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.

The Sword

The sword was possibly my favourite part of the modelling and sculpting. I based it of a concept for a sword in world of warcraft. Initially it was modelled in maya and then sculpted in zbrush to be baked down. I had to split it down into separate parts so each of them could be baked down one at a time.

Here is a few renders of the sword in each of its stages with the original concept.

I have also uploaded the sword and the stone model to sketchfab so you can look at the model closer. Enjoy!

Marmoset – rendering the assets

So i wanted to have a go at using a PBR rendering software to see how the normal maps would look in real time. I also found that marmoset has a plugin that unreal engine and has the ability to export it as a unity package which is perfect for me since i want to turn this into a game environment. I used a free trial of marmoset but ended up buying it because it was so fun to use, the shaders and lighting provided with the software is fantastic and easy to use. The viewport as well is easily manipulated and has excellent quality. Altogether it is an excellent software and very fun to use.

Below are some renders to show how the normals look on the models.

UV mapping the assets

This was a huge problem for me in this project, i worked on the uv maps for the assets for ages trying to perfect the seams getting them all sewn together neatly so they would look very clean but every time i tried to bake the models details the models always came out with the hard edges looking weirdly shaded and the model coming out with various shading errors.

I had been stuck on this error up until 2 days before hand in but it turns out my issue was extremely simple and that just made it even more frustrating when i figured it out.

My set up for baking was to soften the edges of the model in maya then harden the uv edges, after that i would export the lp mesh and its cage. Then i would export the hp mesh from zbrush and bring it into xnormal for baking.

The majority of these came out clean but i did run into an issue where there would be small black triangles on the models. However these were easily corrected by bringing the normals into photoshop and paint over them. This happened on my sword here is how it looks before and after, you can see the small triangles on the handguard of the sword.

Here are a few of the normal maps and the models with them.

Sculpting in Zbrush

Zbrush was always a program that i wanted to get into, i’m glad i had the opportunity to use it this year, this project gave me a good opportunity to begin to learn the basic and get a good workflow going for making game assets.

The program itself seems to have a high learning curve but over the space of the project i managed to get the hang of it. It took a while to get the workflow right  for sculpting but now i have a good routine.

I will bring the model in combined if its a complex part, split it in the subtool menu, dynamesh each part with a high enough resolution to get a good amount of detail, then merge them again, autogroup them so i can work on them individually while seeing them all combined, then set a morph target and continue to set new morph targets and i get further through the model. This worked well throughout the project and the models turned out very clean but very high poly. I then messed around with decimated the mesh, it lowers the poly count a lot but it leaves the topology very messy.

For sculpting i had a set routine with what brushes i would use to achieve the hard edged blizzard look that i was aiming for. To get this look I used the trim dynamic brush, it gives a nice sharp rock like surface to the mesh. I also downloaded the orb cracked brush set for zbrush, this allows for some really nice clean sharp cracks in the object that look natural or like sword strikes.

After sculpting everything high poly and being happy with the result this is when i would start baking them down into normal maps.

Building in Maya

So the first step was to block out a scene in maya, this was easy enough to do using cubes and making basic shapes. The scene isnt too heavy content wise so it wasn’t that hard to block it out, this didnt take too long it was mainly to get something to work from for scale.

After this i began to build other models, the models weren’t too hard to build as the detail would be added in later with the normal map. I tried to keep the poly count to a minimum and only add in extra faces if it was vital. I had a list of models i had to do and a few extra ones that would be available for sculpting if  i had time. Initially i had built a creature called a mimic in maya, its based on a dungeons and dragons monster. Essentially its a chest that comes to life if you try to open it. I also had some barrels in the corner but i decided to take them out as they weren’t adding anything to the feel of the room being a Dungeon.

I also wanted the room to have some sort of centre piece so I played around with a few different ideas like a coffin/sarcophagus or a podium like the sword in the stone being in the centre. In the end I found that the sword in the stone idea worked well since it was meant to be a dungeon in a fantasy game.

Once it was all built in maya and i had decided on the placements it was rime to bring it into zbrush to begin sculpting details.

Here are a few renders of the Dungeon and how its developed.