Going into my final year of University was always going to be exciting and scary. It had the assignment I was most worried for, the dissertation, but also the one I was most excited for, which was my FMP. We had the creative freedom to do whatever we wanted, and to really let our skills shine. Over the three years I was draw to asset development, environmental design, and lighting and now was the time to do that to the best of my ability.
I had a lot of issues along the way, and a lot of strange problems that occurred. It seems to be a running thing where I break my programs and projects be simply loading them up; however, I didn’t let any of this stop me. I am very happy with how my end product had turned out. I had a vision and I had inspiration from the very start where I was designing my level to the final thing. Do I think its my best work though, no I do not; I will get into why I think this a little later.
What went well:
One if the main things that I believe went well with my project was my consistency and how much I kept going. In the initial stages when I was turning the block out into basic assets, I started getting some serious doubts about how my level would turn out and whether it would be good enough. It just seems liked it was going to be too empty and just boring to walk around in. I got through this by constantly telling myself its only in early stages so things will be fine. I told myself I’m only building and environment and not a whole game, so it doesn’t matter too much if there isn’t a lot to walk around in. I just had to focus on making it look as good as I could. When at Vertex 2020 I was in a talk about how a certain film was made, and that person giving the talk actually worked on the assets. So, I asked him how he gets them looking so real, to which he replied its all in the UVs. I was working had on my assets and unwrapping them before to make them look good, but with this knowledge I tried even harder to make them stand out.
This moves me on to my next point, of my assets being the best I have ever made when doing game design. During the break before third year I kept practising my skills and would search up how to do things better. I found proper ways on how to work with assets and make them look even better. This year I defiantly took my time a lot more and when actually making the assets I would visualise the best way to unwrap it. Most of my assets in my environment look really clean and smooth, as I was able to hide any seems or cuts very well. Some of the best-looking assets I would say are my desks, the chairs, the walls, floors and ceilings, the globe and my chest. When doing my FMP, I had some students from another course ask me to make some models for them. This doesn’t relate to my FMP, but it defiantly gave me some good practise of my improved skills on more complex models.
With the assets looking good and putting them all into my environment the final thing that really bring everything together is my lighting and effects. From my big volumetric lighting, to my simple dust particles I am really happy with how it looks. I used Aura 1 for my first-year project, and towards the end used Aura 2, but this year everything had been updated and look / worked a lot smoother, so I was looking forward to using it. I knew before not to overpower the rays and that can really blast out everything out. Again, I took my time this year because I wanted to get things right and make it much better them last year. Before in my woods scene I made it too bright and way too blue, where as this time I got a nice contrast. At first it was a little too orange because I wanted it to feel warm, but I quickly changed that. I think the small particle I used to make dust particles as that with the very slight fog match really well and make the scene feel dusty. They weren’t hard to make at all and it really brings things together.
A small thing that I feel like I did really well was the slight bit of programming that I did. I had to write out pieces of code to make some of the environment interactable and I did this quite well. I used some old pieces of code as reference but manged to put something together that worked properly. Coding is one of my weakest skills, so I was very proud of myself when I did this and made it work.
Another small thing that I did well with my project was the development side of things. I always kept up to date with post about how my project was going, and I would always post when something goes wrong. It’s good to show when things go wrong, as views would think you did everything perfectly which never happens. It also allows you to show how you overcame that issues and how you kept pushing forward. As of right now I have almost 50 post talking about the good things, that bad things, and everything in between.
In a way this lockdown and not being able to go into class has been somewhat good for me. Before I would always be asking if my work was okay, and if I was doing the right thing and not trying to think for myself. Whereas being stuck at home I can focus more on what I am doing and judge for myself more. I was still getting feedback when needed, and on some of the bigger changes to my work, but I feel as though this has strengthen my confidence a little in my own work, as before I would always have doubts and never like what I made. I will always find things to change and improve and will probably never be 100% confident in the work that I make but that’s just the nature of a creative mind. It always you to get better and to improve your skills where need be, but a lot of the time you never really take pride in your work. In saying that I am very happy with the work that I have created but I know I can do a lot better and I am going to do better!
What didn’t go well:
I would say the biggest thing that didn’t go so well with the project, and really affected me was the whole pandemic situation, and this is the reason as to why I don’t think my work is a good as it could have been. I did just say it was help with my confidence if my work but that’s only one small point. When we first went into lockdown, I felt okay and it gave me a lot more time to focus on my work as I didn’t need to travel anywhere. I never used to like working at home as I feel like there are too many distractions; but I soon got over this just by putting some music on and focussing. This was for the first few weeks, but after it got long and long I took a serious hit to my motivation and I just didn’t want to do work anymore, my sleep schedule was all over the place and I was doing as much work as I could have done. I still tried and I still pushed myself because I knew I needed to do work, but I would often change what I did. It was hard to juggle multiple assignments at once with this mindset. Other then FMP the other big assignment I had was Games Management, then after that was a presentation. So, after I submitted them assignments I was in full gear and determined to work on my FMP and determined to make it look good. This was the assignment I was waiting so long for so why I was forgetting about it.
Another reason why I feel like this effected my work is I was not able to get as much feedback as I would like to. When in class someone can just come over, look at your work and fill out a questionnaire. Whereas now we would have to send screenshots or videos as projects where too big to share, and even then, the photos or videos were often too big to send on a direct message. Because of this lack of feedback and struggle for communication I didn’t know if I was doing things well or not.
Where I said my lighting was one of the things that went well, I also feel it is one of thing things that didn’t go so well. With my lack of motivation, the work that I produced for a period of time wasn’t good at all and this was one of the things that got effected. It looks good but I feel like it is a little overpowering with I didn’t want to happen. I had lowered it several times, but it is hard to get a nice blend. I was working on the lights for a few days maybe longer to get it right. This led me onto and issue with my computer when working at home. I am only using a laptop to use some high demanding programs which doesn’t often work well. When trying to bake lighting on Unity before adding in my volumetric lighting it would take around an hour which is fine, but with the effects it takes 4-6 hours and makes any other program slow so I can’t even work on something else in the meantime. I had many crashes with Unity, and way more with Substance Painter and Davinci Resolve; this made working a lot more sluggish and stressful then it should be. Nevertheless, I kept pushing forward and I didn’t give up, I just took some evenings off to give myself a break but got back to it early the next day.
I had a couple things I really wanted to do with my environment, one was to try it in a different colour variation (with black and white or a brown ting) and build it in another game engine. I did the different colour variation to match it to the time period and it worked quite well. During my FMP presentation I wanted to build a basic version of my level in Unreal, so I could see them compression between the two game engines. I didn’t end up this unfortunately due to everything going on, and simple not having enough time. I could have made something the last few days (today being 2nd June) but I didn’t want to rush it out and have it looking rubbish. So instead I am going to learn the program in my spare time and possible remake my second-year project, as Unreal is much better for outside levels.
What the future holds:
When making the environment I always had a story in mind for what I would evolve it into. I have spoken about it a few times where I would turn it into a murder mystery game where the player (or the head detective) has been accused of a murder and has to find out who did it, or he’s trying to find a mass murderer. I do also have a brief story and newspaper clippings fir this mass murder if I ever wanted to run with that idea.
I definitely want to keep working on my lighting and try to improve it more. To this I would need to what videos on how real light actually works and the incorporate that into games. Maybe I will try to produce a version that involves no volumetric lighting and just go off the lights inside the office. The last two projects I have done revolved around this style of lighting a little too heavily so I should try and made it a secondary thing. Something I would love to do in the future is to get a group of friends together and really build up either my project or one of theirs and make a full game together. This would really test our skills and if we can make a full game that would definitely put us ahead of the game when looking for employment.
For myself I am 100% going to keep training and practising, and I am going to learn new software that are widely used within the industry. The first of which I wanted to learn is Unreal as being able to switch between two different game engines will make me a valuable member of any team. I am going to keep improving my assets creation and try make things look as good as I can. With my texturing I am going to try produce a move stylised, cartoony style as all I have been going for recently is realism. I think I am almost at good point to head out into the industry, I just need to push myself to get out their and put my work on show for everyone to see. I am very nervous but also can not wait for what the future holds, and I can not wait to get out there and start making some proper games and meeting new amazing people; and just overall improving my self personally and my skills.