Judges Reviewing
Into the Crater
Updated 2 months ago
Into the Crater | Unity Neon Challenge


Hello. My name is Vladimir and I'm a 3D artist and indie game designer/developer. My friend and contributor Daniel is a 3D artist and animator, we often work together on various projects. Our last game that we did together is called Neon Drive so it was a pleasant surprise to see that this challenge's theme is Neon, the theme that we're familiar with and love. For music, I've asked my friend Gustav Eriksson Pengus to compose a 2 minute synthwave piece for this submission. He has also worked with us on Neon Drive.
  • Daniel's Unity Connect profile:
  • Gustav's Unity Connect profile:
  • My Unity Connect Profile:
We're in the initial phase of working on our next game where I'm mostly writing code and making gameplay mechanics. We thought of working on graphics for the playable demo later, once the code is done. But when we saw this challenge, I decided to pause with coding and test some artistic ideas by taking part in it. I thought it would be great to learn new tools and having a deadline would make things super-fast :) You've seen the result in the video above and here's the summary of our 'making of' process.


"Into the Crater" project will be based on this painting, painted by my late uncle. It was hanging on a wall in my family home where I grew up and it has always fascinated me. We will make it a starting point for a landscape that will be much more "neon" than what is seen in the original painting.
The sentence from a challenge brief that struck me was: "Imagine a futuristic society with untold technological advances..." So we were thinking, what if these bubbles are actually an engineered transport system to a planet's atmosphere and beyond? We decided to show a vehicle driving from a futuristic city into the crater, hitching a ride on a bubble. Sounds weird, but I guess there's actually even weirder stuff out there in outer space.

So, as we needed a futuristic city, we've found an inspiration online. This is an artwork called Kasai, made by Joseph Biwald. We've asked him for permission to use it for this challenge and he kindly gave it to us.

We also wanted to show the vehicle driving through a cool neon tunnel. It will be inspired by this image, made by Kresimir Jelusic who gave us permission to use it and show it here.


First thing I did was model a crater using World Creator Unity Plugin from the Asset Store. I've later baked it's cavity and ambient occlusion maps and used them to make albedo and specular maps.
Daniel was busy with modeling the Kasai city. We've changed the planet into an abstract fractured sphere. The islands were also made in World Creator Unity Plugin.

Modeling the lava flow was a challenge because we had to make them conform to the shape of the crater and keep the UV flow nicely. Each stream is composed out of 4 copies of the mesh. Three of them have a material with lava lines of different color and flow speed. The fourth one is just a particles/multiply material with black gradient to darken the background of the flow. Turned out nicer than expected :) As for the flow animation, I just wrote a simple script that modifies the UV offset.

Daniel also made this tunnel by interpreting Kresimir's concept art.

For that drone you can see flying in the beginning of the video, we've used a Droid Scout Ship asset from the Unity Asset Store.

Here's the bubble animation. Note that it's actually two meshes. One when the bubble is seamlessly connected to the lake and the other mesh is made of two separate parts: bubble and the lake. Highlighted in this gif is the visibility switch between those two meshes.

Road-holding pillars.

Daniel also made this awesome crack. I've made the lines glow in Unity the same way as the lava lines.

And last but not least, that awesome car! Our friend John Gustavsson had it sitting in his portfolio folder and he kindly offered to let us use it in this video. We've joined the challenge pretty late so we didn't have time to make our own. We did try with a hovercar (as seen in the WIP video) but it didn't fit well.

Timeline, Cinemachine and Post Processing

The first thing I did after importing the crater into Unity is making some placeholders and animating the camera. I had a clear vision of what the final should look like and Gustav needed the camera animation in order to compose the music on time. Here's the final timeline with cinemachine clips.
This is the first time I'm using Cinemachine and it's truly a great tool. What I found especially great is that I could make two Cinemachine timeline tracks one under the other and just interrupt a continuous shot (in upper line) with a cut to a different shot (in the lower line). After the shot in the lower line ends, it just cuts back to the continuous shot. That's when we pan the camera from city to crater (upper line) and interrupt it with a close-up shot of a car driving from a city at 22nd second.
As for the Timeline animations, there's just too many to list them all here. Most of those are activation tracks because many things just turn on and off for specific shots. For instance, there are two versions of trails and headlights of a car. The normal one and the one for a bird's-eye view when I wanted the headlights extra bright and trail extra long.
Another unexpected way I used Cinemachine is having a car move along the Cinemachine dolly track. I just animated it's position in timeline. I've made the droid ship fly along another Cinemachine track the same way.
For post processing, I've used Post Processing Stack V1. This is my setup.
For some Cinemachine VCams when they show the car close to the camera, I'm using a similar profile but with DOF turned on.

Use of Asset Store Tools and Plugins

I wanted to have some nice volumetric low wispy fog and some awesome clouds, so I've decided to use Fog Volume 3 by David Miranda. It's a great plugin. It's a bit difficult to learn quickly but produces great results once you get the hang of it. It did really bring the FPS quite a bit down but I believe I could optimize it given enough time and work.
Another important thing was that 'neon sea/ground' with glowing lines. I wanted a real-time reflective surface that is PBR and had emission. Using ScreenSpace Reflections of Post Processing Stack V1 on a standard shader was not an option because those reflections don't render far away from the camera. So I found this great asset called PIDI - Planar Reflections that does just what I wanted. The version that supports emissions wasn't live on the Asset Store at the time but the authors were so nice as to send it to me.
Another atmosphere-boosting asset that I've used is Unity Volumetric Lighting. At first I thought we're not allowed to use it because it's from Adam project, but a few days before the deadline, an e-mail from Unity arrived reminding us of the deadline and encouraging the use of Volumetric Lighting asset along with Cinemachine and Post Processing Stack. So I thought I should try it out. I was eager to see what it can do. I've used it most extensively in the tunnel.

The Complete List of Used Asset Store Tools and Plugins

  • Cinemachine
  • Droid Scout Ship
  • Fog Volume 3
  • World Creator
  • Concrete Walls - Japan
  • 15 PBR Metal Texture
  • PIDI - Planar Reflections
  • Post Processing Stack
  • Pro Flares
  • Parallax Space Background (Blue)
  • Unity Volumetric Lighting
  • Starfield Generator
  • Skybox Capture
  • Scene OBJ Exporter
  • Recorder

The End

This summarizes the making of process for our submission. I hope you like what we did. We were late to the party, starting with full-time work only after the New Year's eve. But it was enough time to make the final video almost as good as we wanted it to be. I hope we can achieve close to this kind of visual fidelity in 60fps for our next game which we will announce later this year if all goes well with funding and production. Thanks for reading, please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Work In Progress Log#2 Jan 11

Working on the rest of the scene.

Work In Progress Log#2 Jan 10

Setting up the look and atmosphere of the opening scene. We've used "Fog Volume 3" from the asset store for that wispy low fog. The flying drone is also from the asset store, "Droid Scout Ship". We've only modified its materials and added a trail. Reflections on the ground plane (cyber water actually :D ) "by PIDI - Planar Reflections" asset.

Work In Progress Log#1 Jan 5

The first complete Cinemachine camera setup and Timeline animation. The vehicle is animated to move along the cinemachine dolly track. Those red placeholders represent the Kasai city location.

Other Projects
Vladimir Stanarevic
Game Designer - Designer
Gustav Eriksson
Composer - Producer
Daniel Talic
3D Artist - Artist
Game Designer - Designer
Farrukh AbdurGreat work and results :) Tron style is very nice. Good luck
Thank you Farrukh!
Farrukh Abdur
2 months ago
3d Artist / 2d Designer - Artist
Great work and results :) Tron style is very nice. Good luck
Game Designer - Designer
Michael Shaw
2 months ago
Solo Indie Game Developer - Owner
I applaud in defeat, knowing that I cannot beat such beauty
Ognjen Marceta
2 months ago
Software Developer
Very nice! As always Daniel and Vladimir doing top notch stuff.