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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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 152016
 

I’ve finally been given an improved look, after having been converted into something called PBR och Physically Based Rendering, I now look good in Maya again, since evidently, showing off my splendor inside of Unity for these weekly faces is too much of a bother for our esteemed artist.


J I do really love this part of the year when creating one day assets becomes a main focus, now that won’t always be the case, but let’s see what I’ve managed to do this week.

First up I’ve created a first iteration of the Eco Tales : My Item Shop logo, as you can most likely tell, it’s not something I’ve been employed to do in my days as artist. This was done through the 5th and 6th, during these days I also produced all of the content and new texts for our new website which was finalized on the 7th! But more on that in Krister’s part.

I’ve also started re-creating my shaders inside of the Amplify Shader editor, I’ll update my post on these two packages asap!

I’ve been wanting to get a more painterly look to my substances and with this door I think I’ve finally found a good balance of time vs. result. This does require a few minutes of sculpting in zBrush or Mudbox but I do mean literal minutes including the extra export steps.

Next up we’ve got some curtains, these are going to be customizable, for the middle part that meant just cutting out some geometry to create straight and concave versions, for the sides it’s going to mean some manual work. Working on a new shader for the cloth right now so it should turn our great!

Today I spent… Quite a lot of hours creating this semi-procedural counter, since it’s going to be upgradeable I decided to do it in Houdini, allowing me to change everything I need even after having finalized the asset. It did still need a separate UV-pass but thanks to Substance and ID maps, creating variations will be done in no time. This here btw is a Tire 2 counter!

On the 11th day of Christmas, Jona gave to Eco Tales, a red Sparisoma, faked blue water and some sand on the bottom of a bowl! In PBR Unity time saves you.

Such an incredibly productive week and as I’m writing this, it’s Thursday of week 41, imagine how productive that week has been if this is when I manged to finish this post!


K

Do we have a cause for celebration or what? Well. Yes we do!

You see, making web sites is something I loath but something that needs doing regardless. Therefore I’m extraordinarie happy to have finally completed the work on the new site for Eco Tales: My Item Shop together with Jona.

What we went for this time around was a simpler page doing a better job at explaining and showing of what kind of game Eco Tales will be.

I’m not going to get into details but you should rather jump on over to ecotalesgame.com and have a look, you wont be sorry. But hey, don’t take my word for it, just have a look at this awesome preview, just look at those colors…

Eco Website preview

Eco Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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Nov 292016
 

surprise_villain_01Bet that was your face when you saw my new eyebrows!

I’ve heard I’ll be getting a tongue and some shiny new teeth as well, but not yet… Not a priority they say…

 


J What a week and weekend! Black Friday really was a great one this year, allowing me to buy, among other things, the Substance Suite.

But I get ahead of myself, let’s start with week 37 which I dedicated to scripting new rigging tools for myself in Python. Since sharing is caring I extended one of them until it was user friendly enough for anyone to use.

It is a very simple script that allows for easy skinned joints selection based upon your own naming conventions. It’s the first in a range of free scripts I’ll be making available via my new Gumroad, so check it out!

Let’s move on to some art, here’s the first edition of Lech’s new texture, completely generated inside of Substance Designer with procedural eyebrows.

nov26th_lechsubstanceeyebrows

nov28th_newtexture

Comparison between new and old.

In the end however, I wasn’t happy with the look of this newly generated texture, I felt it took some of Lech’s personality away, at the very least, it changed it, also, the eyebrows were difficult to control and looked a bit too realistic for my taste.

What happened next, you wouldn’t believe! I split the graphs… Let’s start with the most important part, the skin generator, it simply takes inputs in the form of the textures generated from the high poly and outputs three textures. Albedo, Normal and Rest (R: AO G: Metalness B: Smoothness A: Emissive).

nov28th_skingraph

Skin graph click me!

A final note on the above graph for the people interested in the “FaceTemperatureHue” frame to the left, it’s simply a lot of shapes that create a pattern of red, yellow and blue based upon the science of face color areas. Look it up, it really does add a lot of (make sure it’s VERY subtle) interest to the face, which, when it’s half of your character’s body, is very important!

nov27th_faceareashue

Next up is the eyebrow generator, which is a separate graph that can generate pretty much any kind of eyebrow I can image, it’s a bit clunky and when I start working on a mustache/beard generator I’m going to have to go about it more cleverly. As Neofur was also on Black Friday I’m planning on using the outputs from these to generate a separate texture for the inputs that Neofur needs as well.

nov28th_eyebrowgraph

Eyebrow graph click me!

Arguably more important than the graph itself is the parameters, here they are in all of their glory, rotating hairs, changing colors, moving, scaling and warping, what else could you need?

nov28th_browgraph

Here are three different brows that I’ve generated, once I’ve made the beard and mustache generator I’m probably going to recreate this one as well so I’m counting these as a low priority WIP for now.

nov28th_brows

Finally we come to this, the least impressive looking graph, it simply takes the bakes textures and inputs them into the skin graph, takes the skin output and blends it together with the eyebrow generator, in the case of Lech I’ve added some extra nose reddening since that fits in with his backstory.

nov28th_lechgraph

Combine graph click me!

Here are a few steps inside of Unity where I’ve been using the Amplify Shader Editor to put together a custom shader capable of using the textures that Substance Designer has generated for me.

nov28th_finallech

An important part of my workflow is that the UVs of all of our humanoids have the more or less exact same UV-layout, this allows me to use Transform 2D nodes to mask special regions and still know that the graph will work for another character.

Some things are not going to be the exact the same as you may imagine, Lech gets a small nose reddening and someone else may get some work done on a scar, something that is constant is however, lips and the fact that they are never the same size nor do they ever cover the exact same area. This is why there’s an extra, hand authored black and white map to take care of lips and mouth bag.

The final thing I worked on was an Ambrosia substance, not sure about it, why not leave a comment on it on our Facebook page, I’d love to get some input!

nov27th_ambrosia


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