working title: MOLD

working title: MOLD

production blog

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Welcome,

to our developer blog of “mold”, an anti-retro Adventure game currently in production.

for First-Timers and all those brave men battling against the boredom of friday afternoons..

Click here to read from the beginning
( currently 81 posts in total )

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Character production (3D)
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… or jump back to the most recent posts

Please don’t overlook the green “Older Entries” link on the bottom right.
have fun!

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techniques behind the prototype #2 “lookdev, forever ever”

March 24, 2015

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Hi everybody!

We are going to continue from Part #1 and cover the next phase of our set creation process, before we move on to the characters. In hindsight this post feels a bit negative ;) but I’m sure optimizations will be found, and efficiency will rise eventually. (it’ll have to ;) )

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fighting the darkness

Even after constructing and sculpting masses of polygons, we are far from being able to add it to the game. The next step is texturing, shading and of course lighting. You can see a wireframe and gray-material rendering of the lighting setup below. (Softimage, Arnold)

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150314_lighting_spoAnf

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Eventually it took about 50 shaders, 20 area lights and one HDRI (mostly for reflections) – and months of spare time work ;) to get the look and atmosphere we wanted. Image composition, color corrections and other fixes, were done simultaneously at Babettes company after working hours. Thanks for the opportunity, Optix Hamburg!

The highres set was split into several layers before rendering (to avoid occlusions between them). To continue our example from last time, this is how the toy ship got layered. (don’t mind the green background, it’s just better to show these dark elements on a brighter background (it’s not used to key the footage ;) ))

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150313_ship_layers_thumb

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The 3D lookdev phase was heavily coupled with 2D compositing, meaning we had to handle massive 10K resolution comp trees as well. And yes, they got big, real big… which brings me to the last point of this part.

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worst workflow i could think of

Seriously… but still, I can’t think of any better way to do it, but this doesn’t make this workflow any good ;)  Small “mistakes” added to the problem, naturally.

One example: during the lookdev phase, I decided to add a separate rim light pass for compositing (like i do most of the time..) …which doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all, but after we split the set into over 20 passes/layer we now had to manage over 40……. a bad idea after all.

Every pass got rendered in 10000×3000 resolution, some with multiple states. The frog had around 400 frames alone (and took 2 weeks to finish on 3 PCs). The big passes took about 5 days to complete (on an up-to-date i7) for one frame i might add, so you can imagine how painful previews were (even at lower samplings and resolutions).

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thai massaging pixels

But the true fun is just about to begin ;) Every pass was rendered with AOVs (separated diffuse, reflection, indirect diffuse, etc. layers) and needed to be pre-combined before it could be used and passed through the lookdev comp. (it would have been way to slow and memory demanding to have all AOVs in the final comp, so we seperated both tasks).

The reason to output AOVs in the first place was the possibility to apply post noise-reduction to some of the channels. (like indirect diffuse, or indirect reflections which tend to get pretty noisy in Arnold)

150320_comp_precombine(the AOV pre-combine comps)

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Working in this high resolution is never fun, but requiring to render 40 precombine comps and 20 lookdev comps everytime you change something, is even worse. Especially because this tedious procedure isn’t done yet. (we even added a checklist about it to the comp trees ;) to avoid errors)

150320_comp_lookdev(the fairly small lookdev comp)

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Before we could output the final textures used on the projection mapping geometry, the images had to be test-combined, tweaked (again…) and eventually baked to a square UV space, but this part will be covered in the next post.

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have a good one!

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techniques behind the prototype #1 “lets build it”

March 14, 2015

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Hi everybody!

This will be the first of a hand full of posts dedicated to the techniques used in our last prototype. I’ll try to cover everything important, but feel free to suggest areas we should cover in more detail. Just let us know! (via posts on our Facebook page, or by commenting here)

I’ve already written a little bit about parts of the production in earlier posts, but lets start from the beginning to give you a complete picture of how we did it.

If you want to read all posts dedicated to the production sprint (resulting in the prototype), please click here.

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design and prep

As always, a concept sketch is the first thing to do. I prefer to draw on paper, so most of the elements were drawn separately, scanned and then placed/transformed digitally to form the final concept. I’ve altered and changed it quite a few times (especially before the story was locked down) but eventually settled with this:

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140211_spotlightAnfang_new_layout_15c

Next, we built a very rough dummy set in 3D to define some of the proportions, which 1. enabled us to test the set in unity very early, 2. makes it easier or even possible for multiple artists to work and contribute to the same set.

150305_SpoAnf_dummy

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all elements, one by one

We split everything into several sub groups, modeling tasks if you will, and started to distribute them between Babette (Kahn), Florian (Stucki), Thorsten (Kesse) and myself. Lets take our little toy ship as example.

Ship_v02changes

Babette started modeling the ship after we locked down the set layout and collected some references, and after a few nerve-wracking iterations of changes (sorry ;) ) she ended up with this great result:

Ship_v04

Every single element was built with basically the same emphasis on detail and quality, which (no surprise here) took up most of the production time. A stylized approach would have saved probably 3/4 of the work (this number would be even higher if we didn’t have as many animations), so if you start to work on a game, keep that in mind ;)

we’ll cover the rest of the creation process next time, so stay tuned!

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first slooow status update 2015.

February 19, 2015

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Hi everybody!

This update is really overdue, sorry for that! I was extremely busy in December and January (not a lot of Mold I’m afraid…. but we all need to eat ;) ), followed by a (still active) cold / flu. But I’m slowly recovering and fighting my way back into the project – which is a pretty unpleasant experience….. there is always the feeling I forgot everything (the parts of the job which are not hammered into my muscle memory ;) like Unity for example) but it’s getting better…. slowly.

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So any news?

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We posted our december gameplay video on a hand full of Facebook groups and forums, and got exclusively positive resonance. Quite a lot people liked it, some even shared, reblogged or posted it on their favorite forum (Thanks all of you!!! it’s an amazing experience (and motivational boost) to see people talking about it) and this certainly increased the pressure to finish this massive undertaking of a game.

and to top the good news, Tobias Schlage ( http://www.tobiass.com – awesome URL btw. ;) ), a young thriving artist volunteered to support us as rigger and characteranimator… awesome news, welcome to the team, Tobias!

pastenake_mouth_rig

heroTraube_walk_stop

The rare free hours I had left in January, were used to work on the animation cycles of our little green protagonist. Eventually I got to the point of finishing three Idle cycles, as well as the walk and walk-stop cycles.

 

 

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and what’s next?

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well, I still have to add a proper facerig to the protagonist, which has to work with the current rig and body animation. Eventually i also have to create all “run”, “interaction” or whatever animation cycles which are still missing…

Babette is currently finishing another tiny, flying side character to bring a little more variation into our fauna.

lastenfliege_flug

and I promised to create a more detailed breakdown of the prototype.. The plan is to create a few blog posts covering the main aspects of all techniques used.. so stay tuned if you are interested! (but don’t hold your breath :) )

It’s not carved in stone (depends on how busy we are in our regular jobs), but I’d love to start another production sprint beginning of April, to get the first three sets to final (and hopefully to progress a bit in areas like interface design)… but lets see…

That’s all for this time folks, we hope you like it!

 

prealpha 0.03.64 gameplay footage – “baffled .. and tired” ;)

December 19, 2014

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Hi everybody!

It has been an awful long time since i posted an update, which could be either a sign of no or a lot of progress ;) in our case it’s fortunately the latter… we (almost) finalized the first set, animated a few characters/animation cycles, hooked up dialogs and interactions, and even home brew a finite statemachine based AI to add more dynamic life to the set. It’s slowly but steadily shaping up to a real game ;) who’d ever believed that?

actual gameplay of the prototype (recorded on a dated i7 with a modern (at the time of writing ;) ) GTX 780)

I hope you like it, and merry christmas!

production crunch report #10 — > its time to end the crunch ;)

October 6, 2014

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Hi everybody!

yep… it’s really time to call this production crunch “done” ;) Originally scheduled for January, the production got delayed several times and eventually stretched over the period of 6 months, instead of one. Well, we are all working on Mold on the side, so some delays had to be expected… I just didn’t expect this kind of delay ;) nevertheless it’s still our goal to get the third playable prototype up and running this year (but this seems a bit optimistic)

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But delays aside, there has been a lot of progress to be proud of… The most recent addition is Babette Kahns frog cycles she animated during the summer, and now, finally several months later (i had a very busy summer, and the rendering of the set and cycles took forever… (10K resolution for the background (20-30 layers), the frog is rendered in around 3K) seriously…. it took forever)) ….this is the beautifully animated, (slowly) rendered result

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production crunch report #9 — > the second set

September 9, 2014

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Hi everybody!

(Fortunately) the summer hit me hard work wise, and I had the pleasure to work on six different commercials over the last 3 months… Exhausting and a blessing at the same time ;) but this also means there wasn’t a lot of progress on the Mold front. Gladly I didn’t update the blog recently, so there is still a lot left to show ;)

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progress of the second set..

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This cave was completely built out of existing models/parts of the first set, which was a rather fast process (compared to everything else until now ;) ), It’s still missing quite a few props and the three characters (the 3 “uzaras” of the previous post), but the overall layout seems to work. The lighting and look still need some love, but its a start.

140908_Uzara_room_comp_v19

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production crunch report #8 — > character previews…

July 25, 2014

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getting some assets done…

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There is a lot of progress but my current job unfortunately doesn’t allow me to keep the blog up to date as well. So lets skip the text ;)

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The frog of the first set, sculpted by Thorsten Kesse in ZBrush.
140419_Frog_Main

 

two of the Uzara Heads, sculpted by Jerome White using ZBrush aswell,
140419_uzara_abgeklemmt

140725_Uzara_angry_Main.1

both did a great job in hitting the likeness of the concept designs and delivered some kick-ass models, so thanks for that!

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2 years.

June 24, 2014

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Hi everybody!

well… can you believe it? It has been two years since I started this endeavor, and unfortunately there are several years still to come (but I really try not to think about that ;) )…

it’s more like rebuilding a car from a rusty pile of “shh-whatever-car-that-was”…… it could take decades… Hell, I even think I’ll have to convince my future kids to take over the project some day ;)

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‘gone social.

FB-ThumbsUp_72

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I’ve finally created a Facebook page for the game… I thought it would never happen, but there you go ;) ( It’s fresh and totally deserted at the moment ;), so please help us a little to get the ball running, thanks! )

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so what’s the plan, what’s the “social agenda?” First of all, I really enjoyed seeing a lot of old faces again …. damn I’d even say the platform is disturbingly convenient. ;)

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I’ll continue to post on this blog of course, Facebook is going to be used for bigger announcements and all client-close-combat situations ;) Tell us what you think, and help us to improve the game!
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production crunch report #7 —> prototypes

May 16, 2014

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Hi everybody!

It took me almost two years to get to this point …ridiculous I know ;), but I’m very proud to be able to show off some in-game footage. The third prototype will be created in the next weeks, and will feature “almost final” graphics.. at least a good impression of how the game will look like.

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/edit 140519: I downgraded the animated GIFs to 10fps and a smaller size…  (to save you guys some bandwidth and cpu cycles ;) )

MOSO_prototype_montage_10fps

the most recent Unity prototype created march 2014

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MOSO_prototype_montage_old_10fps

early tests using Visionaire, starting around 2012

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