William Tsikerdanos, Spring 2014: Rebirth of the Goo and World Shaping

This semester, I spent my time between the art and design teams, though spread a bit more evenly this time around. As part of the art team, I began the semester by taking on the rework of the goo. As the main antagonistic force of the game, it was in desperate need of a redesign visually, as it was basically just a smoky expensive particle effect at that point.

I began my work on it thinking about it as a gooey sort of warbly mesh, spending my time focusing on the texture and mesh. However, this didn’t have quite the effect that I wanted…so I went deeper into it and started teaching myself shader code, so I could really experiment with the look of the mesh and hopefully achieve the effect I wanted. However, after teaching myself a good bit about these things, I got the feedback that it would be desirable to have a more cloudy style of goo rather than a gooey form. So I scrapped this first prototype and started over.

From this point, I taught myself the Unity particle system, Shuriken. I also experimented and learned about particle texturing and created my own texture. After a number of iterations, I finally created a two particle cloud system that looked excellent. From there, I worked hard to get it optimized, as we knew that a large number of these could be floating around a level at any given time. It was really interesting working on this, as I had to strike a very careful balance…the goo is meant to be an antagonist and frightening in its own way, acting as a force of nature that corrupts and destroys its surroundings. But at the same time, it is a resource,  natural and mindless. Finding a balance between making it malignant but not malicious was a trick and one I found pretty fun to work with.GooCloud

So I continued to work on the goo, but in a different capacity. On the design team, we decided that the goo needed an in depth design document. So I began work on this, integrating previous ideas for the goo into a single cohesive concept with well developed interactions and details. I laid out how each type of interaction worked, creating four different categories that fish and plants could fall into and how the goo would effect each. I laid out how the goo would operate on a global and zone level. About the time this was finished, we received news that Mermaids was nearing the end of it’s development. So we needed to focus down on what needed to be finished and bring it to a close. This is what got me started designing the deconstruction and desanctification spells. These were necessary as a way to undo the building and sanctifications, as otherwise we ran the risk of no longer being able to build, similar to a set of legos that never gets taken apart. I originally set up three different spells for this, but it was realized that we could simplify this down to two and it would work effectively.

Lastly, we realized that we’d need a new overworld. The old one just wasn’t conducive to the clan idea that we had of 5 different clans exploring a world. So I began work on a much, larger play space. I started by researching a bit about the ocean floor, examining the way in which terrain exists under the water. From there, I started on my first terrain, exploring the tools available to me. I was able to get a shape that worked with what was in my head…but it was far too small. So I made a larger one, putting in much greater detail and with a much more expansive feel. However, this one was too big…so we ended up scaling it down, as overall the shape and detail of it was something we wanting to retain. After this point, I created textures for the terrain and carefully painted on various ground types (mostly sand and rock). I cartoonized these to make them more in line with the overall art style of Mermaids. Following this, I painted on the different sea grasses we had, then began to populate the world. I carefully placed all the meshes around the world, crafting each area to give a different feel for each of the clans. In the end, it turned out to be a really cool overworld, and I am very proud to have it as part of my portfolio.Overworld

Mermaids, wrapping up!

It’s been a fun journey working on the mermaid animations

rigProgression

Here’s the transformation of the mermaid rig from start to finish :)

This semester I not only reference swimming footage, but cartoons as well.

actionLine

Some of the poses could have been a bit more exaggerated, but it’s amazing how much easier animation is with the right reference material.

Here’s a small compilation of the game interactions:

https://vimeo.com/92737411

 

 

Jeanie Choi: Spring 2014 Concept Art and UI

I was a part of the art and design teams, and mainly focused on concept art this semester. As the end of the semester drew near, I found myself picking up other odd jobs to help provide the assets the programming team needed to pull the playtest builds together, the most significant addition being a UI.

Carrying over from last semester, I continued creating concept art for various plants and got a kick out of watching them get interpreted and fully realized by the modelers and animators on the team. I conceptualized multiple versions of the building and speed plant, which members could then deliberate between at production meetings.

plants

There were a lot of other miscellaneous concept art I made as well, mostly for environments and also for practice on my part.

enviros

I also created a tileable texture for the structs that connect the building blocks in player-created structures.

structs

After feedback from the first playtest made the need of accessible information for the player very clear, the creation of a simple spell page for the player to reference became high priority. Thanks to the quick work of AJ and Jordan, I was able to help quickly realize the much-needed feature by the next playtest. Following the success of that playtest, I then helped create other UI assets for the chatbox, the intro screen, and later the clanbook.

UIStuff

I proposed and created a design document for the clanbook, and also drew up concept art for it. Drawing from the mention of fountains as a naturally adopted place for meetups by players in Dr. Pearce’s Communities of Play, I wanted to also set up some interesting, visually novel landmark for clan members to aggregate around. I felt that a pit-like design resembling a campfire would also reinforce the clan book as a pivotal area players can organize themselves around. My original design proposed a fairly complex system of pages detailing each clan’s rules, histories, customs, etc. and also elaborated on a separate library that housed all magically-linked copies of a clan book. The final implementation of the clan book was, obviously, much simpler, and thanks to Jordan’s practical outline for the build’s version of the book, I was able to create and hand over to AJ both artwork and text for the book.

clanBook

 

ClanBook_ToC - by Jeanie Choi

Another design-art linked task I had was determining the colors, symbols and brief descriptions of the five clans we were featuring in the build. Thanks to Erica’s input I was able to come upon five colors that were not only distinctive but captured the whimsical, ethereal feel of the game. I also worked with Bill in designing the symbols for each clan, and then matching them to the spires Bill managed to find for the overworld.

Clans

In a last-minute addition to the build, I am also currently working on new effects for the sanctifying shields that cover each spire. At the moment I simply have the texture’s UVs y coordinates scroll downwards over time. This simple solution does keep the asset from being processing-intensive, so I will probably keep it as is for now, but I plan on tweaking the visuals during the final stretch.

Overall I am surprised by how much I improved; focusing just on art has helped me put in a lot of level grinding in that single attribute, and I feel a lot more confident in general about my abilities as an artist and a team player.  I’ve slowly grown familiar with the tools of the trade, and wield a greater facility in expressing my thoughts visually now. ^_^ I owe a lot to Mermaids, and I just wanted to say thank you to everyone. It’s been very memorable.

Current System

This semester I began working on a current system that is almost complete.  It is a a collider trigger that applies  a force  to any object that enters it.  The direction of the force is the direction of the current, which is taken by subtracting the start and end points that the designer desires.  Theses points are 2 game object that are children of the current and can be placed anywhere on the collider.  The last thing I have left to do is create an inward force the that points in the direction of the closest point of on the line through the start and end points.  I have most of the code finished and am currently debugging.

Celeste Mason: Glyph System

For the Mermaids MMO this semester, I have worked on design of the Glyph language and spell system. Initially, I’d tried to gain an understanding of the the game’s overall structure and inter-related systems while attending design meetings. Next I was tasked with creating a standard set of the most likely used words within the game. Because the option to include written (English) language and game instructions was decided against this semester, the ability for players to creatively and effectively communicate through glyphs became more of a priority. They are also one means of transmitting knowledge of spells, an important game mechanism.

Aspects of glyph creation I kept in mind were:

  • Visual elements drawn from physical concepts within game (ex: building base)
  • Repeated elements/concepts draw together similar ideas. Especially needed for spells within same category
  • Spell glyph (and all others) must be drawn with one stroke. This means few line segments and curves dominate
  • For spells,  lines should not be too close together because the input recognition algorithm may not distinguish them
  • Glyphs should conform to previous aesthetic, once complete

As inspiration, I drew in part upon astronomical symbols–their categorization, line styles, and (as an example) the use of repeated motifs incorporated across the symbols for satellites of planets.  I also devised a numeric system based on decimal/binary hybrid numbers, which may not be immediately useful, but could come in handy later in game development. Initial glyph drafts incorporate varied elements, with many options to consider. Later, these were refined (by review at design and production meetings) to fit within the game. Some examples are shown below.

Spell Glyphs

Glyphs-StyledSpells

Language Glyphs

Glyphs-StyledWords

 

Avery Allen: Spell System

This semester I worked on one major project for Mermaids: reworking the spell system. Previous spell implementations focused on making spells that worked well alone, but were hard to get to work in tandem. As the design team worked out the specifics of each spell, it became increasingly clear that we would need a new system to accommodate for the many interactions between spells.

The first step towards having a working spell system was creating the levelable class. This class can potentially be reused by other systems in Mermaids. The levelable class provides a way of knowing how experienced a player is at using a particular spell. The levelable class allows for group spell casting to count towards the player’s increase in skill.

After implementing the levelable class, I then moved on to creating the base spell class. This class contains the methods that are common between all spells. It is used to ensure that any spell can be activated by the same method. This solved problems that we were having with the earlier system. The idea is that types of spells (channel, activate, target) can all be derived from the base spell class.

In addition to the main spell classes, I also created some smaller auxiliary classes to be used in the spell system. This included a targeter for target spells and a spellListener to keep track of active spells.

To test that the new system would work, I ported the previously implemented bubble spell into the new spell system. You can see a picture of the bubble spell working with the new spell system below.

Bubble

Fengbo Li: modeling

This semester I worked as a volunteer in the Mermaids art team and worked on modeling based on the Mermaids art master document. At the very beginning it was difficult for me to capture the shape of the plant- or flower-looking shell house, but during the production meeting, the team had given great suggestions on how I can do that and it turned out to look nice.

The concept art:pci1

 

The model:

pci

 

William Tsikerdanos, Fall 2013: Reign of the Fish Lord – Creating new, fun, interactive fish for Mermaids

This semester began my conquest of the Mermaid kingdom. And by this, I mean that I worked on the Art and Design teams.  The former of these received my utmost attention, though I chose to contribute to the Design team by providing feedback and commentary upon the design concepts we discussed.

As a part of the Art team, I began by taking on the responsibility of the windmill fish. This proved a tricky task, particularly since I was making the transition from using Blender over to Maya. While creating the mesh, texture and rigging were pretty simple, the animation specifically was difficult, as we wanted to give it a very fluid sort of motion. In the end,  I utilized a combination of procedural and keyframe animations to bring this little guy to life.
windmill fish

After the windmill fish was complete, I jumped onto the bombfish. He seemed a neat little guy and with our first big showcase coming up, I wanted to see if I could finish him in time to show him off. Working off some basic concept art, I created him over the course of about a week and a half. The explosion animation took a bit more time, as I wanted to get that just right. After a few critiques, I managed to get it pretty spot on and finished him up just in time for the first demo.
bombfish

Following this, I wasn’t quite sure what to work on, as we had a short break and I had nothing assigned. But I knew that I wanted to start work on another mesh. Noticing that there was a mention of monstrous sea creatures in the Mermaids design bible, I decided that I wanted to create a Kraken. So I started work on that over Fall break, looking into artwork online and images of actual squid. The creation of this mesh took a bit longer, as it was a bit more intricate than the other two fish I had made to this point. But I was exceptionally pleased with how it turned out. I began animation work on it, but before I was able to fully finish this, it was requested that I assist in getting the final demo ready by fixing the chandelier jellyfish model from last year. I put the kraken on hold and got to work.

I downloaded this older model. In Maya, I began to examine it for problems that might be causing the issues that it was having. It turned out to be a normals issue. However, upon fixing this, the mesh began to have other issues. In the end, it proved faster to just remake the model properly rather than work to fix all the small problems already there. I then textured, rigged, and animated this remake. The final result is below.
chandelier jellyfish

Following this, it was requested that I create an underwater explosion particle effect for the bombfish, since he was going to utilize his explosion capabilities in the demo. I did this pretty quickly, combining two particle systems with bubble and blueish steam effects to get the desired result.

Lastly, with the bit of time remaining to me, I completed work on the Kraken’s swimming animation. He now haunts the depths of the Mermaid world, eating up all your fishies.

The Kraken

In short, I worked on a great number of fish this semester. I modeled, textured, rigged, and animated them all, each with their own unique functions and inspirations. I helped to conceptualize many of the designs we have coming up and provided concrete feedback to both teams. I’m very much looking forward to next semester.

Beth Godfrey: Fall 2013

My experience this semester as part of the art team was largely one of learning from works produced by other team members and experimentation with unfamiliar programs. With a background founded in neither art nor programming, it was interesting to foray a bit into the world of production for games. The concept for the Mermaids game is an intriguing one, differing quite a bit from its mmorpg counterparts.

In the first part of the semester, I worked on designed a map system to be implemented at a later stage of the game. The goal was to create an interface that would interfere as little as possible with otherwise immersive gameplay from the mermaid’s POV. The shape I decided on was spherical, imitating a sort of bubble formation. There was also the desire to make the map a part of social activities as well, enabling players to share their maps with one another, passing along information about locations of import. Additionally, players would be able to actively add features to their own personal maps, including plants, entrances, places where fish might gather, structures, and “goo.” Landscape features like trenches and underwater mountains would appear passively as the player explores new areas and would remain on the map from that point on. Ideally there would also be a way to apply filters to maps, allowing players to more easily pinpoint, say, plants for harvesting. The filtering would also be applicable to shared maps, allowing a shared map to overlay with one’s own.

In the latter portion of the semester, I worked on a fish tentatively titled the “vacuum fish,” the purpose of which is to clear areas of the antagonistic “goo.” After several iterations of the original concept art, the one decided upon featured a less flamboyant color scheme and a bit more realism. The model was refined to better reflect the desired shape of the original concept art. The animation/rigging is in need of a bit more refining, as I am in no means well versed in Maya, but it accomplishes a simple swimming motion that helps to tone down the somewhat cartoonish aspects of the fish.