Saturday, 28 December 2013

Ubisoft Character Project ~Part 1

I decided, for a project where we have to create a female warrior from either Chinese, Indian, African or Japanese history, there would be no better choice for me personally to base my design and idea on a Japanese Samurai. I know most people will think this an 'obvious' choice, but seeing as I've never had a project where I've taken one of my main interests as the main theme, I thought now would be a good opportunity to do so. I also think as I have such an invested interest In Japanese culture and history already, it will make the project fun to do, and I think the end result will benefit in quality from that. 

From the start I decided to create a character based upon the historical warrior, Tomoe Gozen. Seeing as there isnt a large variety of female warriors to choose from, I thought she'd be a cool choice as one of the first well know female samurai. Also the fact that she comes from an early period in Japanese history, means that the Armour and clothing design is a lot more unique and intricate than the later incarnations, and so will be interesting to design and bring to life in 3D.

For research, I'm not only looking at just artwork of Tomoe Gozen, but also samurai in general, as well the style of Armour and attire worn by the warrior class in the Heian Period of Japanese history she was from. There are lots of reference photos I have collected of Armour over the years, so I ill analyse it to see how it all fits together: The style of Armour from the older periods of Japan, was a lot more intricate and difficult to wear, though has a lot more unique and ornamental look to it. 
I also am looking at the sort of weaponry Tomoe Gozen often used in battle: she is always depicted with the Japanese Pole-arm, the Naginata, in artwork, but in official writings and documents it was actually written that she was often seen riding into battle with a large sword and a powerful bow. Though I really think the Naginata is a very impressive weapon to depict this character with, I want my design of her to be as accurate as possible, so will probably try to stick with the sword and bow.

For my initial designs, I didn't stray too far from the research in terms of her attire, Though I have concentrated on areas such as the head and Armour, and I think that as the samurai Armour isn't adapted in obvious ways to fit a female warrior, the head of this character will need to be visible and exposed to a degree. I do like the idea of giving her a traditional Japanese black cap, of the design worn by warriors of the 12th century. This gives her a distinct look that shows what time period she is from, and its an item I can play around with stylizing and making more unique to her. 
Though I've looked at different variations on her costume and how she could wear her Armour, I have my heart set on depicting her as accurate as possible to her historical appearance, as I think Samurai Armour as it is is pretty awesome in its own right, and I want to stay away from impractical design that you often see in warrior characters in various games today.

This is essentially the final draft of my depiction of Tomoe Gozen: I have the Armour how i want it, though will develop this piece further into a final one, as I play around with color variations and clothing patterns. As I begin modelling my character in 3D, I will continue to post my progress in my design doc, the second part to this blog post will be the showcase of my final character, so keep an eye out for that. :)

RUST ~Final Major Project~ 'How Robots Will Change The World'

I recently watched this documentary, that focused on the recent developments and advances in robot technology, as part of my research and collection of inspirational and relevant things to my robot themed FMP. I watched this on recommendation from a friend, and I really found it a very insightful, and in some ways scary look at how far the developments in robotics has come, especially in the most recent years, where robots have been focused on to tackle disaster situations in which humans aren't able to deal with directly. 
The Robot above is more of a mobile Mech suit, created as a pet project by one man, more as a work of technological art and to see if it could be done more than anything. It was named 'Kuratas', and possess one arm that can grip, and another that can be fitted with guns (!!) ... though weather these weapons actually work wasn't stated, the fact that this sort of thing can be created by one man is a pretty scary thought, and definitely brings to life the sort of Mech's and ridiculous weaponry seen in sci fi that has obviously influenced Kuratas' creator. 

Probably the worlds most famous and recognizable robot outside of the world of movies, is 'Asimo' created by Honda, as the first proper Bipedal, humanoid robot that can think and adapt on its own, and can listen to and engage in conversation, with multiple people at the same time. It is also the first robot created that was capable of running, with both feet leaving the ground just like humans. Work began on bringing Asimo to life way back in 1986, and even though he is an incredible creation in terms of what he is capable of, the Fukushima Nuclear meltdown incident was a wake up call to a lot of robotics engineers and scientists. One of the main reasons the nuclear disaster was as bad as it was, was due to humans not being able to reach the interior of the plant due to radiation, and it was seen that if they had a robot capable, they could have averted most of the damage sooner and contain the situation. 
Fukushima acting as a catalyst, production began, not only in Japan, but in America to create various robots as counter measures to various disaster situations that may occur in the future. 

Asimo could do many things, but wasn't kitted out to maneuver rough terrain. So a focus was made on creating robots that could tackle such situations: Robots that could climb stairs, and move about in ways that humans could not were created, with various purposes, from warfare, carrying supplies into danger zones, climbing and operating dangerous machinery. 
(To the left) ATLAS: A robot in current development, to combat disaster situations. Though bipedal in form, it has more flexibility in its joints allowing it to adapt to more situations than humans can. The proposition by DARPA, to the rest of the scientists of the world that specialise in robotics was to focus on the creation of robots that were based on accomplishing the following things: 
~Drive Vehicles
~Walk over rubble
~Remove obstacles
~Open doors
~Break walls with tools
~Climb ladders
~Turn valves
~Make repairs

Multiple factory's and production plants all over the world utilize robots already, as part of their workforce. Even working alongside them, as seen in many Japanese factory's. 
This look at the current state of robotics, and where the technology is heading, is really helpful in understanding how I can create my own characters based around the same technology. The world in which My characters will be set is so far into the future that robots have become old and forgotten, and so raises some interesting questions about the characters i will create: What was their original purpose? How come robots are no longer needed? What sort of society and world now exists that has advanced past robotics? Some of these things do not directly affect my final outcome for my project, but It would be interesting to see how much I can imagineer through the artwork i create in this project, and the world i could bring to life through the characters I want to create. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

RUST ~Final Major Project~ Sketches

I came up with a neat idea to kick off my concepting work now that i have a set of solid research done into my chosen direction for my FMP, and even though this research will be ongoing throughout the project I feel like I have a good set of solid ideas to begin with. I thought I could aim to do a page of doodles every-time i get the chance to, every day if possible, so at the end I'll have this wide range of varied thumbnail sketches i can develop into my final designs and narrow down into the three main characters. 
After recently looking through the sketchbooks of various illustrators and character artists I've fallen in love with sketching with the pen again, and so have made use of this in my thumbnails.... nothing beats the rough and energetic forms of ink sketches in my opinion, and I hope to get the best ideas and forms in my robots I'll doodle in this way.

RUST ~Final Major Project~ Finalized Idea

With the draft of my brief now written up and outlined for my FMP I have a clear indication of what I want to achieve, from my initial idea proposal. After receiving feedback, I decided to focus on the three main characters as my final outcome and to just focus on designing and modelling three really strong robot designs, as it was felt that if i create the human child character alongside the robots it may detract from their design and style.... I still really like the idea of the human child travelling alongside the robots, but in terms of the final outcome for this project i agree that it will be tricky to maintain the strong look I want to depict as well as maintain a steady workflow, creating a human with organic shapes in the middle of the roster of robot characters would be a bit jarring and may not fit in as I originally intended. 
The main bulk load of the project work will be focused on creating really nice 2D illustration and character design work for my portfolio, with the end result being three fully rigged robot characters with LoD's, with a presentation environment and maybe additional props. In terms of tech budgets for this project, I did a lot of research into current gen character limits, and they vary from 15,000 to 40,000 depending on the complexity and style of game (games such as Uncharted obviously are at the high end of the spectrum). Looking at the Ratchet and clank games as a good base point for research, as I'm making my characters stylized in a similar fashion, I came to the number of 20,000 as a max tri count. This will give me enough room to experiment, as well as to cover myself. I want it to be stylized, but not at the expense of detail. For the texture budget for each character I went for an estimate of 1 x1024 diffuse for the head, and 1 x2048 for the body with normal's, specs , etc where applicable. It took me awhile to decide on this and I'm still unsure, but In the past when i created characters I've struggled to create really nice diffuse maps under tight budgets so didn't want my meshes to suffer by placing tighter constraints on myself. 

I outlined the full brief in detail in the actual document itself, so wont go into every detail here. However one of the things I spent awhile doing was to outline each of the three characters based on the initial idea's I have for them at this stage, in terms of what sort of characters and archetypal categories they fit into. This fleshes out the characters and sets a good platform for me to begin my design work on.
Over the coming weeks, and over the holidays I'm looking at several sources of research in the forms of Movie's, games and Documentaries, as well as several artbooks that focus on character art and creation. I'm planning on analyzing each movie, and chronicling how it relates and acts as inspiration to my own project on here so keep an eye out for that. :)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Vehicle Project [Part 1]

With this project we had the job of creating a vehicle, any vehicle, in situation of a surrounding environment and to utilize and experiment with material adjustments and Shader's provided with the brief. 
Now for this project, about halfway through I had personal problems that meant I wasn't able to complete the project in time for the set deadline, BUT...... I thought of instead of leaving my a blog entry for this project until I had finished it after Christmas, I thought id post what I had done so far, then conclude with the final outcome in a later installment to show my progress from start to finish.
The basic idea for my vehicle was a sort of futuristic airship, I looked towards things such as Star Wars and Final Fantasy Games for my inspiration, as well as real life military aircraft such as war planes and helicopters of varying styles, so I could get the realistic aspects implemented into what is essentially a fantastical and imagined design. I liked the idea of having sails and masts that unfurled, when the craft took off or was dispatched from a larger carrier craft. The whole Crucifix shape to the ship, is something I experimented with from initial sketches to the final design, and think it provides a unique and unusual shape to a flying craft, which fits in with a fantasy/sci fi setting perfectly. 

This is the final concept sketch, to both give an idea of what my little airships would look like in flight as well as the sort of environment they would be set in: decided the hangar that the final model will be rendered in will be like a hangar pod on the side of a much larger vessel, where ships can dock and be repaired, and even stored away deeper in the ship. 

In terms of what stage I am at with the vehicle itself: The main vehicle is fully modeled, unwrapped and am in the process of creating the main texture for it. The tri limit i just under the maximum 10,000 by a few hundred tri's so didn't struggle too much, I think it was just the right amount, in fact looking at it, it could probably lose a few wasteful edge loops here and there that i will look at later (though isn't overly wasteful so may look past it to save on time to focus on the important stuff such as shaders and lighting). I also used a lot of instancing, as i made use of a lot of the same geometry, so made sense to save on the texture budget by utilizing this. 

In terms of the environment, I'm keeping it as simple as possible (the main body of it is essentially a beveled cylinder, which is fine as this still fits in with the original concept for the hangar), and have so far built most of it, i just need to include: the large arm/airship crane that will act as the thing that moves and lifts each craft in and out of the hangar from the interior of the rest of the ship. Also other smaller things to populate the interior, storage crates, tools, workstations, etc. I'm planning to build, but other than that the majority of the building is done. The main bulk of the project I have to do, is the part which is focused on lighting and Shaders, so I'm going to give myself plenty of time over the holidays to focus on this part so i get a good chance to learn about the different aspects of these things, and utilize them in the best way that fits in with my design. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Final Major Project ~Initial Idea

Old Robots!

Since the idea of working on the FMP was first mentioned to me a few years ago, not long after i started the course i had a few suggestions floating around my head, but it wasn't until last year that one idea started to form in my head..... my love for characters made it clear that that's what the direction i was going to go in, and i started thinking of robots. Not mech's or any of that, but robots, with character and personality. I feel if anyone is going to do any form of character design, they need to have just that, character and personality. 

It was the idea of making old, abandoned robots that had lost their original purpose that really started to get me excited about this idea.... i began to imagine this distant future or alternate world where robots had become something that humans no longer needed anymore so eventually became lost and forgotten about. having been built to last but no longer having a purpose to serve, the robots became neglected and most rusted away and fell into disrepair. Some however, wandered the wilderness and made their own settlements, and continued their new sentience and existence in seclusion, as the world around them evolved and underwent changes that didn't effect them. Robot's in these settlements, gone so long without memory wipes and updating, had developed their own personalities and self awareness, and so had become characters in their own right, some even developing very human personalities and defects, often caused at despair at their own design. Many had adopted new persona's to counter-act this, and so led new lives of their own design free from the shackles of their creators. 

That's essentially the setting and world these characters will inhabit, fleshed out in my head. The back story and current situation for the characters i will design i think is important when it comes to actually bringing them to life, as it will help shape them. They will all obviously be a robot built originally for a purpose (mechanic, war droid, traffic control, rescue, etc.), but will have adopted something that will make their character unique and give them personality. The whole 'neglected' theme will also give me a good excuse to come up with some really interesting designs, as well as textures for the robots themselves, and will highlight the modifications they may have had to do to themselves to stay functional. 

What i essentially want to have at the end of my FMP, are five characters, four robots and possibly one human, built fully in 3D and rigged. The idea of a human came into being, with the idea of the robots having the task of looking after an abandoned human child, adding the purpose of bringing the child back to its parents, and discovering the world outside of their little settlement, and the adventures that follow. This may be a bit jarring yet, when the cast of this game are going to be primarily robots, so this is still an undecided factor, though i will definitely work on designs featuring the robots and the child (i really like the idea of having a kid wearing pots and pans to fit in with the group, sat on the shoulders of a hulking war droid ^_^).

Research wise, im going to be looking at a lot of Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks artwork and movies, as animation studios like these really have character design and development nailed down, and is definitely a source of inspiration to me since the initial idea of my concept. Simplicity, and how characters communicate via expressions and poses is something i want to look at and examine in depth, to bring my character ideas to life as much as possible. Though the final outcome that i will work to is 3D models of my characters, i want the main bulk of my workload to ideally focus on 2D work, as someone who wants to work in 2D illustration and characters, i want to use this project as a perfect opportunity to come up with some really fantastic artwork for my portfolio. 

Level Design ~Rooftop Project

Initial Vision and concept art of my rooftop level 
Screenshot of Final Rooftop level running in Engine (UDK)
This project tasked us with creating an interactive level based on the theme of a 'rooftop', and taking the freedom of this project to its fullest, i based my own idea around a stylized science fiction setting. Looking at inspirations such as The Fifth Element, Star Wars, The Ratchet and Clank series, as well as themes of Futurism and Industrialism, i used all of these aspects to build up the look and feel of my rooftop. A main focus with this project since the outset, was a level that had a definitive start and finish, and by focusing on player progression throughout, i have been able to achieve that.

The basis and setting for my level, is that of a futuristic traffic control building; On the roof is a robotic satellite, which are used in my level's world to get the maximum signal to other planets, and they travel on their legs between buildings when necessary. In my level, one of these devices has broken down, and its your job as the player to gain access to the roof from the interior hangar, and reach the peak of the level and 
the robot's interior. 
This project allowed me to utilize various interactive and dynamic elements, as well as all of the assets and textures I created and hand painted from scratch, such as various lights, fog, particle effects in the form of smoke, animated doors and climbable ladders. Also parallax mapping was used for the windows, to give the illusion of depth. 

Considering my love and preferred medium of 2D art, this first project back was actually massively enjoyable, and i think the fact of how much fun and freedom i was able to have during it, has meant the outcome being probably one of the most interesting and impressive so far. There were a few aspects to it i didn't get to work in time, such as a hand painted sky box and populating the roof with a wider variety of assets, but in the most part got the majority of things done in time and to a degree im really proud to have achieved. 

This is the fly-through of my level, Running in Engine, following the path taken by the player. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Hello there! my name is Daniel Hill, and i am currently undertaking my third and final year of Game Art! Though this isn't my first blog, for those of you that didn't follow me on my old one that followed me through first and second years here's a brief introduction on myself. 

I'm a long time student of Graphic Design, who decided to take a stab at Game Design and seems to be paying off so far. My inspirations range from Japanese watercolour traditional artwork and Lego, to Character Design and Star Wars.... the range is pretty massive, and has led me down a route of favouring characters, the study of life drawing, and imaganeering worlds with their own unique setting and history.

Some examples of recent life drawing studies, one of the things I've constantly practiced over the years. 

I'm a sucker for traditional media, and despite getting more into digital painting over the course of university, my heart still lies in the pens and brushes i favour.... nothing quite matches the feeling of finishing something traditional compared to the likes of finishing something in Photoshop. 
I'm gunning for a career in Illustration/Character design, and although my 3D modelling and engine skills have a come a long way in such a short space of time, my passion will always lie in 2D artwork and the creation of it. This year ill definitely be concentrating on putting together a really strong 2D Portfolio, focusing on characters.... which is why for my Final Major Project I'm looking at creating a range of characters based around the theme of 'Old Robots'. Really want to put the emphasis on 'character' for this, so I'm looking towards influences such as Pixar and Dreamworks for their great methods used in their character creation and storytelling through their creations. My progress through this project will be updated here, throughout the rest of the year through research, to concepting to final build.... i cant wait to get stuck in! :D