Lots has been happening to Depths of Erendorn this week. We’re remodelling an iconic character, successfully creating several unique rigs, refining our environment even more and adding some awesome trail VFX to character animations! Remember to join us on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit for daily updates on our upcoming dungeon crawler – now let’s get started!

3D Character Modelling

This week, we finished sculpting the base mesh for our noble Parakaw. While we already have an existing model for the Parakaw, recreating this iconic character is very much a future-proofing measure. When we first made the Parakaw a few years ago, no details had been ironed out about how a character customisation system might work in the game, meaning that we never made a proper base mesh for the Parakaw. Instead, we only focussed on creating the sculpt armature – so this was the first issue with the original model.

Additionally, with our Animator moving onto a different workflow where they animate characters primarily without their equipment on, the missing base mesh for the Parakaw has become much more of a high priority issue – so we thought it was about time we fixed it! With this in mind, after we sculpted the base mesh we continued working on the Parakaw by:

  • Placing feathers onto the wings using an insert mesh brush, which saved us some time.
  • Adjusting the proportions to ensure that the Parakaw appeared a little shorter.
  • Retopologising and unwrapping the entire base mesh.
  • Baking the high poly mesh to a low poly mesh to ensure better topology and a lower polycount.

During the making of the base mesh, the anatomy of the Parakaw had some fairly big changes made to it. This was partly due to more thought going into it in general, more experience on our Modeller’s part, and also advice from our Animator on what anatomy might be best for animation purposes. 

We will be replacing the original Parakaw model with this new one once it is all finished. Hopefully there won’t be too much rework needed in order to make the existing clothes fit the new model, but it might be trickier than we think so we’re going to have to see how that one goes!

Animation

In a continued effort to get all character classes within one race fitted to a single unique rig, our Animator began adjusting our main rig for use with all of our Elven characters. After this, the base meshes and clothes of the Twilight Elves and Storm Elves were skinned to the rig. The main rig is essentially a human rig, which we alter according to each character.

We also did this for our Dwarven characters. Once again, our main rig that we use for all races was adjusted so that we can, in the future, use it for our Earthen Dwarves and Frost Dwarves. As with the Elves, we skinned the base mesh of the Dwarf onto the rig – although we didn’t get a chance to skin the respective clothes this week. 

With this all done, we could import the Elf and Dwarf rigs into the Unreal test scene our Animator had created. Here, we tested their walk animation alongside the Human characters we attempted in last week’s devlog. The main thing to point out here was that all three of these character races were sharing one, unique rig. Although this rig was adjusted to each race respectively, we view it as a success that we’ll at least be able to use a single rig for each character race. This is beneficial for two reasons:

  • It optimises our workflow by making the animation process much more efficient.
  • It will speed up character generation in the game since fewer rigs should help to reduce the FPS hit when several characters are on screen.

With us feeling more confident about unique rigs, we decided to try it again for one last character: the Watertarg. As always, we started by adjusting the main rig, adding the characteristic Watertarg ears as well as a new set of clothing joints. We then reexported the Watertarg’s unique rig so that these updates were applied. However, adding the new clothing joints actually reset the skin weights for our Human characters, so our Animator had to give these a little fix!

After successfully using one unique rig for four different character races (including all of the many classes within these races!), our Animator ended the week by exporting one attack animation for the Dwarf and one attack animation for the Watertarg. These animations as well as the rigs were sent to our VFX Artist so that they could add a trail VFX to the characters’ weapons – so continue reading if you want to see how those turned out!

We have successfully managed to use one unique rig for multiple character races. This will optimise our workflow as well as speed up character generation in the game.

Environment Art

This week has hailed in the third iteration of our pine trees, which were made more varied before getting implemented into our environment test scene. With regard to this work:

  • The Leaf Master Material was improved to allow for more customisation between our trees.
  • A Bark Master Material was created to allow for colour as well as normal map adjustments.

In addition to this, a Rock Master Material was created in order to bring a higher level of realism to the rocks in our scene. While we’re on the subject, triplanar detail mapping was added to the Rock Shader and we also fixed an issue that was desaturating the base colour of the rocks. 

We also added a blend function to the Rock Master Material that will allow us to place moss on top of various objects, adding texture, detail and more points of interest to our environment – and, after some tweaks, this moss should now also appear more vibrant, which is always a win.

Visual FX

After our Animator sent over the rigs of the Dwarf and Watertarg, as well as their respective attack animations, our VFX Artist began setting up trail materials and systems to work with them. These kind of visual effects really bring a character’s animations to life, and multiple textures for different weapon trails were created so that we could find the VFX that brought the most justice to these characters.

After working on a bit of concept art, defining a trail type for each character, we decided to create an almost electric blue trail for the weapons, with glowing specks of light radiating from it. We then created some more buff effects in the way of pops and poofs before adding sockets to the animation skeletons so that we could easily insert the VFX. The result definitely brings a fantastical, yet badass element to our Dwarf and Watertarg as they swing their blades, so we’re excited to continue our work on this!

Programming

A few additions were made to the server and game client this week. While one of our Programmers focussed on fixing packaging issues with the game, the other spent some time working on the lobby controller. For starters, a placeholder lobby screen was added. We also resolved a bug that kept breaking the browser. This would happen every time we updated the list after making a new lobby, so we were happy to get that sorted. In addition to this:

  • We added a new Game Entity data structure as well as a new Lobby Data data structure to the project.
  • This Game Entity class will hold character information not only for the lobby screen, but also for game scenes.

To conclude the week, stats and helper functions were implemented so that we can manipulate and retrieve stat information for a Game Entity. While this is not needed for the lobby screen, it will be used extensively elsewhere in the game – like in the inventory/character information panels, as well as in the game scene itself.

That wraps up this week’s devlog! Thanks again for joining us for another installment – we’ll see you next week!