Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dynamic Materials UDK Part 2: Smoke

This is the second part of the 3 part tutorial on creating dynamic materials for use on particles in UDK. I learned this technique while working with the guys at Naughty Dog. This technique is really cool because you aren't relying on a flipbook of a sim you created in a 3d package. Flipbooks are usually very specific to what they were created for and using a sim you made on multiple effects doesn't really pan out. With dynamic materials you can use one material for a large number of fx. Most commonly and widley used for me is this smoke material. With the dynamic parameter hook up you can have it move slowly and this material can be used for subtle smoke in corners like lingering dust and ground fog or very fast smoke from a fire. It can be used all over the place. The real control is in the particle system and not the material. Check out the video and keep an eye out for the third part I will be putting together soon.

Currently this video looks like it is an hour long but it isn't. There is a whole chunk of black that got rendered out and I will correct this but in the meantime just view it until it goes black and that's it. There is no secret ending. :P

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yemen Temple

Yemen Temple was one of the coolest looking levels in my opinion. The puzzles were really cool because they didn't rely on some kind of engine trick, they were all visual tricks that you could see in real life. In the FX department we made these water meshes the require a complicated technique. In the end the water ways were covered by a grate and you never see the animation of the water. You can see it flowing though so it's still cool. Check out some stills from the level below. Keith created some fx for the level as well. He made the fires that light up the words at the end of the level as well as torches. He worked with one of our programmers Charles Tangora to create a torch effect that would inherit some of Drakes movements as he swung the torch. So the torch has a kind of cloth like foreground element that has a material Keith made for it. The material has a threshold value that animates as Drake swings it to break the flames up a bit when it's swung. Nice. I did some atmosphere effects, and water fx including the water in the hub of the level. I also did the fx for the smoke bomb fight at the end. There are also a couple of stills from Yemen Chase for some fx I worked on. The rest of Yemen Chase was done by the talented Iki Ikram.

Here is a list of cool people whom worked on this level.
Background Modeler: David Baldwin
Texture Artists: Adam Marquis/Khanh Nguyen
Lighting: Eva Krzeminski/David Witters
Foreground Artists: Paul Moya/Christophe Desse
IGC Animator: Troy Slough
FX Artists: Keith Guerette/Doug Holder

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dynamic Materials for Particles in UDK Part: 1

This is part 1 of a set of 3 I am making on creating dynamic materials in UDK for the use in particle systems. Honestly I don't consider myself a great instructor and I tend to ramble and make some mistakes but I'm human. That being said there are some informative tricks in these videos. This first one is about Fire. It is a little long but I create all of the assets from scratch and explain along the way. You can view an HD version through the link to Vimeo. I would also like to personally thank the guys at Naughty Dog for showing me these techniques. They are really fun to make and can create some stunning effects for games.
Naughty Dog Visual Effects Team:
Keith Geurrette (Lead FX Artist "Uncharted")
Eben Cook (Lead FX Artist "The Last of Us")
Mike Dudley
Iki Ikram
Doug Holder (me)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Uncharted 3: Stars and Skies

As we toiled away on Uncharted 3, there were some pieces that the FX Department took charge of to make sure it got as much polish as possible. Everyone was insanely busy so we decided to help with a few things. A couple of these things were Skies and the Stars in Syria. So let's talk about our involvement with Skies.Skies
To my recollection our Art Director Robh Ruppel created all of the actual art for all of the skies.
The issue we had to resolve was making the skies look as good as possible getting them into the game.The biggest issue was DXT1 compression. The compression caused some gnarly banding and we had to come up with ways to smooth them out. Additionally one of our rendering programmers Carlos Ochoa Gonzalez supported us in giving us features in our shader that allowed for scrolling clouds and sun flares among other things to breath life into the skies. It was then a matter of taking the time to try to find clever ways to get around compression and using the tools given to us to make the skies great. From my perspective, we didn't always win this battle but I am relatively pleased with what we came out with.

The stars in Syria have to be the single most coordinated effort I have ever seen for something most people overlook. It all started when one of the puzzle-ish concepts for the level involved the player using a telescope to find a specific star and star formation. This being Polaris on the little dipper. So in execution the camera zooms in quite far and when the player has found the star it zooms in a little more. This level of zooming meant that the texture for the sky would have to hold up to some close scrutiny. The original method was just a sky texture with stars painted on it. This looks fine from afar but caused an issue when zooming in on it. This is where things get coordinated. A rendering programmer named Pal Engstad early on had collected a large amount of star data which had in it about 8,000 different stars in it including their position in the sky from our perspective and mag of brightness. This was a lot of info. We had a working model but it was just a model for a long time. I pushed to have some more work done to it but time was getting short so we needed someone else to get the data into a format we could load in-game. The Ball gets passed to Marshall Robin. Marshall is a multi-faceted coding machine. My work with him is primarily with fx related stuff like particles. He directly supports us on all of our fx tools. So Marshall edits the data into a format we, the artists can use and manipulate. The next issue was getting the exact star formation the designer
needed with adjustable intensity. Marshall had to reorder the stars in the list of data putting the first 15 stars of the two constellations at the top of the list. I had to find the names of the stars in the two constellations and give him that info. Theeeeeeeeeen, Marshall had to make a connection to these 15 stars for me to have the ability to put a custom shaders on them so they would sparkle a little bit in the sky. Phew. Almost there. Marshall had to move on to another important task so then Carlos gets tagged in. Carlos created a way for us to create a sky for this level in layers. So we could create a mathematical gradient for the sky color itself and throw some static clouds layers on that with an alpha, some scrolling clouds using his already existing code, and a way for us to connect an antonymous moon that alpha blended with the sky behind it. Our art director then requested the ability to hide the stars behind the clouds. This mean Carlos had to create a shader for the stars that could be fetched with the sky shader essentially becoming part of the sky while maintaining all of the existing control Marshall gave us. After it was all said and done I was able to manipulate the values and add some particle based shooting stars and voila! A night sky most people won't look twice at. But that isn't the point. The sky here is a testament to the amount of work and coordination this studio is willing to put into even the smallest task.

Uncharted 3: Syria and Chateau Forest

I was largely responsible for the fx in Syria. Explosions, falling chunks of walls, collapsing buildings, water. All sorts of crazy stuff. Chateau Forest was another area I spent time adding falling leaves and atmospheric stuff. Not a lot of dynamic stuff in Chateau Forest but it's all in the details. There are butterflies and little things like that. Check out some images of some of the fx created. It's also worth mentioning that without the talented artists making these levels look great, our fx would just be "poofs and sparkles".

List of Awesome Artists whom worked on these levels:
Foreground: Mike Fadollone/Mike Hatfield/Christophe Desse
Background/Modeler: Todd Foster/Reiko Sato
Texture Artists: Genesis Prado/Malcolm Hee
Lighting Artists: Dave Witters/Ai-Fen
IGC Animators: Chris Ilvento/Nate Brown/Ricardo FLores
FX Artists: Iki Ikram/Eben Cook/Keith Geurrette/Doug Holder
If I've forgotten anyone please let me know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Uncharted 3: Cruise Ship FX

So now that the game is out in the wild I can post some examples of what I worked on. I will post some Highlights from levels and assorted things I worked on in multiple posts. It is also worth noting that without the talented help from the FX team I would not have been able to make any of this. These guys are brilliant. I have and continue to learn an insane amount of techniques. So here are some images from cruise ship and a couple of videos I quickly threw together.

List of talented artists whom worked on this level:
Foreground: Paul Moya/Christophe Desse
Background: David Baldwin
Texture Artists: Adam Marquis/Khanh Nguyen
IGC Animators: Troy Slough/Brian Robison
FX Artists: Eben Cook/Doug Holder
Lighting Artist: Dave Witters

Christophe Desse created the foreground elements for the awesome ship explosion at the beginning of the video.