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Animation of the Artillery

Artillery of WinThatWar!

Original : Fisher Body craftmen

The animation of the vehicles is a perfect blend of handmade animation and procedural animation. I would like to begin with the latter type of animation, and here are the related elements:

> The movement of the vehicle is supported by the physical engine of the game. In this way, the vehicle follows the inclination of a virtual grid, a collision volume or, more simply, a deformed plan simulating the relief of the ground.

> The Artillery also needs to be able to shoot from different ranges and angles. Thus, the articulations related to the rotation of the cannon are animated by the code (what we call the “logic”) so that the shot adjusts itself directly to the position of the target, according to the position of the Artillery.

> The caterpillar tracks are also animated, following the movement of the vehicle. This effect is obtained by dynamically moving the UV coordinates of the model, in game, in accordance with the speed of the vehicle.

As a reminder, the UV coordinates are the correspondence between 3D coordinate (xyz) and 2D (uv) used to indicate where and how the textures are “drawn” on the model. In the case of the tracks, we could say that the UV “glide” on the 3D, giving an impression of rolling movement.

Artillery caterpillar continuous track

All the other animations are handled beforehand by the animator.

The animator is free to use all the other articulations available, except for the 2 articulations handled by the engine that we addressed earlier: the horizontal rotation of the turret and the vertical lifting of the cannon.

In the case of the Artillery, here are the elements created “by hand”, before the “logic” steps in:

> The animation of the installation. The vehicle is rather slow to get into siege position, and conveys the impression of a powerful weapon, which takes time to set up but is destructive. The disassembly is, however, much more short.

> Creation of shock absorption and a wave that shakes the whole vehicle when the Artillery shoots. This animation is achieved through the lifting of the mudguards, which is then synchronised with a shockwave effect, creating dust clouds.

animation joints and curves

And now, about shooting. This is when we add the particle effect which helps materialise the projectile, in the form of a plasma ball.

Finally, the death animation of the Artillery is simulated using the physical engine, called Mass FX. It is pre-calculated with the 3D modeling software and then reworked by the animator to get the desired result.

This animation goes with a smoke cloud and fragments spraying all around the vehicle. The destruction of the Artillery, alone, is not impressive enough to the player:

dislocation

This is pretty much the life of the Artillery. From the moment it leaves the factory to its death of the battle field.

This post about animation is the first half of a two-part article. The next post will be entirely dedicated to the Sound Design of the Artillery which, as you will see, is directly related to the different animations addressed here.

I love splines!

 

A curve

In Mathematics, a Spline is a numeric Function that is Piecewise-defined by Polynomial function, and which possesses a high degree of smoothness at the places where the polynomial pieces connect (which are known as knots)“. Thank you dear Wikipedia, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

“But, what link can there possibly be between Splines and Polygons?” you may ask yourself. And that’s a legitimate question, since I usually write about polygons and cake (made from polygons too).

Well, you have to know you can actually create 3D models by using these famous splines. That’s right!

A basic spline

As you may know, I mainly use 3DS Max to model my vehicles, buildings, etc. 3DS  taught me to use the word “spline” to define a 3D Bezier curve when it comes to design.

Actually, It’s a commonly used technique in automotive design. Seeing as I mostly model vehicles, it makes perfect sense for me to be working with curves.

However, I apologize in advance, because somehow, I have the feeling this post will feel like a tutorial.

The 3DS Max “Lathe” tool works just like an actual shaping tool and allows to easily sculpt an object  with a very smooth shape.
So, as an example, I’ve made a pretty bowl for you:

The process to use Lathe modifier.

I’ve got another little trick for you : You also can do what is called a “Sweep”. This is actually a  standard shape that you’ll select and with which you’ll “sweep” the previously drawn curve.  The shape is then multiplied to create the desired object.
Here is another example for you, and be prepared, I went a bit crazy and I’m now modeling…a mug!

The process to use Sweep modifier.

Anyway, now that you see how it works, let’s get serious and I’ll show you how you can apply it to your 3D modeling.

Once, in my student days, I was looking for a tool to model by using Splines, and I finally found a tool called SURFACE. At the beginning, Surface was a third party plugin, then Kinetix eventually bought the licence and included the tool in 3DS Max 3.0. I don’t know who this third-party is, but I owe him a big “thanks”.

Digging through my archives, I found the following model. That’s what it looked like the first time I tried to use this tool, based on three pieces of circles intersecting with each other.

The use of a Surface modifier

How did the software turn this into that? I don’t have a clue. Voodoo magic?
Well, and so… how do you put this technique into practice? Among other things, you can  use these tricks to model a vehicle. An airplane, for example.

Use of spline in modeling

It can also be used for specific organic creations.
Like for this wonderful purple…marshmallow.
I could probably have made something sexier, but you get the idea.

Chantilly

In short, I love modeling using Splines . The tool “Surface modifier ” is probably my favorite, it’s part of the workflow for all my vehicles .

I also think it’s a good starting point to model an object with a lot of rounded surfaces .

However , be aware that Splines, alone, are difficult to comprehend in 3D for our poor humanoid eyes that can’t decide whether a form is curved or hollow. So we will have to get used to the tool and rotate around your model, regularly move the camera angle to visualize the form , and then use the Surface modifier.

If you’re not using this technique already, I can only recommend you try it asap!

Cheers

Philemon

Mineral 1 – Sharp Crystal

I won’t write a novel on this blog today, I swear.
We just wanted to show you this new modeled version of the Sharp Crystal.
Mineral PatchUntil now, the Crystal you could have seen in game was kind of a “test” model, allowing you to play the game while waiting for this new one.
The Sharp Crystal is a common ore. It’s the basic element for construction.

It’s really simple. For now, in WinThatWar! you just have to take care of the level of two resources. The first one is the Energy, created through generators, and the second one is the Sharp Crystal you have to extract through… well, through an extractor.

We chose as reference a particular ore : Ilmenite. A titanium and iron oxyde mineral.

ilmenite ilmenite
The hexagonal shapes are used to represent strengh and solidity. We hope it works!
We tried to make it very raw/unrefined, as it’s mean to be the most basic resource of the game. But at the same time we wanted it a bit sharp.

When it came to color it, we thought it needed to be Surreal, so the purple was perfect.
We really want the player (a.k.a you) to desire to find and extract this kind of cake made of Crystal.

Top View
It’s not really a retro-future style element, as you may have noticed, but I think it contrasts nicely with the retro-futurism style of the buildings, as the extractor, for example:

Extractor plus Mineral Patch

Hope you could find some on a distant planet. I think you could find it useful.

Cheers

Space Needle

Space Needle

Hello, folks

Today, let me present the air factory to you.

Thanks to it,  you’ll soon be able to produce all the air units you always dreamed about… well at least the ones we designed for the game (sorry to all of you that were already imagining themselves flying the Millennium Falcon, it’s not planned on our Blueprints list).

But let’s get back to the factory itself : I was inspired by the Space Needle, a huge tower located in Seattle. But also by the Hesperia Tower, an hotel on the top of which we can see a beautiful retro-future dome. Have a look here: Click-me.

early concept of the air factorySecond concept of the retrofuture air factory

We wanted this building to look like an airport combined to a shed, that’s why it’s equipped with a control tower. Just in case the non-existing-tiny-little-planes-makers would like to call back a defective serial number…

Well, I warn you, this is still work in progress.

About tools: we use Marmoset Toolbag to preview the model and materials. So it’s not  very representative of the final in-game model. We will do our utmost to visually approach this rendering.Air Factory standby model

 

Lights on: working factoryAir Factory working mode

 

I’m still not sure about the dome…

We don’t have emissive effect (also called glow) in our engine yet but we will work on it. It’s an unavoidable feature anyway!

The next step will be to add some more details to the model: antenna, vents, and maybe a dynamic windsock using physics, too.

Don’t hesitate to tell me what do you think of it. What could be better in your opinion. I’m right here, keeping my ears open just for you.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

Philemon

The cake is a lie

This post is not about the game Portal, sorry, it’s about baking cakes…

First, imagine that you want to make a cake like this one:

a cake rendered with Marmoset
You do a nice and highly detailed cake model. It’s perfect.

But it’s just one, and you’re really hungry. You want more cakes, lots of cakes!

Unfortunately, you can’t just put 1000 high resolution cakes in a scene. So, you have to learn how to bake.

A cake in my game

Indeed, in a video game, you expect a smooth rendering. Especially for action games, as racing games, you want a lot of images per second. To accomplish that you have to respect a polygon budget (also called polycount). Doing that, you will ensure to have a good framerate when you will run the game on your computer. If you don’t keep to that limitation you will (probably) suffer of latency.

The computing of a 3D scene into a 2D image takes time. But, naturally, you don’t want the player having to wait for it. So you have to make both (high and low poly) if you want a good result without affecting visual quality (theoretically).

The principle is: you just have to bake the high poly on the low poly. Seems simple, right ?

polycount difference between two 3d models

Okay, it’s not really a “baking” thing, it’s more a projection.

The volume informations are transferred from the high onto the low polygon mesh in the form of a texture (or map). This texture is made of 2D informations that the graphical engine will read to produce the real time rendering.

Remember, only the low polygon mesh is exported to the game (and its maps of course).

Here are a normal map and an ambient occlusion map:

Maps result of the baking You can see the result on a simple plane:

a flat cake
Easy!

A comparison between the 2 models: baking on a volume is a bit harder than on a plane.

Comparison between 2 models.

As you can see you’ll lost some important details like the rounded border of the bottom of the cake. Your goal, as an artist, will ideally be to preserve the silhouette of your model.

The recipe

So far, that was just a cake. Now, here come the real thing and the serious business. I give you my own recipe.

Step 1) You create a High Poly.

HighPoly Mesh Colored

It’s an example of High Poly mesh (3 millions triangles) with false colors.

Step 2) You create a Low Poly.

 

Low Poly of a building

It’s an example of low polygon mesh (6,000 triangles).

Step 3) You try to adjust both to get a  perfect superposition (almost).

Superposition of both high and low polyIt should give you something like this.

Step 4) You can add a Cage to it (and visually hide the Low Poly).

Nicolas Cage

The Cage is used to properly define the projection between the high and the low.

Step 5) Explode everything!

Exploded Models

The point of this explosion is to avoid interpenetration and shadowing (ambient occlusion) between pieces.

And yes, the time has come for you to push a button and wait patiently for the result, wondering if you didn’t forget one step.

Patiently…

And here it is, all hot. You can get it out of the oven.

low poly with baked informations

There are still some imperfections to fix. Maybe a step six is needed. But it will be for the next time.

At the end, to achieve the creation of a good cake, you need to strictly follow the recipe knowing that the result is worth the efforts and time you spent on it. The better maps you get, the easier will be the texturing part. Especially if you are using a fast texturing solution like Substance Designer, that I have used to bake this asset. That’s why it’s a very sensitive part that will validate (or not) the modeling you did before.

So, the baking is no longer a secret for you.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you don’t get the result you were expecting.

See you next time.

Philemon

If you want to learn more about baking:

http://wiki.polycount.com/wiki/Normal_map#Baking

 

The Insane Unity team came on Tchouri!

IU on Tchouri

“That’s one small step for Win That War!, one giant leap for Insane Unity” – Khaleepso alias Lola, on-live on Tchouri comet.

On Wednesday afternoon, Philae landed on “Tchouri” comet. Win That War! congrats the European Space Agency (ESA) for this breakthrough in the Space Conquest and for the incredible discoveries it will certainly bring to us.

Like CNES (but with a smaller crew), we are also working busily. Philemon and I are working on a new website for the game, which will takes place at http://www.winthatwar.com, while Doom and Etham are writing technical documents.

Khaleepso.

Nodes “à la carte”

Hi everyone!

Let me introduce myself: my name is Rémi, intern at Insane Unity for 2 months. During this period, I developed the terrain editor of Win That War!.

As you may already know if you’ve read this first article by Doom, our maps are modeled by shaders using noise generators. This technique has the particularity to generate a infinite game space, simply by changing the value of the seed. Also, the use of shaders allow to harness the power of your (so expensive) graphics card.

The editor I was commissioned to create aims at making the creation of environments more enjoyable. Indeed, instead of typing dreadful lines of code, it provides an editable graph that describes the shape of the terrain with interconnected nodes. Especially, this should let Philemon create maps without risking a nervous breakdown.

World Generator Terrain Heightmap Node Graph

The graph is made of two parts:

  • the heightmap
  • the splatmap

The first describes the the relief of the map. It mainly uses noise generator nodes to form terrain layers that are combined to each other.

The second is a logical system that determines where to draw each texture depending on the terrain characteristics (e.g. snow on the peaks, grass on the plain).

The result is directly rendered in the editor. Then the designer feels free to import textures, modify the nodes parameters and have fun exploring the world of which he is the god. Once the work is finished, we simply export the template in to the game to have access to a new environment, which we can generate an infinite number of battlefields for you, players.

World Generator Terrain Heightmap Node Graph

You are now well informed. If like me you are drooling profusely while waiting to walk on these alien lands, you will have to wait a little (someone’s whispering in my ear that a multiplayer version will be released in early fall).

Now, I said “goodbye” to you because my internship ends this day. It was a pleasure.

Long live Insane Unity! Long live Win That War!

Rémi

The factory

Hey guys,

First concept of the factory that will build the ground units:

Retro_Design_Factory_A01

You must ask how a vehicle can get out of this building. I don’t know yet :)

I really would like to have a hologram on the top of each building. Maybe this is too much?

See you next time!

Philemon

Ore Extractor

First concept art of an ore extractor.

Extractor Ore Rail Gun

The design of the mineral is style work in progress.

See you next time.

Cold war and Space conquest

Hello,

I am the new guy in the team. My duty is to make graphics of WTW.

Here is a first design proposal for a battle tank that I did last week.

See you next time.

Concept Design Battle Tank

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