Monday, November 30, 2015

Be as Strong as Coursing River

Another post so soon?? THIS IS MADNESS.

Today, the majority of my work time was devoted to my Animation homework. It was strange to finally have a chunk of time to spend solely on that but it was a load of fun!

I ended up entirely revamping my "weight carrying" animation. There was far too much that I disliked and realized that I was focusing less on the actual weight of the object aaaand that was the reason or the entire assignment. It's pretty obvious that communicating weight is one of my main obstacles as an animator and something I should devote more time to improving. That being said, here's the state of my current animation:

Though there's still more work to be done on this animation so it doesn't look so stiff, I think it conveys the message of weight far better than the first attempt! Sometimes it's just easier to start an assignment all over instead of trying to salvage something you're not too crazy about yourself.

As for the posing portion of our assignment ... here's some nearly final things! I'll be working on some tweaks here and there to really push the poses I've chosen. They're getting better!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

By the Power of Ra

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is now coming to a close and I hope every member of my Cohort had at least one day of rest. I spent the majority of my Thanksgiving playing Yokai Watch and it was awesome to finally have that time to myself. Once it hit Saturday, though, work for the last round of RPP continued.

The majority of my Saturday was spent working on the 2D images for The Scales of Truth's opening cinematic. I'll probably go back and fix these a little later to adjust the opacity levels of dirt and hieroglyphics. Then there's going to be some minor animations when I go in an edit this into a video. Audio recording needs to come first before I get ahead of myself, though!

Production secret: the hieroglyphics are the lyrics to Single Ladies, Anaconda, and Elastic Heart.

After that was said and done, I turned my attention to the remaining environment models to texture. We're working on building something of a little Creation Kit so many different level varieties can be crafted from a few pieces. If anything, this definitely saves time for an artist as well. Come time for Capstone, an artist can spend their time making four really great and detailed environment pieces that can be repeated (for a building, for instance) rather than making a room in one entire piece. Textures would come out with a higher resolution too. Though, since this is an RPP prototype, I couldn't devote TOO much of my time to minor details (at the moment, I may go back to the textures and spruce them up a bit once I see them in engine). Our focus for this RPP round is to work out the main mechanic and adjust it as necessary. The visuals are just a plus for the demo.

Recently, I re-purposed a human head model I did before the FIEA semester even began. We have been entertaining the idea of a story line around a spirit: so I made her human form! This was paaartly done just so I can test out some skin binding methods with the Human IK. Her skin weights ended up smoother than Anubis' (orz) after I used the warm map and altered its influence a little.  

She currently has an idle animation & a talk cycle animation (which was so much fun to do!).

Very soon I'll be fixing up the previous animations I did for Anubis so he's not moving around on his own and just performing the action like a mime. Yep.

As for non-RPP related homework? I've been working on fixing my Weight Carrying animation - which has not seen significant improvement just yet. The second part of our homework has been started! It's posing. We have to take some photo references and pose our little mannequin dude to them - though, we have to push the pose. This is what I have going for me so far:


As for Drawing Fundamentals? I previously posted about our environment assignment. An update to that: I picked one of my concepts (the second one, go figure) and did a sliiiightly more detailed version of it. This'll be the general feel for the dungeon we'll be making during RPP.

Thaaaat's what I've been up to for the last few days. It's now time to brace myself for all the work ahead of me this week!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gleaming in the Moonlight

... something something Prince of Egypt lyrics here.

This week, the fifth round of RPP has started! Before we dive into that, some updates about the last two RPP rounds are in order!

The third round of RPP was all about "emergent gameplay" - which is just a fancy term for creative a mechanic where the player can come up with multiple ways to solve a problem. Given that this game was being made during October, we went for a very festive Halloween theme! The premise of this game is that you're the child warlock vampire Kidferatu and you're trying to escape from this very SPOOPY house. Ghosts and spiders serve as the obstacles standing in your way to accomplish this!

The reason I've been putting off discussing this game for so long is solely because I was SO terrible at playing this fantastic game. It took me at least ten tries to manage a full run through of the game (and even then, I used a cheat!). My "emergent" solutions are pretty damn weak and basic. I made bridges and ladders. Yeah. Original.

This game was made alongside Raymond, Al, Tamara, and Josh. This was a very pleasant team experience and I think that translated into everything we accomplished together. It was definitely ambitious, given that we even had 3D animation integrated in here. What definitely worked for us is that we had a clear goal from the very beginning and always knew what we were striving for.  A gigantic plus was how well-received the game was! :3 

Noooow onto the fourth round of RPP. This round's theme? MOBILE GAMES. This round definitely seemed to bring back the "fun factor" type of games we enjoyed during the first round. I would say that this round also had the biggest string of successful games among the Cohort. Everyone has become stronger in creating themes and mechanics and executing them - that much is very clear. Whatever we end up working on for Capstone would definitely turn out great. OKAY. SPIEL DONE.

During this round, I was teamed up with Mo, Steven, Chuck, and Jose. While conceptualizing, we wanted to make a game that was OBNOXIOUSLY CUTE so that ended up taking a literal route. Our game tells the story of King Grumps, who keeps color and happiness far away from his kingdom. One day, the citizens of the Kolorful Kandy Kingdom decide to visit King Grumps and cheer him up. You must fight off all of this HAPPINESS and keep your kingdom (and yourself) as salty as possible!

Again, this was a pretty positive team experience! There was a clear direction in mechanics, puns, and art. Jose and I used Lisa Frank as an artistic reference. Remember those folders and notebooks that so many girls had in the 90's and early 2000's? You know the ones.

i envied these girls, yo.

King Grumps versus the Kolorful Kandy Kingdom was a strong SUCCESS. There's talk right now about possibly turning it into an app whenever we get the time to make that a reality. We definitely accomplished something great together!

Aaaand now on to RPP#5. During my last post, I mentioned that The Scales of Truth was chosen to be made into a rapid prototype to later be used for the last round of Capstone pitches. This time around, I've been teamed up with Roselyn, Keiran, Jared B, and Chuck. At the moment, we're currently working on getting the basics of player controls, environment, characters, and level design down.

Through this experience, however, it became increasingly apparent about how muddled the mechanics for the game were. The Scales of Truth was only the second game design document I've ever written so it's pretty nifty that it made it this far. For the past two weeks, I've taken the opportunity to read more about level design for different genres of games and video game design as a whole. It's something I should have found the time for while writing the document buuuut either way, this has been a prime learning experience. Level design takes a lot of planning, knowledge, and studying to be able to get something that's halfway decent.

Last week, Roselyn and I took the suggestion of a fellow artist to start working on art assets for The Scales of Truth. During that time, we undertook the lengthy process of modeling, texturing, rigging, and fully animating our protagonist - Anubis - for our prototype. We did the same for a generic enemy, a serpopard. This'll leave us with much more time to troubleshoot animations, detail the dungeon, and refine mechanics. There's that slight possibility of also modeling & animating another enemy for variation. Only slight. So far, I think that we're in a very good place! Productivity is moving smoothly so a lot will be done by the time Thanksgiving break rolls on by.

Aaaaand I think that about wraps it up for talk about RPP! The homework front is also looking pretty good right now. 

Last week's Drawing Fundamentals assignment was to draw some kind of mech or vehicle by taking a super bike and a stingray as inspiration. My idea was also using Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's as my main point of reference so the final end product looks like a physics-defying d-wheel that could have been used on that show. IT STILL CAME OUT PRETTY NIFTY.

This week ... we're focusing on environments. I used the Feng Zhu method for the first half of the assignment. That method was overlaying a bunch of different environment images on top of each other to make some unique (and chaotic) shapes to draw inspiration from. This proved to be difficult as far as structures go (which I expected) but it was definitely helpful. I'll be using this method on any future environment art I do now.  It's also unbELIEVABLY helpful to be working on a small hoard of ideas all at once instead of concentrating all my effort into one concept that might not even be successful. 

Animation wise, I've been working on two different things. The first one is a personality walk, where I wanted to do something particularly sassy after a failed attempt at a sluggish/angsty walk cycle. It's also similar to a walk cycle I attempted earlier in this semester!

The second part of this is proving to be a weeee bit more difficult ... weight is something I've been struggling with conveying properly in my animations. This supplemental part (we had the option of doing an animation of one of three options: a Personality Walk, Carrying a Weighted Object, or Sitting in a Chair) proved to be a challenge ... and it's still being worked on at the moment. This has been an improvement from my first pass at this!

I think that's it so far!  We're nearing the end of our first semester at FIEA. We'll all be able to  enjoy a well-deserved break after making it this far.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Merry November !

Merry November, everyone! It's the beginning of the Christmas season (as far as I'm concerned) and things have been unfolding already!

This week marked the beginning of the fourth round of RPP. It's strange to think about how quickly time has passed. There's just about a month left of my first semester here. Time really is flying. Though, all that means is that I'm wholeheartedly enjoying what I'm doing here. There's a few bumps along the way but it's definitely thrilling. 

This round of RPP is going by pretty smoothly. Our topic? MOBILE GAMES. Buuuut I'll make a detailed post about that later (and about the third round of RPP, since I neglected to do that sooner!).

I finally caught up with the 2D/3D class's homework assignments! Granted, I didn't do what they were supposed to and actually follow the concept art ... I figured there'd be plenty of opportunities for that once Capstone rolls around. 

The extremely long assignment with James the Warrior Fish has reached its end. The last step? Painting on textures, clearly! This step allowed me to get a little creative as a 3D artist since I spent some time hiding the UV errors that I didn't quite know how to fix, or had the time to troubleshoot.  For one reason or another, the UVS ended up a little wonky under the feet and at the corners of the armor. They're hardly noticeable now! For painting, I ended up giving Substance Painter a go after seeing how it worked for the people around me. I definitely prefer it to Mudbox. With everything you could do with the materials, the character definitely gets more dimension even if it's something as simple as making the metal glisten more. 

he's seen some shit.

As for animation ... I've still been working on that assignment that integrates idles, jumps, walks, and runs. Thus far, I definitely think I've been making progress. At the moment, there's just a bunch of nitpicking details left of the animation that I need to fix. I think I'm getting a much better grasp on movement, weight shifting, and what not to do when animating in Maya. I ended up making my life so much more difficult with the way I opted to translate my character ... I definitely should have utilized the World Control for the entire animation and make small edits to the feet along the way. It's a process trying to find what works the best for me buuuuut ... I think my animations are getting better with each iteration! 

Our current assignment in Common Core Art is to make dynamic materials in Unreal. I opted to feature James the Warrior Fish in this one too! After all this time that was spent on him, HE NEEDS THE LOVE.

For my dynamic material ... when you get into James' vicinity, he'll glow a random color. If you press "G", the color will change to something random. If you press "Space Bar", he'll stop glowing altogether. It came out pretty cool!

• • • • • • • • • • • •  

On onward to some EXCITING NEWS.

Yesterday was last of the presentations for Capstone pitches. 25 proposals had to be wittled down to only 11 to be made into rapid prototypes for the last round of RPP. Roselyn's and my pitch - the Scales of Truth - was chosen to be one of them! What's even better news? Five out of the eleven pitches that made it through were by artists. I'm so proud and thrilled for my fellow artists right now. There's a big chance that at least one of our games will make it to become a full-fledged Capstone game.

I'm thrilled that we managed to make it this far, and we definitely plan to take this as far as we can possibly go. To make sure that The Scales of Truth makes it until the end, that just means that we'll have to work extra hard. I WILL NOT LET MY DREAMS BE DREAMS.

Here's a glimpse at some stuff that has been made for The Scales of Truth.

Anubis, our Protagonist!

Set, our Antagonist. 

And some fantastic storyboards of scenes from the beginning, climax, and end of our story - drawn by Chunzi. I'm always left in awe of anything she draws. 

November has just started, but it's already been very exciting! :3