Montag, 31. März 2008

Deadline for the area contest: Right now !

I have received some emails lately if I´m going to submit something for the area contest. Sadly this is not the case. I was really looking forward to take part, but at this time I didn´t know march was going to be a very stressful month.

But besides that, another reason was, that I had not finished the area I wanted to sumbit. A week before the announcement of the contest, I decided to revisit mainparts of the story and because of that I had to roll up some bigger parts of the main island. And because of that little time I had working on the area, it stays a messy construction ground during the whole month. I guess thats faith :) Anyway... I wasn´t sure for the price at all. Where to get two additional monitors ? And mother nature will thank you for your joy playing games with three times more comsumption of electricity ! (I hope the winner thinks about that at least for a second.)
I´m very exited about the entries and I have tested some of them. I´m very curious who will win at the end and I keepmy fingers crossed for my favourite :)

Now it seems that I have finally finished my start island yesterday ! All locations are now content ready and the dodgy story outline is nearly finished. I just have to rewrite it and put it in a readable form :) And after that translate it into english. A light at the end of the tunnel...

I thought you might be interested to see what I mean by writing "major changes in the areas". I have found an old shot I took from the heart of the start island when there was just a cozy clearing. But it went out, that this would be the perfect place for a camp, sourrounded by some old ruins. Today I made a screenshot to show the before / after effect:



You see what I mean ? And don´t worry, there are some clearings left. Ironically this makeover was the easiest to do, but I wasn´t aware of that when I started on reshaping some roads and placing new doors. I had a terrible (door) bug that nearly made my quit working with the toolset... But I don´t want to talk about that anymore :/

I also wanted to include a quit big cave to contest areas, because it simply connects some other finished areas. After pausing in frustration for some days I made a major rebuild on that cave too. Sadly I have no shots of the old version anymore. But on the left is a sneak peek of the new one, or at least an underpopulated part of it.

I hope Obsidian is going to start some more contests in the future. Peferably during a holiday season !

Seems I´m into a typing mood right now. I should use that chance and start to translate my scripts...

Sonntag, 30. März 2008

Hitchhikers Guide to Eden - Part 1: Preparation

As announced yesterday, here is the first part of a making of / progress documentation I want to post. It should show you my default workflow when I´m starting a blank area and focuses on custom textures and basic painting techniques. I won´t go into light settings for this time, since this is a chapter for itself but also a point I put a lot of work time in. So here I go...

I always start with puzzeling a heightmap in photoshop. The one I used for the island is a combination of a generic terragen terrain and a DEM image I´ve found on the internet. I have painted them together in photoshop.

Parallel to this I usually use 3DMax to make a testrender of the actual heightmap to get a better feel for the different elevations. I don´t make the heightmap very detailed at that point. Mostly I just figure out where the main feature spots should be located and if the area fits the overall topographical look I´m aming for. In this case, I was after a large tropical island, like a typical seychelles landscape. So I have surfed the net for inspirational pictures like these.

Pleased with the results I then start importing the heightmap into the toolset. Thanks to YATT, this is a piece of pie. I usually do a lot of reshaping after that for many hours to get the main pathes digged into the terrain.

Often I walk around the areas in search for good vista points. From there I start planning the features of these nice views I have found. My philosophy in all areas is to have at least one scenic view when turning around 360 degrees from every point on the map. In this picture you can probably see that I have made many changes, including adding a jungle river and a (walkable) vulcano / mountain region in the north.

I have customized every texture of this area and also a lot of grass I´m planning to use. It was very hard to get the colors right, because of my bright lightsettings. I wanted to achive a colorful look with a lot of contrast like I had seen on all the different pictures of a tropical paradise. Before, I had to decide if I want to make a carribean isle or a seychelle like landscape. They differ a lot in color and foilage. I decided to go for the more tropical setting in this area. So I started painting the custom content.
I usually use two matching textures for sand / pathes, grass and stone. On the left you can see the results I came up with.

After that I have tested a lot with custom grass. At first I had to change the textures of the palm, because they were quit yellow when the sun shines on them during the daytime. But I wanted to gloom them in a rich green instead. After I had finally found the right colors and contrast, I started with the grasses. The crucial thing here is to match the different grass colors with the palm trees. After two days testing I came up with 4 different tropical grasses, two palm like plants and five tropical bushes.

A main problem with this area when it comes to texturing was, to decide which base texture to use. Is this island a rock covered by grass ? Or is it a mainly full of tropical grass with the mountains breaking trough the surface ? It took the rocky option one in the end. One main reason for that was, that I had found a trick to fake a lot of distant foilage details without forcing myself to paint the whole island green. I wanted to use grass decals for that.

To get this done, I have fired up SpeedTree. I took some snapshots of trees from four different angels to use them as the four different grass blades withing every grass texture. This grasses should fake the dense tree populations usually found on tropical islands (like here). This would give the whole area a lot more scale when viewing from a distant (wich will happen a lot, since I have found some great vistapoints). This test pictures should show you what I was up to:I think you get the point with these pictures. The great thing is, that this feature does not cost a lot of performance. So I had everything ready to start some serious works. All locations were shaped, the pathes digged and all textures and grass were painted. But where should I start to build ? Where will the player probably start ? Where will he start his journey and what is the first thing he will see and when he turns around a specific corner ? I´m always asking myself these questions during building areas.

I will post my answers to these questions in the next issue of the Hitchikers guide to Eden - Part 2.

Greetings from Paradise

I´m very exited today, because I started to work for real on the island. I did a lot of testing yesterday, I started to search for a perfect little place to start shaping for real this time. After rebuilding a small beach region I was ready to fire the first textures on it. And after eight hours of painting and tainting now it looks better than I hoped !

I want to post a progress diary / making of this area tomorrow. But for this post now I just want to share some tropical beaches with you... :

I´m finally going to bed now.. probably dreaming of three headed monkeys ! Harr !

Freitag, 28. März 2008

Hallöchen and welcome to my blog :)

After three month of silence I think it is now the right time to start this blog :)

I´ve been quit busy with my job the last 8 weeks, so I didn´t find the time to start a new thread in the NWN forums or update this blog. But it looks like I have a lot more freetime the next weeks. I promise to update these pages more frequently. Well, I think I promise myself. Let´s see if I can make it...

The reason for this blog is the show the progress of my toolset works (that will hopefuly turn into a module soon). I love the blogs of the other nice guys in the NWN comunity and I surf them quit often a day. I am very exited what they are all up to with their modules currently they have currently in the works.
As for my little "Project Eden"... I had a lot of thinking about the story. I wasn´t sure it was something special at all but thats what I initially wanted to achive when I started working with the toolset. Like I said, I love other builders modules but I am not really into that D&D stuff. Till this day I haven´t played NWN2 beyond Neverwinter at all ! But that´s just because I didn´t get to learn the universe of D&D. So I started my own little universe. Nothing really special by now, just a map, some screenshots but a lot of ideas !
And after thinking and reshaping the "thin red line" of the
story, I think I finally came up with something that satisfied at least myself. Only some more lines to write and I think I´m ready to release a version of the island along with the storyline to the ones that were interested working for the project. I hope they will like it too.

Anyway... next to rewriting the story I have started working on a new area last sunday. I just had to paint some textures instead of typing letters :) It´s a really big tropical island. I have finished the rough landscape shaping yesterday. All possible pathes and all bays are at their place. And today I have reworked nearly every grass that was available in the toolset. It impossible to creat what I have in mind with the grass that comes wi
th the toolset. I plan to release them as prefabs along with my textures sometime in the future. I will post a screenshot of them tomorrow when I start working on a remote tropical sandy beach... I´m really looking forward to this since the wheather here in germany is grey and rainy at the moment ! For now I leave you with a screenshot I took in my first night of the new island :)

Thanks for reading... see you in the next post :)

P.S. I still need a appropriate name for that island ! Got some ideas for a tropical, pirate style name for it ?