Friday, 28 February 2014

FMP: Recent Assortments

To be truthful the last week hasn't been as productive as I'd wanted it to be, I've found that I have begun to stray from my schedule which is a tad troubling. I believe the issue is that I have been switching from one task to another, not necessarily because I was bored of the previous task, but I felt that what I'd moved onto was equally important on the to-do list. 

This includes:
- The statue sketches
- Concepting wall breaches
- Tiling textures

The latter is the most important really, at this stage I have been so keen on modelling everything, which in all honesty is my favorite part of the pipeline, that I haven't been testing them out with textures applied. Especially considering others who are doing environments have textured assets at this stage as well, if I finish that for what I have already made it would be convenient as I could officially tick them off.

However here's what I slowly laid out....

I quite liked the idea of having a conveniently placed tower nearby so that during gameplay it would be easy to get back up over the wall if the battlement damage doesn't extend to the ground like in No. 1

Whilst I quite like the natural lying pose, the bottom left has a more disciplined sentry pose to it, as such I'm calling it the Sphinx pose do its resemblance. In one sense that is what these statues are, sentries guarding the bridges and entrances to gates and the keep. As well as that the shield bearer was also favored (center).

As for tilables, whilst I had plenty of first hand ones from my castle trips, I wanted to make high poly versions, so I started sculpting two brick variants and tiled them in Zbrush whilst flipping and rotating them after adding Noise. This was almost nearly never achieved since I could not find that infernal tilde key. The tutorial I followed said it was one button which failed to deliver, it was only after forum searching I learnt that it differs depending on the keyboards country of origin and it was in fact the @' button for me.

This is what I ended up with, however it was not what I had been hoping for really, it looks, well, stylized and unsuitable for an outer wall; since the bricks look as if they're barely held in place, and appear loose. And after being told they looked like fudge, and no that was genuine and no minced oath, I figured I should tone down the amount I chipped off my original cubes. Alternatively I could make a height map from the diffuse and work from there. Either way I need to slap some textures on the castle walls to see how it looks asap.

On a side note, I have whacked out some lion statue base meshes ready for sculpting, but they'll come later. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

FMP: Incoming, aim for the towers!

Finally the siege tower is modelled, I was able to block out the most of it very easily, most of yesterday was spent tweaking finer details and arranging the ladder openings so they didn't clash with the support beams. Of course I did have too adjust the scale so that it matched the modular wall pieces. One chain link was 80 or so tris, so imagining how many would be required to complete the chains so I'll simply alphas them, I've seen it used in game on several occasions, like on the Whiterun drawbridge in Skyrim.

Right now I'm concepting the wall breach itself: testing out some destroyed wall ideas to see which looks the best.

Friday, 14 February 2014

FMP: Siege Weaponry

I managed to complete the catapult and ballista on Tuesday, it was a nuisance really because I still had to look up release mechanics to each of them, all of the bolts, ropes and hooks really bumped up their tris count. However it was only after I had completed these three that I realised something, something that seems to happen to me a lot, I already had the information I needed from the start or it was so easy I could have realised it sooner, I had overlooked these images from my castle visit which could have saved me HOURS of researching.....

Finally I am working on the siege towers, Film reference has been equally as handy as live models and replicas. However since there were none at the castles I visited I decided to  base mine off the ones featured in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. I was able to find suitable images from websites featuring props used on set as well as plenty of screen grabs during the final battle of Jerusalem. 

However there were no interior shots of the tower and since I may consider using towers as efficient ways to navigate the level I wanted to feature this. On a forum featuring weapons of war through history there was this video with a brief construction of a tower which was exactly what I was after, so I shall combine this with my reference. Also had great videos on the engines I'd already gone and built! Gyah!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

FMP: Fire at will!

So the trebuchet is now complete, after spending more than anticipated time and the mechanism research I had a vague but not fully understood idea of what to build and how it would operate. Originally I was planning something like this...

But then I realized that I was looking at the two triggers I'd found on that oh so helpful page from the wrong angle, and upon realizing this is made perfect sense. Because they were both effective I had the desire to make them both.

With these key assets now out of the way I am curently working on the ballista, catapult and siege tower; two of these are whiteboxed and now require detailing.

FMP: Siege Weapons - How do you work?

My God I should have anticipated this.

So I'm midway through making the trebuchet it occurs to me: how the hell does this thing work!? I have now spent a solid number of hours rewatching clips from Ironclad, Kingdom of Heaven and the Battle of Minas Tirith featuring trebuchets so I can get them at different angles and see the areas I couldn't see before. In addition to this all siege weapons in gneral appear to be designed differently which really didn't help, however for the trebuchet I decided to merge the ones I saw at Caerphilly with the ones featured in Return of the King, since I was able to find the most reference on this model.

The greatest challenge was learning how the release and winding mechanisms, because the player would be able to get right up close the the engines I had to make sure the winches and mechanisms were all correct and appear that they would operate correctly, even though I had no intention of making them interactive elements. The majority of my search results were toy models, home-made DIY replicas and remade models; don't get me wrong they were helpful in terms of design, however many of them were rather basic and lacked all the required mechanics.
How do you release that!?

This is an example which covers many of my results, it's got the wind up mechanism but there is no way for it to be released!

Eventually after refining my search I was able to find a page committed to Trebuchet Triggers, it was as if someone knew precisely what I was looking for and presented it to me! Several of them were appropriately named mystery triggers were there is no visible mechanisms in the provided images, however I saw this trigger which seemed to make perfect sense. 

With this new insight I'll update the model and get the mechanisms in order.

Friday, 7 February 2014

FMP: Presentation Feedback.

According to my initial plan at Week 4 I should be refining modular battlements and other parts of the castle, however as we've seen from the gatehouse and the bridges I started this phase prematurely. At this current time I'm still putting my modular parts into CryEngine. Unlike previous occasions everything is almost to scale with no re sizing required. 

Earlier this week we gave our work in progress presentations and as I anticipated  the first piece of criticism I received was that I was focusing too much on fine details. So I need to finalize the whitebox ASAP. Also they shared my concerns over the large areas of the courtyards that needed to be filled. 

I really want to avoid recreating the London project within castle walls, however in certain cases this is indeed what the lower districts would be full of. However I think I may be able to avoid this and instead include alternative primary structures such as:

- Barracks
- Chapel
- Stables
- Other large blocky building which could serve as housing 

In addition I had a one to one chat with one of the tutors who suggested that I plan my fly through  and intended course through the level as this would allow me to bypass certain areas and minimize the amount of work required. For example this would mean that certain towers and buildings would not include interiors, which was something that I've planned from the start; but this would mean I could 'seal off' certain parts of the ramparts.

Furthermore setting the time of day would be critical in the mood for the level. We mutually agreed that having it set at dawn would be the most moving; The morning after etc with the shafts f light piercing through the remnants of the battlements. So I need to find some sunrise reference that will help with giving me an idea of how to structure it later on.

I was also recommended The Epic Citadel which proved to be very insightful as well. From the outside I got a good sense of varying height and saw how I could apply this to my level.

Another piece of suggested reference was looking at the TV series Merlin, which as it so happens was one of my favorite shows. On the wiki page for it there are significant screenshots of various locations within the castle. 

This is currently how I've altered the terrain a bit; so far I have got three different 'levels' of height that I'm using for each region. I have also brought the castle more inland as many people remarked how having right on the cliff-face didn't seem ideal. I'm also still trying to tweak the ground below the western ramparts, trying to utilize the natural defenses and loopholes to allow the siege towers to get right up to the wall.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Castellum Magnus Bestia: Crest and Icon

I have decided that I will use my banner designs throughout the level, and also because I couldn't settle on a final design nor could those whom I used for a preferences.

Instead I have gone for an entire achievement (heraldry term) aka coat of arms. Naturally I was going to have a crimson and gold mantling however when combined with the colors chosen for the shield it felt a bit too much so to balance it out I made it deep blue instead. It does feel like the colors are rather rich in certain cases however that is simply what many existing coat of arms appear as.

I'll ask for some other opinions on colors before settling on one of these, unless better color choices come to mind. 

FMP: Castellum Magnus Bestia

Many of my peers have given their Final Major Projects names at this stage, so it's high time I did the same. Now obviously I cannot call it something so simple and as boring as The Siege of Castle 'Whatever'. Castles in general are always names after their location or in rare cases after the house who lives there. 

Latin was still very much used during the Middle ages so I thought such a name would be more unique than an English translation. To begin with I looked up some translations for words I associated with lion for some ideas.

Animus > Bravery, Courage
Virtus > Power
Superdia > Pride
Magnus > Great
Leo > Lion
Bestia > Beast

There was some initial confusion since many Latin words covered more than one English word and vice versa. I wanted to avoid simple translations like Fortitiudo (strength) and other words where it was painfully obvious what the word in English was. 

Interestingly it seems that whilst there are translations for connecting words like 'of' and 'the' they don't seem to be used when used in a statement. This is handy since a title should be reasonably short and doesn't sound right if it contains too many syllables, so from this I narrowed it down to two choices.

Castellum Magnus Bestia > Castle of the Great Beast
Castellum Magnus Virtus > Castle of Great Power

I think the first option sounds better since it implies that a Lion/s actual resides somewhere within the castle.

So yeah, hence forth it shall be known as

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

FMP: Icon

Naturally this whole project requires a front and a name. Flags and banners are going to one of the most frequently occurring props, and of course they are often the identity of the building and the owners; so it seems only natural that it should be the logo for this project. There will be more than one design in the level of course, but these designs are for the castle itself.

Given my desire to include animal statues in the level I felt that it should also be included in the design. Lions have always been a symbol of courage and strength throughout culture across different time periods; given their status as the King of the Jungle (despite the fact they live in Savannah and not jungles!) Due to this they are also used as symbols of royalty and stateliness.

Banner shape and icon style ideas

Initially I wanted to have the icon in a style similar to that of the Skyrim holds, for some of them the design was simple yet ever so bold.

Whenever I see the lion used in crests and coat of arms its always the whole body used; and it is altered so the figure is not anatomically correct, like a leaner body figure or a ill-shaped mane. I wished to go for a side view of the head whilst roaring, as a sign of supremacy or dominance. 

These were my original ideas however they do not appear to look correct when compared to the examples I had found during my research. The central icon is always a solid colour with minor markings to define detail and shape. I basically turned these into silhouettes. Furthermore it occurred to me that I could also have heads for the flags, and full bodies for the banners.

Lion head and bodies
Banner designs, this was before I considered using full bodies for banners, heads for flags

FMP Research: Heraldry

Heraldry: a completely new term to me and it is now part of the growing list of castle dictionary I have accumulated, at this rate I could settle for a career as an architect with this knowledge!

It is basically the system of creating coats of arms and other armory bearings, many other terms have a second meaning when it comes to heraldry. For example achievement refers to a full display of a coat of arms components. In general it is called the latter but in the terminology of heraldry its incorrect.

Attitude: it refers to the position of the beast emblazoned, regardless of its role. Many attitudes are used by predators  such as the lion, eagle, griffin and dragon, which are the most common featured beasts. Furthermore the beast may be additionally described by other parts of its body. Such as if its teeth and fangs are bared, if its tongue is out and the positioning of the tail, having the latter between the tail is a sign of a coward etc.

The positioning of the figure in question is also a factor hat has to be considered, my research has shown that all beasts are always facing the viewers left, 'to dexter' as it is officially known. Dexter is the Latin translation of right. whereas sinister is left - this is from the views of the bearer to the shield, so if I were wielding one, the right to me would be the left of whoever was looking at me. Yeah I'll let you get that around your head...

other positions include looking straight at the viewer (affronte)and  looking in the opposite direction as if over its shoulder (regardant).

Several types of attitudes reserved for lions include:

- Rampant: A rearing up position with the front paws raised. The hind legs position varies however as many examples feature them apart as if moving.

- Passant: A striding position facing dexter, with one paw often raised.

- Sejant: In a seating position, if its front arms are raised then it is sejant erect.

- Dormant: The clues in the name, lying down with its eyes closed. This is an odd choice because it doesn't really convoy strength or power it its asleep!

- Salient: A leaping position, its also the rarest for lions. Often reserved for stags and more docile animals featured on crests.

Combine these attitudes with the directions to give the official name for the beast, such as 
Lion Rampant Regardant or Lion Passant Guardant.

Personally the sight of a lion up on its hind legs is the most intimidating so I'm in favor of the rampant position to dexter. Pretty standard yet effective.

FMP: Modelling Updates

Apologies for the big gap since the last post, I've been really getting into the project. I must admit to begin with I abandoned whitebox mode and when straight into finalizing the gatehouse. I didn't bother with an interior for this since it is not the a area worth exploring, its a placeholder as a first line of defense for the front entrance.

Despite not having an interior I had to adjust it because to begin with it was only going to have two stories, ground floor for stairs entrance, however It did not look correct due to the fact that it needed another floor for the mechanism that operates the portcullis, since I haven't modeled it on the top floor. 

Raising the top half of the gatehouse allows more space
for the portcullis and the middle floor in general.

Afterwards I then produced a selection of bridges to connect to the actual castles main gate via drawbridge, I was torn between a couple of designs as I wanted to have an alleyway of statues to give a sense of grandeur and pride. 

Early ideas for entrance bridges and potential statues. 

However I have been rough ideas for the overall layout of the castle, they need to be tweaked and experimented with more until I get a layout that looks suitable.
A couple of ideas

I need to finalize this part quickly because all of my other activities have taken me off course, according to my original schedule I should be putting the whitebox in CryEngine. My work on the gatehouse should have been saved for Week 4, so I plan to finish the whitebox by the weeks end so I can get some feedback and correct it over the weekend. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

FMP: Whiteboxing

So it finally begins! I gotten straight underway with structuring the following 16 weeks and working out how much time I will need to tackle everything. Knowing my own work pace I have estimated how long each process should take me, and I hope that I will not have to overun into the next allocated weeks.

So far this week I have began with creating portions of the castle for whiteboxing, I eventually want to put them into CryEngine as soon as possible so I can get a sense of scale for my level. What I've done so far includes:

- four variations of turrets
- two types of arrow slits
- six variations of castle wall merlons

- three castle wall portions with different staircases

Of course these will not be the final versions, they'll be placeholders until I'm satisfied that I have my final layout design figured out.

In addition to this I have been looking for other examples of castle architecture online for some ideas as to how I can make the battlements more unique. The curtain walls and towers will be repeated more than any other modular parts of the castle so it would be ideal if they were more detailed or interesting. 

The most helpful online sources have been models of castles and ones people have built themselves, the most insightful were actually Minas Tirith and Helms Deep, because the author had taken close ups of particular angles of the battlements and towers; exactly what I needed.

Before I build anymore parts, I should begin designing the actual layout of the level so I'll know how many of each part I'll need and what else to whitebox.