My name is Allen Grippin. My brother Timothy Grippin and I joined forces to build this scene for Unity’s Neon Challenge. Start to finish, this was a lot of fun and we hand a good time doing it. My main work was to find, customize and build art assets for the environment, while Tim assembled and directed the entire scene inside Unity.
Initially, my brother and I got together over Skype and began juggling ideas. This was a process of discussion over reference art and images from Pinterest and Google images. We finally agreed on a scifi installation reminiscent of the environments used in Halo. We liked their reference art a lot and set out in that general direction.
After some time of this, we agreed to try something new that was outside our comfort zone. A dense alien jungle planet seemed like a formidable project and turned out to be a lot of fun.
A big part of my job was to build and texture the various custom props for our scene; things we couldn’t find elsewhere that would make our scene original. Timothy set about deciding what assets we would need to bring the setting to life, and which we would have to make ourselves. Most of my job was bringing in and customizing assets, while Tim assembled those assets inside our proxy scene.
The tropical speed trees asset had a lot of great vegetation that allowed me get the scene looking like a jungle in a very short amount of time, along with a few terrain textures from the Mega Splat asset and some gathered from Substance Source.
The jungle was still missing that 'alien world' presence, which I decided to accomplish with the sky and making some custom alien wildlife. I started on a concept for an "alien dino" in zbrush. This went through a few concept iterations. Allen was kind enough to do the final texture while I was tinkering with the unity scene. The earliest version is visible in the link below this.
I then used the Forge3D planets asset to place a couple of alien worlds in the sky of the scene, as well as the proflares asset to put a nice flare near them. The enviro sky asset allowed to me to very quickly test the scene with some various weather effects, cloud settings, and light settings. The position of the sun was the most important thing. I would later position the buildings in a way I liked for the sun position I had chosen earlier on.
From here I setup the initial scene of the giant dino walking past the camera, and decided I would need some sounds to bring him to life.
Since I’m not really a sound guy, I subscribed to AudioBlocks, which has a variety of sound clips of jungle noises and animal sounds. All sounds/music in the scene came from AudioBlocks. I downloaded some ambient sounds for the jungle, and some creature sounds (moans, grunts, roars, stomp effect).
I started placing a few of these in the timeline and then presented the scene to my brother and sister. My know-it-all sister said that if the creature was so big, why wasn't it crushing trees, as it was going past. Everyone’s a critic... Back to audio blocks. I looked for some snapping tree sounds, and plugged those into the timeline. I used timeline animation to make them fall over.
The plan was to have the first dino walk up to a few other dinos drinking from a water source, so I needed some good looking water, and dropped the Aquas water asset into the project.
My brother had finished building and texturing and setting up a few of the buildings for the project, so I placed them in the scene, and started contemplating how to get the camera from the creatures into the compound. I had bought the Nemesis Carrier ship on CG trader a while ago (aslo available on Unity Asset Store from LittleChild Games), and decided to get the camera into the installation by having the ship fly by and circle the dinos before visiting the compound. For this I used a cinemachine dolley track for the ship, and used timeline to control the time dilation while it was flying along the track.
My brother had some good scifi assets he had made a while ago (barrels, hologram table, hologram billboard, mech, and the hover trolley were all his work). I wanted to put some hovering cars or flying ships in the scene, so I setup some Cinemachine Dolley Tracks around the compound, and put the hover trolley on them as place holders for ships later, and got them flying around the compound in loops. Then on a whim I decided I actually liked the trollies flying around instead of ships. I put some people, lights, and barrels in the carts, then added some lights and particle effects. Some of them loop on Cinemachine Dolley tracks around the compound, and some have timeline clips that loop. One has its own timeline that is triggered when the camera gets near it, but only this one doesn’t loop.
I began thinking of what type of aliens I would have strolling around the facility. I looked for some on the asset store to save time, but couldn't find some that fit my needs. As a huge mass effect fan, I had some concept zbrush sculpts for a few alien NPC characters from AGES ago (when the 3rd Mass Effect was released). None were finished and most were just anatomy sculpts. Only the Brax model had armor, and none of them were textured. I did some some super quick retopo and paint jobs for a couple of them (didn't have time for them all unfortunately, damn day job...), along with some quick blender rigging. The animations used for these characters were all either from the Movement Anim Set Pro asset or from Mixamo.
From there, I began decorating the scene with npcs, and made a few simple looping timelines for conversing npcs, as well as triggered timeline characters that walk around at spots in the compound.
I had a control track activate the non looping timelines at the appropriate times as the camera went through the same and at the very end of it all, used timeline to add a little animation to the camera shake at spots to make it a little more cinematic.
Assets, tools, plugins:
unity particles pack
post processing stack
tropical speed tree pack
Scifi: The Cargo Bay
Titan Mech Fighter
zololgo holographic shaders
movement anim set pro
Update #10 (jan 14th): Timothy Grippin: A few more tweaks and our scene will be ready! Here's what we have so far:
Update #9(jan 9th): Timothy Grippin: A second alien npc to wander around the second part of the scene, which i will hopefully have a update video with the second part of the scene soon..ish...
Allen Grippin: We're approaching the finish line and are in the polishing stages. We've sculpted out several new models for our scene as well. From here, we're good to go! We'll probably keep polishing our environment up until the last day. Alien crabs, alien females, giant mushrooms...
Update #8(jan 7th): Timothy Grippin: Finally a progress video! hurrah! Still a lot to be done though... More focal control and lighting/animation adjustments need to be done. But we are approaching the finish line!
Was able to get quite a few good sound effects for the scene from AudioBlocks. The planets are from the Forge3D Planets asset. Enviro Sky for the sun rays, and Aquas for the water. The spaceship at the start of the scene was purchased from cg trader a while back but is apparently on the unity asset store as well(Nemesis Carrier from user LittleChild Games. Has a number of highly detailed spaceships). Most of the vegetation is from speedtree assets, except for the giant roots which are actually trees as part of the WitchWood asset(meh they look good as roots too!), and a few things made by me or my brother. Still have to liven up the terrain a bit, and maybe add some occluders to make the framerate spike a bit less(hopefully). Still working on the scene at the compound, but its starting to get there. So much to do so little time...
Update #7(jan 3rd): Allen Grippin: I've started doing some custom wildlife and vegetation for our scene. We've decided to mix a jungle atmosphere with a swampy "giant mushroom look" to give our scene a more other-worldly feel. We'll be posting up some early video works in progress very soon.
Here's one of the creatures for our environment. My brother and I passed this creature back and forth in ZBrush, then zremeshed him (time is a factor here...) and ran him through Substance painter. We've given him some placeholder animation as well, which works nicely given the sheer size of this creature in the scene. Small ships will be flying around/in between these creatures on their way to the compound. We plan on further increasing the resolution of these animals with detail maps:
Update #6(dec 31st): Allen Grippin: I thought the shape of this was really interesting so I'm posting this model. This is building #11 in our pile of custom assets. This was modeled by my brother Tim (in Blender) and UV'd/textured by myself using Substance Designer. The buildings are complete and I've decided to sculpt some additional organic assets to enliven our scene. More to come ^^
Update #5(dec 28th): Timothy Grippin: An older model collecting dust on a backup drive, dusted off and (quickly)repainted in substance painter for this contest:
Update #4 (dec 26th): My ongoing work continues, as I build geometry and Substance textures for the project my brother and I are working on. Quite a few custom assets are needed to pull off our concept, but we're almost there and right on track. A few more assets and my job will move to shader work (in ShaderForge).
While I'm busy with that, my brother Timothy is hard at work experimenting with lighting and environment setup, camera speed/flow, and optimization. We're past the half-way point and he has begun assembling an official scene. Other than the custom assets specifically built for this project, all of our assets so far are from Unity's asset store (though we've found a few other freebies online that we might use).
We've done multiple iterations up to this point, and are playing with the idea of a seedier-looking design for our colony outpost. Nothing is final yet; iterations and tests are still being run in small scenes. We are starting to build over our original idea as the project grows. It's really fun and enjoyable work :)
Update #3: More work done and to do. Tim's hard at work with Cinemachine and animation work. I'm still chiseling out the texture detail. This is a building Tim modeled in Blender. Our project scene is looking beautiful; I'll see about making a video of the progress we have done in Unity ^^
Update #2: We're making great time. My brother Tim is a wizard with Unity's special effects and post process. He's putting together the terrain and procedural effects for the environment, while I am hard at work texturing the custom assets we've built for our scene. Our area is fairly large, so we still have a bit of work to do.
Here's a peek at one of the little buildings we've put together for the contest. We'll have a lot of structures like these in our scene and plan on using a lot more tricks (decals, shaders, doodads) to bring our environment to life. This was modeled in Blender and textured using Substance Designer. My brother and I authored most of the textures ourselves, but there are a few nice ones we've used from Substance Source and other places:
Update #1: After discussing an outline and drawing up a map, my brother Timothy and I are working on a simple blockout, building the larger forms of our buildings using Blender. We haven't begun any official texturing; we're using placeholder UV's and textures to get a better visual on our work as we progress. Substance Designer is extremely fast and handy for this.
At this stage we're mainly assembling raw geometry and borrowed assets. We need to make sure all the pieces fit the scale, silhouette and style of our vision. Following plans for the camera's path through our level, we're also keeping an eye on how much detail is needed and where.
Tim also wants to include some native life on our distant planet; enormous dinosaur-like creatures grazing outside the compound. He's done some concept sculpting in Zbrush for this.
This work is a lot of fun, and so far we're making good time! ^_^