Sunday, 29 November 2009

I can't believe it's not...working

Unlike how delicious the brand of butter I simply referenced is, 3D is not so tasty at times. There are rare times when you can eat your favourite food, enjoy the hell out of it but still be kicked in the taste buds by some unexpectedly bad after taste. It happens once every... hundred times or so, but when it does you feel like you've been made a fool by something you so dearly trusted. Today, I had that experienced. Unlike with food, where running to down the closest thing (like apple juice or jam) usually clears the bad after taste, 3D work takes 100x longer and usually requires a lot of thought and problem solving.

True to my word, I said I would be complaining about Maya, Zbrush, and whatever I could get my hands on. No matter how much experience you have, there are somethings you can't predict. I write this mostly as a precautionary warning to myself and anyone else reading it who can utilize this shared knowledge of pain. Which mostly means I'm writing this for myself.

1: Sometimes it's better to work in pieces than it is to work as a whole.
I'm not sure what to think about this. Intersecting pieces vs a whole continuous mesh? I've used both methods already, and I honestly can't say which is better. For ease of mind and matter, I suppose intersecting pieces is better, but maybe for animation a continuous mesh is better? I'll tell you one thing I know for damn sure, it's a hell of a lot easier to retopologize and bake intersecting pieces than a continuous mesh. Easier on my over heating brain and my over heating computer.

I cannot emphasize that enough. I always thought there was little reason to care about these settings in xNormal, but it turns out I had been taking them for granted. What they do is they make the normals and occlusion so much better when baking. It makes the rendering go past the UV borders and ensures that you can't see any nasty seams. It also cuts down on time spent cleaning up your easy bake mesh afterwards. I never knew, luckily I work methodically (or I'm paranoid...) so I can fix these issues up, but I never would have seen this coming. And to think I did it just to save my computer some effort rendering. Good for nothing...

3: Decimation Master is...sketchy.
Well, I spent most of today fighting with Zbrush crashing on me every 3 seconds. I have no idea why it's doing this, chalk it up to the randomness and sheer frustrating...frustration of 3D programs. Photoshop never did this to me, photoshop has always been kind and gentle. I love photoshop. I can't say why Zbrush isn't working, my usual method of figuring out what's wrong by eliminating what I've done and retracing my steps isn't working because Zbrush has quite a rigid work flow, another reason I want 3.5 R3, though, probably not a great reason.

Well, that's all I have for now, at least Haruka is coming along nicely, the bake turned out well except for minor (or not) grievances that I've outlined above. Update somewhat soon, when I finish the textures.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Haruka Sató - Stylized Cont.

Well, it's been a while since I updated. I guess it's time for progress shots, yay! Anyway, in general the modelling has been going well, since this was a new style I was eager to get started, but the eagerness soon faded as I started sculpting and realized that even something that seems so simple in 2D is just as hard in 3D. Certain parts were easy and just a matter of deciding tension points and general aesthetics, but the face and eyes were haaaard. Though I say that, you must know that it's in relation to the other parts of Haruka, but the face is important for the overall look, since it's so damn big, it has to look right, right?

So here's where I am currently, people say it looks creepy, and I tend to agree with them - but I also think it's kinda cute, which perhaps says more about me than I realize. Maybe I'm too close to it, or maybe I just know too much about it. Since I can say to myself, "Well, before it looked like..." and take some comfort in how messed up it looked before. Or maybe I'm some kind of Alien lover. In general, one of the things I was trying to do was add character to basic form. Some characters just have...character, but usually the best thing to do is keep them neutral if you plan on doing facial rigging and animation. I guess I should stop focusing on that in the future, that might make it easier to add some drastic facial expressions in my sculpting stage which I haven't done yet.

Apart from creepy, people haven't really said much about it, though I'm trying to make it cuter just because that's what the concept art looks like, even though I think I've come as close to the concept art as I can get - especially in regards to the hair, which is my favourite part. The main difference between concept art and 3D model is the belt/skirt area. It's a lot thicker in the 3D model and less flowy, because mainly if it wasn't it would be hard to get those dynamic movements when animating. Also, the belt buckle thing had to go. It just looked wrong, which kinda supports what I was thinking about things in 2D don't always work in 3D. It's mostly a compromise job, since a lot of ideas and concepts just spring out in 3D that wouldn't work in 2D because of complex drawing angles (not that I suppose that stopped anyone who's actually good at drawing).

So far, Steve said the eyes are too far apart, which is an easy fix (in both ways, easy to change and easier to reverse should it look bad). I think that could help a lot (also, eyebrows! Only villains have no eye brows...) though it remains to be seen. Secondly he said the forehead was too harsh, which I can see as well. Perhaps roughing in a hairline will help? My only worry is that it'll change the mood a little, but we'll see huh?

Lastly, random picture I drew in class today. Didn't have much else to do, and I suppose tomorrow's lesson will be shorter in that I really need to be at home to finish Haruka, retopologize her and then bake her. That sounds weird, even to me. I hope I can finish retopology tomorrow, but it can be so boring that I often procrastinate while doing it. Oh well, no time for such luxuries, deadline in 2 weeks or so and I haven't even started my contextual studies part. Not that pushing contextuals to the wire has ever stopped me from completing it before. I'm getting pretty quick at 3D modelling/creation, but it certainly doesn't mean my work load goes down.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Haruka Sató - Stylized Start

So today I start working on the stylized version of Haruka. You can see the similarities but of course a lot has changed. The above drawing is what we call a "model making" drawing. Basically it says all it needs to say (so why say more?) It doesn't take long to draw these things, but it can be annoying trying to line everything up. I used to be really anal about getting stuff to line up perfectly and spend ages doing it, but sooner or later I realized what a waste of time that was since I could easily tweak the shape in Maya or Zbrush. I mean, if I can go from a cube to a person just by sculpting then this shouldn't be hard at all. The main reason I even did these was because stylized proportions are different and figuring it out in 2D is a lot quicker than doing it in 3D.

Damn... Josh and I talked about a lot of things yesterday but I can't remember exactly what it was. I think the main topic was giving the bag equal amounts of character - as well as making the serious Haruka's bag be more menacing and slug-like. I figure by now just a simple lattice deformer will work for the bag, but I also want to try animating the UVs to give Haruka's cuffs a little more of a ghostly feel. Either with transparency or some kind of eerie glow/incandescence. I dunno, I'll figure something out later on.

Anyway, let's see how long it takes to build a bash mesh for Haruka. I'm feeling really good about this, a nice fluttery feeling in my stomach tells me as much. Or it's telling me to go toilet, either way it's good.

Deformer isn't a word. Damn you English, damn you.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Brand New Day

Woo! So today was pretty good, finished the texturing and overcame a few design problems. I'm gonna stop tweaking the textures because I could seriously spend another 2-3 days just doing that. Thing about design is that somethings have to be improvised. No matter how much you plan or how cautious you are there are somethings that you can never see coming. Stuff like how the bag handles are different in the concepts, how the buttons changed and so on. The main thing was that Haruka was supposed to wear bracelets (if only to cover up a horrible seam). But after doing so many variations and trying different ideas nothing worked out. I was potentially screwed because I would have to redo the UVs and join the hand and wrist together.

There's another note, keep the hand attached to the arm throughout the whole process. Unless there's a sleeve or something.

Anyway, after lamenting and wasting some time figuring stuff out, I just decided to go with the shackles that you can see attached to Haruka's bag. They fit perfectly ([gayvoice]great accessories[/gayvoice]) and go quite well with the character. I figure if you see them alone you'll be wondering why Haruka is wearing something so weird - so the mystery is noticable from the get go. She's not a convict cause of her clothes, so it worked out in the end after all. Not to mention how when I rig it I can do it much more organically.

Things are looking up. I also got asked to draw more Balloons for a christmas release of a thing for my thing. That's awesome, though horribly timed - still, I was in no position to turn it down.

Early AM O' Clock Part 2

As I write this it is 6:14 am. I'm quite awake oddly enough despite waking up at 10am this morning and going to Open09. Speaking of which, it was pretty fun. Lots of ideas and talking going on, who doesn't like talking about games? Probably a lot of people, I might be the minority here...

God why am I still up... Do I risk just...staying up and getting an energy drink as soon as the shops open? Nah, to hell with that, I need sleep (it's taking a lot of effort to not swear). Anyway, I figured at this point I would post a thing I did today cause I finished my other thing so I can start the thing I wanted to start tomorrow...

I hope I finish the thing by thursday...that's what? 3 days? Pssh, I can do that. Anyway, while I was doing something I remember that I should write down what I was thinking about while doing it. Soooo uhh, here goes.

Eccentricity - Specular Power - Controls how strong the highlight hot spots are. Low values (black) make smaller, stronger hot spots while high values (white) make larger, weaker hot spots. Make maps with details from diffuse map (lots of different shades and values)

Specular Roll Off - Specular Masking - Controls how strong or spread out the hot spot is. Low values are weak while high are strong. Make with flat/block in values.

Need to find the right balance...need a lot more strong, small hot spots.

Specular Colour - Specular Colour - Controls what colour the highlights will be when light passes through them and returns to...the void? Somewhere... lost my train of thought... Oh right. Using dark, dark colours (usually blue from what I can tell) to make the specular highlight as white as possible. Can get a rough preview by setting the specular layer on Linear Dodge (add).

Currently I need to tweak the colours of the spec map, and change a few values here and there. I also cannot believe my image hasn't uploaded yet, jesus what is it doing? I started when I... started this entry and it still hasn't finished. It's 6:45... really? I must have dozed off. Yay, there it is. Only 6:30... no, that can't be right... anyway...

Rendered with some toolbag thing...downloading Unreal Development Kit to see if I can use that as a rendering engine. Lighting in Maya is annoying. Uhh, probably going to sleep now until... well, tomorrow. I wonder if my parents are reading this - if you are, don't call me for a couple of days. I won't be conscious.

EDIT: Clarity note, I may have had spec roll off and eccentricity mixed up. Spec Roll is where I control the intensity of the highlight and eccentricity is the sharpness of the highlight. A spec map is what I expect it to be basically, a greyscale version of the colour map. Light/White = stronger highlights. Invert the roll off map and get a base for eccentricity map.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Early AM O' Clock

So here I am again (at the time of writing, 3:15 am) posting in the middle of the night after working on...something. Oh yeah, textures. So texturing (boohoo, not a real word either) is going rather well. I used the colour scheme from the last picture I drew and it worked out rather nicely. I was at a loss on how to improve the textures, so I'm glad they turned out pretty well.

Haruka is missing her bracelets because I messed up the UVs for them so the lighting was messed up. I forgot that I should delete the other half of the object if the UV sets were overlapping when baking my normal map. So after that I pretty much started on the bag and was very pleased with the result. It's dirty and very bloody, the lost soul might need some work, but I might just use an incandescent map for the cracks and glow maps for the eyes. I still need to work on the spec maps, but I'll explain that stuff later when it isn't so late.

Tomorrow is Open09, might not go considering it's 3:20 am right now and the thing starts at 10:45 am. Jesus why does crap have to happen so early in the morning? These are game designers and gamers. We don't get up before 12pm unless it's life or death (or a new game just came out).

3:23, spent 3 minutes staring at nothing while I was thinking about nothing. Wow, 3:25...what was I doing? Oh yeah, it came back to me. I was thinking about uhh, the relationship between Haruka and her bag. How two characters joined at the hip interact with each other? Usually that sort of relationship is reserved for friends who work together for a common goal. But Haruka's bag (and souls) are working against her in a constant struggle to get free. So displaying that relationship will be difficult, but so far the easier way is by clarity of texture. Haruka is visually clean and innocent (I guess) while the bag is dirty, bloody and intimidating. As far as rigging goes I think the motions of the bag have to be sluggish and, being dragged around by an unsuspecting Haruka. While Haruka will be more energetic and fluid in her motions, like she's running to a place she cannot wait to get to.

I have to rig this soon, not looking forward to doing that. I wish I could just hi-jack an old rig I made (like the one for Lyra!) but ultimately I need to make it again so I can properly incorporate the bag.

Note to self: Generic characters are good for a reason. I'm starting to see why the bald marine is so popular.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Seems so far away...

So apparently the rain makes me a little melancholic. Either that or I'm sick in the head. Sometime while texturing (picking colours while texturing is...not a good idea I'm starting to realize) I got sick of it and thinking about it. So what do you do when you're bored out of your mind of the monotonous, mundane task you're doing? The Internet! How I love the Internet sometimes, but during my procrastination session (which makes it sound important) I came across a series of pretty depressing pictures. Stuff like Calvin and Hobbs when Calvin was on some medicine that killed his imagination so Hobbs disappears. People generally being depressing, suicidal nitwits and imagining a life where they aren't alone.

It sounds incredibly sad (in more than one way) but it was pretty good stuff. I could just imagine Haruka's depression after being alone for so long. Long story short, I was in the mood for drawing. Apart from generally giving me a good idea (and more confidence) about Haruka's colour scheme, it was fun to draw once again. I took a new route in drawing so I'll probably be using this method more for speed drawings. I say speed drawings, but it still took me a couple of hours to do.

So while I was in this...depressing mood so to speak, I found it pretty easy to draw. This is a mix between a mood picture and a concept realisation. A lot of it is based on my 3D model, so that makes it easier to pick accurate colours (note, you can't see the colours I picked, because the picture is mostly blue - you know, cause Haruka is blue). It's good to go back and forth between 2D and 3D. Because too much time in 1D is bad.

Deadlines approaching soon. I didn't want to be like Steve, posting blog entries at 4 am. But hell, I'll be up all night. Panic mode has not disappeared what so ever. Back to the grind! Texture time... or maybe retopo time. No... Textures. New Rule: Keep it simple, stupid.

P.S Why is Texturing not a real word? It seems like half the words I'm using on this damn blog don't exist.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Little Miss Penny's Oven - The Easy Bake

Even as a child I loved to bake stuff. Cookies, cakes, cats, all those C words. So when I grew up I thought, "where has that childhood dream gone to?" I wondered why I haven't baked in such a long time when I used to love it. Making treats for all my friends and bringing them in for the teachers. That's when I realised, it was because that wasn't me. But how weird would it be if I was?

Moving on, the title may seem deceptive - I know I would be peeved if I were reading this and didn't see any sweets or cookies. But it is actually relevant, in a way to 3D modelling. You see, when you have a high poly sculpt and a low poly/real time mesh. You want to get the details from the high poly onto the low poly. We call that baking. You bake the details from the high to the low so that when you apply it to the low you get the feeling that you're looking at the high. Ok, so that sentence doesn't make much sense, so I'll show you.

Remember all those Zbrush meshes I've showed you over the past... however long. Those are my high poly meshes. I can't use those to make a game because the game engine would crash and burn faster than the Hindenburg. So I made a new mesh based on the high poly. After you bake the details you can see the information from the high poly but on a low poly surface.

You can see the wireframe of the low poly mesh as well as the flow (remember I talked about flow a few posts ago). All in all this mesh comes to around 10k tris (triangles), I might poly strip a few edge loops (excuse the jargon, it means I'll remove a few of those blue lines to make the tri count lower) so I don't go over 10k. The normal map took a little bit of cleaning to get right, but that's always the case. Cleaning a normal map isn't as simple as color picking and soft brushing. You have to get into the meat of the channels and work the RGB channels separately until the final outcome is desirable. I guess in the channels it's just as simple as colour picking and soft brushing though.

You can see the before and after of the images. As you could guess, without the clean up the model would be looking very ugly. There were a few artifacts with lighting in Maya, which annoyed me because I noticed a similar thing happening on a previous render.

So after ditching that lighting set up (FU Daylight rig). I found another method of lighting that I quite liked. It also made me feel a lot better about the model and my baking/cleaning skills after seeing it like it. I was getting that feeling in the back of my head like starting over again wouldn't be so bad. That's a terrible thing.

So that's where I'm up to right now. Next up, hair!

Monday, 9 November 2009


Ok, this has nothing to do whatsoever with my projects, but Andrew Thompson (no relation to Jim Thompson...I think) sent me an email with some reviews for Balloons! It's an iPhone app I did the graphics for last year. Overall the reviews have been very positive - my concern was whether they liked the graphics - and they did! Damn it was nervewrecking to read, but I suppose Andrew wouldn't have emailed me if they were crap reviews.

Review 1
Review 2
Review 3
Japanese Review 4 (how's your Japanese?!)

So, that was quite a lot of fun. Didn't feel like it at the time, but what can you do?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Interim Game Idea - Wandering/Wondering

I dunno why I'm doing this, but I considered doing a short game idea to help contextualize my character a little. The game title would be Wandering/Wondering, mostly because the character Haruka spends a lot of her time wandering the land looking for her family and the other character (the demon/whatever hunter) spends a lot of time contemplating his actions and trying to find Haruka. Each character goes to the other side, but don't we all?

Anyway, I considered all sorts of possibilities for the game and character in previous posts and comments. Thanks to a little help from Steve (the MCP of game design) I was able to narrow down the list of ideas to something more concrete.

The main characters would be Haruka and a still unnamed man who's a demon hunter (I'll call him DM). You play through both perspectives of Haruka and DM in order to understand the full story.

Haruka's innate ability is to draw in lost souls, delay, manipulate and absorb them. Of course, she doesn't know this. She becomes more ghostly when in danger, able to run through certain walls or disappear completely and reappear in a random place (her memory hazy). She has little control over these powers and often doesn't know she has used them. Certain people she meets and captures give Haruka other abilities, classic things like more strength or the ability to do things (pick locks, fight, plumb etc). Haruka doesn't realize how she's using these powers, nor does the player until near the end of the game. But the truth is that she's tapping power from the souls shes captured and the more she uses a certain power, the more of the soul's memories she uncovers. The souls are very malicious towards Haruka (wanting to get free) so over using a certain power harms Haruka. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Haruka can gain health by running through crowded areas. Since she passively absorbs souls, she can absorb bits of the souls of the people she's running by, but the consequences (more story/character wise than game play) are that the people are in grave danger. Haruka is safest around a crowd and vulnerable alone, which is a great character contradiction for someone who feels lonely. She wants to be near people, but can't because she'll kill them and she doesn't want to be alone but it's safest for everyone.

Haruka's story takes her from place to place, which is unusual for a ghost. She finds clues that eventually lead her no where. The player uncovers these new clues and gains new insight from using abilities. As she uses her power she realizes the evil surrounding her and where her true power comes from. As she sees her "baggage" she can finally see all the souls she has captured and tormented, as well as all the blood that follows behind her. Depending on the game style, the final boss would be Haruka's "baggage" or DM.

A final thing to note about Haruka's perspective is that she sees threats as story book demons, ghosts and ghouls. In truth these are actually hunters who travel around the world looking for strange oddities. Anything from ghost busters to demon hunters try and kill Haruka, but so far none have succeeded. Haruka's instinct is to defend herself from those trying to hurt her - she doesn't hold back because she doesn't see them as human. If she did, she probably wouldn't exist.

That would be the first perspective, the other perspective would be from DM. From his perspective, DM sees all the destruction Haruka causes and his job is to hunt her down and put a stop to her. The player doesn't really know why Haruka is doing this, or even who Haruka is. He just has to fight the lost and tormented souls (un)lucky enough to not have been captured by Haruka. These souls take on various different forms depending on the person. It might be accurate to say that DM is more of an exorcist than a demon hunter. Though hand in hand?

DM sees many of his fellow comrades die to Haruka, so his view on her is very negative when he finally does meet her. It's up to the player to try and decipher the clues on what Haruka is doing in order to see that she's as much of a victim as the rest of the people. Naturally that's often easier said than done, there are a lot of grim possibilities when DM fights Haruka. He could win (difficult) and destroy Haruka, leaving her baggage to rampage wildly without her. He could lose the fight and become one of the souls that Haruka has in her palm - that way nothing gets resolved. This outcome would happen if the player can't beat Haruka or hasn't tried to see what has happened with her. The final would be to realize that Haruka isn't the enemy and try to focus on her baggage. Through this Haruka would see DM for what he is and finally the baggage would be the true enemy for both of them. That would be the true ending.

The final fight would be similar for both characters (as in DM vs Haruka, Haruka vs DM and both vs baggage), in which the true goal is not defeating your opponent, but understanding them. It would be Haruka realizing her demons and how to fight them, and DM understanding Haruka's dilemma.

The last perspective would happen randomly, you'd see how the souls Haruka has captured came to meet her in the first place and what circumstances led to their death. Haruka is more drawn to people without a purpose, wandering like she is - so you'd see what caused them to become like that. The player wouldn't know exactly what was going on with these perspectives until the end of the game. It would feel like someone met with Haruka and bonded with her, eventually leaving (the ideal would be having their issues resolved - but that's a fake truth).

Lastly, the game would probably be more of an action/adventure game, with more emphasis on the adventure (like how Ico has action in it but it's not the main thing). So with that done, I suppose I'll end this entry and get back to slaving over my 3D model like a good porch monkey.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Back from the Grave - A Swine Flu Perspective

Oink oink oink internet, oink oink oink CBS sucks oink oink oink dying slowly oink oink.

(So I've been gone for a while, no new posts or updates. I would have loved to have posted stuff and shown what I was doing but my internet died while I was in the midst of contracting SWINE FLU. So while sick and cut off from the world for an entire week I worked as my strength allowed powered by SHEER BOREDOM. I would have gotten more work done if the light didn't hurt and my arms didn't burn, but all pity aside I did respectable...which is a way of saying I did crap but give me props anyway.)

Oink oink oink, oink oink, oink oink retopologization oink oink oink.

(What I was going to post about before god smited me (smote? Smoted? Don't get me wrong, this was a modern day smiting) was about retopologization (try saying that 3 times fast). I know it doesn't sound like a real world and it barely is, but the importance of doing it while 3D modelling is immense. Many a mistake and crap model was made before I discovered it. It's all about how the edges flow, which probably means little to nothing to you. But what can you do. This is as far as I got before giving up on the notion of posting anything related to the subject AS YET. Notice the lines around the mouth. See how the flow directly across, bending up and down to fit the contours of the mouth? This is bad. It's supposed to flow around the mouth in loops. As shown in the later picture).

Oink oink oiiink oink oink, oink oink, oink oink.

(Instead, I worked on my model until I was happy with it. I went slowly with this in order to lessen my frustration. Lessons learned:

  • Thinking is frustrating. Perhaps just as much or even more so than actually solving the problem before you get to it.
  • I messed up on the neck...scarf tie thing that droops over her shoulder. Next model that won't be a problem.
  • I some how ended up working backwards. Literally. Uhh, not sure how that happened, but it didn't really affect how I worked. It just took a while to figure out when I was retopologizing why nothing I did was taking any effect. I'm not used to working on the left side, so that was annoying.
  • Add/Split in 3D Coat is a GOD SEND. Seriously, it can be pretty frustrating to do this stuff, even more so when the tools don't work. 3D coat sped up the process greatly, but not without it's own set of nuances.
  • Not sure how this bake will turn out (more on that later), but if it does I need to find more of a consistent balance.
So, a good deal was gleamed from this, but making a second model in less than a month is going to be stressful. Tentative deadline for finishing srs Haruka is the 15th or 16th. Tomorrow I should have this stuff baked and if everything goes well (haha... unlikely) I can be texturing by the weekend, hopefully finishing by Monday. Tuesday the latest. That gives me around 6 days to make Haruka's backpack. Rigging isn't a huge issue, though I would love to throw in another face rig. But we'll see how December looks for time. It takes about a day or 2 to make a good rig, so 5-6 days to rig both characters... not sure what I'm going to do about posing the backpacks, maybe separate flies and/or transpose in Zbrush? Who the hell knows. I realize at this moment I might be making 4 models this term instead of 2. THAT'S NOT COOL AT ALL. I kind of screwed myself there. But enough whining... actually I got more left in me. What the hell am I doing? Do I pose the backpacks and rig them separately? Should I just throw in a simple rig for posing or create a rig for animation? Thinking about it makes my head hurt... I might skip out of class early tomorrow just because I'm worrying about it. 3D stuff + deadline = SWINE FLU. Yes, I'm blaming Jim for this. And God. Mostly God.)

Oink oink, oink oink, oink oink.