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A personal journey of learning at Unity

Introduction

"You are now going through the hardest part of your service — not the hardest physically (though physical hardship will never trouble you again; you now have its measure), but the hardest spiritually... the deep, soul-turning readjustments and re-evaluations necessary to metamorphize a potential citizen into one in being. Or, rather I should say: you have already gone through the hardest part, despite all the tribulations you still have ahead of you and all the hurdles, each higher than the last, which you still must clear. But it is that "hump" that counts — and, knowing you, lad, I know that I have waited long enough to be sure that you are past your "hump" or you would be home now. "
Extract from Coronel Dubois letter to Rico - Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein
What led me to study Unity more seriously was an animated gif coming from a game under development by Marko Dieckmann on Twitter. That really inspires, because he managed to get to a level of voxel work that really impressed me. I was very thoughtful about those images, for some time I was doing a series of models with the Magica Voxel, but without animation or effects that made it more realistic. The Magica allows magnificent effects, but I was missing something else and I decided at that moment, to face a bigger challenge.
I had been flirting with Unity for some time, but I had some blocks that would not allow me to move forward. It was self-imposed barriers that somehow discouraged me. It was then that in January 2018 I started to set aside 3 hours of my day to study the engine. I started from scratch, doing a series of tutorials from Unity's site, watching live sessions, reading articles and videos on youtube. From there I began a series of experiments, applying some things that I learned at that first moment. These were interesting results, but one video in particular allowed me to take the next step, Mike Geig's post processing 2.0. This tutorial prompted me to show this little work for you, and to talk a little about the work pipeline I applied here. Anyway, I hope you can contribute a bit to the Unity learning and show the possibilities of this tool.

The Project

Basically this project is inspired by Blade Runner (both the 1982 version and the 2017 version) and some films such as Jonny Mnemonic. The idea was to make a small scene that involved some elements cyberpunk and that allowed to show models done in voxels. Initially I started with a small paper draft for the idea of the scene:
Then I began to make a series of models in the Magica Voxel, working with inspiration in the works of Syd Mead and other artists:
Some tests of light and materials :
Then I imported the assets to Unity and made some scene layouts with them
The work really began with the setting up of the scene step by step, being careful to generate a balance so that the scenario was the closest to the reality and idea of the project. I watched some pictures of Blade Runner and Tokyo at night (the beautiful photos of Masashi Wakui) to get a sense of how it could be the closest to reality:
The composition was made in several stages:
The final part was the modeling of the characters and their placement in the animated scene:
From there it was to hone details to generate the final animation.

Techinical Issues

From start to finish this project had a series of challenges, which it was going to overcome with the passage of the weeks. Initially were the imports, since the Magica Voxel, does not generate UVMAPS and had to do this manually. I solved various problems and limitations through needs, and research above all was important throughout the process. I have worked with free Assets of the Asset Store, of which I list here:
  • Aura Volumetric Lights - https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/vfx/shaders/aura-volumetric-lighting-111664
  • The Blacksmith: Atmospheric Scattering - https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/essentials/the-blacksmith-atmospheric-scattering-39939
  • Adam Interior Environment - https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/essentials/tutorial-projects/adam-interior-environment-74965
  • Recorder - https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/essentials/beta-projects/recorder-94079
  • Recorder - https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/essentials/beta-projects/recorder-94079
I used the following Standard and Experimental Assets:
  • Post Processing Vol 2.05 - In Unity Experimental Packages
  • Unity Standard Packages - Characters, Enviroment, Particles, effects
I used for the effects of hologram the fantastic shader of Andy Duboc:
Hologram Shader and Material Editor for Unity - https://github.com/andydbc/HologramShader
And the only asset paid was Wet Road Materials - https://assetstore.unity.com/packages/2d/textures-materials/roads/wet-road-materials-77612
All rigging are made in Mixamo - https://www.mixamo.com
I modeled some things in Blender 2.78 as letters and some other elements. And I've vectored many of the signs in Adobe cc 2014 Illustrator to turn them into 3D elements. During the composition Post Processing 2.0 and Aura lights were essential for some volumetric light effects. At the end I made the animations inside the engine and I captured the scene with the own Unity recorder. The panel with video was this one here, which I placed on the wall of the building.

Post Project...

After the project ended several interesting things happened. One is that two tutorials were wrote (part I and part II) for the Indiewatch site, about the neon and the transparent material of the billboards. Many people wrote me asking about the process itself and it was great to have had this feedback from the readers. Another thing is that I started to study Cinemachine, as well as the process of importing 3D assets with Blender. I was very reluctant to use Blender, but I ended up in a process of study (I still am) for the future use of this tool.
I was pleased with my first project, although I could have done a few things faster and easier these days. But all this is part of the learning process and that is a matter of evolution. I learned a lot from Unity and served to demystify what remained of doubts. Now is to go to new ideas and deepen the studies in the tool.I hope I can encourage you with my work and comments are most welcome. I'm already working on a new steampunk scenario, which will be presented here in the near future.

Manoel garcia
Game Designer/Artist - Educator
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