Monday, March 22, 2010

Maya and Mooney

So I'm just updating my progress on my main project and will of course have to mention my encounter with Mooney.

First off, I must apologise to Maya. Although it was being a difficult bastard for quite some time, it turns out that my lack of knowledge may have had something to do with my problems. Who would have thought that the more you practice with something, the better you become at using it? Weird eh. Once again Kaile very kindly came to my aid and helped me out with my cylindrical mapping issue which as expected was solved with pretty much one click of the mouse. This meant that I finally got my tank/bike finished and have done some pretty sweet renders of both it and the soldier together.

It was interesting again to see how the design of the vehicle itself had to be altered at each stage in order to suit the platform. Details such as vents and line-work on the surface armour all had to be exaggerated to look more bold to that it would stand out once the model is scaled down. I learnt here the importance of shadow and lighting to give the effect of areas raised or lowered on a surface which is in fact completely flat. The dragon symbol and 'Red Sun' design were also elements I added simply to give the bike more character. If it was a high poly model, I could afford to keep it fairly monotone like the original concept because the tiny details like panels, screws and ridges would break up the surface. As these would become invisible on such a small scale however, using symbols in bold colours like this seems to work well to give it greater visual impact. After seeing Scott's awesome car, I have been inspired to go for a more stylised look in the vein of 'GTA: Chinatown Wars' and add the thin black outline to all of the models too.

Next Josh got me started on basic animation. I have managed to get the bike to drive about with fully rotating wheels and I must say I'm pretty happy with the results. Only thing left is to sort out some terrain to import them into. So far I've had two attempts using Josh's guide from WebCT and although I pretty much get the jist of it, I'm still having small niggling problems. Getting a repeated texture to look clean over a large surface seems to be a lot more difficult than I thought.

You can see in the first image, the darker brown marks make it look very obvious that I've a used a repeated pattern despite the fact that there are actually 3 separate maps for the floor alone and that they have all been flipped and rotated at random. The light coloured edges also draw focus to the square shape of each of the faces. Just bad texturing I guess - something that can be quite easily resolved.

My problem with the second one came about when I tried to weld together the various objects that I had copied and pasted. I kept missing the odd edge which meant that whenever I went to manipulate the vertexes and deform the shape of the object I would keep finding holes. I thought I had cleaned the whole thing up and saved it but upon re-opening the file to take these screenshots, you can see the whole thing looks as though it's torn itself apart. Does Maya like to just mess with your models at night when there's no-one around? I can't think of a possible explanation for this and it's insanely frustrating!

Other obvious flaws in this design include the texture on the rock, which has been stretched over the whole surface of the object, rather than being applied to individual faces and the 'seams' on the floor which for some unknown reason stand out like a sore thumb.

Will my brain ever adapt to the world of 3D???

I figure it is a matter of practice, practice, practice and doing it as frequently as possible helps me to not forget all the little details I'm learning as I go. With this in mind, I'm messing around with various ideas as often as I can right now. Below are some renders of an as of yet un-textured 'Dropship' idea I have for deploying the smaller tank/bikes (I really need to come up with a name for them!) and the soldiers into battle. The final designs wouldn't be as messy as this one; I've just used the shape do demonstrate a few different means of carrying the vehicles. I think I like the one's on the wings best =) Additionally, I've started messing with a build of the bust of one of the soldiers. My first attempt at doing something that on completion will be very high poly. Perhaps it could be used for cut-scenes within the PSP game?

A Real Life Concept Artist =O

Not last Friday, but the one before that (Jesus, time moves quickly) Shaun Mooney from TT came in and gave us a short presentation on what he does there and a bit of an insight into the professional practice of a Concept Artist/Modeller/Designer.

I have to say I was blown away by his work. Like I said to him afterwards, what he does for a living is practically my dream job so it was one of the most important and relevant parts of the MA for me so far. He talked us through his time on the BA here at UCLan and how Josh had kicked his arse into being an awesome painter. The 4(?) years at TT which have since followed have seen him develop dramatically to a point that seems overwhelmingly distant to me, who still kinda feels like I'm just getting into the whole Games Design malarky.

What struck me most about his concepts was the speed at which he could knock them out. Don't get me wrong, they didn't suffer from the time constraints one bit. I would like to think I could probably create something of an almost equal standard after maybe 2 or 3 weeks of hard graft. He would do a few of these things every day. One of the particularly awesome paintings (of a concept for a level in a Lord of the Rings game) apparently took a mere 40mins!! He stressed the importance of using short-cuts wherever possible and really fine-tuning your own practice down to a point where you can shave hours of your development time. Such examples included manipulating the brushes in photoshop to give the impression of texture so you don't actually have to physically paint it and working in strong block colours rather than delicately building up layers of detail. It felt like both a blessing and a curse for me in that it totally inspired me and gave me loads to think about in relation to my own ways of working whist at the same time really shocking me at how far I still have to go until I reach his kind of level.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any examples of his stuff online and although I see he has a blog-page, my browser keeps telling me it doesn't exist anymore when it blatantly does!

Anyway, I have taken a lot of Mooney's advice on-board and although the majority of my time at the moment has been spent with Maya, I've been working on a couple of images on the side which I think are already showing an improvement from having spoken to him.

This isn't quite finished and while I'm still suffering in terms of speed (probably clocked up 2-3 hours on this already), the use of different brush types and a focus on high contrast lighting and shadow is definitely bringing a greater feeling of realism to the image ...or so I hope? =P

I'm still yet to apply it to landscapes but intend to do so asap!

One final thing he suggested was using software such as 'Colours!' (DS/iPhone) to practice whenever possible. I actually have the program on DS but unfortunately my girlfriend is moving away in two weeks and taking the DS with her so I need to procure a copy elsewhere. The program is interesting in that it lacks any kind of eraser, you are limited to only two brush types and of course a tiny virtual canvas on which to paint. In theory, working in such a way will force you to improve your raw drawing/painting skill without the help of the zillions of extra features that photoshop offers. Another neat feature includes the ability to watch the creation of your work back as a video. These can be saved and uploaded to the Colours website for others to view.

Here is Mooney's page.

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