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Project: N.E.O.N.
Updated 8 months ago
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A Unity Neon Challenge? Hold my beer!

Project N.E.O.N. Final Submission

We are finally done! Check out the final video and screenshots below. If you would like to see how this video was made, just scroll down and check our production logs. Of course there is so much more we'd like to fix but time is pretty much up. The video was rendered directly out of the engine (2017.3) with no editing in Premiere or AfterEffects, in 4k resolution.
Don't forget to hit the Like button to support us!

Video


Screenshots

Here are a couple of screenshots from the final video.

4K screenshots

If the above screenshots don't have enough pixels for you, you can download them in 4k resolution as well. The 4k shots contain lots and lots of good looking pixels! Simply click here.

Our Team

We are a small indie team over here at MetalPop Games, with only four guys. Most of us spent our early years working on various big games over at Crytek before we quit our job to start making smaller and more personal games. When we are not crunching on Unity challenges, we are building mobile games or keep ourselves busy with contract work. Come on, meet the team! And feel free to check out our CVs:
  • Michelle Martin: Michelle is not only a great coder, but she also animates and does most of the tech art setup in our team. Also, check out her personal blog: I code like a girl!
  • Sascha Gundlach: Level design, UI, cutscenes, gameplay coding, you name it. In a small team such as ours, we all wear many hats, and Sascha has a whole collection of them!
  • Berker Siino: If polygons were the Force, Berker would be a Jedi Master. He built all the assets you see in the video. In addition to being very handsome he also has a keen eye for lighting and shader setup.
  • Nick Dragonas: Nick is the one on the team who makes everything sound great. He is not only an awesomely talented musician but also takes care of all sound effects and audio tasks.

Check out our daily updates to see how things are looking and how we are doing!

Day 8: Sunday is tweak day! Final render incoming!

This is going to be our final update, since we are pretty close to wrapping everything up. We made no big changes today, but many, many small ones. We polished and tweaked the squence in a million different places. The effects in the post processing stack got another polish pass and things do look really nice now. Unity's new stack based post processing approach is a lot nicer to work with. And it is crazy how much it improves the scene.
We also added a couple more sounds and adjusted volume and reverb in lots of places. The video now has a much more balanced soundtrack. If you take a close look and compare to the previous videos you can also see small improvements to the lighting in various locations. The explosion which takes down the shield in the beginning now also lights the bridge properly. A lot of small things, really hard to notice, but they are worth the work.

Plugins and Asset Store content

We also updated the list of used Asset Store packages. You can find it at the bottom of this page. Take a look and see which packages were utilized in the making of this video.

Day 7: Music and sound effects !

We finally have some sound effects in the scene now. An explosion, shields going up and down, doors slamming, and many more. It really adds to the atmosphere and even N.E.O.N is making some beeping sounds (as every cute robot should).
Even better: Nick finally emerged from his studio in which he had locked himself up for the past couple of days and finished up the soundtrack for our video. It came out really great and accents the action on the screen perfectly.

Keeping it real(time) with the Recorder

Remember we said we want to build everything so we can always run it in realtime? That means we cannot just render a video and slap some sound on in Premiere. All the sound effects and the music are set up in specific audio tracks and played by Timeline. This means you can just jump into playmode and get the full experience.
In order to record audio from Unity, all you really need to do is set the 'Capture Audio' checkbox in the recorder and you will have all sound effects and music in your final video. We do actually save a lot of time by not always having to render the content again in Premiere. All the videos we have uploaded so far came directly from Unity.
Since the 'Sync framerate' option allows you to render out at stable 60fps we might even go crazy later and try some 4k renderings and see if we can melt our PC this way :)



Now put your headphones on and check out the latest video with the new sounds an music:


Day 6: Polish, polish, polish!

Today brought lots and lots of improvements. We worked on the lights, added more particles and tweaked the cameras and cuts. Timeline does make it relatively easy to manage complex sequences and it is a lot of fun building a video this way. Our sequence has gotten pretty big and we are trying to make to keep it as organized as possible. We are using the track sub-groups to keep a better overview of everything in the Timeline window. We have three main groups which hold the tracks for the individual locations.
The best thing about all this that the rendering is so easy. The Unity recorder really does a good job and the fact that we do not have to capture with third party software saves us a ton of time.

Decals

We finally got around to adding lots and lots of decals in our environment. We placed lots of dirt, rust and paint marks all over the place. Especially the corridor location has benefited a lot from the treament and the whole area looks more alive now. We are still making changes to the decals and nothing is baked yet. Once we are all done we will bake them down for better performance. After all our goal still is to run this baby in realtime :) Check out the corridor with and without decals.
Watch it all come together in the latest render of our sequence.

Day 5: Animation marathon, post processing and more lights!

What is that sound? Yes, that is us crunching :) We got so much done in the last two days, it is crazy. Michelle threw herself into a two day animation marathon to get our drone looking nice and interesting. At the same time we had a lot of fun tweaking the camera animations in Cinemachine. There was no need to do much individual keyframing really since Cinemachine pretty much allows you to script your camera movement. We also added a second character: Hubert, the sleepy space pilot! Since we didn't have time for more animation work and the model wasn't fully rigged we can only show parts of his body but the shot still works very well. Check out this screenhot:

Post Processing Effects

This is where the magic happens! We added the post processing stack and did a first pass on the effects. Things look much, much better now. There is some more work to obviously but we are pretty happy with the first results. No depth of field yet, volumtric lights, particles, etc. We'll get to that tomorrow. At least we hope we will :)

A new work-in-progress video

Rendering times are getting higher as we crank up the effects but so do the visuals. We still have some polish to do, especially at the end but overall things look pretty good. Check out the updated video with more lights, new post and hugely improved animations.

Day 4: Let there be light!

Quite a big step forward! We spent the whole day lighting our three locations. Overall we placed over 60 lights in addition to reflection probes. Our goal is to work smartly so we can light everything dynamically without the need to bake. This will save us a lot of time and on a semi-decent machine we should still be running 30fps. So, if everything works out we can keep the lighting as it is right now and still run our demo in realtime with a good frame-rate. Fingers crossed! Check the newly lit locations:

Luckily we decided to keep our environment small. Especially when working with lights this has many advantages. It allows us to keep the shadow draw distance as well as the overall view distance rather low. This limits how much (expensive stuff) we can see per frame and allows us to polish the things we actually see a bit more.
Even with the light, some areas still look a bit empty and we'll need more particles and decals to enhance the mood of the shots. The corridor location below for example looks much nice than yesterday but is still missing details.

Reflection Probes

We went all out and cranked up the quality of all the reflection probes. Realtime, all the time, baby! This really made some areas nice and shiny. Especially the glass ring in the middle of the engine room looks nice and glass like now.
The goal for tomorrow is to render out an updated video with smoother animations and the new lighting.

Day 3: Timeline, Cinemachine and the first render

The day was really packed and we made some tremendous progress on the prep work for the video. We now have a basic fly-through of our sequence. The environment is more or less complete but still rather bland looking. The next days should bring proper lighting, decals, post processing and other improvements but for now we want to focus on nailing down the timeline of the video.

Cinemachine & Timeline

What a powerful tool! We set up ~15 cameras for our sequence and still managed to keep thing easy to manage. This is the first time we have really worked with Cinemachine/Timeline in a production environment and we are really happy with the result.
We set up a couple of dolly cameras and track and started animating the cameras. Where Cinemachine really saves you a lot of time is when animating cameras! Especially the follow and aim options combines with a dolly track are pure magic. The camera animations are still rough around the edges but we have a good feeling about the whole process.
Check out the first super-duper early work-in-progress version of our video:

Unity Recorder

We used the Unity Recorder to render the video directly from the engine. What can we say? Goodbye Camtasia! The recorder seems to have all the features you can wish for and the ability to synch the framerate so that we can render at 60fps even on our old PCs is really awesome. Our goal for this submission is to keep everything within Timline and then render the final video with the Unity Recorder. No Premiere, no After Effects. Let's see if we can do that :)

Day 2: Building the environment

Today we made great progress on the level environment and we basically have the rough layout of our scene complete. When we built our assets for our game back in the day, we created them to be quite modular so that we can adjust things quickly if necessary. Luckily we are able to use the models we made back in the day for our game and don't need to build any new assets. With our super short deadline we can't afford to get too crazy and rebuild everything.
We have floor plates, wall pieces and ceiling segments in many shapes and forms. Those together with a couple of unique elements made it super easy to come up with a great looking environment. We have built the three main locations we will need for our video:
  • The bridge of our space ship
  • A corridor segment
  • The engine room where the hyperdrive is located.
N.E.O.N., the hero of our story, will have to make his way from the bridge to the engine room to power up the shield generator. We tried to keep each location as small as possible to limit the amount of polish work we have to do.
Obviously things still look pretty ugly, since there is no proper light setup yet. We will get to that once the we have set up a rough and basic cutscene. The three locations are not directly connected but we can use Cinemachine and Timeline to cut our video in such a way that it all looks like we are in one big location.
Our scene looks with the complete environment now looks like this:
The plan for tomorrow is to create the main timeline sequence and set up the first basic fly-through. This way we will know how long our video will be and which areas we need to focus on.

Day 1: Scene Setup, Importing Assets and Plugins

We got the basic scene set up and started adding the essential plugins that we know we will need for sure. We also started bringing in all assets and started looking for additional material in the asset store to cover the things we are missing.

Plugins

There are a couple of assets we know we will need in order to really crank out content fast enough. There is a detailed list of all plugins/asset packages used for this project at the bottom of this page.
  • ProCore Bundle: This really is a set of must have tools. We need to get the environment up and running fast, so ProGrids and ProBuilder will be super useful here.
  • Cinemachine and PostProcessing Stack: We need to deliver a kickass video. Cinemachine is an extremely powerful compositing tool and the post processing stack will allow us to add this extra bit of movie look and feel we want.
  • Decal System Pro: A great plugin for decal creation.
  • Space Graphics Toolkit: THE package for anything which has to do with space/sci-fiscenes. This will make sure out space background looks nice spacy.

Assets

Our biggest worry was that Unity would spit out lots of errors when we throw all our old Unity 5.0 assets into a 2017.2 build. The import process turned out to be a walk in the park however, and we ended up getting all the assets into the engine and ready to use within a couple of hours. There were a few materials and shaders we needed to update but nothing major.
We got most of the environment assets covered now but we are still missing some things. After all, the story of our video is about N.E.O.N, a brave little emergency drone. With no time to custom model it we had to take to the asset store.
Find and download main character model. Check! Next up are some unique elements such as a star ship and force field effects. Turns out the Force Field package from FORGE3D does not only contain cool force field shaders but also comes with a space ship model we can repurpose.

Initial Scene Setup

With the build up and running and all plugins and assets in place we can start setting up the scene. There is not much to see since the level building hasn't really started yet.
With the scene set up and ready to go we should have the basic layout of the environment done rather soon. We can hopefully show a few work-in-progress screenshots soon. Stay tuned!

Day 0: Getting things ready: Concepts, Assets, Script

A Unity challenge! And we almost missed it... We are pretty late to the party with only 10 days left. But hey, it wouldn't be game development if there weren't a tight deadline, right? Yes, this is day 0. Our coder insisted we should start counting at 0 because it wouldn't feel right otherwise... We had a great kickoff meeting yesterday with lots of Pabst Blue Ribbon and even more crazy ideas. What we still remember is the following:
  • Let's keep asset creation to a minimum. Use what we have and raid the asset store for the rest.
  • Tell a short story in our video. Focus on a character. Let her/him have an adventure.
  • Make it pretty. Account enough time for tweaking the lights and post processing

Working smart

With 10 days left we can't go out and create a bunch of new assets or build huge locations. Extensive scripting work or big animations are also out of the question. We need to build a small environment, get it lit and polished quickly so we can start creating usable video content.
Luckily this is where Unity flexes its muscles: Getting great looking content up and running quickly. Quick iterations and fast turnaround times.

The assets: Recycle, its good for the environment!

The biggest challenge obviously. Lucky for us we have some old environment assets still laying around, ready to be used. Well.. kind of. Many moons ago (2015 to be more specific) we were working on a sci-fi adventure game (www.rick-future.com). We build a great pitch and went around trying to get funding. Ultimately we had to give up and shelve the game since we didn't get any funding. However, we still have the assets we built back then and since we never got to use them in a game, now it is the perfect opportunity to bring them back to life. Let's see what Unity says if we throw a bunch of 5.0 assets into a 2017.2 build...

Story: Meet N.E.O.N. your friendly neighborhood emergency drone

The hero of our little story will be a brave little drone. The drone is called N.E.O.N. because it is a catchy name and everybody loves acronyms. We sketched out a script for a short 2 minutes video, in which we follow N.E.O.N. on its little quest to save a spaceship. Stay tuned for more info on the story!

Concepts and Inspiration

We are using some of our old concepts which we created for our game, way back in the day. We will be trying to rebuild the locations in Unity trying to match a good looking sci-fi vibe.

Asset Store Packages Used: No asset store packages were harmed in the production of this project. But the following packages were used:
  • Sci Fi Drone Pack
  • ProCore Bundle
  • Cinemachine
  • PostProceesing Stack
  • Force Field
  • Space Graphics Toolkit
  • Decal System Pro
  • Light Shafts
  • Camera Shake

Sascha Gundlach
Indie Dev - Designer
1
Contributors
Michelle Martin
Developer - Programmer
Comments
Omar K. Hishma
8 months ago
Individual Game Developer - Programmer
This is my first comment, You are the only one who deserves best of luck ...
1
ST
Sipos Tamás
8 months ago
S_gaming - Student
It's fantastic! :)
0
August Sönnergren
8 months ago
Level Designer - Designer
Impressive result for 9 days! Beautiful animations. Makes my own neon feel like a mockup still
1
SL
Sascha Laumen
8 months ago
Great work!
0
F
Flo
8 months ago
Nice one!
0