A busy semester

Much has happened during this semester, both in NUC and in my everyday life situation. There has been a lot of work to do as a student rep; complaints and meetings. There’s been a lot to do as an adult and a wife; the usual household upkeep and a wife whose health has been suffering this year. Courses have moved around, and schedules have been re-planned. Despite all this I’m very pleased with the progress Eirik  and I have made with our project: The Interactive Painting.

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Initial Idea sketch

The planning, re-planning and Trello

We started the year with an idea I’d been digesting over summer, a painting that interacts with its environment through sensors. Initially I had foreseen making it by myself, but it was great news when Eirik turned out to be interested in doing the visuals! We started planning it in more detail over several sessions, and narrowing down a visual style. We made a Trello board with tasks, inspiration and a work log. The Trello board has gradually evolved from a inspiration and research board, towards a task management platform. We made a master list of features we were interested in putting into the painting, and over several sessions assessed their difficulty and impact value. We assigned the impact values according to how interesting the specific feature would be to a viewer, trying to cover as many different types of feature that we thought we could manage. By doing this we’ve managed to create what I think is a quite varied prototype that shows what we’re capable of doing. With the features we currently have in place we’ll be able to adapt them to fit with similar assets, and apply the finalised visuals as those are finished up.

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The current lists in Trello; Master and To Do are our most relevant ones at this stage.

The Prototyping

Initial Prototyping was mainly to determine whether we should use 2d or 3d assets to build the painting, as such Eirik made some 2d mountains for me to test in Unreal Engine(UE4), and I used the Landscape tool in UE4 to test 3d features. I’d already familiarised myself with the landscaping tool some during Procedural Animation, and it seemed a very convenient tool to sculpt our landscape. In the end we decided that neither 2d sprites nor the landscape tool would be the ideal route. 2d sprites are harder to light well, and we would rely on very very many frames to make all the little animations look good. The landscape tool is an extremely fast way of building a landscape, but it has a few shortcomings that rule it out as an option, it simply doesn’t allow for a lot of creative liberty.  Our current prototype uses a modular 3d asset approach to build the landscape, giving us huge creative freedom to re-arrange the landscape design until we’re happy with it. We’re also incorporating some 2d animated elements, most notably the sprites we’re using in particle systems.

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Using the Landscape Tool 

The current state of the project

The 2 weeks building up to WIP 1 presentation have of course been busy, we have a final few days to get our documentation and presentation ready, which would be easier if I wasn’t away from home at the moment. Sometimes life throws you a curve-ball and family commitments coincide with big deadlines, such as now. The fact I’m away has made communication between Eirik and I a challenge, but we did plan for this and set up a plan in advance for what we would do these 2 weeks. Allowing me to work when I can, and occasionally  seeing that Eirik is busy at work when I’ve been able to get online.

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We’ve got a whole lot done so far in December, and I’m really proud of our progress. On my end I’ve modeled some grass to test in the foliage tool (in UE4), built up tests for layered materials that can be applied to our mountains, and implemented Eirik’s beautiful sprites into the firefly particle system.

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I’ve also taken the time to write as much as I could think of in the Layout Document that will be part of our final delivery. What remains now is this blog post, and getting our presentation ready and practised. I need to export some clips of features, and try to export a version of the project that can run on the mac’s at campus. Still plenty left to do, but certainly also a lot already done.

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Twitch

As a final note, and something of personal pride, I’ve been streaming my development work on Twitch. There’s a growing community of Gamedevs that stream on Twitch Creative, and it’s great to be part of the creative community. Much to my surprise and a thoroughly positive experience, I’ve lately been hosted by UnrealEngine’s own twitch channel, giving me another audience of great people who are happy to help and come with suggestions. I’m really enjoying interacting with the community, and trying to contribute with something positive.

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