Sunday, 27 March 2016

FMP 11 - Grass Shader

For the first week of Easter I spent my time creating the grass for the level, since my computer has been playing up quite a bit I have had to keep my work quite simple and try to avoid doing anything intensive, so I have been creating assets in a new map, leaving more tweaks on the landscape material until I have my computer fixed. The problem is that my motherboard on my pc is burnt out so my computer easily overheats and switches off, if I do anything vaguely intensive then the computer just switches off!

The grass is something that I have worked on before so I re-used and modified a grass shader I made during last summer, basically I swapped the textures and made changes to the material to make things appear a bit more softer.

Old grass shader

I tried to keep the grass quite simple, not too much detail to the actual grass blades with a focus on making the grass seem really soft and smooth. I was looking a lot at the grass in the witness as well as looking at the studio ghibli paintings to get the look I was going for.

Witness grass shader
I had a lot of issues getting the grass to shade properly, so I had to constantly go back and retweak the model and the material. One of the issues was aligning the normals of the grass so they point upwards, making the clumps of grass shade more consistently and help them blend in with the ground.

I'm not completely happy with it yet, it still needs some tweaks in the actual level as the light is affecting it weirdly, also the colours aren't correct yet. This is something I will adjust when I have some more foliage in the level.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

FMP 10 - Pre Easter Fix-Ups

This week has been a weird one, kind of slow and fast at the same time. A lot of time has been taken away trying to organise somewhere to live for next year while we do the game art masters, the time we have been in labs however some progress has been made in regards to the landscape...

My goal this week has been shifted again to getting the landscape fully prepped and decorated, with a proper sun lighting pass and foliage. The first part of this has been working on getting the ground textures to look correct and set up vertex colour blending inside the level mesh material, as at the moment it just looks like grass is everywhere.

Firstly, the level mesh material. I have already set up material functions for each different type of landscape surface so I can just call what surface I want in the level mesh material, making things a lot quicker while keeping things organised. Below you can see a cliff material as the base, a grass material, mud and cobblestone, each driven by a different vertex colour input.

Level mesh material graph.
I used material parameters going into each different material function to control their size, colour and tessellation amount inside the main material, allowing me to create an instance so I can eyeball the correct sizes inside the editor. (This is really important as these big landscape materials take ages to compile, so setting it up as an instance saves the waiting.)

On Friday we went through the level thoroughly as a group identifying issues and getting down work notes for Easter. As I mentioned above I'm doing foliage which I have taken over from the other guys as it seemed easier to work on it alongside the landscape, so that's what I'll be working on over Easter along with shaders for the waterfalls and water. So a good amount to keep me busy!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

FMP 9 - Burnard's Flame

This week my goal is to work on some of the character FX, mainly trying to figure out a way to create the look of Burnard's flame material so Amber can continue with the character model. I have been delaying this as previous attempts at trying to get the material looking right hasn't really worked, but now it's unavoidable because the characters desperately need to be in and finished.

I have been thinking of all sorts of techniques for how Burnard could look; Using displacement materials, a particle based approach or combinations of those but none of them work for their own reasons:

Displacement material:

Using a displacement material is useful to create a rippling effect of fire across the mesh, which can be controlled using a mask created from the vertex colours. However, this material intersects with anything above it, causing issues with the body cutting through the eye part of the mesh which uses a different material.

Particle based:

A particle based approach could be useful but a lot of effort would have to be put into making sure the particles look exactly how they are supposed to, which is the main problem as the flame has to have roughly continuous form, particles will be hard as without a lot of material work they will appear like they are overlapping and separate. There will also be the same issue as the displacement material with the intersection. Although particles could be useful as an added effect along with something else.

It was at this point I was a little bit stuck until I got a suggestion form Mike Kelly about using a 'sleeve' mesh; using a sphere with almost a sock like sleeve floating over the top, flipped over which will display a flame texture. This was perfect for what we needed, and also could be made better using a flipbook material to get the flame to animate like they do in 2d frame by frame animations.

I created a flipbook texture which contains 16 frames for the flame animation which would be played on loop. This looks great in engine, just needs some little refinements, on top of this some particles will be added but I need to work on a material for them that share a similar colour with the flipbook to make them blend together properly on the character.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

FMP 8 - Rain Rain Rain

I wanted to make a start this week on making some of scene effects, first off the rain establishes a lot of the mood of the level so I worked on that first using UE4's cascade editor.

Rain! Coming from the ground!
The rain itself did not take too long at all, the problem with it though is that it doesn't collide with the scene geometry so I need to think of a way to solve this as we don't want it raining indoors.

Also for some reason the rain drops appear to be reversed so they are actually heavier at the top, so I need to figure out what is happening there.

Something else I have to add as part of the rain are the splashes on the scenery which appear when the ground is hit by a rain particle, I can do this with particle hit events that will spawn a mesh particle when it hits the ground.

Here is some screenshots from this week of the level, I tried stacking some of the buildings a bit more to make it feel a bit more cramped but at the moment we feel as if the town doesn't look the way we wanted, the buildings will need to be more broken up and have more character and the town looks too aligned to the grid which makes it less interesting. We had a group meeting and decided for a different approach on the buildings, which should help the level a lot more. The plan is to be slightly less basic with the buildings and create building parts out of kitbashed pieces so we could get in a lot more detail and flesh out the level very quickly.