I've been procrastinating on learning Unity for a while now, but I thought it was time to finally dive in, so I fired up Google Chrome, typed in unity.com and hit the download button. While browsing around the website while it downloaded, I stumbled upon the Proxi Art Challenge. "Perfect" I thought, a great way for me to learn Unity and do a challenge where my work might be displayed to one of my favorite game designers, but WAIT!There was only one week left till the deadline! But I'm up for a challenge so I thought, why not? I'll give it a go and let's see what we'll come out with.
In order for me to meet the deadline, I had to have a plan. It went like this: 2 days modeling, a day for characters, another day for texturing, a day or two for Unity and a final day for clean ups and presentation. With the plan in hand, I proceeded into conception.
The first memory I chose was waking up on weekends and watching cartoons with my brothers while eating cereal with too much sugar in it. Those Saturdays were always the best.
The second memory was the army draft. Each able and eligible Egyptian citizen has to perform a mandatory service period in the Army. This was a great year for me full of adventure, I met lots of great people and have a lot of fond memories from.
And for the final memory, I always look back at the hours spent in my bedroom learning and working. Being almost completely self taught, performing a couple of career shifts and building a creative studio couldn't have been possible without those hours that were put in in that bedroom.
Before starting out with anything, I start by gathering references for each of the memories and for the art style I was aiming for. Google is your best friend here and ArtStation is a great resource to get inspired art style-wise.
I pull up the reference on a second monitor, fire up Blender and start blocking out the scenes using very basic shapes (often just cubes). This phase helps me visualize the concept and get all the ideas out of my head instead of sketching.
After I'm happy with the basic block out, I start detailing and refining the models. Since I was going for a stylized look, some models didn't differ much from the original blockout. Most of the modeling was completed in Blender but for more organic items (like rocks) were done in ZbrushCore.
Next up, came the characters. The characters started out as very crude DynaMeshes in ZBrushCore taken into Blender very early to clean up the topology then taken back again into ZBrushCore for sculpting. Since the characters were always going to be seen from afar, detailing wasn't vital but the silhouette had to read well. That's really it for the characters really. Hair meshes were built using DynaMesh and then decimated in Blender.
I usually work sporadically in the modeling phase so before I start texturing I clean up and organize my files. I try to categorize my items into 4 or 5 categories then join each of the items in a category together and unwrap their UVs that way I have to deal with less maps and conserve a bit of memory. Unwrapping was done in Blender and textures painted in Photoshop. Some items that came from ZBrushCore had their normal maps baked from a high poly version onto a low poly using Blender but in the end the details in this scene weren't all that noticeable so I guess this part could've been skipped.
This stage was make or break for me since I'm new to Unity but thanks to the documentation, Brackeys' YouTube tutorials and, most importantly, the intuitiveness and ease of the engine, everything went smoothly. I imported all the models, textures and then started to set up the scenes.
Lighting was done using a combination of cube maps generated by Unity from HDRis from hdrihaven.com, point lights and emissive materials. This is the area where my lack of experience was very evident as I couldn't troubleshoot problem areas and some are still present in the final scenes.
The camera was made to rotate around a predefined pivot point and post processing added to it. Post processing was done using the Post Processing Stack to color grade, add AO, subtle vignettes and other tweaks to the output. And finally, recorder was used to record the final scenes.
Nobody likes waiting for renders so I'll definitely continue learning Unity and playing around in it. I still have a lot to learn, but this challenge helped get my feet wet. I'm sure it has a place in my digital art tool belt and I'm interested in seeing how I'll utilize it. As for the scenes themselves, I wish I had a bit more time to polish everything but, all in all, I'm happy with the end result. Now, on to the next project.