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Life Forest
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Nefertiti - Life after death

Final Video

Concept

I choose these two pictures from the provided concept arts, as they give a special atmosphere that I like. They are murky, dark, gross, and somehow alien but also very human.
I started to imagine a world which is a bit post-apocalyptic, but still retains the present. Therefore I wanted to show a continuity, which represents itself in the growing forest rooted in the shallow sea, containing artificial trees made from evolution chambers.

The project

Before

I have worked (and will continue) on a small mini-game and reached beta version, when the challenge was announced, so I thought it'll be a perfect way to have some rest and learn new things. I failed the rest part, but learned a lot. Also I bought some assets on Black Friday sale, and I wanted to try them out, especially Gaia, Aqua and Enviro. So, I made a test project, where I put in a lot of assets which I was able to find on the Store for free.
Then I started to think, what kind of world I want to show. I really liked the towers with the chimneys from the concept arts, and also the water effects provided by Aquas. I made a few doodles, and imagined a planet where strange buildings are standing, containing humanoids, maintained by robotic workers. They are evolving, growing new branches, some of them die out, some of them reach the surface and begin to live a new life, opening up their holding capsule, as a caterpillar turns in to a butterfly... or moth.
Also I wanted to make this scene mostly with pre-made models - not just to save some precious time, but I thought it would be more fun and challenging, than modelling a full environment.

Building the real scene.

I started with the creation of a simple model in 3dsMax, and writing a script in Unity which creates random "trees" from the simple building blocks. As I'm far from an expert in programming, this took some time but I was able to do it. I ran the game ~50 times to generate trees which I liked - and saved those as prefabs.
Then I stamped out a terrain with Gaia, added Enviro, Aquas, and started to spend a lot of hours trying to make the environment as I imagined. Here I struggled, as I ran in to a bug, which I was able to resolve only with upgrading from Unity 2017.2 to 2017.3. But that made the difference and I was able to go forward. I used terrain textures from the Asset Store.
When I was finally happy about the earth and water, I started to populate the scene with the formerly saved prefabs, and started to go through the Asset Store's free models. Although I had some pictures in my mind what I should put in front of the camera, and in big details I knew where I wanted to put buildings and bigger structures, but a lot of things were changed on the fly, as I found interesting models and/or started to tweak them. This was the time when I already made a camera path and some transitions between them. Also the name of the project came from this era, as I found and used up the Nefertiti model from Asset Store, and changed the original idea about aliens in the water to a more "normal" one - the future of a company which provides immortality, or so they advertise...
After filling in the empty sea with various ruins, buildings, vehicles, animals and made some of them even moving I started to add sound effects to the scene. These effects originating from Freesound.org, but I re-edited and combined them for the scene. But I found that under the water these effects sounded just like as on the surface, so I made a script which changes the volume and the pitch when the camera is in the sea.
Also I had to do some work with the materials, as I wanted to use the Amplify Shader Editor (I also laid my hands upon this on Black Friday), and the MCS Female/Male characters had a strange flickering skin. Actually they didn't look bad at all in this world of mine, but finally I decided to change them to have a proper layer.
Then I worked a lot on small changes, a little bit of this here, a little bit of that there, making and adding some music, and finally I rendered the video which can be seen above.

Cinemachine & Co.

This project was the first time using Cinemachine, Timeline and also the Post Processing Stack. They definitely worth the time I was able to put in them, and I would like to use them in my other project too, especially Post Processing, as it really improves the visual quality of the scene. I found both Cinemachine & Timeline relatively easy to start with, but also some bugs I was not able to counter (see at the end of the submission), and the user interface of Timeline could be more user friendly.

Cinemachine

I created three virtual cameras, the primary is a camera with dolly track moving through 4 points. The second and third cameras are simple virtual cameras, former is focusing on the Nefertiti sign, slightly moving upwards, the latter is with wider FoV (60 vs. 40 of the others), and with no LookAt target. The primary dolly camera has a hidden simple cube object as a target. There are two movements: the dolly and the formerly mentioned slight upward movement, everything else is from the transition between the three cameras.
I moved the Gaia, Enviro and Aquas effects from the player to the Main Camera, also with the music placeholder game object, and under the UnderWaterCameraEffects/AirLens some extra Audio Source. Here I also found a problem, which I was unable to resolve - surfacing from the water the wet lens effect is not visible in recording.

Timeline

At first I started with different timelines for the cameras and the moving objects around the scene, but then I put them under one TimeLine game object. The animations in the Timeline are simple moves and/or rotations, the character and animal gestures are from embedded animations, configured as default state in Animator therefore be played at start. What I found a bit annoying is that the navigation through the timeline is not really simple - I can't just grab and move around with it, simply scaling it. Also I tried to make some camera fade here, which works in game view mode but not when I use Unity Recorder.

Post Processing

As both Gaia, Enviro and Aquas have their post processing profiles - combined with Enviro's weather profile - I spent a lot of time modifying and trying out the various options. Aquas' configuration by default involves two separate Post FX profiles, one for under water, one for the surface. For the water part I wanted to create a damp, greenish environment, where the field of view is just outside the scene's objects, blurring out the distance. For the surface I tried to create a cold, silky and somewhat uncomfortable environment. What I was struggling with is the surface of the water, which was (and still is) too transparent.

Asset Store

The list of assets imported to the project (not all of them were used in the final scene) - I hope I didn't leave out any of them:
Aged River Boat Amplify Shader Editor AQUAS Water/River Set 1.4.2 Block Building Pack Bridges 3D Basic Pack Building Shed 1.4 Cinemachine 2.1.10 Default Playables Destroyed City FREE Dragon Statue Fishing Boat 1 Free HDR Sky 1.0 Free SF Fighter Gaia 1.6.1 Garbage Heap The Last 1.0 Humpback Whale Indian kanoe - Malecite 1.0 Indrustial Storage Tanks Low Poly City Block Machine Hanger 3.0 MCS Female 1.6.4 MCS Female: Sci-fi Bundle 01 1.6.1 MCS Maale 1.6.4 Modern Barrelz 1.0 Modular Wooden Bridge Tiles Monster 3 Mothership Natural Tiling Textures 1.2 Neferteti Old Building 1.0 Pipes Kit Post Processing Stack 1.0.4 Raw Mocap Data for Mecanim 1.1 Skybox Series free 2 Storage Building Telephone Booth 1.1 Ultimate Cannon Tower Unique Statue Model Unity Particle Pack 1.3 Volumetric Lines White Smoke Particle System 1.0
I would like take the opportunity and thank the content creators for their efforts making these really cool assets!
I promise I'll try to find some time to rate them in the future.

Own assets

As I wrote a few lines before, I tried to use as much assets from the store as I could, so I had to create only a few simple of my own.

Final thoughts

It was great to participate in this challenge, for the fun of unleashing ideas and then the struggle to create those ideas (need to confess I cursed a lot sometimes). I learned a lot under the ~110 hours I spent on this project. Thanks for watching the video and reading through all this stuff. :)
And last but not least thanks for Unity creators making this software!

Who am I?

A guy working in IT who wants to develop and enhance his creative side.

And the bugs

  1. Aquas' surface vs. see-through materials (particles, transparent materials) looks strange
  2. constant error in the console: UnityEditor.InspectorWindow.OnSelectionChange () (at C:/buildslave/unity/build/Editor/Mono/Inspector/InspectorWindow.cs:147)
  3. Recorder crashes if trying to export videos greater than full HD [in MP4 not able to record higher resolution than FHD, WBEM works but w/o sounds, Q: is adding the sound in a different software counts as cheat? ]
  4. flickering MCS(MORPH3D) character skins [resolved with changing characters materials to ASE Standard Textures]
  5. AirLens water drops missing [cutout frames running through NextFrame(), but they are not visible on screen, tried to change render queue and gpu instancing w/o any success]
  6. camera fade-in fade-out not working in recorded video only in game play
  7. random/unidentifiable package import and data writing/loading pop-ups in UI lagging work

Zsombor Cserny
IT Admin - Other
3
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