You are here

Weeks have gone by without word from our adventurers...

merricksdad's picture

Finally got my new mouse. Ran out of money again, but still kicking. Also had a week of presentation construction and dispersion at work to take care of. Real life... haha

...

I've been working on more concept art, and creating one new placeable feature every day. I figure if I can continue working on this, even if I can't do it at work right now, I can complete something before my class load gets too heavy. But, I'm also thinking of turning the student lounge upstairs into my personal office and retreat. It hardly ever gets used anyway and has a nice table to work at, plenty of plugs, and a microwave.

One of the sub projects I've been working on is standardizing the look and feel of all placeables for the set. I was going to make them compatible in look and feel with vanilla sets, but I figure why bother. Just move forward. To tackle this, I've had to decide on contrast of textures, how to smooth (if I smooth) and how to make that smoothing look good from part to part.

Because I'm basically constructing this as the unity engine would, it may be best if I don't smooth a lot of stuff. The alternative is that I have a bunch of marshmallows side by side, and from object to object there is a definite fold mark. By leaving large sections unsmoothed, there are random fold marks all over, adding noise to the scene, but also making the scene look like a single organic thing.

In my Granitelands tileset, I never finished the transition areas from texture to texture, and I don't want this tileset to have that look to it. But I want to keep the organic noise. So, to pull this off, I'm taking some tips from other game designers and rounding certain parts, tucking others, and just doing my best to make it look real rather than cartoon. To do this, surprisingly enough, I have to trick the eye by making it look like a cartoon. Seems counterintutive, right? One of the ways of doing this is to reduce the contrast of textures, rather than add constrast as I had done before. Take the focus off the object, and place it on the scene as a whole. In fact, what I'm doing is intentionally clouding the vision. Whether or not I will need additional fog is yet to be seen *not a pun*.

When I first saw the pre-release content for Diablo 3, I was very unimpressed with the color schemes. But, after they darkened the area lighting, everything seemed as it should. By doing this, they don't even need to add bump maps, and the specific objects are really not for looking at as much as the whole scene together. Whoever those guys are that make the Blizzard content definitely took some psychology lessons with their art degrees. It's taken me years to figure out what and why they did what they did in that game.

But now, I think I'm there, and ready to accept that my high contrast, look-at-me look-at-me textures are NOT the way to go. Combined with a bump map, they'd be great in NWN2, but in NWN, even faking a bump map doesn't work that great, and so I should stop trying to do it.

This is where the idea of forcing higher poly came in. But then I went too far, by about 4-10x too far. So, now I'm studying low-poly tilesets and seeing where I can improve a few parts by adding a few poly, so that I don't have to hand-paint a thousand textures for individual regions of any given placeable.

Vanilla NWN made some use of billboarding and decals, and while transparency does slow the engine down a bit, a little more decal won't hurt. So I started working on a ray-tracing script that measures spots on the ceiling and walls and plasters them with decals which were originally rectangular. It's literally creating a wall projector to paint the wall. Using this technique, the entirety of a wall can be a single bland texture, and I can then make 100 decal types to liven the place up a bit.

Taking this approach has been a goal from the beginning after seeing what was done with my Granitelands tileset. I wanted to allow people to simply change the base textures and create an entirely different feel, pop in some other placeables, and take these 3x3 tilegroups to another world.

I'm sorry I don't have any new pictures to show at the moment, but I find that if I try to keep up on showing pictures, it takes away from the actual work, by creating this discussion about those pictures. I certainly invite that later, but for the moment, I may even switch to showing naked meshes. Everybody likes naked things! Until I get the textures just right, there isn't any sense in rewrapping stuff every week just so I can make a post about that week's texture changes, or to show you a new items that doesn't fit with the older pictures. But naked, everything fits together, and also gives you that concept art view of the room.

In a few days, Monday will be here again, and I'd like to show the first 100% finished scene, minus textures. Check for another entry Monday or Tuesday of next week. In the meantime, here's a list of what I built this week:

  • lowered overall ceiling height
  • broadened walls outward from walkpath
  • constructed placeables for drips to splash into (little volcano shapes)
  • resconstructed base textures for wall, floor, flowstone, and speleothems
  • reduced poly count on all existing meshes
  • put objects into groups of 200, 500, or 1000 poly meshes
  • scaled those objects so that they fit a scale category, making complexity coincide with size
  • re-cut some corners on optimized objects so that smoothing does not confuse concave and convex objects
  • using meshsmooth instead of smooth, so that objects can have a cut polygon feel before smoothing, rather than trying to smooth triangles (which makes objects look crystalline, yet dimpled)
  • divsersified rimstone dams
  • reshaped basic stalagmites and stalactites to be higher poly than previous releases, but still follow the same basic floor-hugging shape

Things I'm working on shortly:

  • importing those cute bats I had in the underdark stuff from a year ago
  • constructing object groups
  • constructing more complex large columns
  • making some cute little knobs, pools, and fried egg structures for the floor
  • more small debris variety
  • spider webs!!
  • alien environment plants and mushrooms (omg do I have a collection of concept art to work from!!)
  • getting light placement right

...

It was suggested that this set could use a more granite looking texture, and that maybe the underdark could be magical in origin. Let me just be clear that this is the first of three simlar sets. This is the Karst region above the real underdark. This is your entry point to the world below, and it's not the volcanic version of that entryway. The other two variety are the actual underdark and the volcanic version for use as a volcanic entry point, or for deep underdark. I've got a set of jagged rocks for the volcanic version, and about 100 lava and stone textures saved up just for that purpose. So I totally agree that this could be made to look darker, more volcanic... just not this specific set. Another thing I have not yet perfected is the sliding texture rate for the lava, or for the water in this current set, and is something I need to finish soon.

First Release: 
  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Draygoth

Your project is inspirational. May be we as a community need to make a Denizens of the underdark creature hak to complement this. Will wait patiently. Quality should never be rushed.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
merricksdad
merricksdad's picture

Years ago, I thought our drow inspired content for custom content challenge were some of our best models as a community. Certain challenges really bring out new artists to mingle with the well established/well known. I think that one is what really got me to start being openly creative for NWN.

I spent some time away from my personal computer, looking up all the monsters I still want for underdark adventures last month, and found that there is still a great need for new animations for creatures that won't wrap over existing models in NWN. Look around! See what you can build, and let's get it out there! Now that I know the ins and outs of vector calculus, if I can ever get these tileset projects finished, I'm going straight back to trees and new animations.

 

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
DrA

 New webs - great Idea! I've never liked this standart Bioware placeable ones. CEP has some nice webs, but I hope for more, with a different look.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
kamal
kamal's picture

I cant wait to see this. yes

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
Lady of the Cats
Lady of the Cats's picture

I am a fan and eagerly await your new stuff! Thanks for keeping up the interest.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%