For this challenge, I wanted to do something different to what I usually make (so far I've only worked on horror/mystery games), and, at the same time, unusual. At some point I remembered "Avatar", "Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away" and even old Adventure games like Zork Nemesis and Myst, so I thought maybe I could make something that combines "the old and the new" in some way.
A young boy finds himself in a distant land, and he is soon greeted by some sort of lady-cat creature. She invites him to follow her, so he can take a look around. The night falls, and the fun begins. This is a magical place; a one of the many lands the boy's visits in his dreams, as a way to escape his crippled and sick body.
The first thing I did was lay out the entire thing on paper, creating a "short brief" and a storyboard with all the different camera moves. I had never used the new tools in Unity 2017 before (I've been using 5.6 for the current projects, and I hadn't considered upgrading them to 2017 for fear of incompatibility). Luckily, the new Timeline was easy to use and I could create the blocking, including camera transitions, easily.
At first, I had no characters, but rather cylinders as "placeholders" for the characters, since all I wanted to focus on was camera movement. When everything was set, I decided to add characters.
LET THERE BE HOOMANS
When I wanted many characters in my scene, and I thought the easiest route was to use the MORPH3D characters available in the Asset Store. I can animate by hand just fine, but animating a lot of characters can be really time consuming, so I used Mixamo instead.
Mixamo didn't exactly have all the animations I wanted, so the rest of the work has been a combination of "adjusting the story" so I could use stock animations, and animating characters by hand, when there's a specific animation that I need. For the most part, however, Mixamo was very useful since there were a lot of animations that I could use for the "magic party feel" of the entire world.
POPULATING THE WORLD
I didn't want this world to be the usual "Blade Runner" or "AI's Rouge City" world, with neon lights and all (weird, considering it's the "Neon" challenge... well...). My idea was more akin to "what if some old place had been re-purposed?" for example, in the Star Wars movies you see the rebels using some sort of Mayan temples as their bases. My idea was the same.
All those temples in an empty area look very weird, so I added some trees. At ground level, things looked far better.
Also, since I wanted this to be some sort of "alien but familiar world" I decided to change the color of the trees, making them purple. You can guess all those trees were really going to be a big problem in the future, though.
LOOK AND FEEL
The entire world feels very familiar, with the regular sky, mountains, colors... but at some point there's a day-to-night transition. My idea was to make it feel very different during the night, so I began to think about different things that could add to that. Things like light sources, effects, etc.
One thing I did was add all those little bright mushrooms so the place could have cool light sources. There's still dim ambient light, but the more prominent lights are those little things, and I think that adds a lot to the atmosphere.
At some point I thought maybe self-illuminating grass could also be cool, but I ended up with a big bright thing covering the ground, and it didn't look cool at all.
To improve the overall look, I used some post processing effects from the post process stack. Basically what I did was to increase the contrast and add some bloom. While a lot of people tend to use chromatic aberration as well (as some say, "chromatic aberration is the new lens flare"), I think that is more suited for a very specific kind of project, with a very specific kind of look, so I stayed away from it.
As a last minute change for this first sequence, I added an opening shot with a kid. Why? Well, that's something you find out at the end.
The full sequence with the post effects and the kid is shown below.
INSIDE THE CIRCUS THING...
The second part of the video is where you get into one of the temples, that has been repurposed as some sort of circus. The idea is that the furry girl takes the kid on a journey, and then she takes him to this circus. This animation is a small closed space, so I didn't really need much: all I needed was two cameras and the placement of the two characters.
When I was done with that, I built the environment around them, added lights, more characters.
THE FINAL SCENE
For the third scene, I made a small closed laboratory.
This is a very drastic change from the previous ones, and it's the same boy, but... WHAT DOES IT MEAN???
Anyway, just like before, I used some post-processing effects like before (contrast, bloom), and some really cool camera movements.
Closed environments were not a big problem. However, the open environment was a pain to work with, because it had a lot of trees, geometry, and all the GI was working in real time. So far I've only used baked GI, and I opt to "fake" it when I need real time lights.
So, I began to test a lot of different things, and I even tried an asset that I have, called "Super Level Optimizer" but it didn't really help a lot (that's why I didn't include it in the "used assets" list). Even with a very small number of geometry and a very limited clipping plane, nothing seemed to help. At the end, I switched from 60fps to 30fps, and combined with some other stuff like occlusion culling, limited number of particles, lower resolution for shadows, I managed to hit 35fps (although in reality it's capped at 30fps).
LATE ADDITION: MOTION BLUR
When I was finishing the entire thing, I thought frame-interpolation looked weird, so I decided to activate the Motion Blur in the Post Process Stack. I left it with the default settings, though.
For the music I used the Fantasy Music Lite pack. I could have added the music directly in engine, but I opted to add it in iMovie. I didn't do much editing other than trimming the clips a couple of frames to get rid of a weird motion blur artifact, and adding a fade to black at the end.
Deep Sky Haze
Nature Starter Kit 2
SCI-FI Laboratory Props
MCS Female Tight Sportswear
Fantasy Music Lite