September DevLog | Week #4

Development
September 27, 2019
November 18, 2021

Our efforts to find a new game engine continued this week as we ran further tests and began narrowing down our search. We also made some progress on our Daggerclaw Harpy Striker, as well as created a new terrain material system for use in an alternative game engine. If you like what you hear, remember to head over to our Twitter, Instagram or Subreddit for daily updates on Depths of Erendorn!

3D Character Modelling

Modelling work recommenced on the Daggerclaw Harpies, a race of enemies known for their razor sharp talons and immense wingspan. In a previous devlog, we managed to finish this character’s base mesh as well as create a tiling feather material to texture the body with. We also began sculpting the clothes for the male Daggerclaw Harpy Striker, so we continued with that this week.

The first piece of clothing we took a swing at was the leg armour. To create this, we modelled a flat version that will then be bent into shape around the Harpy’s shins. Before we could do that, though, we first added some details like metal, decorative studs and thread-holes.

However, we actually had quite a few issues with these details:

  • They weren’t maintaining their position when the leg armour was bent into a cylindrical form.
  • We attempted to solve this by making the details and the leg armour separate objects.
  • This allowed us to give different bend values to each of the pieces instead of using the same one.
  • But when trying to shape the overall form to fit the legs, the details were becoming too warped.
  • It was then decided that it would be better to add details to the armour after the shaping process.

A few migraines later, we added some under-armour socks to the Harpy’s legs, a design element that we thought would make the armour appear to be more comfortable and authentic. We also added some shorts to the design so that nothing too scandalous would be revealed if someone happened to look up while this Harpy is flying… it’s the little things, right?!

Finally, we resculpted the belt tassel to have a cleaner shape and so that it would integrate better into the belt sash knot. We’re now pretty much ready to start detailing everything, so come back next week to see where we get to with that!

WIP leg armour for Daggerclaw Harpy
Details like studs and thread-holes were made as sepatate objects from the armour itself so that we could assign different bend values to them.
Close up of low poly base mesh of Daggerclaw Harpy legs
We decided to add socks to the Harpy's leg. These will go underneath the leg armour and hopefully make it look more authentic.
Low poly base mesh of a Daggerclaw Harpy in ZBrush
With everything blocked out, we will now move on to detailing the Daggerclaw Harpy Striker.

Environment Art

As we start to narrow down on the alternative game engine we’ll be using to build Depths of Erendorn with, a new terrain material system was created for testing. This system includes things like:

  • Height blending between materials.
  • Slope-based material auto blending.
  • Tessellation based on camera distance.

So far, we have used five different materials - but more materials and functionality (like procedural puddles) will be added at a later date. This week, we also made our first pass on initial outdoor scene lighting, fog FX and post-processing setup. As well as this, a pine tree was created in SpeedTree, which offers a variety of software products to program and model all types of plant life with. We loved how everything turned out and will be using SpeedTree to generate multiple variations of pine trees for use in the new engine!

GIF showing a generated pine tree
We plan to use SpeedTree to create multiple variations of pine trees in Depths of Erendorn.
Screenshot showing master terrain material graph
We created a master terrain material graph to create new landscapes.
Screenshot from UE4 showing our landscape progress
Using this new terrain material system, we are able to utilise features like height blending between materials and tesselation based on camera distance.

Visual Effects

In a continued effort to switch game engines, a lot of VFX work was put on hold this week as our artist spent their time reading various bits of documentation and getting to grips with the differences between our old game engine and the ones we’ve been exploring. This meant, for example, that they had to quickly relearn the different particle systems in different engines so that we can, in the future, make an informed decision on which engine will most benefit our team as a whole.

With this in mind, we also spent a lot of time transferring textures and meshes from our current game engine in to new projects. We did this so that we could test how well they worked in comparison to others, as well as to identify any potential issues that would make a specific game engine unsuitable for VFX.

While we have already started to rework some of our pre-existing effects so that we can test everything out properly, they’re still in their very early stages and don’t quite look the same just yet - but the basics are there and we’re confident that continuing to do things like this, in every department, will allow us to choose the most suitable game engine for Depths of Erendorn.

Programming

In programming this week, there was an even larger emphasis on narrowing down our list of potential game engines in the hopes of finding the perfect one for Depths of Erendorn. One game engine that we’re looking at is Unreal Engine, and we started running some tests with it this week to determine its suitability for us.

This process was slowed down a little for us, however, since we were missing one programmer for half of the week. Even still, the tests in Unreal went well - though there are still a few more aspects of it that we need to look into before we can start trying out another engine. Once we do move on to testing in other game engines, we will repeat the same tests we did this week until we have found an option that best suits our needs.

GIF from game engine of Fireball VFX
As we continue exploring new game engines, we are reworking our current VFX to see how they function in different engines.
GIF from game engine of Crystal Shard VFX
Doing this will allow us to determine which game engine will best meet every department's needs.

Thanks for joining us for another devlog! Next week, we will be refining the Daggerclaw Harpy with intricate sculpt details as well as carrying out more tests with different game engines - so remember to check back to see how we get on!

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