Games Proposal Blog - SFAS Environment Art 2023 - Week 1
Updated: Jan 21
16/01/2023 - 22/01/2023
References & Inspirations - Monday 16th Jan
Firstly, I gathered all of my chosen references and inspirations and put them all into one PureRef file. I prefer to use PureRef nowadays because it's just really simple to have everything in one place, and also have the option to add text to remind myself of anything key. A lot of these images were gathered via my Pinterest Board that I made for this project and Artstation.
Idea #1 Sketching - Tentacle Guarding Treasure
When I first read the brief and its themes, I instantly knew I wanted to choose Aquatic Fanatic. I've been wanting to do something with a pirate-y theme for a while, inspired by Sea of Thieves. While it looks silly, I immediately had the idea of a scene consisting of a giant tentacle guarding some treasure, with some debris surrounding it to suggest a fight had just been taken. It's not often I get ideas straight away, so I took to MS Paint to draw the most basic composition I was imagining so I didn't forget it later on. Later on I was able to figure out my scene in more detail and refine the sketch a bit more in the image on the right. My focus was more on creating the certain feeling I wanted. Before I started sketching this one though however, I collected all of my inspiration and put it in PureRef on my other monitor so I could make sure I wasn't just working from my head. For this sketch, I was getting inspiration from and using reference from real-life as well as various styles of 2D and 3D art. When I was progressing through the refined sketch, I found it to be a more natural approach in trying to sort of let the original sketch inform my decision-making. For example, I found myself asking a lot of questions on what could've happened in the original sketch and the story behind it. I slowly added bits and pieces to try and insinuate a certain scene:
"With the sunken ship's crew nowhere to be seen, all that remains is the result of their efforts: the Kraken's vicious tentacle sat aside the pirates' now sunken loot on the seabed. It seems like neither party was victorious. The battle is fresh, and even the planks and barrels have not quite floated up to the surface just yet. An attempt was made to scurry away by dropping the anchor, but alas, the damage was irreparable."
Game Ideas - Tuesday 17th Jan I also wanted to imagine my scene and the gameplay that would go along with it if it was playable. I felt that this helped me get a lot more invested in the potential world I was creating and what could happen within it, which I think helped my overall approach in trying to create a scene that feels believable and story rich, not just look visually appealing. • Open world, player vs environment, huge Kraken extends across the map and the player would have to slowly whittle it down tentacle by tentacle. Similar feel to Subnautica but a bit more goal-driven. Think Sea of Thieves but purely single player and the main threat is the Kraken instead of other players. The player would have to sail to each location.
• Similar to BOTW, the player can straightaway decide to fight Ganon if they wish, but it is recommended that they go around the world and activate the Divine Beasts which would make the final fight a lot easier in the end. Defeating each tentacle would make the Kraken overall weaker.
• There would be a recommended route of which tentacle would be easier to defeat, determined by factors like how hard the area is to reach and other smaller surrounding enemies, etc. Depending on the difficulty, the amount and quality of rewards each tentacle guards would differ.
• Like the concepts above, I think colour scheme/lighting could change and get more eerie depending on the difficulty of the location. The player would notice the waters changing and getting more aggressive and that would be an indicator of difficulty.
• Each tentacle would have different mechanics and colours/style. For example, one tentacle would reminiscent of an eel and its characteristics; electric powers, shockwave attacks, and control of mechanical gateways. This tentacle could be located within an old civilisation that had advanced technology, and both you and the tentacle would have to utilise these in your fight.
Feedback I asked my friend on the masters course if they had any feedback on my first concept and they were able to provide a drawover of my scene along with their thoughts too which was super insightful for me and I'm very thankful! (If you're coming from my inevitable ArtStation post, you should totally check out their awesome art as well, they're wonderful: https://twitter.com/MrDarwenstreet)
The first thing they did was convert my drawing to greyscale to check and alter the values. It was encouraged that I don't feel so afraid to push values more to create a more impactful foreground, midground, and background. You can see that they went in with a black brush and went over the long strands of algae in the foreground which helped to frame focus on the tentacle, sort of acting as a vignette. They also took a mid-grey tone on a low opacity and laid it over some of my midground elements, like the coral on the left, and some of the planks and the barrel at the top, to push it further into the background a bit. Their idea was to add more focus and framing onto the main centerpiece, which I totally agree worked very well here! I added some annotation to point out the main changes that you can see above, but a small detail that was added which I really love is the addition of scattered coins leading from the bottom of the scene towards the large coin pile and chest. Again, it draws in the viewer to the main focal point quite effectively in my opinion. I feel like now, whereever you look, your eyes can be drawn back into the main focus a bit more naturally. There are also some bigger compositional changes in the edit. The end of the tentacle was suggested to be brought closer to the viewer, and just generally extended. Where the end of the tentacle is originally cut off, this part was removed to instead have the tentacle go back into the foreground so that you don't see the entirety of it. Their idea behind this was that it gives the scene a lot more storytelling and scale - "Once you see the edge of the tentacle, then you know how big it is" -- "but if you pushed it back a little bit, there is an illusion of mystery". Originally, I felt quite precious about the tentacle being cut and hesitant to change it, but I've thought about it and compared the two drawings and I think having the full tentacle would be a lot more visually interesting for the scene and supportive storytelling. I think if I looked at this from a player's standpoint too, I would feel more intimidated by the full scale tentacle, and a sense of wonder behind where it leads and how big it is.
With the greyscale filter turned off, you can see some of the changes in the original colours too. I was also reassured in that they find my colours to be good and no changes were needed, and that the style and colours fit with my Sea of Thieves inspiration I mentioned earlier. Overall I am very happy with this feedback and excited to make the changes! I really admire their art too so I feel like it was very valuable! :)
It was suggested to me in the class feedback to use a schedule to plan out my time and workload. I based it on the development process and key assessment guide on the brief. I used a free Google Gantt chart template and tweaked it for my needs, trying to make it a bit visually accesible for me so that I should hopefully be more comfortable using it daily. I also added a resources tab at the bottom with all of the links provided by Grads in Games that I should need, such as a link to the brief and previous submissions. I'm hoping that spending the time to do this now should streamline my workflow for the future. (Currently the percentage of task completion columns are not representative of the actual percentage). I will include a spreadsheet update at the end of each weekly blog post or milestone.
Wednesday 18th Jan Block out
Friday 20th Jan Although it is suggested to do the actual 3D modelling within the second week, I was getting anxious about how I may approach modelling/sculpting the tentacle, since I know it will be the main focal point of my scene. I felt as though if I got to the second week and realised I can't model and sculpt it to the standard I want, I would be putting myself at a significant disadvantage time-wise. I feel confident making the smaller assets of my scene, but I wanted to make sure I would also feel confident in making the main asset, because I feel like I've never made something quite like this before. When I was taking a break within the week, I decided to open up Maya with the intention of playing around with the curves tool to try and see how I may approach getting the tentacle's shape right. I didn't intend this to work as well as it did, and was expecting to have to use a method of bridging cylinders together to create my shape if this method didn't work out.
I found that this method worked far better for me than I imagined it would! I found using the curve tool was very convenient for this shape and I was able to get a lot more of a natural flow to the tentacle with controlling each vertex point of the curve, instead of manually moving around edges of the cylinder myself. I compared the shape of this a lot to my block out in UE5 and my original concept art and ended up creating a shape I knew I would be happy to use as a base for sculpting within ZBrush:
Saturday 21st Jan Game Overview Document
Since the SFAS brief asks to 'written intro, outline the tone and artistic motivations', I thought that this would be most suitably done in a Game Overview Document. I followed the suggestions that were listed on the Blackboard module materials for what to cover in the document: