Improved Site

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I’ve worked on a few things since my Master’s project and I’ve turned it into a portfolio site now.


Onto the buildings

I’m running into a similar issue with mudbox again, but this time with the buildings. Basically, I select one building in Maya to export as fbx into mudbox. When I open the file in mudbox, the entire scene is there.

Looking at all the buildings in the scene, I only need to sculpt and texture five building shapes that can be used repeatedly. This saves time trying to sculpt and texture the same buildings twice.

Inspiration: Inside Out

I saw this film in the cinema today and enjoyed it. I thought that it was a funny,clever movie, a dazzling display of detail, colour and light. I liked the idea of looking inside someone’s head, the glowing memory balls and the different islands that represented an aspect of the girl’s personality. For example, imagination is represented by a theme park and the place where dreams are made: a movie studio.

I liked the cartoonish character designs and the imaginative landscapes inside her head. It was a different way of exploring the themes of growing up, family and very briefly touched upon depression.

Artists at the Forefront: Koola

Koola is an artist using Unreal Engine that is well-known around the official forums for pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved using Unreal Engine 4.  Koola’s work is highly photorealistic. According to Moritz Weller, an artist who writes a blog that examines 3D workflows and post-production techniques, Koola uses the post-processing capabilities of UE4 to improve the look of a scene. Koola uses a custom look-up table in Photoshop and also uses indirect lighting, although customised code is used in the BaseLightmass.ini.

Koola’s work with natural landscapes and imagery are a huge source of inspiration for me, especially as I look to painting my terrain for Machu Picchu.

Here are some amazing examples of this user’s work:


Koola (2015), Unreal Engine Thread:

Weller, Moritz (2015)

Machu Picchu

Nestled in the misty valleys between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, Machu Picchu is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.  This 550 year-old stone citadel is perched on top of a mountain ridge high above the Sacred Valley, 2,430 metres above sea level. The tropical mountain forest is an incredibly beautiful setting, with its rich diversity of flora and fauna. The site’s enormous walls, terraces and ramps appear as though they were cut naturally from the steep rock ridges.  Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The aim of this project is to re-create Machu Picchu as a 3D environment using Unreal Engine and Autodesk Maya. The result could be used as an exhibit piece in a museum or as a potential level in a game. Not only will the ruins in present day be created, but I will also create a visualization of what the ruins would have looked like in the past. Lidar scans and Digital Elevation Mapping data found online will be used to create an accurate likeness of the present day Machu Picchu and the surrounding environment. Concept art and additional research will be used to re-create the temples and village in the past.

The main goal of this project is to create an immersive environment with possible stylized graphics by September. The result will be an interactive environment, rendered in real-time. This work will also be added to my portfolio in response to the demands of the game industry.


Current practitioners and my Work

Currently I have an interest in creating environments with stylized graphics such as cel-shading. I am particularly interested in making my environments immersive and interesting to navigate in.

In semester B I have looked at many practitioners working at the forefront of the games industry. Leonard Ritter is a programmer that is looking into organic terrain development. Last year he showed a demo that had organically growing terrain. In this demo, I was inspired by the bright, neon colours and simple shapes. It’s a very simple, yet striking style. I found it interesting that Ritter had used stylized graphics in order to showcase his work. As mentioned before, I have an interest in stylized graphics and I would like to make some of the artefacts in my level glow like the blobs and shapes in Ritter’s piece. Unlike Ritter however, I will be using more rigid shapes. In this article (Ritter, Leonard. Towards Real-time Deformable Worlds: Why Tetrahedra Rules and Voxels Drool. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015.) Ritter compares the use of voxels and tetrahedral in creating terrain. Initially, I did research the use of procedural voxel generation in Unreal 4, in the style of Minecraft (XBox 360, 2007). However it seemed to involve the use of a lot of programming, which I am not very good at.

Star Driller Ultra (2015) is a space combat game where you play as a neon-colored drill to obliterate evil space ships. It was released in April 2015 and one of the artists behind the game, Taro Omiya, wrote about how the graphics were created. He used very simple techniques effectively, in particular a bloom effect. I was impressed by how visually interesting the final game was. This encouraged me to explore the different effects that could be used on a mesh. Furthermore, this example also seemed to show that indie games have to potential to push the boundaries visually for gaming. In addition, Omiya (2011) also wrote an article about developing a style, which encouraged me to look at what my objectives were. I would like to develop an art style that is visually appealing, but also creates atmosphere and adds to the narrative and gameplay of a game.  I prefer stylized graphics because they can be used to create a whole new world with its own look and feel. Stylized graphics also don’t age as badly as realistic graphics, and unrealistic elements such as not getting hurt do not feel as out of place compared to when photorealistic graphics are used. I also think that stylized graphics are a great way of giving information visually to a player, for example when a player character turns green when poisoned.

Another good example is The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (2006). A key part of the gameplay involves controlling the wind and navigating a sailing ship. Here, the choice of stylized graphics was important; the game could tell the player which direction the wind was blowing in with cartoonish streaks of air. This would not work with photorealistic graphics. As mentioned before, one of the main aims of my final project is to create an immersive environment that could be used in a video game.  One of the ways to achieve this is good level design. This article (DevMag. How to design levels for a platformer. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015.) in particular will help me in planning and designing a playable area and could also be a part of my concept art. I would like to create an environment that is feasible and interesting to play, if I can manage to make it playable.

Another article I looked at (ScrewAttack. About Environments: Environmental Design and Creating Worlds. Last accessed 28th April 2015) discussed using real world elements and artists as an inspiration, which is what I have done for the pre-production for my final year project, where I drew upon Mayan art styles and modern architecture. I also looked into the newer technologies being developed and Microsoft’s Hololens (2015) looks especially interesting. Many of the examples used in the demo were for educational purposes, but I have seen similar concepts used in some of the augmented reality games for the Nintendo 3DS.  Emerging technologies such as Hololens and Occulus Rift can be used as another method to play games, which means a new way of presenting graphics. As an artist, I think the use of stylized graphics in augmented reality games helps to differentiate between the real world and what elements can be interacted with when wearing the Hololens headset. When designing art for these kinds of games, I would also have to keep in mind that the graphics would have to be consistent for each app. Any elements that I design will be viewed at every possible angle, can be interacted with and must visually react according to how it is being manipulated by users.  While I am not making an environment for an AR game for my final project, this is part of the forefront of my field and in the future I might be working on these types of games as the technology improves and becomes more widely used. Microsoft has already produced a Hololens demo with a Minecraft style game.

I have frequently cited the Legend of Zelda games as a source of inspiration for my work. I like how the art style changes for each game in the series, giving each one a distinctive look and feel. In particular, I like the styles used for Skyward Sword (2011) and Wind Waker (2006). The more sources you draw upon, the more unique your work looks. I have researched into cel-shading for Unreal and there is documentation for stylized rendering. The demo makes extensive use of post process effects, landscape tools, and carefully designed materials to achieve a hand-painted effect. This is a look that appeals to me and I would like to emulate this sort of style in my final project.

Throughout this semester, I have been looking at various art styles and trying out new applications, such as building a light installation, as well as improving my existing skillset. In addition to this, I have learnt about working in a team and planning a project together.  I have learnt new software this semester, in particular the use of Mudbox and Unreal Engine. I had never used these applications before and took me a while to learn how to use each one effectively. I also learnt how to do UV layouts properly. I now know how to texture models properly and render them in a game engine. I understand my subject area a lot better now, and I have learnt to draw upon different sources and inspirations for my work. I have picked up a lot of new skills and have increased my confidence, and I look forward to tackling my final project.

Sources: Ritter, Leonard (2013). Nowhere. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. Ritter, Leonard (2015). Towards Real-time Deformable Worlds: Why Tetrahedra Rules and Voxels Drool. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. Star Driller Ultra (2015). Ludumare. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. Unreal Engine Forums (2014). WIP: Procedural Voxel Generation in UE4. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. Omiya, Taro (2015). Developing a Style. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. DevMag (2011). How to design levels for a platformer. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. ScrewAttack (2011). About Environments: Environmental Design and Creating Worlds. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. Mashable (2015). How Windows 10 Apps works with Hololens and its Stunningly Beautiful. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015. The Verge (2015). Microsoft Hololens: Hands on Experience. Available at: Last accessed 28th April 2015.

Microsoft Hololens

Microsoft’s Hololens (2015) looks especially interesting, and there could be really immersive gameplay experiences from this headset. It reminds me of the AR games that can be played from the Nintendo 3DS. This is a new way of interactivity for gaming. I noticed that the graphics used for the gameplay were very stylized; I think this is a way of clearly indicating to the player what can be interacted with and what can’t. It also helps separate the fictional world from the real world.


Microsoft Holoens.Youtube:

Wind Waker HD: The Tower of the Gods

Wind Waker’s cel-shading style is what I would like to emulate. In this area, the Tower of the Gods rises from the ocean as a testing ground for the player character Link.   Design-wise, it combines Classical architecture with the unique and unfamiliar features of a separate culture. Again, the art team behind this area appear to have drawn from Geek and Roman architecture as inspiration for this piece.  The art style used is very cartoonish, simple and striking. There is a distinct atmosphere of dread and fear as the area is constantly in shadow, with only enemies for company.

ww1 ww2 ww3

Wind Waker HD (2013) Developed by Nintendo. [Wii U]. Japan. Nintendo.