working quite well.

Expression tests

Expression tests


K This was the last day before the break for the holiday at work, and according to traditions we finish with a big LAN party, now I took the time to work on continuing the work from the day before but know my brains is mush from lack of sleep so I will return tomorrow hopefully with some more work.

December 19th

J Today I skinned some clothes onto the fat man, this is going to be incredibly annoying to fit into a game ready equipment system.

Skinning clothes

Skinning clothes


K Having visitors over for the weekend did not leave much time for work so I am squeezing in some thinking and reflection time thinking about how the different systems will work together.

December 20th

J We’ve just bought a domain and registered a Facebook page name, here’s an idea for the Facebook group profile picture, it’s way too grey though, that’s sure as sure.

Facebook profile pic

Facebook profile pic


K We have done a lot these past weeks and it is time to start thinking more about the story and aesthetics of the game  as its definition will affect a lot of the game itself so now with the holidays quickly arriving there is less time for coding work so I have begun looking into possible themes and settings of the game, looking into folklore.

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