Monthly Archives: May 2013

De-materialisation (Behind the Scenes VFX part 2)

Hello everyone! Marcin Dudkowski here again. Last time I posted, I talked about my visual effects compositing pipeline. Today I have more behind the scenes information and also something interesting to show you.

Do you remember the IKA Alien from our previous post? It has been mentioned that it feeds on matter. More to the point, in Eden Star you, as a player, will also be able to de-materialise objects , although for a different purpose. One of my responsibilities at Flix Interactive is to make sure this process looks powerful and beautiful. Here is a prototype:

To keep true to the “behind the scenes” promise, I am going to explain how this effect is created and controlled. At the very core of it lies a synergy of lights, particle systems and animated materials. The latter is built upon a system of masks, which I want to talk about. I am going to get quite technical from this point on. Tread carefully!

flix editor

The image above depicts Unreal3’s material editor with the aforementioned functionality stripped to bare minimum for better understanding. To produce required monochromatic masks I am comparing a simple black to white gradient texture against a 0 to 1 parameter (here called “Progress”). The “If” nodes then translate them into pure white on the left of the point where the parameter is of equal value to the gradient, and pure black on the right.

By adding a tiny value (“EdgeWidth”=0.02) to one of the gradient instances I am able to produce a “Darker Mask” with a small offset. I can then extract said offset by subtracting one mask from the other. From this point I have a set of textures I can use to create a glowing disintegration edge, and to turn any object fully visible on one and fully invisible on the other side of it.

Now, changing the values of the “Progress” parameter would visually wipe the entire material into the strangulating clutches of nothingness… ehkm, in an organized and orderly fashion. However, using a more erratic texture instead of a simple gradient will produce more interesting results. From this point, all that is left is adding a bunch of embers, glow-dust, lights, god-rays etc. and the effect is ready.

This concludes my mini-tutorial on the disintegration effect for Eden Star. I had to keep it rather short, but I hope at least some of you found it enlightening. Sharing my knowledge has always brought me great pleasure, so if you guys have any questions about visual effects in general, please do not hesitate to ask me. I will respond to everyone. Let’s fill this comment section below.

Thanks for reading! I am leaving you with an image update on my work on the scene I showed you in my last post. Till next time!

eden star space

First Look: Ika Character Model

Hello everyone!

For this post we wanted to showcase some more Eden Star art assets, but this time focusing a bit more on the technical side of what makes up an in game character model. We also want to give you a first look at one of the early types of enemy you, the Pioneer, will face on the surface of Pharus 7.

This creature is drawn to the Teslinium contained within the Eden Kit, and in the MATA-Tool on your arm. They absorb matter to survive, and do not discriminate between inert minerals and your face.

eden star alien ika

Nearly all models in current 3D games have two main versions, a high resolution source model and the low resolution game model. The high resolution model is used to get the right visual aesthetic and details (these can often be 10’s of millions of polygons). Whereas the low resolution model is a much lower polygon count that the games engine can handle, in the case of this model we used, at its high level of detail, sixteen thousand triangles on the engine model.

eden star alien ika turnaround gif

In order to capture the look of these million polygon models in game, we make use of textures called normal maps. These maps are baked from our sculpted model to the editor-friendly model, and create an optical illusion that the model has more detail than it really does.

eden star ika enemy creature texture maps

This texture works in conjunction with a series of other maps which are assembled within a shader inside the game engine. These textures include a diffuse map; which is where all the colour information is stored, and a specular map which is responsible for how shiny or matte a surface is. There are a number of other functions shaders can use textures for to create a variety of different material properties, these can be anything from emissives to make the material glow, to masks that make the material opaque or translucent.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this brief insight into how we structure our characters, keep watching this space for more on Eden Star in the coming weeks.