Friday, December 28, 2012

More, a texturing and animation story

     Well, Christmas is over and it is time to get back to work learning Blender. Taking some time today to learn texturing and animation. I know this topic is way over done, however, it is an easy character to make and texture. Deal with it. I decided to make my very own Minecraft Steve. For those of you who are not familiar with Minecraft, Steve is a cube based character with 8-bit graphics. This makes him very easy to model as well as texture.

     This screenshot shows me finalizing the armature after making the very basic mesh for Steve.You can see that I have not parented the bones in the arms and legs to the main spine bone yet. Fret not, I did it. Anyways, a very basic armature for a very basic mesh, though I did learn how to go in and edit vertex groups for individual bones. The leg bones where effecting the body and the head was effecting the arm... it was very strange, but it is now fixed.

     After adding the armature and then parenting the mesh to it, I decided to work on marking seams for the UV unwrap portion. Since all the body parts are essentially cubes, this process was very simple. All I did was take the front face on each part and mark the 4 edges coming off towards the back, then you just mark the 3 seams in the back and it unwraps very nicely.

     Here is the initial UV unwrap displayed in the UV image editor. After this screen shot I placed all the that were the same on top of each other. For instance, since both arms are going to look the same I rotated and located one arm so that it fit perfectly on top of the other. Then, I did the same for the legs. The head was scaled up to allow for more detail, as was the body.

     Using G.I.M.P., an open source image editor (similar to PhotoShop) I loaded the UV unwrap and proceeded to paint the texture. I have a fondness for cartoon textures and it just so happens that Steve wanted a custom cartoon texture. I'd go into explaining how I used G.I.M.P. with all the layers and such, but, this is a Blender/Game design blog. Anyways, after all the painting was done, I added a blur to make the image look pixelized. Then, export it as a .png file and load it back into Blender.

     I had to kind of cheat this image, since the original used a very poor and quickly done texture that I decided to throw away. So here is me showing the new texture loaded into Blender with Steve showing it off in style. Actually, in this picture you can see me working on the animation that will be shown in the next blog! I'm going to make a little Minecraft animation to finish off this project.

     Here is a sneak peak. It is far from finished, however, I wanted to see what he looked like rendered. Incidentally, does anyone know how to make this model project a shadow onto the image textured ground that he walks on? I cannot seem to accomplish this task. Any help would greatly be appreciated.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Coins, new mechanic introduction!

    I'm adding an element of difficulty to the game. Each level will start with a very short amount of time to complete it. Fret not, each level will house several gold coins to increase the amount of time you have to complete it. They won't be hard to get to, but you do have to work at them... for example, you might have just enough time to reach the first coin, so any screwing around and it's game over for you!

     The coins were really simple to make. First off, I added a circle mesh. Then extruded the circle directly back to give it thickness. Then using extrude and scale, I created the lip of the coin before it goes into the dip. Then, extrude and scale once more to bring the coin in on itself to give it depth. Then just highlighting the newly formed inner ring and pressing the "f" key to fill in the missing faces.
     I've done some work on the first level and decided to take some screen shots as I progressed.

     This is the first in the series. Not much to see really, just kind of giving you an idea of the scale of the first level. On the far left you can barely make out the humble beginnings of level 1. At this point I was still in the planning and experimenting stage.

     Here you can see I added in some jumps and a pitfall. The pitfalls are a fun little obstacle that seem to pop up in all kinds of games. From this perspective you can see how I create the 3d effect inside of a 2d game. By placing the camera into orthographic mode it allows me to place things in the foreground and the background while both still appear to be on the same plane. As the character runs through the game along the cleared center path visible in the above picture, he passes behind the trees in the foreground and in front of the trees in the background, giving the illusion of 3d.

     Another orthographic view, just giving an idea of how much of the level is finished. The little cross in the middle of the screen is the center of the level. I'm about a quarter of the way done in this image. You can see in this screen shot that I have added another platform after the pitfall and added the trees and grass where needed.

     This is an awesome view. I deleted the back and bottom of the level as they were added geometry that was not necessary. In this screen shot you can see a second pitfall and some more trees added. Each level is going to have a different feel to it. This one is outdoors and forest sort of feel. I've already had a request for an alien level, can't wait to work on that one! Everyone needs to check out this site for amazing music that is royalty free! I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this site. It is wonderful!

     In this video I show what coins are going to look like in the game as far as movement and color is concerned. Also, it will go onto my kick starter project as fun additions while it is posted and accepting contributions. I'll get the link on here and all the other blog posts as soon as it is green lighted by Kickstarter. As always, please leave comments and suggestions!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kickstarter, all or nothing!

    Well the time has come. Having a month of serious Blender focus and several months of goofing off with it, it is time to take on a project. I've already done some work on Roundy's Adventure, so it's time for that work to be put together into a Kickstarter project. I've been working on setting up the project for a few days on and off. I have already met/completed all the requirements, and I'm well on my way to having a very nice project set up. So with all that said, I present to you... Roundy's Adventure Teaser Videos!

     A short little video compiling everything that is done up to this point. Most of the material is going to look familiar, as it has been published piece by piece here on my blog. This video is what I'm submitting as my project video on Kickstarter. I'll post a link to the project after it goes through the evaluation process. Once that occurs the project is ready to accept backers. Each backer then picks a price level and gets rewards when the game is released. Each backer will get a copy of the game, regardless of price point purchased.
     This is a short blog post, mostly to promote the new video and to post about progress being made. The first level of Roundy's Adventure is half way finished! I added some pitfalls, similar to Mario Brothers, which will reset you to the beginning. The game is harsh like that, but, I feel like it is more rewarding to complete it in one go... instead of dying and starting right back where you left off. I'll snag some screen shots of the first level as I work on it for the next post. I can talk about how it was created and what the geometry looks like right now. Till then, I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Trees, grass, and levels! Oh my.

     Judging by the title, one can safely assume that I've been busy. It is true, today I started modeling some more assets for Roundy's Adventure. Also, I started working on the first level! I'll get to that later, for now we will talk about planning out the levels prior to starting them. Now this should come as no surprise, but let me tell you from experience. It is so hard to force yourself to sit down and plot out a level when in just a few clicks you can have Blender up and running. Sketch it, write about it, outline it, just do whatever to plan it. You will save yourself a lot of time and headache. I will admit, I was the type to just jump on Blender and start throwing junk together... and that is exactly what I got, junk. Today however, was different. I did some thinking to figure out what this level is going to look like and decided exactly what assets I would need to model. Also, I decided to use only Blender materials and textures for my first game. Part of it is because I'm lazy and the other part is because I would like to learn G.I.M.P. better first.

     This is the first asset I would like to talk about. It just tall grass. Nothing special, but it is very low poly so it is easy to duplicate and stagger to give the illusion of bunches of grass. To make this piece I just added the default plane and subdivided it twice. Then using the extrude tool, I grabbed the inside edges and added some rotation and scaling to give them the shape you see here.

     For the second tall grass model I took the first one and just moved some of the edges around. It tiles up great next to the first one. For the material and texture I did a green diffuse with shade-less checked. Then added a texture and sized it up so the stripes were more "random" looking. It creates a neat little effect when it is placed sided by side with duplicates of the other grass.

     This asset is, obviously, a tree. I started with a cylinder. Scaling the base out and scaling next ring in, it gives the illusion that the tree in starting to spread out for the roots. Then just using extrude and scale I formed the rest of the trunk. For the leaves I extruded then scaled out and then grabbed the edge and brought it down a bit. From there extrude and scale to bring it back up to form the leaf ball at the top.

     This is the other tree I have ready for this level. It is the same tree as above but I altered the trunk a bit. The cool part about these trees is that they can be scaled along an individual axis, thus changing the shape and making a unique tree. The texture and material on these trees was done similarly to the grasses. The difference is, the trees accept shadows so they appear to be 3D.

     This screen shot shows the humble beginnings of the first level from Roundy's Adventure. I have a rig that follows the camera and contains all the lighting for the level. The camera is set to orthographic to make the game 2D. You can see the big blue background that is just a simple plane. Unfortunately you cannot see the textures that are applied in this image, but I've got a render coming up that will show you all that.

     Here is a sneak peek of the first level! You lucky bastards! I can't wait to work on this some more. The whole process (learning, experimenting, playing, creating) has been an amazingly fun time. I want to get a sample level ready in about a month or so. Having that ready and filmed will really help when I try to get Kickstarter going. Well, I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek and I look forward to some comments and advice!

Blog claim token: 7EDHYZXX22MB

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wishing for a winter wonderland...

    Well, it is almost that time. I don't know about the rest of you all but I'm ready for snow! So, obviously, I've modeled Santa Claus. Now, this is actually one of the hardest models I've done to date. The beard and the different colors on the body made for an interesting time. I learned how to contour the geometry to the body flow while at the same time making it possible to add in features. I did a simple Google Images search and found tons of reference photos for this project.

     I started out with your basic cube. Then subdividing and cutting it in half, I added a mirror modifier and a subsurface modifier. Then using extrude, scale, and grab I modeled it further into the beginning shape you see here. I'm referencing it off of the picture that I have set to the background in orthographic perspective. I have my default Blender screen set up a bit different then the standard setup. I like having the timeline and dope sheet out with the camera preview in the bottom right. Just makes my animation flow better, I guess I could make a better setup just for modeling, some day.

     Here is Santa Claus with a little more finished. Here I started adding color to the mesh and playing with the specular settings to get the clothes and skin to look right. Shinier for metal and dull for clothes. At this point the mesh is still only half as I have not applied the mirror modifier. Shortly after this I had a crazy issue that caused about an hour of confusion. Some how I managed to set the origin of the model to some bizarre location which in turn caused the model to mirror on his back. After figuring it out and changing the origin it made things a little weird but I was able to finish the project with minimal stress.

     Here is the scene that I had setup for the final render. I made a little "north pole" looking object to add some depth. The plane on the ground was setup to look like snow. I did some playing around in the world tab. I set the sky to be dark blue with some stars to make it look like snow is falling a little bit.

     Here is the final render. It is nothing to crazy but it took me a while and I really like how it turned out. I need to work on setting up the scene a little better in the future. I've got Santa Claus rigged up, I might do some animations with him later on. I found a really simple model on the Blend Swap website, that someone made. I downloaded it and started adding some color and rigging for some fun later on. Here is what I got so far on that project.

     The model was made by Artboy92, he did a pretty good job! I can't wait to mess with this some more. Seriously though, go to Blend Swap and look around, there are some really good models there if you don't feel like making your own. I'm going to start focusing on Roundy's Adventure from here on out. I need to get cracking on that. I'll keep posting some "spare time" fun projects from time to time, but it will mostly be game design. I feel like I have enough knowledge to start seriously working on it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Walking through beginner animations.

     Today is the walk cycle test for one of the bad guys. It is Spikey's turn! His walk cycle was a bit different from Roundy and more closely related to a humanoid walk cycle. Once again, using the reference that I noted in an earlier blog, I started mapping out Spikey's walk animation. I figured that I wanted this one to last 40 frames, which is just under 2 seconds. So at the 0 frame I added the initial pose. The reason I set it at the 0 frame is because when you go back to repeat the process and loop the cycle your 40 frame will be the same as 0 frame. Since the player won't play 0 frame it skips to 1 frame where you are already in the process of moving to the next key pose. Basically, it just smooths out the transition from end of cycle to beginning of cycle so it can be repeated. I got the copy key frame and paste mirror commands to work, finally! I'm not sure if it was an issue with the roll in the bones or how I was naming them. For that to work the bones need to have a ".L or .R" extension on them if they are not down the center. Here is the finished product of Spikey's walk cycle test.

     Now, I added a background sky and a plane for Spikey to walk on. It was suggested that I also add a bone in the foot to make it flex like the rest of the body. So, now you can see how he interacts with the ground and how his foot bends to add some realism. I've made a comparison video, it has Roundy and Spikey walking side by side. Interesting side note, this is my biggest animation to date! Kind of excited about that. Anyways, in the next video you can see the two characters different styles of walking. Each had to be animated separately and then I started a new scene and linked to the two separate characters. Once they were in the scene I was able to position them and then add the camera a lights rig that rotates around the walking in place models.

     Thinking I may start working on stages for Roundy's Adventure this week. I've got a few planned out, but I think I want to change a few things around. I was thinking of doing more "vertical" levels but for some reason the Mario Brothers style of long "horizontal" levels with jumping obstacles sounds fun too. Oh decisions decisions... I guess maybe I can make one of each and see which I like better.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Working my assets off on Kickstarter!

    I'd like to start off by saying, everyone needs to go to Kickstarter. It is an amazing website where artists can go, create a project, describe what they want to do in said project, and then get money towards it. I'm working on my project there now. You really need to have your shit together to make your project attractive to potential backers. I've got a few pictures of whats about to go up on my Kickstarter account.

     I've set a release goal for my platform game, Roundy's Adventure. I've got almost all the pieces figured out now. Just need to get them entered into Kickstarter and this blog. That is actually the cover picture to my project. I'll be working on a video for it soon, I'm thinking the whole video for Roundy's Adventure will be animated. Maybe have Roundy holding up signs instead of talking... err, well... Maybe kicking signs at the camera, duh... no hands.

     I just realized that I have not posted a render of Roundy. So, here ya go. The main character in all his glory. I'll be adding 1 more armature bone into his foot to get rid of the rigidity there, as per advice from Reddit. Other then that though, I feel like Roundy is a ready and waiting asset for the game.

     Here is one of the bad guys I've been working on for the game. His name is.... wait for it... Spikey. He is an spike-armored eyeball out to destroy Roundy. He is wearing armor all the way down to his knees, which are exposed. His combat boots are laced tight and he is ready to poke Roundy right in his un-guarded eye. You can tell he is evil... he has a beady red eye. I guess it is kind of obvious at this point in time where I am going with this game...

     Here is a better picture of Spikey. I really like this bad guy, he was fun to make. I'm thinking of having a few other bad guys as well. Spikey will be kind of slow moving since he has all that armor on. Spikey will be present the majority of the time as you progress through the levels. I'm thinking about making him a following type bad guy instead of a basic repeated path bad guy.

     They eye drops bottle...The ultimate goal of this platform game. Roundy needs to reach the eye dropper bottle before time runs out and he dries up! Ben Stein would be proud. If Roundy doesn't beat the timer then the game will start over. That's right... the game, not the level. It is a frustrating challenge. But, I'm hoping it will be fun all the same. Please feel free to comment with suggestions or advice!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Feeling a bit animated

     So, taking the advice that I received from the Reddit Blender Community and Youtube... I made a much better, in my opinion, video demonstration of the walk cycle. I did a little bit of research using the Blender Manual. Go there, check it out! It has everything, well damn near everything. So instead of having to animate 600+ frames, I gave the dope sheet a try. The dope sheet is a very interesting tool. It is basically an overview of everything going on in your scene. Using the dope sheet, I was able to animate only 40 frames and then copy/paste the other 600-ish required to do a full circle around the character with the camera. I used a technique that I heard about called "pose to pose" animating. Basically you set up the "main" poses that you have story boarded. for instance, I used this...

     I found this off of Google Images, once again, I claim no ownership. I just used it as a reference. I created the the 5 poses and then slowly edited the transitional frames afterwards. It makes for a really smooth animation. Now there is a shortcut in Blender that allows you to copy a post (ctrl + c) and then past the mirror of that later on (ctrl + shift + v), however, there is something wrong with the way I did the armature that didn't allow that to work. I ended up having to animate the full walk cycle instead of only half. No big deal, just time... I really like using this reference, it shows you roughly when to raise and lower your model to fit normal motion. I really need to sit down and watch some animation tutorials, once I learn the basics I can start working on setting up the platform game.
     The platform game is going to be jump based game. For example, you will have some terrain, and you have to jump over bad guys that can harm you and also jump up onto other platforms. The idea behind it is to get to the key and unlock the door to the next level. This is going to be a fun game to make as it will present me with many challenges to over come in my quest to learn Blender and game design in general.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eye had a really great idea.

     Well, I felt it was time to start seriously working on my first game. Something that I can make some progress on and gain knowledge along the way. Now, this is not replacing my game that I have mentioned several times here. That game is an on going work in progress that I will be working on intermittently. This game, however, is the next logical step in my learning process. So, a little about the game. I'm going to start working on a platform game. It is very basic, but, it will get me going on game design in general. The first step, for me anyways, was to come up with a character that is interesting but very simple.

     This is the very first concept I came up with for the platform game. I liked how simple he was but something just wasn't cutting it. Maybe if I added some hair or something to him... Not sure, either way I didn't like him. I took the screen shot and deleted him.

     This guy, officially named Roundy, is what I am going to use for the main character. This is just the start of him, as you can see... he has no feet. At this point in time, I was deciding if I wanted to do hands as feet or shoes.

    Here is Roundy with some shoes. I gave him some "dressy" shoes. I modeled him without a reference photo, so that's a first for me! His "legs" are designed after baby arms. Short and stocky. The whole model is done with the single mesh process that I learned not too long ago.

     In this image I am adding an armature. The armature will allow me to pose and animate Roundy. I started working on a walk cycle. I'll post a video of the trial. It's nothing special but it is progress. I'm very excited to do some more work on this game. I might distribute the file when it is done. For now though, I give you Roundy walk cycle test.

     For those of you who are interested, here is the video on YouTube. Check it out and subscribe, this is where I will be posting all of the videos related to this blog. As always, please feel free to offer advice and feedback.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Smooth... a boot, knee, and neck story.

     I have not really had much time to work on my modeling in the last couple days. However, I did manage to make some progress on Ralph. I learned how to use subdivision surface modifiers and how to toggle them on and off to work on your mesh. I've snapped a screen shot to show the progress. I did have time to straighten out some geometry. I was trying to get everything lined up the best I could to make texturing easier.

     You can see how the subdivision surface modifier really helped round out the mesh. He looks more natural. Nature doesn't have straight lines, well not very often anyways. I shortened up the back of his boots to make them look a bit more realistic. I went through and straightened the geometry there too. Then moving up his leg to the knee. Oh, I would also like to add that this mesh has a mirror modifier too. That's how everything is so symmetrical. Now, back to the knee. I added a couple of edge loops to add definition and also make it a tad easier to animate later. His hips and lower back look pretty decent now. His neck was a mess. That took a while to straighten out. I ended up just deleting all the vertices in his neck and redoing the geometry from scratch. It was that terrible. Not sure how it got like that. Maybe when I was trying to extrude the head from the neck.

     Here is a render of whats done so far. I need to work on lighting. Does anyone know of a good tutorial for lighting? I could really use the help there. I put him in space, just for fun, ha! Overall, I'm feeling very good about this model. I cannot wait to work on him some more!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ralph! ... an update.

    So, this is just a few more pictures of the alien from yesterday. Started working on smoothing him out and adding boots. I am going to work on real textures after I finish modeling him. I added some color just for fun, it also makes the pictures a bit more interesting.

     Here is an orthographic side view and a left perspective view. You can see the eyes that were added and colored. The eyes were extruded inwards from the face which gave them a bit of depth. Later on, I want to add brow ridges and a mouth. Maybe some tiny nostrils. The side view is kind of interesting in my opinion, because you can see how his body balances (for the most part).

     On the right, you have a right perspective view. This lets you see the little "boot laces" that I added for fun. You can also see the rubber sole of the boot as it overlaps the edge of the boot a little. I still need to work on shaping the boot a little bit. On the left, is the first render with some terrible lighting. I fixed the lighting a little bit in the next render, but I feel like it is still lacking quite a bit. Anyone have any tips or tricks or good tutorials for lighting?

     Here is the render with "better" lighting. It is still horrible but it is not as dark. I need to take the specular down a bit, way too much glare. On the right you can see the little temp scene I have set up to render with. Nothing much... just a lamp, camera, and Ralph.

     In this screen capture I am showing Ralph off in two different orthographic views. I'm kind of proud of this little guy. I cannot wait to rig and animate him after I give him a custom texture. I'm going to be working on the hands and other fine detail over the next few posts. I'll take some up-close screen shots of the process. As always, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them. I would love some advice and feedback!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I, for one, welcome our new overlords!

     Starting December off right. Working on a more complex mesh, as to slowly hone my skills. I've got a few screen shots of an alien I'm currently working on. I found the reference photo using Google Images, so no claim to rights there. I chose this reference for it's relative simplicity. It is more complicated then my others models yet it is easy enough to use the new modeling technique that I learned. Eventually I will be able to use the new modeling technique on more and more complex models...

     In this picture you can see the very roughed in basics of the alien, who I am naming Ralph. I really like how the eyes are turning out, I've extruded the region and then set it back into the skull. It gives the face some depth, which I have yet to accomplish in previous models. The geometry is still a bit of a mess but I've been cleaning it up as I go. I'm going to make a few more shaping passes on this model before I start to add more detail. On the left side of the work area you can see the object in it's smooth form. I do this to make it easier to detect any terrible misshapes and bumps. On the right side you can see the object in wire frame mode. This helps me manipulate all the vertices with ease while giving me real time output on the left. Anything I slide around or update on the right, immediately gets displayed on the left so I can judge progress.

     In this picture you can see a sneak peak of the alien rendered with some lighting. On the right side you can see the scene setup with the reference picture loaded into the background. The left side, in this picture, doesn't update in real time. I just have it up there for shits and grins basically. I've got a lot of work to do on this little guy still, but I wanted to post an update on my progress.

     I would like to thank everyone for taking a moment to check this out. Your words of encouragement and advice are amazing and always welcomed! I will have another post very soon with some more progress on Ralph. I hope to take this character all the way to basic animation. Which means... finish modeling him, texture him properly, rig him, and then finally start to dive into animation!