Saturday, 20 August 2016

Double Sided Materials

Since I last tried to create a double sided texture in Maya, I thought about whether or not there was an easier and more accessable solution. UE4 is great for many things, so why not double sided textures? Turns out my buddy UE4 had my back and has that as an option afterall, so let's go through it. :D 

UE4 has Blueprinting which is similar to the Hypershade in Maya, just it's directly in engine so I don't need to figure out a way to export or add it in or anything like that. As long as it's in the blueprinting it'll be in-game!

I tried a couple of ways - one which worked slightly but not quite (though it did give an interesting effect), and one which worked perfectly. Here's the first one that didn't quite work, along with what it created:

The second 'Lerp' is for the material's Alpha so that it has transparency, so that part isn't necessary - just the top one. Now as you can see it sooorta worked, but it isn't quite doing what I wanted. It'd be interesting to test this effect on other meshes though, as I like the alien-esque effect it gave to my mesh. 

Now this is the blueprint that worked correctly:

 (You can click the images to see them on a larger scale!)

This blueprint is a little fiddlier but not by too much, and it gets the intended effect. As you can see the mesh now has two separate textures for each side, which is perfect! 

The individual textures aren't visible in the screenshot so let me explain - to do it you need to make sure you have the front and back textures imported, and then place them both into the Blueprint as a 'TextureSample'. Then you can just go from there with the rest of the blueprint. :D

I also made a little gif showing what the mesh looks like with the Sine&Panner combo added, so here's that to end this post with:

Foliage Testing

With my props made and things starting to take shape, I've began to head over to UE4 and start prepping to put my final forest scene together. 

Part of this process is figuring out where and how to place my flower props. 

Lucky for me, I was given some extra inspiration recently from No Man's Sky, a game that there's a good chance you're already aware of! Just in case you aren't, here are some screenshots of what it is:

No Man's Sky is made up of billions of unique planets - each with their own eco system and various plant combinations. 

I find huge inspiration in how vast these plants are - you can walk around within them across a whole planet, and the way in which they are implemented makes it a joy rather than a bother. 

The main issue I had with my previous version of the forest was how bare it felt. Sure, it had trees and some plants, but I really felt as though it was missing something - it really needed more life.

With the added inspiration from No Man's Sky I feel that I'll be able to populate the forest in a much more effective way, and so will need to create various types of grass to go with the plants I have created. It's a little extra work, but it'll be worthwhile!

Now back onto the tests that I mentioned earlier. Here are some images of the foliage tests I have conducted so far:

As you can see from the top image, it was originally waaaay too populated. It's great to have plants everywhere to create a denser forest, but you don't want a player to feel as though they're drowning in them.

The second image shows a much less dense population of plants. There are still a lot of them, but it feels a little more realistic and (in my opinion) allows you to breathe a little more.

I have to consider that trees and bushes will be added in alongside these, plus various creatures and other grass foliage, so it's important to not get too carried away and allow it to get too crowded. Once I have created the extra grass assets my next step will be to add the remainder of my props to the scene, and it's then that I'll be able to (hopefully!) figure out the correct balance. :)

What was that song about mushrooms?

And badgers, or something. Maybe I just made it up...

I've been having a short break from work to have some holiday time, but I've also got some new things to share - how exciting! I'll stack them over a few blogs to make it a bit easier on your lovely eyes, and I'm going to be starting with some mushrooms that I made. :)

Now most of these I haven't had the chance to texture just yet, but they're all modelled and ready to go in-game. Here are some images of them:

I've made a few different shaped ground mushrooms for some variety, and then I have also created a couple of tree mushrooms as you can see above. I felt that the trees are a bit bare and needed a little something more, so the mushrooms will hopefully help out with that quite a lot!

I also made a turntable of the textured mushroom above, so here's that to give you a better look at it from all sides:

The next step is to continue painting these props and get them ready for the final scene. They're already imported and ready to go, just gotta make them look a bit more presentable. ;)

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Girls Make Games 2016!

I'm about a week late on writing this post due to happy holiday times (my Ivana is here - I'm so happy!), but I felt that I really wanted to write a post about it to hopefully spread word about such a great project, and to also hopefully share inspiration for anyone thinking about helping out next year. :)

So to get started, Girls Make Games is a yearly camp based (mostly) in America in which girls get together in cities all across the country and create games. They're given talks by industry guests (Tim Schafer of Double Fine in particular is a big supporter of GMG) and are given a tonne of inspiration to help encourage them get into games. They then get into groups and create games of their own, which are eligible for a prize awarded by Microsoft at the end of the camp.

That's just a suuuper brief description of part of what the camp entails, though, and I would strongly urge you go and check out their website to find out more info! It's a really great company with a wonderful cause, and it's an honour to have been able to be a part of it for the past 2 years. <3

Now I'm sure you're thinking "That sounds great!", but what is it I would actually do if I helped out? 

Well, my friend, I'm going to tell you!

I helped out as an artist, so I can only really talk about what an artist helper does. I imagine it would be the same for programmers, etc, though! Just replacing the art side with that specialism instead. :)

So it begins with doing a Skype call to one of the camps. I had a call with a lovely group of about 20 girls from the Los Angeles camp. During the call I talked about what it is I do, what kind of artwork I make, the games I like... and then the girls all got into their groups and told me about their game ideas, inspirations, and what it is that they'd like their game to look like.

There was A LOT of groups who wanted their games to look like Undertale, so I think it's clear which game is still taking over. I guess devs better take note. ;)

After the Skype call I had to wait a few days before being given a group to make artwork for. Unfortunately I wasn't assigned to one of the LA teams I spoke to, however I did get paired up with a lovely group of girls from Boston instead. Here is some sketches of the backgrounds I created for them:

I won't show any more of the art I created as I know the girls want to continue with the game after this year's GMG is finished, so I wouldn't wanna post too much without their permission. :)

After creating the art, it is put into a Google Drive folder for the girls to use as assets in game - simple! 

Being able to be a part of this project is such an incredible honour. It feels amazing knowing that you're helping in a project to inspire kids all over the US who want to get into games, and being a part of something like this is absolutely priceless - I'm so thankful to Laila and everyone at Girls Make Games for the opportunity. <3

I have no doubt that they'll be looking for more artists for Girls Make Games '17, so if you're interested in helping out (which I can't recommend enough!) then I'd definitely suggest keeping an eye on their website, or following them @GirlsMakeGames. :)