I've been fascinated with computer games since my first round of Shufflepuck, and I've always tried to understand the process of creating games. Now that Unity and other powerful tools are available for free, I've spent many hours wrapping my head around programming, modeling and other gamedev related topics. This challenge offered a good opportunity to see what I could do within a (somewhat) specific briefing.
After some intense reminiscing I decided on a couple of scenes from my childhood and teens and started thinking about the "look". Even though 50 days seems like a lot of time to get a few environments done, I realised that I should probably keep it as simple as possible to avoid running out of breath. Since both the concept art and the reference scenes employed a cartoon-like low poly style, I decided to stick to that and painted a few concepts in photoshop:
Once I was satisfied with my ideas, I started blocking them out in blender. I always try to NOT get tangled up in details and rather start from simple cubes to define the rough dimensions of the scene. I love using the subdivision surface modifier with just one divison level – really helps to create organic shapes with a low amount of polygons, which can still be tweaked within seconds. Once the basic shapes are there, I start to go wild with the knife tool, still trying to keep it rough.
While some types of bushes and trees are easy to abstract with big clunky shapes, many others aren't recognisable if you can't see the leaves. Even though I wanted to avoid texturing, I decided to create transparent billboards where it felt necessary.
Since plants were an important aspect of the Italy scene, I even decided to rig them to get some wind animation going. I should probably look into vertex shader programming instead of doing it manually, but for a small scene it was a solid experience.
Similar to "subdivision surface", I love to use the "solidify" modifier to create thin volumes. If you combine them, you end up with a nicely controllable mesh in just a few minutes. Using curves instead of meshes can be very handy as well.
Setting up the scenes in Unity
After the modeling was done, I did some lackluster UV unwrapping (Smart UV project ftw!) and basic materials for orientation, then I exported to Unity. The setup was very straight forward, most assets use a single-colored opaque standard shader. Everything that's not animated is set to static so the light can be baked. There are 3 light sources in every scene, a KEY light to mimick the sun / main lamp, a FILL light in the opposite direction, to brighten up the darkest parts, plus some colored ambient light in order to tie asset colors closer together.
I turned 30 last year, so I often feel like my earlier memories are slowly fading away, so I decided to add a combination of custom particle systems (trails, debris, smoke) to visualise this experience and give a somewhat dark undertone to these otherwise cheerful memories. Then I had a look at the new post processing behavior, which I found extremely easy to use.
After the visual side was more or less done, I spent a good chunk of time with the camera animations. Being used to animating in Adobe After Effects, I had a hard time tweaking the keyframe interpolation until I was satisfied with the result. Next time I'm working on something similar, I'll probably do the camera animation earlier in the process, because it helps prioritizing specific parts of the environment. Why bother modeling something that you won't see in the final render? :)
Working as an animator, I've come to realise that audio is way more important to the overall experience than many visual artists think, so I really wanted to try Unitys audio features for the first time. I went outside with a Zoom H2 and recorded some birds and noises, as well as some music on my acoustic guitar. I even recorded the terrible punk music myself (took 10 minutes in total, not gonna lie). All the mixing was done in Ableton Live.
Thanks for watching/reading, I really enjoyed doing this! More pictures: