Creating graphics for games can be quite technical at times. A game artist needs to keep in mind that there’s a finite amount of memory available for graphics in the game. In essense the less an individual art asset takes memory, the more of them you can have which results in visual diversity. Basically that means more varied wallsets, monsters, items etc.

Textures are real graphics memory hogs. That’s why in game art we use all kinds of tricks to keep texture count and sizes low. In this post I’m going to be talking about a method of using the same pieces over and over again to create multiple different assets without any new textures. Sometimes this is called kitbashing.

Exhibit number uno: Wooden supports for the mine environment


(click on the pictures to enlarge them)

I was tasked to create a wooden support structure for our mine wallset. The environment required multiple kinds of configurations ranging from a fence like wall piece with support pillars and beams to a bridge piece for connecting over chasms.

It wouldn’t have made much sense making every asset unique, meaning that every asset has it’s own set of textures, since that would have taken a lot of memory. The assets needed had also pretty big surface areas which means that to keep texel resolution (size of texture pixels in the 3d world) consistent, the textures would’ve had to be big. In grimrock we’ve aimed to keep our texel resolution 1024×1024 pixels per 3x3meters. (our grid size)

So with these limitations in mind I set out to design the assets needed. First we made a simple sketch of what the assets and the environment might look like with Antti. Antti described requirements from a gameplay standpoint and dished out some environment artist wisdom from his Alan Wake days. I also looked at some reference pictures of how supports like these are usually built.

Next step was trying to figure out what kind of pieces I’d need to create them in 3D.

I tried to keep the number of pieces to a minimum, and to figure out how to accomplish that I used a technique we call whiteboxing. It’s essentially just another type of a sketch, but in 3D and placed in game. Using this technique has the advantage of seeing very early on how the asset might appear in game and what kind of dimensions it occupies. Later after the high detail modeling is done, it’s usually difficult to make changes if problems like intersecting with other objects in the environment arise. For example, some of our bigger monsters might intersect through the asset while prowling through the caverns of our mines if the assets are not carefully measured. This technique also helps with making sure the pieces have correct proportions. It’s easy to make planks, nail heads, etc. too big so that they appear cartoonish in game compared to the surrounding environment.

My solution to making multiple mine assets from a single set of textures (diffuse, specular and a normalmap) was to make a collection of different sized planks, beams and some metallic binders I’d use to attach the wooden pieces together. It’s probably what you’d get from a trip to the hardware store in the grimrock world! To create the textured assets I took the whiteboxed pieces to zbrush and sculpted them into what I needed and then created game resolution meshes and textures from the sculpts.

After that it was just a matter of assembling the pieces into what I needed.

When I was finished with assembling the assets we could let Antti off the leash and create our exciting environments!

The added benefit of this techique is that these pieces can then be used elsewhere also!
… and in the case of this collection of hardware store material, everywhere. :)

Aaaand that’s it. I hope this was an interesting read and if you have questions just post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
- Jyri

 

It’s time to shed some light behind the dusty curtains that cover the massive art department of Almost Human and take a look at some behind the scenes action. A lot of new shady creatures have been creeping around the studio walls and this time we’ll try to catch one of them. Be very, very quiet, we’re hunting Zarchtons. Zarchtons are one of the first monsters you’ll come across in the beaches of the Island. At first you’ll hear their croaking calls and before you know what hit, you realize you’ve been ambushed.

Zarchtons are amphibious creatures that are as home on dry land as in water, but they never leave too far from water, because they are dependent of water and need to dampen their skin from time to time. That’s why Zarchtons are usually seen around water, but that doesn’t limit to natural water sources. Overflown dungeons are also perfect environment for them too…

The origin of Zarchtons is highly debated topic in the Natural Science Department of the Nothampton’s University. Some say Zarchtons have evolved from fishes and some say they we’re originally land creatures that have moved to live partially in water. Sometimes Zarchtons are seen far in the open sea and they are often mistaken for mermaids. Being amphibious creatures, Zarchtons have both lungs and gills, so they can breath air and in water. Zarchtons have primitive culture system and they make use of resources from the sea to create clothing and accessories from shellfishes and other small creatures they hunt. Swimming in water and walking on land have developed Zarchtons’ leg muscles to enable them to take long leaps to help them hunt their prey and attack anyone coming to their territory…

What goes to actual development of the Zarchtons, the process was pretty standard stuff. We thought of some features and characteristics we needed in a monster and based on that data I started roughing it out. And this is what I ended up:

 
Then it was off to Zbrush to create the high resolution model using Zspheres as a base and just dynameshing the living crap out of it.

 
After the high resolution model was done, it was decimated a bit and exported to 3dCoat, we’re I retopoed and unwrapped it ending to around 6200 polygons. High resolution data was baked into normal map and rest of the textures were painted in Photoshop.

 
And finally, here’s a final posed model for Zarchton. I bet you’ll end up peeking under his skirt.

 

Alright, this has been a long time coming… I’ve worked at AH for about a year now and haven’t written anything to the blog! Naturally I should introduce myself before I start blabbing about other things so the guys threw me some interview type questions and I went on to answer them.

Please introduce yourself!

Hello everyone! My name is Jyri Ullakko and I’m an artist here at Almost Human. I’ve previously worked on games like Trine 2, Shattered Horizon, and on some mobile games back in the day when I was at Fathammer. I’ve also spent a number of years working at Fake graphics creating graphics for advertisements.
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New game needs new monsters. We already have a bunch of new deadly monsters roaming in the dungeons, but in this post we’re going to take a quick look to our old friend: The Ogre! Ogre went through a radical makeover and it was modeled and textured almost from scratch. To reflect the new tricks ogre has learned, he was given a bit more clever look than the familiar cave ogre that only had a loin cloth and some random armor parts slapped on him. But hey, let’s look at some pictures instead of me typing nonsense.

First I did a quick concept sketch of the new look and then it was off to Zbrush to sculpt the high resolution version. At the bottom is the textured game model and a “clay render” with wireframes. The Ogre is built from 9058 polygons and is using three 1024×1024 maps (diffuse, specular and normal).


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Monsters are an essential part of Grimrock’s dungeons and I thought I’d share some in-depth look at some of them. Legend of Grimrock features twenty unique monsters whose shape and size range from green jelly to… well, all you who have finished the game know to what. Here I have picked three of my favorite monsters that I enjoyed making the most and still feel happy about.

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Hello you all!

In this making of -post I’m going to talk a little what went into creating the ambient soundscapes in Legend of Grimrock. To freshen up your memories, here’s the tracks I made for the temple and prison wallsets:

These versions differ a tiny bit from the ones included in the game to make them work a little bit better as “standalone” tracks: the tracks in the game are looping and I also tweaked the mixing of the tracks a little.

Anyways so, now that we have some background music playing for you while you read, let’s start from the beginning. When we begun the Grimrock project we already had one good looping ambient soundscape that we could use that Markus “Captain” Kaarlonen of Poets of the Fall fame had made for one hobby game project that Petri and Olli had been working on some years ago. It was pretty much a perfect match for this game too but the only problem was that we needed more and we were on a tight budget. So that left me as the most practical option for creating the new tracks since I’ve been fiddling with electronic music as a hobby for a while and, with our salaries, I was pretty damn cheap too! ;)


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Editor’s Note: For the next couple of weeks we are going to feature a set of articles that should shed some light on how Legend of Grimrock was made. The articles range from graphics and animation to sound design and programming. For gamers or hobbyists we hope to give you some idea what game development is about. If you’re a fellow game developer hopefully these articles will give you some ideas for your projects. Without further due, let’s give the floor to Juho! -Petri

Legend of Grimrock has a storyline running under its hood and to help it get it moving we needed an intro sequence in the beginning of the game. Naturally some fancy big money cinematic was out of the question, so we had to come up with some more down to earth type of solution. Pretty quickly we narrowed our options to still images with overlaid text. That was relatively easy and fast to do, but allowed more freedom for the player to watch the images and read the texts in his/her own pace. Intro sequences’ main purpose was to set the mood and setting for the game with the help of iconic tune by Stakula (which we talked earlier in here).

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This week’s feature will be a little different from the usual since this time we have a guest writer! Stakula, the composer of the theme music of Legend of Grimrock shares some insight on the creation process of the music. You can either listen to the tune with the embedded player or download it as an mp3. Enjoy!

Summer 2011 I noticed an interesting trailer link in Finnish IGDA pages about a game called Legend of Grimrock by a new Finnish game team Almost Human. I was intrigued because it was very much like old Dungeon Master games which I was big fan of back in the good ol’ gaming days. I contacted the team, congratulated them on great concept and gave them some advise on sound design.

Sometime later, it so happened that Almost Humans were interested in having me compose the main theme for the game! Antti Tiihonen contacted me early September and shortly after I met the guys in Espoo. Game looked fantastic and we agreed that catchy, fully orchestrated song would be what the game needs, a memorable theme with strong emotional impact.

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Adam wrote us and asked some insights of how we design and create our dungeon environments. I thought this would be a nice opportunity to demonstrate our asset creation methods.

First we of course need an idea of what we want to depict. In this case it’s some old mossy brick wall dungeons. At this point I search for reference material and maybe scribble something on paper like how the bricks are divided or the pillar silhouette. Color palette is also thought out to get the right mood and feel.


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Hi! This post isn’t actually game project related, but we thought it would be fun to share some behind the scenes footage. Enjoy!


 

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