Saturday, December 22, 2012

Block out has begun

I've started on my blockout of the environment, and I immediately noticed that this would be a quite difficult project simply because the concept only has the silhouette and well developed color, but leaves the fine detail to the imagination. This, however, makes me very excited because its just enough to keep me on the right track, while also leaving me to my imagination. 

I decided the best place to start was in the foreground with the mysterious and seemingly useless traffic light. Considering the area is somewhat overgrown and serves more as a walking area, I decided to further incorporate the whole sky-train idea into this piece. I decided that the only way a sky train would be practical would be if it remained in the air on a set path rather than flying around wherever it pleases. In order to get up to the sky-train you'd be required to take this elevator up to a walkway and board the train from there. 

The style of the elevator is mostly inspired by Chinese maintenance elevators. I incorporated a grid onto the sides with square holes and an aesthetic, yet functional design.  

Instead of having a door that lifts up though, I decided to make something more pedestrian friendly and have just a lift hatch. The ceiling piece at the very top is from the rest of the scene where you see those scattered all about the scene. With this as a part of the elevator, I figure it would serve as a marking for a walkway area with stops intermittently about the city. 

This is pretty much all I've worked on, but I have been planning how I want to make this and I want to try and make the whole thing procedural, using only normal maps and specular maps. I think it may just work, and I'm excited to begin that process. However, until then, I'll have to finish the block out with the exception of the actual train, which I will have to spend a lot of time trying to flesh out. 

Hope you enjoy and keep a look out for more progress. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Finals, and now another new project?

Well, Finals are here and I've updated my blog almost none. If you want to see what I've worked on then check out my website. I've also become somewhat proficient at rigging and marginally decent at animating. I think, however, it's safe to say I want to do Environment Art. For the longest time I flipped back and forth between what I want to do, whether it be environment art or character art but now that I've decided, I think it's time for me to heavily focus on my skills. My work is always rushed to some extent and as a student I feel like that is good, but only for a bit. I shouldn't be lazy about my work, but I shouldn't go full force on working on projects either. I think what I'll do, after finals of course, it start on one large personal project to work on amid my school work. It'll be my go to peaceful time away from the hectic schoolwork. The concept I'll be working from is this:

This is "Sky Train" by Kinman Chan.If you want to see more of his work, here it is. I can't wait to start on this piece, and if I've learned anything from my previous project, its that block outs and time management is key. 

I'll try and keep you updated!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fooling around, now time for work!

So I bought a Nexus 7 tablet recently and have been really enjoying it. It is a gaming tablet so its been giving me some ideas on games I can make using powerful engines such as Unreal. Games like Dark Meadow give me a strong understanding of just how games like that work, but then again, how they don't. I feel like the tablet isn't really meant for hardcore gamers or even casual gamers. Simple games are more for on the go and are equally as addicting as any hardcore game. I'm thinking platformers are perfect. Besides, there's nothing wrong with them, just overdone and rushed. Quality games require love and care and I see that when playing games like Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland. So anyways, school is still around and I am working, but not so much on my level as I should be. Trust me, however, because I will post more images soon once I get my flow map working. Until then, I'll be playing n my tablet (which is where I'm posting from by the way).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back in the saddle?

Whoah, school started and life started to catch up. Unfortunately, I've put the Bionicle project on the back burner for now. Reason being was the lack of the ability to animate/rig properly. Considering that I'm taking both of those classes now, the project will resume eventually assuming I don't find an internship.

On another! I'm currently enrolled in a Level Design course and am enjoying it thoroughly  I've been working on a level for my Game IP "Smile's World" and have quite a few pictures to update with. However, instead of taking space here, I'll link you to the Polycount WIP page.

On top of that, I also will be entering the DOTA2 contest on Polycount with school work on top of that. Oh boy, how exciting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lots of work done!

So over the past few days I've focused mainly on getting Po-Koro finished as far as animations go. The village seems very alive now and full of antics (Like one of the Matoran trying to catch a goat and falling on his face.) There isn't a lot of unnecessary action though because I don't want to detract attention from the main cast of characters. I'll probably post a video later of what I have so far, but for right now I'm building lighting and need to do some texture work on the characters since Pohatu is the only polished and good looking character. Everyone else has a diffuse and barely a specular slapped on. The masks are also lacking, but I think that only Hafu, Hewkii, and Onewa need really detailed masks considering everyone else is just background.

Now that I finished Po-Koro, people and environment, I decided to start (and finish) the final character for the video, and the most important as well: Tahnok. Right now he has a pretty basic diffuse on him, but I'll be working on textures tomorrow all day (sounds like a blast). However, the modeling went by very quickly and I think that since I'm in the groove of things, modeling is the least of my worries. Getting these key animations done though is a different story. I'll need to put more time into them considering I'm not a skilled animator by a long shot.

I'm tired now and need to get some rest before starting the exciting process of refining those texture maps (and there's a million of them.) By God knows when tomorrow, I'll post tons of pictures of each character with the finished textures and maybe some videos of how the town is looking. Thursday I'll be spending the day with my friend and talking with him about getting some music for this video, although most of that hangs on when I'm finished. Either way, it'll be a nice little break. The summer is quickly fading away and my time to finish this is getting crunched down to nothing. Yikes. Hopefully I can get it done and can be ready for the next part of my project during the school year. What, you thought I'd just make all of these Bionicles for no reason or just for a two minute video? Please...I have a lot planned for these models. A lot planned indeed...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Po-Koro finally done! Now onto animations

That's right, I finally finished Po-Koro and have moved onto the tedious task of animating the city. I'm not doing the main animations yet due to the fact I still haven't finished the masks or even Tahnok! However, I've done the animations for the Maha and some for the Matoran (though the list is quite long).

I intend to have the Matoran interact with one another in various ways, so that will take some work, but I have a few basics done like idle, waving, and head turning. If these don't look quite right, it doesn't really matter since these are mainly backdrop characters and not essential to the overall video. I have to say though, Po-Koro is much more exciting to look at with actual movement in it now rather than a dead city.

Take a look at what I've got so far!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Slow going

I know I haven't posted in a few days, I'm just working on various props and things. I started a thread on Polycount to get some critique on the project, and so far with little success. Hopefully I can get the ball rolling a bit faster and finish those props. Shouldn't take too long and I just finished the crates, wagon, Maha and am working on the sand piles. Woohoo. I'll be gone for a while, but when I post again, it'll be the first pass of the completed Po-Koro and I'll have started on the animations. I'm excited, and I can't wait.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Po-Koro nearing completion

I've been working pretty hard on Po-Koro and I've just about got everything the scene needs in place. I've been getting lazy on some of the assets and I realize that it actually shows when the smallest thing looks lazily done, so I'm going to spend quite some time on the remaining assets which include: crates, wagons, natural sand piles, sand bags, and some black rocks which are located amongst the red and white ones. Pohatu and Hafu are launched using some black rocks that are on scene and there are a few within the Koro that I might as well add in.

The more I think about it, the more I want to do the entire "Bohrok Invasion" series...but I haven't even started the animating of the characters yet, so I'm unsure if I'll even be able to start any new ones by the end of the summer. If anything, my goal is to 100% finish "Bohrok Invasion" 1 and 2 by the time school starts back. This will, of course, go into my portfolio and ready me for my new classes: Rigging, Level Design, and 3D Animation.

I think I'll save the Tahnok for very last because of several reasons:

1. I already can populate the town with Matoran
2. I have Onewa finished and rigged, I just need to texture him.
3. Pohatu is already done
4. The Tahnok are barely animated and require less of my time than the others like Hewkii and Hafu who have the most animation to be done.

I've already begun devising a plan to sort out the animations of the characters. I think I'll start with the base animations such as walking, running, idle etc. Even though this isn't a video game, the town needs to look busy and panicked and if I have Matoran bounding around, it will work. I wont have to animate each one because they all run off of the same rig! I won't worry about setting up an AnimTree because the characters are going to be animated via Matinee and not through AI or anything.

I will then choose Matoran to animate with specific props. For example, I will animate Hafu using the chisel to knock down the statues and Hewkii with his disk.

The final sequences will be when people are talking with each other or interacting with each other. Since I have never done something like this, I think it will be particularly difficult. I will have to add several skeletons into the scene, animate them individually interacting, then export each one, labeling it as who is doing what. I will obviously divide main characters up into their own animset, but nameless Matoran will have to go into a generic Matoran animset. considering there's going to be at least six nameless Matoran, and I might even add in Ahkmou, it will be somewhat difficult differentiating between the animations. That's when I'll break out the ole' pen and paper. Booyah.

Anyways, my lighting render finished in UDK so I took a few images for you and I'm off to bed (don't mind the purple and white assets, they are placeholders and are untextured).

If you notice anything, let me know!

Staircase to watch tower

Front Gate from the inside sealed up

Koli field! Not really in the video but I always liked Koli and wanted to add this in.

Po-Koro East Side

Front entrance with improved shadows and better vertex painting

Light Stone! This will only be a quick shot in the final cut, but its an environmental thing.

West side of Po-Koro with Onewa's hut closest to the gate.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Nobody told me about Light Mapping. Nobody. Thank you TLR and Intro to Game Design. All I had to do was hit ONE BUTTON to make a level look good. Again, thanks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

That's a lot of rocks

So I've been working on the outside of Po-Koro a lot because I needed a break from the meticulousness of the actual models. I don't have a lot to say about what I've got now. It's pretty cut and dry, with assets laid out and the environment still a little weak. I'll put down the finishing large chunks (Po-Koro huts, boxes, watch tower, etc.) and go back to modeling. I finished rigging the Matoran and all I have left is to texture them. I think after Onewa I'll start working on the Tahnok before making a whole lot more masks. However, I have the main ones I need to the important characters, so the masks are on the bottom tier of importance (underneath tiny tiny rocks and sand piles). Anyways, enjoy the pictures; I worked hard.
Exterior Gate

Gate and Pohatu comparison

The front of Po-Koro

In the tunnel on the way into the village

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen!

So, what have I done the past two days? Good question: this. 

You can ask my poor neglected girlfriend how dedicated to this project I am as she sits and watches me stare like a zombie at the screen trying to figure out UDK (suppresses rage).

No, I don't hate UDK, but it's been almost a year and a half since I used UDK to the extent that I'm using it now and by God I forgot how much you had to know for this program. Mostly the shaders have been giving me a fit. For this project, I wasn't satisfied with slapping on a spec, diffuse and normal on OH NO. I had to go above and beyond to texture it like nobody's business, but, it is satisfactory. Now onto explaining what I actually did.

In the screenshot above, you can't actually see what I spent most of my time on because I was framing the shot with the two flames, which is actually the least appealing angle. However, I haven't even begun constructing the mountains and so this is basically all I have done. I did however nearly master the art of vertex blend shaders thanks to over a billion tutorials. I saw a TUTORIAL on making varying footprints in sand. However, the tutorial didn't cover actual vertex blending, which I scoured the internet for and never found a truly definitive tutorial. But after hours of labor, I came up with this:

This mess of cables is actually a relatively simple shader, but I simply don't have it in me to tweak it further until a later time. However, the result was great and I don't regret the long hours put into now such a seemingly easy task.

This is all one plane which has one texture on it. However, this was not done in the diffuse and is actually made of two diffuse maps and five normal maps. The sand is a simple base color with a noise filter in Photoshop. All you have to do is place the footprints as a normal map and voila, you have fake (and not texured) footprints. The actual making of the textures took about five minutes. It's very simple and was actually pretty fun making all of the different types of footprints. 

**Those rocks in the top right hand corner are placeholders and came with UDK. That's why they don't match anything

After getting the shader up and running, placing those individual textures was all a matter of painting the vertex colors. It took a little tweaking, but I finally got it done. 

Also, in the very top picture, those little orange things are just a particle effect I made which swoosh around the scene to replicate, well, burning stuff I guess. 

So yeah, aside from COMPLETELY FINISHING POHATU (yay), I've moved on to UDK just to change the scenery from Maya a little bit. I plan to take a break from everything for a day and I think I will continue on to finishing the models I already created (Hafu, Hewkii, Onewa, and the Maha). 

Thank you all for reading and if anyone wants a tutorial on the vertex shaders, let me know. I can't promise anything amazing, but its a start. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rigging MANIA

So after several (thousand) problems with Pohatu's rig, I decided to no longer just wing it and actually do some research on Pohatu. Come to find out, Youtube is filled with very informative tutorials on rigging! After two days of research and hours of trial and error, I finally got a functional rig for Pohatu.
I had done a test animation and fixed some more problems, but decided to take a break from the Bionicle project and revert to an old project that was my final for both Digital Sculpting and Texturing. I fully rigged him with controllers and semi-proper weighting and decided to do a quick and dirty walk animation. After about two hours, this is what I came up with:

It isn't without problems, but I am happy that I'm getting somewhere and that animation/rigging isn't as daunting as I had originally thought. Not saying I want to do rigging all of my life, but it is somewhat necessary for both this project and future projects if I ever decide to pose my character.

I made a goal list for this weekend saying things I need to do by Monday at midnight so that I can keep on track and not get too side-tracked.

1. Finish the high resolution model for Pohatu (this includes scratches and minute details)
2. Texture Pohatu
3. Fix the rig for the legs (There's a problem with the IK handles that cause the legs to do some funny business.
4. Research on importing bind pose and separate animations into UDK in the FBX format. This shouldn't take too long considering the documentation on UDK is phenomenal and has helped me several times, like with using sockets and how to create them. *

*I am using sockets to attach different masks to different characters. This way I only need 1 normal map and 1 specular map for each mask. The colors can be applied in UDK and by using sockets, the masks can attach to any model I so desire. The only problem is that there's an issue where the socket spawns well above the head even when the bone is in the mouth. I'll figure that out in my research.

I wont be posting until Monday when I have Pohatu completely finished. I'm sure you've seen enough IP to understand whats going on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pohatu Posing

Ok, I swear Onewa comes soon, but I wanted to make a post about my progress and how I plan to/already have rigged the models.

It's very simple because the pieces don't have to have weights painted. In fact, the only Bionicle with flexible parts is the matoran (like Hafu) which I'll do a smooth bind with the arms.

Instead of binding the skin on Pohatu, I parented each part to the corresponding bone which allows me to move the bone without any problems in the animation. Technically the skin isn't bound, but I can still use IK handles and FK for animation. When making Pohatu, I simply rotated each part individually considering that none of his parts have joints, etc. However, when it comes to actually animating him, I'll put bones in his knees to have added articulation.

I tried to pose Pohatu similarly to the cartoon version, but found some things didn't match up perfectly. This is probably because of the inaccuracy of the drawing and the artists' liberties (considering Pohatu is also missing the four pegs in the side of his legs). Either way, I was pleased with the result of the pose.

 I added a detail map of brushed metal from Google to see how it would turn out and was incredibly satisfied with the outcome. I'm not used to using detail maps, mainly because my final product will be in UDK and thus, the detail will be incorporated into the diffuse as well as a normal map.

Now, there is just one thing missing from Pohatu, and that is the hole for his mouth which I am well aware that I did not include. In fact, when I do the sculpt, I will add it in and bake it into the normal maps. After Onewa, I may take a break from modeling new pieces and texture Hewkii, make a skeleton for the Matoran, and begin the sculpting for the normal maps on the current models. The Maha was for fun, but if I feel like it, I may texture him too. After all, he is a part of the town environment.

Because of how Pohatu is progressing, I am newly inspired for this project and am no longer reaching the end of my rope (doing those pieces individually was tiring). Making the masks and parts for Tahnok will be fun and I am very excited for it. Also, I recently have looked into an article for using gradient maps for UDK instead of diffuse. I am intrigued with this and am considering using that for the Po-Wahi and Po-Koro.

For the gradient maps article/post, check here:

I've noticed that I'm actually getting a lot of readers every time I post a blog and I wanted to thank everyone for the support.

Monday, June 18, 2012

TGIM...finally got some work done

So after a very restful weekend, I woke up and immediately started finishing up those few pieces left in the library. At first I thought I had finished quickly, but noticed that two particular pieces had Ngons *gasp!* So I had to take care of that before continuing.

Pohatu's UV map
I then proceeded to put Pohatu together and was pleased to find that everything worked out and successfully mapped him and put down a base texture, similar to what I did with Hafu. So far I'm really liking how these are coming out, even if the maps are incredibly busy, I can at least know around where everything is since they're grouped by piece. After the optimization of the library, Pohatu has been reduced from 17,000 to 14,140 polys. For a major part in the piece, I am very satisfied with how he came out.

Onewa will have to wait until Wednesday because tomorrow will be a rather busy day for me. Until then, I've rendered a few pictures of Pohatu with his base texture.

Pohatu Turnaround

After I get all of the actual figures completed in the project, I'll be putting the entire model into Zbrush, adding small blemishes and extra details so that they aren't so bland, and making much more refined maps (especially the specular). This project is rapidly progressing and I hope it continues that way. I'm expecting that Onewa will take only 2 days and Tahnok will take around 3-4 depending on how hard I work on this. Each mask takes roughly around 4 hours or so and I have 6 more to make.  

However, this project isn't only about the models. That is actually the least ambitious part about the project. What's going to boil down to be the hardest and most time consuming is making Po-Wahi/Po-Koro. I've been playing through MNOLG to get some inspiration and idea of how I want to portray the landscape. In the game, you are very limited to what you can see when in reality, Po-Wahi is quite large. In the episodes with the Toa Nuva, Po-Wahi was actually a vast desert. The entire area won't be explorable, but I need to portray the vastness of it as well as keep the important landmarks well defined, like the Quarry and the gates of Po-Koro. But, I'll get to that later. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Not so busy day

Today was a bit of a restful day for me. I worked on only 3 of the pieces and decided that I needed a break since I've been going full force on these models. However, I looked at my website for the first time in a while and realized that the last time I updated it, I've completed 3 projects since then! All of which look better than what I already had. I filtered through and deleted some of the useless or unimpressive stuff and will work on some better renders tonight of Megajaw, Thu'ul Gatet, and after asking if it's alright, my character for the Indie developers I'm working with.

I'll start working Monday on the new Bionicle parts, but I am bound and determined to finish those existing parts this weekend and getting a basic textured Pohatu model. I'm still very inspired for the project though, just a little burned out on tweaking small cylinders and UV mapping insignificant pieces. I'll definitely make a conscious effort to keep that in mind whenever I continue. Until then, look at this beautiful screenshot from the video.

UV Mapping: Ugh!

So after saving all of my already made parts into a library, I opened each one and started the long and laborious process of resizing, fixing face normals, lowering polycount, and eventually *shudders* UV mapping.

In all seriousness, UV Mapping isn't all that bad, but its never my favorite thing to do, especially intricate hard surface models. I went through seven of sixteen already made pieces and fixed them. Getting late in the night, I decided to throw together a little test map comp in Marmoset to see how I did. I was pleased to see that everything turned out perfectly and whenever all of the models are made, I'll be set to sculpt small details and bake AO and Normal maps without need to backtrack and fix things. Right now, Hafu looks a bit plain, but I'm hoping that as time goes on his look will improve with pose, higher detail than "basic toy" and better color. I literally painted blobs of color selected from video screenshots to put on his base.

I also played around with an incredibly basic emissive map for his eyes, and I think it turned out nicely.

Overall I'm happy with the project's progress and hope to making some more efficient progress once the library is put into place and kept up with. Hafu is only 6208 tris which makes me pretty happy with the level of detail he's at. Sure, it could be lower, but he was around 8000 earlier and so I think that's quite an improvement.

My main goal for tomorrow (or today, rather) is to finish those parts and continue with actually making newer models instead of texturing Pohatu, of which I'm very tempted to do. I think Onewa will be my next target considering he has very few new parts and it will be a good excuse to make that hammer which can be recycled mostly into Hafu's chisel/pickaxe. This is all assuming I make progress on my library.

Well, I'm off for tonight and I'll have a good night's rest before starting back with the same thing tomorrow.

Edit: If you're curious, here's his texture map that I have each part divided up into individual sections. Worked out pretty well for putting him together.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pohatu Model Finished

Alright, so I finished the Pohatu model today and was pleased that his mask (Kakama) didn't take as long as the other one (Pakari). I think it was because of the lack of organic curves and not as much detail into slats, etc. I still haven't gone back and worked on any of the faceting or poly problems, so that will be my project for the rest of tonight/tomorrow.

I decided that a physical part library is a perfect idea and so before I continue working on any more models, I'll set up my library on my hard drive and save each individual piece as an obj. That way I don't have to do smoothing groups to the same piece a million times and more importantly, the UV mapping wont be a HUGE pain in my ass. This means, however, that all of my models will have to come apart, but putting them together is the easy part, especially since I did it as a kid.

I'll be working on those parts now and tomorrow, so I may do just a text update or maybe a wireframe comparison in the meantime. Until then, enjoy my super duper render in Marmoset.

Pohatu progress

Alright it's too late to keep working. Here's what I have so far on Pohatu.

Remaining items to complete are the mask, the hands, and a few details on the chest. He's already up to 15000 tris. I'm going to have to do some tweaking. I think I'll reduce my 16 sided cylinders to 12.

I'm going to bed. I'll post at the end of the day tomorrow.  Night!

Summer Time Projects

Ok well I figured I'd go ahead and start on a WIP blog instead of ruining my friends' Newsfeed on Facebook. Here I'll post what I'm working on and the progress I've made during the day (ambitious daily blog type of deal).

Being home, I rummaged through my old Bionicle collection and reminisced about those old flash cartoons I used to watch with the Bionicles. Upon looking them up on Youtube, I discovered that yes, they are still as awesome as they ever were. This gave me an idea since I had nothing else to do besides look for a real job and play League of Legends.

I picked a video and decided that I would recreate it frame for frame, with a few exceptions, in a game engine (Video above). After watching it for some time, I began the modeling process, starting with one of the smaller Bionicles and working my way up to the somewhat larger ones.

I found this to be difficult because my love of Zbrush stood in the way of this demanding hard-surfacing. Not wanting to make more work for myself, I moved the process to Maya and will later add small scratches in Zbrush whenever I start the normal mapping.

Right now I have finished the small Matoran, named Hafu, and basically the body for the rest of the Matoran. Having made that, I moved onto something a little less important to see if it would hold my interest and use pieces to be recycled for the immediate next model.

The model I made next wasn't in the Part II of the video, but was in the first part, which I later decided to include, considering it wasn't full of action but set up for the plot of the skit. The Maha (left) was easy, except for the head which took me nearly 3 hours because I couldn't decide how I wanted it built. The arm was recycled from the Matoran and I knew that those legs and the head would be used for the next character which is Pohatu.

I am currently working on Pohatu, but with him I am most excited because his base is the basis for most other 2001-2002 Bionicles which I will probably make, now that I'm building a library of parts.

So far the masks seem to be the most difficult to make, considering Hafu's mask took me the better part of the day (after scrapping the Zbrush sculpt because it was too blobby). If you'll notice, some parts are missing several details because of polycount restraints and also trying to stick with the Flash-video style. In the Flash-video those characters had several details missing which I liked, because if I wanted realism, I would've stuck with playing with the sets, despite the fact that I'm 20 years old.

I'll be posting more tomorrow, but until then, I'll be working.