Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hansel and Gretel character ideas

To further define the style of my environment, I thought it would help me to sketch some potential designs for the characters. My idea was that the player would be in control of either Hansel or Gretel. It is set a few years after the events of the traditional fairytale. The children have been mentally scarred by the events and have been experiencing nightmares/visions of the witch and house. They decide to return to the house to see what has become of it, only to find the enchantment which the witch used to construct and maintain it's candy structure has faded over the years, the house becoming distorted and melted. It has, however, become twisted in other ways, and the children, upon entering the house, fall into a surreal candy world which would be the game's main setting.

To reflect the fantastical elements of the game I thought the children's designs would be highly stylised in a way inspired by Psychonauts. I initially drew them looking too young. I thought that presuming they are around the age of 6-7 in the fairytale, here they would be about 12. 

Final coloured version! (I think I made Hansel looks a bit crazy):

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Heston Blumenthal's fairytale feasts!

A while back I remember watching a TV show which followed innovative chef Heston Blumenthal as he cooked and created a feast inspired by well-loved fairytales. These included a Cinderella pumpkin and, most importantly for me, an entirely edible Hansel and Gretel cottage for dessert.

I thought I'd to have a look at what materials he used for inspiration. Heston focussed on making his edible materials look as close as possible to "normal" building blocks of a house: slate tiles, bricks, moss, etc. Although I'm aiming for mine to look the opposite (completely unrealistic and exaggerated), I need an idea for what sweets I'll be referencing for when I start painting my UV maps. In the video he gives details on what the house is made of.

(...and apart from anything else this just looks like it was so magically fun to experience)


Gingerbread house modelling progress

Here is a snapshot of roughly where I'm up to with my model. At this point I decided to pop it into Unity to get an idea of how the player would navigate around it. I came to the conclusion that the hill is far too steep to climb up easily, so I will be modifying that...

I ensured that high-poly parts of the model such as the dripping icing were only one-sided where needed (such as where it's stuck to the roof). Not only will this make texturing easier, it'll save on a lot of polys and therefore render time.

I've decided that it won't be possible to enter the house (it's far too small to really have anything worth exploring inside), instead I'll be focussing on the atmosphere surrounding it and trying to encourage the player's curiosity.

Trees and flags?

A quick (very dark) mish-mash of a scene where I put together the products of some practice exercises. Assets were created in Maya and then exported into Unity. I modelled and UV-mapped a tree, using my own painted textures (which I plan on doing in my Hansel and Gretel project as I'm going for an unrealistic look). For modelling we learnt about the extrude tool, where you select a face of the model and extend it out. You can do this in all directions to make the model more intricate, in this case to create the branches of the tree. For the texture, we learnt to select different parts of the geometry and individually UV map them using the unfold tool. I also rigged and animated a flag using IK splines an handles, and popped that in there too. The texture looks a bit weird from this low angle, but at least I have the knowledge now so I can add animated assets into my game environment if I need to.

Unity Web Player | WebPlayer

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gingerbread house concept, continued...

Progress on my gingerbread house concept! I chose the silhouette that I liked best and worked from that on a coloured concept design. I took a quick screenshot whilst working showing with silhouette I chose, and how I developed on that into a more solid design.

I liked this silhouette because it was a slightly more conventional cottage shape, with the oven/laboratory stuck on the back. I thought this would give the opportunity to play with contrasting between the fairytale/candy and technological aspects of the building.

The final design so far - I've kept it rough in places so that I can explore more whilst modelling rather than having to stick rigidly to my drawings. I'm not sure about the colour scheme yet - I was trying to make it look like sunset, but I'm no longer sure if this fits the atmosphere I'm trying to create. 

I took the image and altered the colours, to get a quick impression of the effects I could create, but I still haven't settled on one... I may need to create some more concept art so I can better ground my idea.

I chose to work in a colourful, exaggerated style reminiscent of stylised platform games that have inspired me since I was young. Since starting this project I've also been playing more platformers to have a closer look at their environments and how they have been structured. For instance the environments in Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy are vibrant and exaggerated, but it's entirely open-world with no loading screens, so it's vital that assets are modelled simply, so that they load quickly to a high quality. 

Oversized roofs seem to be a commonly used aspect of building design in stylised games, like this one from Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. (Thanks Lija!) 

This house design is actually very useful to study - in my house, the roof will be made of gingerbread/candy "tiles", which I need to figure out how to model effectively. This house has similarly oddly-sized tiles, and it seems that simple planes have been used with the texture drawn so that areas of it are transparent, thus creating the rough edges. This method would be a much more economical way of working than modelling the tiles individually.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Postmodernism in practice

In my Context of Practice module I wrote an essay exploring the repercussions of modernism, debated on it's relevance in the modern day and on the idea that we now live in a "postmodern world".

We had to apply what he had learnt over the module and in our essay in a practical component.

I explored a few different possibilities for this. I had a look at early animation that had political and societal undertones, particularly the work of Max Fleischer.


I liked the use of the animated hand "drawing" the scenes (actually a time-lapse of the process).

This reminded me on some levels of the animated work of Terry Gilliam. The films he created for Monty Python are about as absurdly postmodern as they get, incorporating all sorts of references to past eras and styles and using them to express his bizarre sense of humour.

I watched his "Do It Yourself Animation Show" to get some inspiration on how to possibly recreate his cut-out style.

After brainstorming ideas I decided to have a go at creating something in the vein of Terry Gilliam. In my essay I focussed on modernism and postmodernism's effect on painting, and whilst looking through some of his animations on Youtube I found the one where he animates the painting the Birth of Venus so that this classic, beautiful painting is upturned to become silly.

I thought that I could create some sort of timeline where the paintings of the past become no more than somewhat vulgar expressions of how the widespread postmodern attitude has effected how many regard the "high art" nature of paintings. 

Unfortunately I've never animated before so, in the end, the idea that I imagined in my head is not what I managed to create on-screen. I didn't give myself enough time, and I also struggled with how to transition between paintings with my limited animation knowledge, and with choosing fitting sound effects. I was hoping to get Python animation-esque "grumbles" and other comedic noises, but I struggled to find them (and couldn't record them myself - hence the subtitles/speech-bubbles).

In the end I'm not sure if my idea worked (it may just look plain silly to most), but it was interesting to have a go at something entirely different to what I usually do. If I had had time, I'd have liked to to have practised more advanced animation techniques and made something closer to Gilliam's visual style.

(apologies for bad quality, I'm not sure of the best way to host videos outside of Youtube)