Floating Island Modeling
My first main task this semester was to model the floating islands that Adam wanted to place within his Ecosystem playground. Rachel created concept art for the islands, and I stuck to modeling them much like the illustrations.
To create these two islands, I used the general modeling method of rectangle extrusion and manipulation. I started with a single cube for each, then added edge loops, extruded faces, and moved the vertices to create the general shapes presented in the concept art. The smaller island was made mostly from dividing the original rectangle and extruding downwards. The larger island consists of two fairly distinct pieces, so I extruded horizontally first to get the top profile and then extruded and shaped the bottom from there.
Vacuum Plant Remodel and Animation
In the fall, I was tasked with reworking the vacuum plant that is used to attract the vacuum fish. The original model was a filler model that consisted of a simple pole-like plant growing from a dirt mound. Rachel drew up new concept art for the plant and handed it off to me to model.
I took the art in to Maya and created a model that followed the art directly. I created it in three pieces: the main stem, the big leaf, and the small leaf. I wanted to capture the organic, smooth feel of the plant shown in the drawings, so I created the pieces from cv curves. For the stem, I outlined half of the plant from the side and the revolved the curve around the center to create the vase-like profile. From there, I sculpted it to be asymmetrical and then used a bend deformer to introduce a slight curve in the plant. For the two leaves, I started by creating cv curves from the side profile. I then duplicated the curve twice, scaled the two copies down and lofted the three curves together. This gave a nice organic-feeling plane in the leaf shape. To make them usable in Unity, they needed to be polygons, rather than planes (because planes only have normals on one side, the leaves were see-through in certain views within Unity). To fix this, I duplicated each leaf, scaled the duplicates down slightly, reversed the normals, the merged the edge vertices of the leaves together to make it one cohesive polygon model. The texture on the stem was created using a procedural color ramp adjusted to run down the length of the plant.
The next step for the plant was to give it a nice animation. To accomplish this, I had to rig the plant and animate using the skeleton. Having never rigged in maya before, I chose the simple (yet painful) option: Use a lot of bones and hand animate each of them. In rigging the plant, I made three separate bone chains; one for the stem and one for each leaf. The stem is a chain of four bones, the small leaf is a chain of sixteen, and the large leaf is a chain of eighteen bones. I created a large number of bones because I wanted the leaves to have a tremendous amount of flexibility to bend and wrap around the stem.
After skinning the plant pieces to the bones, all that was left was to animate it. The idea of the plant is that it grows out of the patches of dirt in the mermaid gardens. To accomplish this effect, I wanted to make the vacuum plant unwrap itself and sprout the middle stem. I created a beginning pose that had the stem shrunk down to a minuscule size, with the two leaves wrapped around and concealing it. From there, I experimented with different movements of the leaves as the stem grew out from the middle. I wanted to give each leaf a smooth, organic movement that felt like it was underwater. I eventually settled on having the leaves unfurl in a clockwise motion, overswing their end poses and then curl back into the final pose. The result can be seen here:
Vacuum Plant Growth Animation
Fish Rigging and Animation
After I completed the vacuum plant and floating island tasks, the rest of my semester was devoted to the rigging and animation of the new wildlife that we were incorporating into Adam’s ecosystem. The fish that came to fruition were the Tusk Fish, the Little Gardener, the Kelp Dragon, and the Lamp Fish. The tusk fish, little gardener, and kelp dragon were modeled by Bobby Blackburn, and the lamp fish was initially modeled by Carlos Duralde (with poly-reduction done by Bobby). The textures were created by Ashu Gupta. My job was to take the completed models, rig them with skeletons, and animate them.
The tusk fish is a unique creature that has a stone headpiece that it uses to ram other creatures. Its model was made by Bobby Blackburn and textured by Ashu Gupta.
Its stout little body is very much eclipsed by the large facial mask. In animating it, I took the headpiece into consideration and crafted a skeleton that would allow me to move everything behind the mask. This was my second foray into the workd of rigging, so it has an actual skeleton that follows the general shape of the fish. It is all a simple bone chain, starting with its root joint in its face, following its spine down through the tail. It has limbs for the two fins and the top spikes (which are rather unnecessary and only used to avoid mesh problems). This construction allowed for easy skinning of the fish, but also meant that all of the animating hand to be keyed per bone once again.
The animation of the tusk fish was created based on his shape and proportions. Because the head is heavier, the back has to compensate for the weight by working harder. The two fins constantly give downward force while the tail works harder to give propulsion and keep him straight. All of this animation was done by key frames on each individual bone. My biggest goal for this little guy was to create a fluid fish animation that is believable but exaggerated. The finished swim cycle can be seen below:
Tusk Fish Swim Cycle
The Little Gardener is a cute, tadpole-like creature that roams the land carrying and dropping seeds. It plays a big role in the spread of wild plants in the ecosystem. The model was created by Bobby Blackburn, and the textures were drawn by Ashu Gupta.
The little gardener is a smaller, more versatile creature that needed movement much different from that of the tusk fish. It heavily resembles a tadpole, so I studied the movement of tadpoles in the later stages when they have developed arms. I based much of my rigging and animation work off of that research. The biggest factors I wanted to address were the use of its arms and support of its elongated body. In creating the skeleton for the gardener, I was able to build a much more complex rig that made animating much easier. I had done a lot of studying and reading into the crafting of rigs for another project, so I was now familiar with kinematics and clusters. So, I created the base skeleton, with the root joint at the head, flowing down to the end of the tail. There were limbs added for the arms and the fins. I placed IK constraints on the arms and used spline handles on the fins and the tail. This allowed for a much easier animation experience.
I created two different swim animations for the Little Gardener: One swimming using his arms and one with his arms holding a seed out in front of him. The aim for the gardener animation was to focus on using his arms and his two fins to keep him afloat, with the tail used as more of a balancing element and a guide. To achieve this, I made the arms push down with some force while the two fins work hard to keep him moving. The tail moves much slower, acting as an auxiliary floatation and guidance element. The second animation is pretty much the same, just with his arms outstretched in front of him.
Little Gardener Swim Cycle
Little Gardener Swim Cycle (Arms Up)
The Kelp Dragon is a large, majestic creature. It is based very much on the whale in shape and behavior, with the added characteristic that is can be settled upon. They use echo location to communicate with other dragons and move about very slowly. The model was done by Bobby Blackburn, with texture by Ashu Gupta.
The main characteristic of the kelp dragon is its size. It is a king of the ocean, and it roams about at a slow pace. In being both majestic and unhurried, the main goal for rigging and animation was to give really broad, fluid strokes to the tail and large wing fins. I wanted to be able to comunicate that it is moving with powerful motions, but even in that power, the dragon is relaxed. In making this skeleton, I followed much the same process as the other fish, starting at the head and moving to the end of the tail. For the tail, I made sure to give it five joints close together so that I could get more minute movement in the wave motion I envisioned. Then I added the bones for the two fins. The same principle as the tail applied, for the idea is to have a very fluid wave motion.
The animation for this one turned out great. Both the wings and the tail have a real heft to them, yet they move very freely. The wings especially feel nice, with a strong snap as they pull in towards the body to push the water. The whole animation has a calm, regal feel to it.
Kelp Dragon Swim Cycle
The lamp fish was the last fish I took care of this semester. It is a scary little creature based loosely on the anglerfish. It dwells in the darkness of the volcano and slowly chases the player with its dimly lit lantern. Carlos Duralde had modeled it the previous semester and I had a rough animation for it, but the whole thing was pretty incomplete. Bobby took the model and reduced the polys significantly and I created a new skeleton and animation for it. Ashu created the texture. It is a very dark purple right now, but it will be lightened.
The rig that I created for this one was thrown together really quickly, but it is effective. It starts at the nose and goes through the tail with two single bones for the tiny fins. The lantern arm has many tiny bones, which allowed me to sway it back and for with grace.
The animation for this scary little guy turned out really well for being so rushed. It has a wide, slow swish in the tail movement, accompanied by quick flaps of the two little fins. The mouth opens and closes menacingly as it swims. The best part is the slightly asynchronous bounce of the lantern tentacle, which rocks the lantern gently back and forth as the fish bobs along. The whole idea was to make him move strangely to add a sense of disturbance to its presence.
Lamp Fish Swim Cycle