Notifications
Article
The Atmos Manufactory
Updated 5 months ago
84
0
A New World
Colonists are expanding across a new world.
The first residents outside the domes eke out an existence off the newly-liveable land, these are the residents too poor to afford the fees to continue living inside their protection.
The massive terraforming equipment looms over them — The Atmos Manufactory. Multiple complexes across the surface of the world belch out gasses and elements, vital to the colonists lives. Some beasts were engineered to survive earlier, the Bio-yaks, implanted with breathing equipment, and engineered to produce copious amounts of greenhouse gasses, to aid the warming process. Though, what use the herds were when compared to the behemoths of the Manufactories is unsure. The last of them are tended by the hardy herdsmen pioneers.

Inspirations

When I saw the concept art by Georgi Simeonov provided for the contest, three works specifically stood out to me. In my head, I saw a world where the poor try to make a living and survive, while near them Mega-Corporations or Governments create massive infrastructure, dwarfing them and their efforts. I saw a massive factory spewing gasses to terraform a new world. Could those strange creatures illustrated also be playing a role in this process?
From this Idea, and further inspired by the images that SpaceX has been showing of their vision of a terraformed Mars – with massive domes and other infrastructure – I set out to put that world into Unity.

Process

I Knew the basis of the animation would be sitting on terrain of an alien world. So the Terrain was the first thing I started with.
I've recently been using a wonderful asset, Microsplat. It extends the unity terrain with a really fantastic shader, full of features and customisations. It also blends between the textures using their height, so you can get rocks popping out of sand, etc., depending on your textures. For this project I also used the additional paid modules for Microsplat, Tessellation, and Parallax for lovely bumpy rocks and dirt, and I also used the anti-tiling module to add some randomness so the textures feel more real.
I used substances from Substance Share, which Microsplat supports, out of the box. After configuring tessellation and other attributes for each texture on the material, I was satisfied with the basic terrain material and painted out a basic scene.
I actually used two terrains in the scene. One detailed one for all the close-up action, painted by hand, and one huge terrain for the distant mountains (or actually, the inside of a giant crater). In the distant terrain, there are also a few smaller (but still quite large) craters that I put the domes in. I sourced the height map from the HIRISE Digital Terrain Models website. (On the website they detail how to import them into blender) from that, I rendered out a height map of the area I had chosen. (By the way.. Yay to NASA/JPL for always releasing their data copyright free!)

Meshes

The domes were really just simple subdivided Icospheres with bevelled edges and faces, with a glass material – I used Amplify Shader Editor for that, a really simple refractive shader that you can barely see from the distance. The buildings inside the domes are just discombobulated cubes for some extra scifi-ish detailing. These Meshes didn't have to be very detailed because they sit at about 5km away from the main area.
Something I used for many of the meshes I created for the contest was a Triplanar Standard Shader. It meant I could use a material without have to spend the time to UV unwrap most of the parts of the models, which ultimately meant that I could save time. It did have a strange side effect though of changing the texture scaling on objects that were set to Lightmap Static, but only in some of the cases, and only when running (not in edit mode)… Strange, but not a big issue.
The shack I created was inspired by the concept artwork that I really liked, the soft water/fog, the ramshackled building – I just had to modify it to how I saw it in my mind. I saw a futuristic hobbit hole, a small house with an airlock, solar panels, a few shades, but not much else. I saw it surrounded by debris and building materials; this was not a place for the rich, but something where the poor would develop colony, on the outskirts of civilisation.
It was a fairly simple modelling experience, I just used the reference image in blender as a background image and tried to match it generally to the shape. I loved adding the smaller details around it, to make the hobbit hole in space come to life. It is embedded in the soil, and has the distinct round door, giving a nod to one of my favourite fantasy authors.
The factory was a similar experience. Strong, simple shapes and extreme perspective made it interesting. In addition, I created particles for the chimneys. Each chimney has two particle systems, one for smoke, and one for heat. However, at a distance, you see it in the animation and the heat particles don't show up much – it still was fun to make though. The heat particles use a heat haze particle shader from Amplify Shader Editor, and the smoke is a flipbook whispy smoke from unity. I also re-used this with different emission settings for the fog particles.
For the strange concept creatures, I reimagined large bison/yak-like creatures as yaks who adapted (on their own, or with some technological help) to survive in a hostile atmosphere. I based the Bio-yak’s design off of a simple model from Blendswap, and modified it heavily, and added a thick coat. For the fur in Unity, I actually used the Advanced Foliage Shader for translucency and for it to blow in the wind. Unfortunately the shader didn't agree well with it being part of a skinned mesh, but still provided a nice effect after some tweaking. I also set up the yak with Foliage colliders on its legs, so that when it walks through grass it pushes the grass out the way.
For all the rigged characters in the project, I also set them up with BioIK, a powerful IK animation system. Unfortunately I didn't get to show off it properly, because when I set up the human characters with animation tracks and BioIK, they exploded or vanished. (I’m almost certain I did something wrong, but unfortunately I ran out of time and couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.) So, some characters were left out or not animated to the extent I had intended.
The human characters were based on the Basic Bandit character from the asset store, I just created a hood and cloak to drape over him, and set it up for cloth animation combined with BioIK, and some colliders attached to the bones. It would have been really cool to see, but you don’t actually see much of that in the final animation. A lesson in cutting features to deliver!
To decorate the rest of the scene I used rocks from the Rocks and Boulders 2 Asset and props from the Garbage heap (mainly visible next to the shack) and Industrial Storage Tanks assets

Animation and Effects

Something that I found a bit tedious with timeline and animation is swapping between timeline and animation editing, and sometimes the combinations of the two don't add up to what you expect. It was the first time I used timeline and it was all a bit of an experiment in the system, but that aspect was particularly annoying… Especially when combined with Cinemachine and attempting to move the cameras. I’d have the camera animated on a parent object, and in my main timeline I could move that around nicely… But the view in the timeline was often different to the view in play mode, which was different to the view in the previewed animation sequence. Again, I was probably missing something here, but I believe that led to some of the jerky camera motions in the final animation. One thing I’d have liked to spend more time on would have been smoothing out the movements and timings perfectly. That said, Timeline is a fantastic tool. I’d just love to see it even more deeply integrated into the editor. I wouldn’t have been able to create something so easily without it.
For the Cinemachine camera animation I mainly used two dolly tracks that animate the position over smooth curve; it's with this that I had the strange discontinuity between the animation and the timeline. I set up the positions of the curve roughly using a few key positions, as with normal cameras, and then used the set to scene view position buttons on the track to quickly get the rough curve. This was then edited with more detail in the editor as I went on, and tweaked the positions of characters, etc.
A trick I learnt on Reddit that I've been using a lot, is to create accent billboards and fogs using simple planes with the alpha-blended particles shader, it can really create convincing fog zones. I used it for the cloud behind the shack, the fog in front of the shack, and the orange glow around the yaks. It’s really customisable and simple to use for a quick and powerful effect. You can see it in the image above.

Lighting

As you will have seen, I also made liberal use of volumetric lights and fog in the scene. This actually only comes from two assets. Volumetric lighting and volumetric lights, they're different I swear! The one from Unity has the benefit of showing up in the editor, which helps with customisation, and it also includes area lights and tube lights. But, the other one by SlightlyMad worked better for me at long distances for the domes. I'm sure I could have done it with just one of them, but they worked well together, with no issues. I also used this for a full-scene fog with animated noise, to give a slight fog over the scene to create a bit more of an atmosphere to the scene. It’s difficult to see in this scene, but I also used the PCSS shader by TheMasonX, for soft shadows in the scenes directional light.
One area I fought with with Unity was getting Lightmapping to work. I'm not sure if it was the size of my terrains, or the special shaders, or something else, but it would almost never let me bake lightmaps on either Enlighten or the Progressive mode. Eventually though, I was able to get a very low-resolution bake saved one some of the objects. Not sure it makes a dramatic difference to the scene, as I’m already using the post-processing ambient occlusion and Wilberforce Colorbleed for some dynamic screen space lightbleed.

Post-process Stack

The Post-process stack (I use V2) makes such a huge difference. Just take a look at this GIF of it on and off. It is especially noticeable in the scene with the factory, I put extra emphasis on colour grading to match the tone of the concept art. What I love is how you can fade between settings of different post-processing profiles on different cameras... Though, I did encounter errors when doing this sometimes, (Not sure what exactly the problem was as I didn't have time to dig, and yes, I should probably have and done a bug report, but... deadlines loom).
A setting I found that made life much easier was one for linking the focus distance for the post-processing to the cameras target position. You can see how I used that in the sequence with the factory and the bug. I also added a sphere to the camera target so it was easier to work with and just set it to a non-rendering layer, which make it much easier to work with when you can find what you're looking at easily.

About Me

I'm a South African based Designer/Indie Game Dev.
At the moment I'm working solo on a Mars colonisation game… You can see I have Mars on my brain, a lot. My passion has always been with Sci-Fi, and dreaming up game ideas.
I'm completely self-taught where it comes to code and Unity, and I've been using Unity for less than a year, after moving on from other engines.
I originally come from a graphic design and animation background. Having left the cogs of the corporate machine, I am now able to explore and create at will… While also making time to hang out with my floof, Grail.

Tools

I began work in Unity 2017.1, but at the end of the process discovered that the Unity Recorder had been updated and required a newer version to download. So I Updated to 2017.3.
PostProcessing Stack V2 Cinemachine Advanced Foliage Shaders V5 (paid) Amplify Shader Editor (paid) Basic Bandit - modified BioIK (paid) Garbage Heap Industrial Storage Tanks Microsplat + Additional Modules (free + paid) PCSS shader Rocks and Boulders 2 Triplanar Shader Unity Recorder Volumetric Lighting Volumetric Lights (yes they're different, but similar) Wilberforce Colorbleed (paid)

Credits:

Music "On the Shore" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Bison Model (Heavily Modified) Bisonhento by mcunha98, Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Substances (share.allegorithmic.com) (Creative Common's "Attribution 4.0 International" (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/))
Cliff Sharp by mynglam. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/832 Desert sand rocks by sliusanders. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/1078 Mars Pebbles by Game Textures. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/41 Sandstone_Cliff by Käy Vriend. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/742 Sand Dunes by Nicolas Millot. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/1356 Spaceship_Metal_Colony by rakshaansoogrim. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/1349 Corrugated Rusty Metal by Game Textures. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/54 Rusty Iron by Game Textures https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/58 SciFi_Panels_Splatsheet by pawnswizard. https://share.allegorithmic.com/libraries/2225
Mars Heightmap: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

William Ruhlig
Independent Game Developer - Other
1
Comments