torsdag 15 februari 2018

Swimming in the Right Direction

Lately I’ve been working on a swimming shark that is going to be used for two different school projects. It is one of two animations I’m doing for an animation assignment, and it is also going to be the animation of one of the enemies in the game I am making for another course. The biggest challenge when working with this animation has been to balance the different criteria that this animation needs to fulfill. I want it to look good for the assignment, but spending too much time polishing it for the hand in takes away time that would be better spent developing other assets for our game.

Another problems I’ve had is to animate the smooth wave motion of the sharks’ body. When I sat down to start I had no idea how to tackle it, and I had to spend a lot of time experimenting and tweaking as I went along. With that out of the way, here is how far I’ve made it.

At this point I’ve just started working on the final outline of the shark. The animation is created in Adobe Photoshop using video layers, and the built animation features available inside Photoshop. To start out I created and animated the head of the shark. I figured that I would be able to use the head movement to create the follow through of the body, which is what I tried to figure out next. After that I made the spine. Using the onion skin function in Photoshop I tried to simulate how the head affected the movement of the spine frame by frame. This took a couple of attempts to get reasonably correct. The hardest part was making the spines in each frame the same length. In the end I made them a bit longer than they should, and erased the unnecessary lengths.

With the movement taken care of I added mass to the shark. I did not use much in the form of guidelines doing this, it was mostly done by eye. This approach was pretty quick because the shape of the shark isn’t that complicated. There was still a fair amount of small issues that needed to be fixed afterwards. Issues that could’ve been solved by creating a more in depth skeleton. In the end however, I think doing it by eye was the best approach in this case. With the main body complete I only had to add fins in the correct places, and then it was time to ink, which is where I am at now.

During this weekend, I’m going to finish the outline and add some color to it. I’m not expecting it to take that much effort because the groundwork is already completed. The movement, shapes and masses are all completed. All that’s left to do is to fill in the lines and then color inside them.

That is it for now, see you soon!

torsdag 8 februari 2018

Enemies lurking in the mist

In game design, the enemies that you create might in some cases be more important than the player character. Right now me and a team of five other people are developing a game based on a game concept someone else created. The game is called Umibozu, and you play as a curious fisherman trying to find the mystical creature called Umibozu. Lost in a dense fog you have to avoid obstacles, pick up energy crates to keep your floodlight running, and shoot down any vicious sea creatures trying to bring you down to the ocean floor.

The concept document we were given described most of the mechanics necessary to create the type of experience we are after. However, it only describes that there is supposed to be enemies attacking you. It doesn't describe exactly what the enemies do. This meant that it was up to me and my team to design the enemies.

We all agreed that one enemy should just be trying to ram you. It is easy to implement and adds stress and time pressure to the player. We then felt like we needed to come up with one or two other types of enemies in order to make the gameplay more varied. A few months before this project, the team I'm a part of participated in a workshop about a concept called orthogonal unit differentiation, or O.U.D.. The workshop was based on a presentation by Harvey Smith from 2003. It can be found here. The point of this workshop was to show how giving different units different abilities is an inexpensive way to add depth in gameplay. For example, creating a second enemy that also rams the player ship doesn't really add anything new to our game. It does the same thing as the first enemy, but it requires us to create a new sprite and animation, which in the end gives us little gameplay improvement for the time invested. This why we set about to create enemies that created new gameplay opportunities.

After some brainstorming we ended up with a couple of different ideas for how these new enemies could behave. Our most popular ideas was to have one enemy throw projectiles that you could avoid, and another that hid next to rocks and other obstacles and ambushed the players' boat if it got to close. The problem was that we didn't really know what kind of creatures would fit with these abilities. The ramming enemy would work great as a shark that swims towards you. Our new enemies weren't as straightforward. This is where my role as an artist came in to play.

I started creating concept images of different creatures that could possess the abilities we wanted. The original concept document showed a giant squid as a possible enemy, which I felt would work great for our projectile throwing enemy. It could try and hit the player ship with one of its' two long tentacles, or it could throw ink which blocks the players' vision. Whilst not fully realistic it could definitely be believed in a computer game.

The third enemy was a bit trickier. We couldn't come up with any real sea creature that would fit the bill as something hiding next to rock. I then recalled seeing crabs and other crustaceans with rocky formations as the top part of their shell in other games. Shamelessly using these games as references I started creating my own versions.

All the art is created in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015. Using wither a hard round brush, or a custom textured brush I first blocked in the general shape with big strokes, adding a few layers of shading and lighting on top of it in order to define the shape more properly. Since the point of these concept images was to provide our group with different ideas for later discussion the art isn't very polished. Spending a bit more time on them would improve the quality of them, but that time would be better spent doing something else.

That's all for this time, Esbjörn out!