Week 2 – Pre-Production.

Overview

This week has been a bit more research-heavy and planning-focused. There were a lot of decisions to make, each of which led down a bit of a rabbit hole in attempts to solidify my approach. There are a variety of new skills and techniques I would like to attempt, so this week was about deepening my understanding of those, and the different approaches, so that I could properly plan and schedule the project. I think holding back from diving right into practical tasks will have been better in the long run.

Art Style

Part of my research included looking at ways various people have already adapted the Ghibli style, specifically for 3D and games. There are some really close adaptations, basically emulating the style exactly, like here, here, and here. Some shift a towards more ‘modern’ games aesthetics by incorporating PBR materials and lighting, whilst preserving the overall aesthetic, like this. Some take inspiration from the settings/concepts to inform visually distinct pieces, like this. Meanwhile, some artists attempt to loosely capture some of the feeling of nostalgic, painterly animations. This was a partial inspiration for the stylised-realism of Dishonored and Dishonored 2, according to artist Yannick Gombart.

I was definitely most interested in this hybrid approach, trying to preserve some of the feel and ‘sensation’, as Yannick put it, of the original piece, whilst bringing it into more ‘realistic’ 3D PBR. Dishonored 2 in particular has become a large part of my stylistic inspiration, as well as the quality bar I am hoping to shoot for. Gaining as much reference as possible for this style, the technical approaches, and lessons the Dishonored art team have disclosed, was an important stage of my pre-production.

PureRef moodboard of quality and style reference in the modern AAA context of Dishonored 2.

Technical Approaches

I would really like to explore the creation of tiling materials and trim sheets to really ramp up the resolution and fidelity of the scene without performance plummeting. This is going to pretty heavily rely on decals, including deferred or layered/blended edge normal decals either using floating geometry or UV2s – a decision I’m going to explore after some experimenting next week. The approach in Sunset Overdrive is particularly interesting to me due to the brushstroke painterly overlays they layer into their materials.

I’d also like to try texturing some of the larger props this way, like the bench or table, leaving unique textures to clutter props.

I’ve been revising and exploring the ways in which I can combine sculpting, scan data, stylistic aesthetic, and procedural material authoring in Substance Designer. It’s been a lot of tutorial watching and resource compiling.

Blockout 2: Electric Boogaloo

I whipped up a few basic whitebox meshes so that I could start properly figuring out the layout and composition of my scene, stress testing quickly. I tried placing the assets and camera a few different ways but ultimately kept something pretty similar to last week’s.

Detail lighting viewport within UE4.

Scene Breakdown/ProjectPlan

I first identified the main tiling textures that would make up the structural elements – wooden plank flooring, old wooden beams, red brick, and plaster. I then gathered a selection of real world reference, as well as reference of existing work that I felt could inform the quality and style of my own.

I started compiling a full asset list for the project. This included materials, structural elements, large props, clutter, and miscellaneous things like decals, and arranging them into a preliminary priority order. I picked out a few things from the original reference that I would like in the scene, as well as adding some things that I thought would be nice ideas given the time.

Preliminary task list using Notion.

I began to break these tasks into weekly sprints, juggling priority order with dependencies. For example, my material workflow is going to be dependent on my photoshoot, so until then I will be focusing on tasks like in-engine master material and shader setup, or, despite their lower priority, some clutter props as pipeline tests.

Next Steps

In the next week production will kick off! I want to make good time running at least one uniquely textured prop through the full pipeline as a test. I also want to go on a material photoshoot, providing the equipment is available to borrow from the university, and that I can get transport to locations where I can find materials I want.

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