Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Golden Tree Scene: Learning Substance Designer

For this project, I aim to recreate a photo taken at the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran with procedural materials created through Substance Designer. Here's my progress so far.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Choice Project: Cinematic Effects!

One of the challenges we faced for our upcoming thesis is a cinematic effect at the end of our trailer. In this climactic scene, the light moth we've been following throughout the trailer lands on a kings statue. The statue begins to crack where the butterfly landed, and light begins to shine through. The cracks continue to spread as the rays of light become stronger until the statue starts to break apart, revealing a glowing white demon demon beneath it. Visual breakdown below:

The first thing I started researching was how to make the mesh destructible in Unreal 4. I was able to import a test mesh and fracture it successfully, but the model would crumble as a solid, filled object. For this scene, we need the statue to crumble like a thick shell that's hollow on the inside to reveal the mesh beneath it. By creating a duplicate of the model that could be shrunk and placed within the original mesh, we would be defining how much of the mesh would be filled when turned into a destructible. We then imported it into Unreal, and the mesh began to fracture as a shell.

I had a small Blueprint setup where I placed multiple radial force actors with a small radius, then programmed them to activate in a certain time and order. This helped progressively break small parts of your model with some control. Progressive breakdown is not seen in the final work in progress, but it's a useful discovery that I'll be using in the future. Below is the Blueprint and in-engine setup for it

Next, I moved on to particle effects. My initial knowledge of particle effects was pretty scarce, so I researched the different ways to make a particle effects. I experimented with flipbooks and sprites, but they were not giving me the visual result I wanted. A few days into particle research, I learned about vector fields. Though mainly used for GPU particle effects, I thoroughly enjoyed how sprites moved so organically when used. So I jumped into it as well!

Thanks to this helpful tutorial, I learned and successfully managed to create and export voxels from Maya and into Unreal Engine. Below are three screenshots of a spiral shaped voxel used in different orientations (1 and 2), and spinning actively. I'm very excited to have learned about voxels. It opens a whole new possibility of particle effects for me. I'll be taking this knowledge to create ambient particle effects that can enhance the rising energy of the final cinematic scene.

But I still needed to find the main event of the scene. I needed to find a transition effect that could change between two materials and normals from one point to another. And I still felt like I needed a stronger particle effect for the main event. Something more wavy and mystical. Thankfully, the same providers of the first tutorial also had another tutorial for material transitions and flow maps (which is a separate tutorial from transitions). I highly recommend purchasing the two of these if your really interested in particle effects. They were all that I needed to figure out the transition and effects.

After going through them, learning to lerp between materials and normals by using a transition map, and implementing flow maps into the particle effect's material, I had a strong proof of concept for our trailer's blockout. Here's the final work in progress for our blockout trailer:

I am ready to take on this scene as thesis production approaches. I am happy that I got the chance explore a field which I wasn't incredibly familiar at first. Now I'm excited to see what else I can create and solve with the tools that I've picked up along the way.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bost Battle Analysis: Super Mario Sunshine's Manta Storm

Fun, hectic, and somewhat terrifying. This is the best way I can describe Super Mario Sunshine's Manta Storm boss battle. When one enters a world called Hotel Delfino, one would expect to see, well, a hotel. Instead, the player is greeted by a peaceful resort exterior that has now been decorated with-

  -massive amounts of goo. Electric goo, to be precise. One touch and you'll get electrocuted, causing you to lose a life.

The massive trail of goo leads you to an angry pianta (or palm-tree people) couple who're bickering with one who seems to be the hotel manager. You approach this hotel manager, trying to figure out what's going on. "A massive manta came and covered my hotel in goo! Now my hotel is gone!" press the A button a few more times on his dialogue and...

The paper-thin beast of the sea returns! And with more goo than ever! As Manta approaches, you have no choice but to start shooting water at it. This causes him to slow down at first, then break apart into to Mantas that move a bit faster. As the boss battle progresses, you must continue to spray water at the Mantas, who continue to divide into smaller and smaller segments that move faster with each divide.

All this while avoiding the electric goo in the environment, and keeping your water tank full throughout the fight. Tall locations in the level such as palm trees prove to be useful vantage points for evaluating the state of the battle, while small huts serve as safe zones for the player to rest and think over their plans (this boss is made out of light, impeding them from entering shadow covered areas like the hut.

Once all the mantas have been divided into their smallest form, they will glow read and begin moving towards you, chanting a rhythmic chirp as they approach you. 

After you've sprayed down that final manta, guess what?! You've won the battle! The goo evaporates from the level and Hotel Delfino rises once more. A eccstatic hotel manager dances for joy and the level's star is all yours.

As a child, I remember this felt like one of the most daunting boss battles I ever experienced. You have to keep a lot of aspects into account ( water level, life) while being spatially aware of the places that you're stepping or will be stepping in a few seconds. And that's exactly why it continues to be one of my favorites. It's exciting, daunting, and thrilling till this day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Final Toy Trailer

After many phases of tweaking and tinkering, our Toy project has been completed. Here's the final trailer for the project (bits of gameplay can be seen near the end).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Toy Project: A Game Mechanic Exploration

After finishing our FPS shooter level, we're advancing to a more complete form of a game. In our upcoming Toy Project, we'll be designing and programming our own game level based around a mechanic of our choice. From 2D sidescrollers to 3D shooters, we're allowed to reach for these ideas so long as it is feasible for our abilities.

The following are ten ideas I've explored as possible candidates for this project:

1. Side-scrolling puzzle solver. (Player finds intricate stone keys that they must levitate and move around in a 3D space in order to find their right fit for a keyhole. Found in Legend of Zelda's Skyward Sword dungeon key system).
2. Physics based pulley systems and see-saws. Player must find objects with the right amount of weight to activate pulley systems and counterweight balances in order to rise to the highest point of the level.
3. Hunt or hunted. Survival of the fittest. Player evolves as they defeat other enemies/players. Their primary skill is strengthened throughout each evolution.
4. Changing forms in order to clear level obstacles (Example: Player is a spirit wisp that possesses different creatures in order to traverse the level/ Player must shape-shift into different objects/animals in order to complete level)
5. "United we stand. Divided we fall" A game where the player accumulates clumps of itself in order to cross obstacles and defeat enemies (Example found in"Pikmin")
6. Divergent thinking. A player encounters everyday objects and is forced to think differently of their function in order to solve puzzles. (Example: Player must use a chair as a key to turn a square shaped lock with 4 holes on each end).
7. A game where two people play on one keyboard. Two players must synchronize their movement in order to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
8. A player's attack creates permanent structures in the world that help the player climb through levels and hinder its enemies (Example: Player jumps, then slams the ground. Impact creates spikes and jagged protruding shapes that might be used to climb to a higher platform in the level).
9. A stealth game were players try to maneuver out of a level by deceiving/manipulating enemies and triggering changes within the environment.
10. Players gather bait to lure creatures that"ll help the player traverse an environment (Example: A player uses giant leaves as bait for a large stegosaurus-like creature to come close. Player then uses stego-creature as a bridge to a higher point in the level.

More updates on this project coming soon. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Growth of a Team: Young Horses Studio and Octodad

The last few days I've been doing some small research on startup game companies and their experiences on making their first marketable game. I hoped to gain a bit of light on the team building dynamics that may happen during the early stages of a company as it transitions to its first degree of maturity. Thankfully, I found a presentation that honestly revealed this process in a refreshing yet educational way. If your interested about hearing of a young companies adventure through the completion of their first wacky game, do check the following link: http://gdcvault.com/play/1020768/Empathy-for-Octopodes-How-Octodad

Welp, back to work.

Friday, September 12, 2014

FPS Map Proposal

Here's my FPS Map Proposal. I'll be using my Modular Kit pieces from my 3D class to set dress the level.