November Devlog | Week #3 | No. 254

3D Modelling
November 30, 2023
December 14, 2023

Throughout the last week, the 3D Modelling team explored efficient methods for creating very short hair on the sides, emphasising the appeal of the hair planes approach. The focus now turns to refining top hair transitions. The prop team crafted a versatile Viking shield prop with a paint decal material, solidified sprint tasks, and initiated research for upcoming props. The client-side programming team readied for the next milestone, introducing a 'Dry Test Level' for controlled combat simulations. The server team optimised the 3D Navdata iteration and researched a dynamic XP system. The Audio team crafted the Ice Cave ambiance, while the Environment team enhanced prop workflows. The Animation team refined skin weights and basic idles for the human male character. Lastly, the VFX team experimented with the 5.3 Niagara fluid system for improved waterfalls, concurrently exploring optimisation strategies. As always, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit for daily updates on Depths of Erendorn. Alternatively, join our Discord for all the latest! - now let’s get into it!

3D Modelling

This week, the 3D Modelling team at Depths of Erendorn explored two alternative methods for creating very short hair on the sides. The first method involved using the same technique as the longer top but with smaller planes and hair textures (hair planes method). The second method experimented with applying a hair texture directly on the scalp, although it proved challenging as the fine detail was not sufficiently readable. To enhance the visual appeal, a quick procedural material was created to texture a scalp mesh underneath all the hair, darkening the head region where the hair would sit. The team found that while the shell hair for short sides might be the most efficient method, the hair planes method worked well aesthetically, especially in transitioning between very short sides and a longer top. The next focus will be on refining the top hair and improving the transition where the longer and shorter areas meet. Examples of the work completed throughout the week can be seen below.

Short hair created using hair planes and coloured scalp

Top hair added for a smoother transition

Comparison to previous technique with and without coloured scalp

Work in progress textured scalp method

Set Piece Design

In a relaxed introduction to the project for our new prop designer, the team took on the task of creating a Viking shield prop. The asset boasts a versatile paint decal material with parameters for adjusting paint designs, opacity, colour, and the ability to invert the paint mask. Collaborating with the team, they spent time fleshing out tasks for the current sprint, ensuring a well-organised and efficient workflow. Additionally, the team delved into research and the initial stages of blocking out upcoming props, laying the foundation for future environmental assets. Examples of the completed work from the week can be seen below.

Base model of new shield prop

Textured shield

Alternate shield textures

Programming

Client

This week has been about taking further steps towards creating the 'Dry Test Level'. This would require updating how the level is initially setup as well as planning and putting in the groundwork for allowing us to define and run sequences of 'Dry Logs' to emulate server messages without the need for a server connection. Additional work completed by the team can be seen below.

  • Modified the game's execution order to allow for a 'Dry' setup, including initialising a Session and Combat to run 'Dry Logs'. By setting up new modified versions of the Session and GameMode classes that mirror the function of their regular counterparts while leaving the function of their subordinate managers identical, we get simulated gameplay as close to the real deal as possible.
  • Modified the Game State Updater (the class responsible for parsing server updates and turning them into actionable objects in game) to allow input via 'Dry Logs' a locally generated version of the content the server usually sends to connected clients.
  • Created functions and widget for spawning in a character of any class at any location and rotation during a Dry Test.
  • Planned and added some initial classes to allow the creation of Dry Log sequences, by allowing PGC developers to define sequences of Dry Logs we can accurately simulate the effect of different gameplay scenarios, such as an Ability or Active Effect being triggered. In order to give greater control over test scenarios, a method has been devised to allow us to modify each potential parameter of each potential log between simulations.
  • Functions for applying parameters that are normally received via the server, as well as differentiating logs and events.
  • Started on developing the UI and associated methods of log creation/deletion and broader control.

Server

This week, the server team has worked on some more optimisation, this time in the speed and efficiency that the server loads from its memory by optimising variable order. Additionally, code was written that allows the server to wipe its cache on a fresh restart, but being able to detect a crash, and -not- wipe if it's auto restarting from a previous crash. Finally, some research has begun into a dynamic XP system, allowing XP to be allocated to zones in an organic, but still procedural way.

This week has also been about upgrading our accounts infrastructure from the old MVC Framework we had originally setup to handle account creation and storage. This was not ideal but provided us easy to setup accounts handling and API auth. However, we are moving away from this and setting up our own so we can be much more flexible with it. For now we will still utilise the old MVC framework to handle some dev tools until time can be set aside to change the tools but the game and user accounts will use our new system when it's finished. More work is required to finish this task and it stands at about 50-60% complete. Benefits of the change are as follows:

  • Account creation within the client itself.
  • More flexibility.
  • Better integration with various systems.
  • Improved password security.
  • Account management features.

Sound Design

This week, the Audio team at Depths of Erendorn focused on crafting the ambient soundscape for the Ice Cave environment. The sound designer experimented with synthesisers to achieve an "eerie, mystical, crystal-y, shimmery" atmosphere, aiming to enhance the immersive quality of the game environment. Additionally, they revisited recordings from a previous trip to the Alps, extracting sounds like cracking, dripping, and winds to incorporate authentic and evocative elements into the Ice Cave ambiance. This dedicated work highlights the team's commitment to creating a rich and captivating auditory experience for players. Examples of the soundscape in progress can be previewed below.

Environment Art

This week, the Environment team at Depths of Erendorn focused on enhancing the prop and environment design workflow by setting up a Prop and Decal Master Material tailored for large props. The team diligently refined a trim sheet for settlements and created opacity masks for Decal normal details, aiming for intricate and realistic environmental details. Practical testing involved applying the decal trim sheet to wooden pillars around the guard house structure in MAYA, with an acknowledgment that colour visibility in UE5 may differ in the final product. The team also initiated work on an edge normal detail decal using ZBrush and Substance Painter. The process involved sculpting a base mesh in ZBrush, roughing up and damaging edges, and then baking these details onto low-poly strips of mesh. This innovative Decal normal technique allows for nuanced details on large objects while optimising overall texture sizes. The team's commitment to refining techniques and workflows for impactful environmental design is evident in these endeavours. Examples of the ongoing work can be previewed below.

Accent decal for Viking settlement

Wooden beam with added deterioration

Textures and decals on the wooden beams

Animation

In the recent animation update, the Animation team at Depths of Erendorn dedicated their efforts to refining the skin weights and implementing basic idles with variations for the human male character. This meticulous work aims to achieve more realistic motion, particularly for characters that closely resemble humans, such as elves and dwarves. The focus on enhancing the subtleties of motion contributes to the overall realism and immersion of characters within the game world. Examples of their work can be previewed below.

Visual Effects

This week, the VFX team at Depths of Erendorn delved into the 5.3 Niagara fluid system, exploring its functionalities in a separate project. The focus was on learning its mechanics and understanding how it can be applied to create more visually appealing waterfalls for the game environment. The process led to several discoveries that promise to enhance future VFX work. While excited about implementing these improvements in-engine once the upgrade to 5.3 is underway, the team is concurrently exploring optimisation strategies for the newfound techniques. Examples of the work and experimentation completed throughout the week can be seen below.

That’s it for this week’s devlog, but have you seen our monthly roundup of October yet?! 

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