Studio Work – Billy Goat

For our studio project I was given the chance to work with Billy Goat Entertainment. A Northern Irish Games Company who worked on Her Majesty’s Spiffing. It was a great opportunity working alongside William Barr and his game Supermarket Shriek. Our task was to create interesting characters for the game as well as come up with a level for the game.

Initially we started off with just character design, we were told to focus on creating characters that would fit into the supermarket setting, after that we would be able to have a more free roam. So when creating the characters we would try and cover as many variations as possible ranging from normal everyday characters, to more colourful characters like knights and pirates.

Initially I worked on the environment rather than the character, I built a pretty rough outline of a possible level heavily based of off the original level Billy Goat had already done, however the level was designed so it was split up into 3 parts of a grocery store. The butchers (the obstacle being the large knives), another being the fresh foods, possible exploding fruit or something? (I didn’t think that one through) and the other being the freezer area,  the obstacle would be a slippery floor. Here is the concept for the level:

There were issues with this like the ramp, it would be too steep for the cart in game. and that the slippery ice might be a problem with the game engine. After this we were told to develop some characters for the game. We were told to keep the characters modular, by this they meant create a base design for the character that has no gender and is just a blank slate, then add modular items of clothing to it. We each decided to have a go at creating some (roughly 3 each) here are a couple of renders of our characters :

The 3 characters I developed were a pirate, a knight and an army man. The outfits were modular so you could mix and match with the original base staying the same. I textured the pirate character and the ship in substance painter, we were told to only use diffuse/ albedo maps so the renders you see above are just albedo/colour maps. The renders are done in marmoset, I render in marmoset as it allows for an easy transfer to unity or other physically based renderers. After a while developing characters we wanted to move the supermarket shriek into an interesting direction by adding an interesting new environment. We looked at the game overcooked as a reference pointed and noticed that the levels weren’t just a kitchen but brought in new interesting environments that influenced the gameplay. We opted to go with the pirate environment as well as the pirate character. For the pirate environment I looked at pirates of the Caribbean for inspiration, specifically the Disneyland ride and the Tortuga environment from the movies.

I stole some different ideas from each like the style of the buildings from Tortuga, the tower from the ride and the mast from the ride as a way to make the scene more interesting. I also thought about ways that gameplay could come into it, so I added an archway that the character could enter through, a long set of stairs that barrels could be pushed down to be obstacles, a barrel leaking rum to make that area slippery,  a cannon on top of the tower and I thought that off screen that ships could shoot at you. I also placed a well in the middle to split up the track into a simple circle. The actual goal could be to collect rum bottles or pirate treasure around the map. I also tried to keep the map modular so you can pick up and move the models around to create a track, for example the rails around the border are all modular, there are 4 or 5 types but you can just click and drag them around. as our the houses which are just 1 2k texture map. I also wanted to add in some coconut trees but I wasn’t sure how to capture the style correctly with the leaves. Here are some renders of the map going through development.

A few things to note, the environment is rendered in marmoset, so it is easy to move to unity, it is textured in substance painter and the pieces are all modular. The sea is reused from another scene that I have been working on (the kraken scene), it was created in Cinema4D but would be replaced by the game engines water.


Discipline of Choice

So for my discipline of choice I wanted to try something new with the environments I create, usually I stick to hard surface modelling creating interior environments and stone structures. This time however I wanted to create something with fluid in it as well an organic creature. Recently the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean came out and it got me thinking about 2nd movie with the Kraken attack. This lead me to planning a dynamic kraken scene based on Dead Man’s Chest.

My main concern was the water, at first I thought of creating the water in maya using bifrost but I found that that lead to complications with importing it to marmoset which is the program I use for rendering my models. So I ruled that out, instead my cousin Michael told me about a program called Cinema4D. I used a plugin called Hot4D for Cinema4D that allows you to create realistic water and texture it. It wasn’t a difficult process as there are tonnes of online tutorials for it. The hard part was bringing it into marmoset and getting a luminance shader for marmoset. It was a challenge getting it to work but it worked really well. It was a little trouble finding the balance between blue and the green hue that the sea emits.

For the tentacles of the Kraken I originally used some curve tools in maya and then extruded a cylinder along the curve. After that I exported them in zbrush, after sculpting the suckers and such in zbrush I then zremeshed it so it was a low poly mesh and baked it. After that I brought it into substance painter and exported it into marmoset.

Here you can see some renders of the final product as well as some earlier versions. I will also include a link to my artstation so you can see the marmoset viewer. It is lower quality since I don’t have a pro subscription but it still shows it off quite well.

This project was a challenge, it brought me out of my comfort zone in terms of creating an interesting scene but it’s nice to do something different. Up until now I have been creating environments and assets with not real story to them, they are just environments. However with this piece of work there is so much going on and I think I did well achieving a dynamic scene which is what I was aiming for. I wanted to make it seem like the scene was in motion.

I can still however pick flaws with, the most notably being the water and the lack of foam. With the water breaking on the ship and the tentacles there should be water lapping up against them rather than the objects just sitting in the middle of the water. Sadly I haven’t figured out how to do this in Hot4D, I know you use a vertex map to create the foam but I haven’t learned how to put it into practice but I will eventually. However I have been working on this for a month on and off and there comes a point where you have to say it’s done.

BBC Models

This post is solely for the models in the scene. Here are some renders of the models, lighting and characters and virus.

BBC references

For the scene we had to get the look right, our environment is heavily based off of 60s sci fi and classic sci fi movies like alien, blade runner, star trek and star wars. We also took inspiration from game environments like dead space, alien isolation and portal.

We wanted to have a classic sci fi corridor, with with the classic beam lights on the ceiling, some floor lights for atmosphere and the clean hard edged surface that is so commonly featured in sci fi media. Here are some images to more clearly show what we wanted to achieve.

One thing that was very important for our environment and story telling was the lighting. We wanted to have the lighting reflect the mood of the environment. We chose to go with a few main colours that are heavily associated with science fiction, danger and sickness. Green for sickness, red for danger and blue and orange (seen heavily in the above references).

We decided to make this project a homage to science fiction due to the fact that during the time of the radio broadcast that we are creating visuals for the whole idea of secret agencies and testing facilities were controversial and heavily associated with strange activity. It is a goldmine for the science fiction and since our segment is about a testing facility, looking for volunteers to help cure the common cold we thought we would turn it into a play on a contagion. Since it is about vitamin C having no effect on the common cold we wanted to show this through the common colds virus growing in size and becoming more volatile (seen in the animation by it growing larger and changing).

For the characters in the animation we wanted to pay homage to robots seen in science fiction movies and tv shows of that era like Doctor who or star wars. Since this whole project is about bringing new to the old by adding new visuals to an older radio broadcast we also wanted to push that feeling of space age technology that was beginning to evolve at the time of this broadcast. In the animation the volunteers have a more robotic anatomy. For the volunteers we took a lot of inspiration from I robot and crash test dummies (if you want to read into you could say that the volunteers are crash test dummies for the supposed cures).

Here are a few references for the robots.


The Cold – Graphics

Our group wants to go down a graphics route for our BBC project. One recurring cut scene that I love are the opening cut scenes to virus/zombie movies where it has a back track of music and a narrator speaking and it cuts between a virus affecting the cells of a body and real life footage of what the reaction is to the virus eg. death, destruction, medical imagery and stuff like that. So i’m looking into some of these opening sequences for references to bring to the table.

A moving opening title sequence for a zombie virus.

World War Z Opening Credits. These credits don’t actually show a virus spreading but more the effects of it. The virus in the movie affects the behaviour of the humans making them angry and bloodthirsty almost primal. So through the opening credits it goes from normal human life showing tranquillity and a normal day with the background narration eluding to this, with the music being slow and as it builds to the climax the music becomes faster like a chase sequence showing animals hunting each other. The narration in the background talks about environmental changes as well as showing human natures ignorance to viruses and the world around us. It seems to say that we think we are safe and secure,  almost saying that we believe we are invincible and the idea of global warming and that a killer virus could wipe us out is unbelievable.

An opening sequence for a virus movie

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – This is a really awesome opening sequence, it shows the fast paced spread of the virus in the movie as well as having a great graphic overlay showing the spread across the world and showing live footage as it spreads as well as having narration about the virus and its origin.

Resident Evil – This one is a bit cheesy but it still has a clear cut message with the combined use of visuals and narration to show what happened with the virus.

Walk Cycle

So my final attempt at the walk cycle went well. I posed the figure and key framed and used a stepped tangent to create that blocked out animation first beginning with the legs. After that I started filling the in-betweens and working on the arms moving with the legs gradually ending up with creating secondary actions with the heads and hands creating a fairly fluid walk cycle. Here is the walk cycle before being polished.

One issue that I noticed I was having as I increased the amount of the frames and used the cycle infinity to create a long walk cycle was that the walk began to deteriorate the longer it went on as the first and last frame were in different poses. After some good criticism from my team, Phoebe and Alec I found some issue that had went unnoticed. One the feet don’t move in front of each other which is vary subtle but very important. Another was the head which looked like he was sad or depressed. The arms  also don’t go back the same distance and I found the chest/back and hips could move more. I went  back and made some changes and here is my final walk cycle.

Looking at it there are still some issues like it could definitely be made to be smoother and I feel the head bobs in an unnatural way but I’m happy with this final walk cycle overall.

Axe Pull

The final body mechanic that I did was the Axe Pull. I thought it would be interesting to have a character interact with the environment, rather than just having a movement aspect to the animation. This also allowed me to play about with FK and IK controls with the model. It was easier to control the model from the wrist and moving the whole arm than moving the arm in separate pieces as the model relies on the hands interactions with the axe. So If I lock the hands in place then I could just move the rest of the model around the hands almost like a pivot. The first stage of animation was to block out the scene in a stepped tangent.


Unfortunately at the end the playblack glitched a little bit but it just shows him falling on the ground. This happened in both playbacks but you will be able to see it in the final animation.

After the block out of the animation I had to start building in-betweens in the animation to make it more fluid and natural. Luckily the base poses were pretty solid so there wasn’t much work to be done apart from fixing a few rogue poses where arms were bent out of shape.



There are still issues with the animation but I think it is a solid final animation. If I go back to this I will work on the fall. I feel there could be more anticipation from the fall perhaps the character reaching out for the axe mid fall. Also I feel it is missing a bit of weight when he hits the floor. But overall I am happy with this body mechanic.