Final submission of the Neon Challenge. This concept is based on the "Sphere 50" project I developed. The setting is the near future in a world where Arenas are the major entertainment form. In these arenas pilots fight in protective spheres among themselves for glory and the crowd's pleasure. This project wants to show a small part of that world and at the same time to work as the intro for the game.
Post Mortem article:
I am a game development enthusiast that spends most of my spare time brooding and cooking ideas for games. As of now I have only finished a prototype of one game that managed to get recognition in a Unity competition (Edge Get into Games Challenge 2015), Sphere 50. Besides game development I also have a strong interest in image processing and I am currently working as a Visual Computing expert.
This project started as an encouragement for creating an intro for that prototype. I actually had thought about the camera views, animations and objects a long time before the challenge. The main problem was that I did not have a tool to create an intro and could not create all the content on my own. With the introduction of Timeline into Unity the first hurdle was removed and the creation of this contest encouraged me to work on this. A big issue was that I had a very complex idea, so I decided to create a simplified version of it. This is how the video "Pilot 50 ready" was conceived.
My inspiration is divided into 2 parts:
As mentioned before I got the idea from the game I developed with a colleague: Sphere 50. Imagine a dystopian future with humans piloting huge spheres in arenas for the crowds entertainment.
In terms of general looks I got strong influence from two famous mangas: Akira (by Katsuhiro Otomo) and Alita Battle Angel (by Yukito Kishiro). I find the mix of high-tech, steampunk and cybernetics extremely appealing.
In order to complete the challenge I followed these steps:
Create general layout of the scene with objects and main interest regions. Base ideas come from inspiration sources (Sphere 50, Akira, Alita).
Research which assets to be used.
Design each part in detail (Elevator, elevator shaft and base, passageway, walls and sphere depot).
Add lighting and VFX.
Add character model, camera setups and animations.
Test, debug and optimize.
Part 1 – Base idea:
The idea was to create a setting in which the pilot enters a hangar-like environment and enters her sphere-vehicle to play in the arena. The focus was to show the pilot on her way to the vehicle and then have a good view of the it at the end. The video's goal was to engage the viewer into wondering where she goes and then to be impressed by such technological marvel, especially against a more industrial-like background.
Part 2 – Asset research:
The original concept was to work with steampunk and science-fiction environments. The major problem was the need to mostly use free assets. Some very cool packages containing pipes and the Unity sample projects were the base for the feel of the project. For reference on which assets were used, you can check the list at the end of the article.
Part 3 – Design/ Modelling:
Once the assets were selected the scene started to take shape. Nevertheless there were some problems with the parts that could not be found online. Either they had to be created or substituted by something else, for instance the elevator, which had to look futuristic. I could not find any free assets that meet the needs, but I found the Corridor Demo from Unity Technologies that had the doors that I wanted. Those models were perfect, but needed some changes and that could be accomplished using the new FBX Exporter and Maya integration. The panels that were in the way were removed and replaced by windows.
The rest of the general design were planes/ cubes setup in a smart way and added textures. That gave shape to the elevator structure, passageway and sphere depot. For the floor, I chose to use water as a nice addition thanks to reflections and the look. It also helped give it a more steampunk-ish vibe with all the pipes around.
The final part, in which a huge sphere can be observed, the model was the same one as in the original Sphere 50 models.
Part 4 – Lighting, vfx:
This part took awhile to setup as the lighting had to be dark, but not so much. The ambient lighting had to be removed so a total darkness could be achieved in most of the scene. Most of the light sources are point lights and the goal was to play with the shadows, specially as the elevator descends.
Additional visual effects were added: Steam, fog, waterfall and volumetric lighting. These effects' goal was to make the environment a little less empty.
Part 5 – Character, cameras and animations:
It is complicated to find good quality free models in the asset store, but there are some hidden jewels. The MCS female model is outstanding and provides a sci-fi pack that served the needs of the project.
Once the character was in place the animation to create the movement was very simple: standing-walking animation using timeline. It was a bit tricky to match the animation and movement properly without looking like the pilot was sliding on the passageway.
The other animated objects were the elevator doors and the sphere at the end. For the sphere the animation had to be mixed with a script to create an accelerating behavior to the rotation at the end.
The camera setup was simple. Just a few standing cameras and a small Dolly Track to have the desired closeup shot at the beginning. The layout of the cameras and other elements can be seen in the next image.
Part 6 – Polishing:
After all the elements were in place there were small bugs. The volumetric lighting used had a very demanding tax so the quality had to be reduced for better performance. Some lights that were seen through objects, so new ways to block them had to be added. The animations were slightly off in some places so transitions had to be modified and animations/ movements had to be tweaked.
The final visual part was the Postprocessing stack. The major changes to a normal (non-postprocessed scene) was the focus on bloom to highlight the sphere's green lights. To give the scene a more vibrant feel I also added antialiasing, ambient occlusion, screen space reflection, color grading and vignette.
The final video was edited with an external software where the final logo and audio was added to have a more sophisticated feel.
Work in Progress Log #4 - Jan 13: Final configuration
It has been a long week of work (mostly non-Neon Challenge related), so I did not have much time to work in the final details nor to update the progress log properly. I focused on creating the final part of the video by animating the sphere and the access to it by the character. It took me a while to make all the animations and movements to work properly.
All the cameras have are tune and the audio files haven been chosen. In the final post mortem article I will provide more information on how I used the timeline and post processing stack features.
Work in Progress Log #3 - Jan 3: Cameras, animations, recording tests
We are reaching the final week of the challenge and I have already started with the animations and camera setups. I have had to fix some small issues with lighting and have the basic camera paths setup. The following GIF shows the current state of the project.
There is a final part I want to add to the animations that I have not done yet. It should be the access to the sphere and the final animation. I will have it finished by next week, hopefully. In the meantime this starts to look like an actual intro.
Work in Progress Log #2 - Dec 17: More modeling, lighting and VFX
For this week I am focusing on finishing the depot for the sphere and add some objects. After that I started on working on the VFX: improving the water to a more suitable one, add steam and water efects, etc. I also started setting the lights up.
Additionally, I have also added volumetric lighting and fog, as well as post-processing stack, in the project. These are just test-runs to see how it would look like. The following image shows the difference in the scene with a similar angle
Work in Progress Log #1 - Dec 10: Prototyping and first general models
This is a week to study the concept. Once it was finished I started creating a few models to setup the overall atmosphere.