Just a small update today, with an object some of you may recognize. This is a high-poly model, where an artist goes all-out to produce the most detailed, accurate, beautiful model of an object as they possibly can, without any regard for poly count or performance.
While we’re pretty confident that our engine could handle a model like this in realtime, the next step will be to create the low-poly model, which judiciously reduces our polygon count without sacrificing accuracy and detail.
The process of recreating a game like Riven requires a lot of guess-and-check work. Matt, one of our artists, has been gradually figuring out the exact placement of each tree in the Jungle Island jungle, and the precise shape that the pathway follows. This is a constant struggle for us – the placement and shape of every object is triangulated using the original game renders (and other various resources). We use temporary “blocking” geometry, in order to lay everything out in position, before final assets are modeled.
We’ve shared a few of these images in the past, but the jungle is a seemingly never-ending area! Once the positions of the trees and other jungle objects are locked down and double-checked, another artist will start adding detail and bringing the place to life.
While we were pretty happy with our Mysterium 2014 presentation, many of the elements we showed off were incomplete. We’ve been working at polishing a lot of aspects of the Jungle Island Basin, and today we’d like to share a status update.
Davis, another talented member of our art team, has been hard at work for the last few weeks on an updated model of the basin terrain. While we have not yet textured the model (the sculpting is not yet complete, which needs to happen first), we think it’s just about ready to show the world.
Most notably missing from last year’s terrain model were the vertical ridges that are such iconic features in the original game – now meticulously restored!
At the same time, Will continues the Sisyphean task of stick-walkway placement, in the village. Will has been assigned to this task since before last Mysterium, and it’s a doozy. He’s been placing sticks individually, to ensure that their locations are exactly accurate to the walkways in the original. Here are a few key areas he’s been working on:
We’re holding off on bringing these updates into Unreal until they’re closer to being totally finished – these images are just snapshots from Maya, and shouldn’t really be judged on their looks. We’ll focus on making them look great as soon as the modeling is complete!
This week, we’re showing off some of the texture work that has been taking place in the schoolhouse! When we demoed this area at Mysterium last year, it was in a fully modeled, but untextured state – now one of our artists, Tim, is working to rectify that!
We haven’t put the new textures into Unreal yet, but in the meantime here are a few renders!
Note that these images are not representative of final assets, there’s still plenty of work to be done here. We’re pretty happy with how they’re coming along, however. You can see more of Tim’s work in last year’s Mysterium demo – he was responsible for the Villager that opens the door when you knock.
Meanwhile, work continues on modeling Gehn’s Office on the 233rd age. As modeling work wraps up on the upper level, Kelly has begun to look at the objects in Gehn’s Bedroom. Here’s her latest object, the nightstand:
As soon as we’re happy with the quality and accuracy of the models, texturing can begin. Kelly modeled a bunch of objects for last year’s demo, including the schoolhouse area!
We’ll wrap up with a reminder that we now have a forum! Come by and hang out!
Every year after Mysterium, the team takes a bit of time off as a breath of fresh air after the mad dash to complete our demo in time for August. That brief period of exhalation has been thoroughly enjoyed by each and every one of us, and it is now safe to say that we’re back to work.
After our success with last year’s goal, we have decided to split our team into three distinct groups. The first group, which is the majority of the team, is focusing on finishing up the Village Basin area that we showed off at Mysterium. This includes completing the unfinished assets as well as fixing any remaining glitches and generally fine-tuning the engine.
Meanwhile, two of our artists are off blazing new trails for the project. We’ve discussed our camera matching process in the past, our technique of getting 1:1 geometry based solely on images from the original game. Matt, our expert camera-matching guy, has already begun to apply this technique to the rest of Jungle Island, which is the first stage in expanding our in-game area beyond the Village Basin. In these screenshots, you can see our progress on matching Gehn’s throne and the upper walkway in the forest (the line overlays are our work)
Once areas are fully “matched”, we create very simple stand-in geometry for the area, so in-engine work can begin before the final assets are completed, or even started. The stand-in assets are then replaced, one by one, with final art, until the area is complete. This is the state of the 233rd age currently – it is fully blocked-in, and Kelly, one of our amazing artists, is beginning to create detailed assets, based on the blocking geometry.
Here you can see one of the elements she’s working on, albeit still in an early, unpolished phase:
We’re very happy to be back to work – as nice as a break is every now and then, we all love working on this project, and are excited to be able to show you guys some pretty cool stuff in the weeks and months to come.
The team is finally home, back in the land of stable internet connections. While we do not yet have access to the footage of our actual presentation, we’ve gone ahead and recorded a walkthrough of the area we demonstrated on Saturday, so you all can get a nice, high-resolution view of what was shown there until the actual presentation can be posted.
Also important to note is the fact that this area is still a work in progress. Many textures and objects are placeholders, or missing altogether. That said, work has progressed since Saturday, and there’s actually one or two assets that have been added to the area since then!
We’ll post the official video of our presentation as soon as we get access to it. Until then, you can watch a capture of the justin.tv stream here!
The Starry Expanse team is now gradually making their way back to their respective parts of the world, and we are beginning to pick up where we left off before Mysterium. We have a video of the content we presented on Saturday at Cyan, and we’re working on getting it uploaded (the hotel internet was simply too slow for an upload to be feasible). It’ll be up before the week is out.
Until then, here are two of our slides from the presentation, which we think make very nice wallpapers. Enjoy!
(Note that these images are based on renders from Maya, not in-game shots!)
Back when we first announced that we would be switching to Unreal Engine, the first asset we showed you guys was a hut from the Jungle Island village. In the intervening time, we have completed much more of the village. In fact, all of the huts are now detailed and textured, and the walkways connecting them are also coming along nicely.
Here’s a peek at what the village looks like running in Unreal:
These shots only show the village and beginnings of the walkways, with terrain and other assets stripped away. You’ll have to check out our Mysterium presentation on August 2nd to see the complete scene!
Mysterium is being held during the first weekend of August, at Cyan’s offices in Spokane, WA. We hope to see you there!