Saturday, 31 October 2015

The winners of the 2015 Off the map competition are... OFF OUR ROCKERS!

After such along project we are happy to announce that on the 29th of October 2015 we were announced the winners of the Off the map competition hosted by Game City and The British Library.
Our work will be shown at the 150 years of Alice in Wonderland exhibition at The British Library in a new X-box controller compatible version made just for that event. For more info of the event go to:
For more info about the award ceremony at Game City read our University's article on it at:

Monday, 15 June 2015

Week 13: Update

This week Amber has been working in engine: after waiting for the newest Unreal Engine 4 update 4.8.0. This version of the Engine came out recently and so she upgraded the level and decided to see if it would fix our flickering log problem. Unfortunately when trying to package the updated level there was a horde of errors; Amber sat down for an hour or two trying to fix these however some of them were to do with blueprints, due to newer updates. Thus she decided to stop trying to fix the errors because it might break the blueprints. Therefore we will have to submit the level with flickering logs it's a shame but hopefully the judges will understand and can see them working in the video provided.
When anyone mentions Amber's destructible logs.
That's it for OTM hope you have enjoyed it.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Week 12: Extras

As you know we have handed in our level at DMU but we still have a few things to do for the official submission. Amber advised the group not to work on the level any more because it was at a finished state; if we were too add anything else it might change the feel of the level. 

There is along list of things needed for the British Library and Game City hand in first being a logo for our group; Amber asked Braden to design this for us and he got to work straight away, coming up with this:
Initial logo design 
We loved this however we felt it would get lost on the video and documents so Braden kindly came up with another 2 designs:
2 more logo designs
We adore these and decided to choose this one for our final logo:
Final logo
We also have to send them a presentation showing a quick overview of how we made the game.Amber did all of this and wrote notes on each slide to tell the judges exactly what happened. Here is a screenshot of the slides; It had to be 5-10 slides long:
It starts of with an introduction to research, concepts, level design, planning, Alice, Modelling and Texturing, Engine, User Interface and Final Level.

We also needed a group photo which is a problem considering that some people have gone home; so Amber made a quick image, hopefully Denzil can find the one he took at the start of the project.
Group photo
Amber also packaged the level into a game! and even sent it to a friend to play test it and it works fine EXCEPT from her lovely destructible logs. They flicker when broken, yay! This has been looked into by the people that make Unreal Engine and have fixed this in their newest version. So I just have to wait till 4.8.0 comes out and upgrade the level; fingers crossed this doesn't break anything else in the level, if it does we will just have to submit flickering logs.
Screenshot of broken logs
We are also graded on our file structure in the competition so I have organised the files to exactly how the want them, as shown here:
File organisation
Denzil has been busy working on these group blogs as we were a bit behind and Amber has been helping co-write them and adding pictures.

Finally we also needed a new video with specific logos and timings.
Here is the finished video; with fancy editing and a new matinee made by Amber:
That's everything so far hopefully we will have a fully submittable level soon after its been tested out in 4.8.0.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Week 11: Final DMU deadline

This was the final week of our ‘Off the Map’ projects before our DMU hand-in deadline on Friday. Although, the majority of the weeks work was completed, meaning that we were confident for the submission; although there was still a lot of little things to be completed. Therefore, the pressure was on as time was ticking.

To the fortune of the team Freddy had completed most of her texturing by this point. As a result, she spent what time she could, overseeing the rest of the team members and offering advice when necessary. This kept the team morale high and we are very grateful for it. 

Likewise, Amber also took an overseeing role, updating the to-do lists to make sure the team was on track for hand-in. She polished a number of issues that arose in the level. Specifically with the destructible logs. As there were issues with the log mesh, this included; ‘uncapped breaks’ and weird collisions. To resolve the issue she made the log meshes separate and applied hidden collision meshes to the logs. Furthermore, she applied rag-doll physics to the logs and surrounding twigs to avoid them generation their own collision meshes. As a result, when ‘large’ Alice damages the logs they will break and Alice will fall down. She successfully completed this task and in-turn was able to learn a great deal about Engine physics.

Afterwards, Amber worked with Braden to implement various cameras in our level. This included cameras that zoom-in on specific areas and others that track on the player. Of course, there are still a tweaks needed for improvement, but the dynamic cameras work well throughout the level, when in gameplay.

Similarly, Amber and Braden perfected the lighting in the level, their hard work paid off as the level looks spectacular.

This week Luke endeavoured to complete all of his texturing for the assets that he created. This included the texturing of the Chandelier, Victorian globe, fireplace, toy boat, grandfather clock and top hats.

As time was running out he had to pass on some assets to be textured by other members of the time. Nonetheless, Luke did an excellent job of texturing his assets for the level. Following this, Luke even got the ‘Falling leaf’ particle effect to work in engine. This resolved our frame rate issue and also meant the leaves de-spawn where appropriate.

For Dan this week proved to be the most if not one of the most challenging weeks of the project. As seen last week, Dan was able to get a test Alice working in the level. However, this week Dan pushed to get a complete and polished Alice to be imported in the level. We are very grateful for Dan’s endeavours.

At first, Dan used ‘Mixamo’, an online rigging website. Mixamo rigs characters quicker and more efficiently than Dan might have and as limited time was a reoccurring thought on everyone’s mind, Using Mixamo was a ‘no-brainer’.

Unfortunately, there were a few errors with Alice’s dress when using Mixamo. To combat the problem, Dan resolved to detaching the dress, rigging the body and re-attaching the dress.
Following this, Dan became incredibly fascinated ‘NVidia’s PhysX’ system, which uses ‘Apex Clothing’ modifiers to create a realistic cloth simulation for Alice’s dress.

The dress was impressive, displaying true and believable qualities of a worn dress in motion, especially with a weighted quality to it. Unfortunately however, errors arose with the dress physics when we imported Alice in to the level. Alice was hovering in the air and most importantly when running she seemed to have, what we call ‘spoon hands’.

This was very unfortunate as the physics looked great, however the deadline was looming over the horizon, and this there was no time to lament. To resolve the issue, Dan had to go back to the drawing g boards and think of a method around the issue.

He got Alice to work by re-scaling the model and by rigging the dress manually. Of course, it is a shame that the physics did not work, nonetheless, Dan was able to get Alice looking great in our level.

We now have a polished and fantastic Alice for our game. Alice looks innocent and adorable. Dan you have done the team a great service; here's the final Alice model:
Final Alice model
Denzil was another who endeavoured to produce the best outcome for the team. As he had finished his tasks for the team, he made himself useful but helping the team as much as possible. He began by unwrapping and texturing the mining shovel asset.

Afterwards, Denzil took it upon himself to create a water caustics effect for the pond area. This was a ‘Light function’ in unreal Engine and to create this, Denzil took considerable inspiration from the ‘Effects cave’ level created by Epic Games. The effect created a believable factor to the water. Whilst adding to the whimsical element of our level. To his dismay, Denzil was not able to get the transparent water working in the level. Whenever we imported the material in the level it would appear invisible. Therefore to resolve the issue, Denzil worked with Freddy to fix the problem. They were able to alter the colours and reduce the wave displacement of the ocean-water and as a result they created this believable pond-like water. With the help of Freddy’s lotus flowers and the dynamic lighting and reflections, the pond area is specular and exceeds expectations. The whimsical element of our level is clearly demonstrated in this region of the project. Great work guys!

When this was completed Denzil created matinee animation for the white rabbit and dragonfly. By this time the level was mostly completed, thus Denzil was able to have fun creating whacky and puppet-like animation for these assets.

When everyone’s work was complete, Amber ran a few checks with a play through and then built the lighting for the level. This was the ‘crème de la crème’ for our level.

Finally, our level was finally complete and we submitted the project early. The game looks incredible and exceeds our expectations. In more ways than one, every team member was able to learn and improve in a variety of skills. Here is the final screenshots of the level:
We are ecstatic with the final result and hope to when the competitions. However, regardless of the competition result we cannot have been more grateful to work with each other. We are all proud to be ‘Off our Rockers’.
Here's the final play though of the level:

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Week 10: Final push

This week has been an incredibly productive week, especially as it is the penultimate week before the DMU deadline for our Off the Map project.

Dan has been working well this week, endeavouring to get Alice, polished and ready for the hand-in. This week Dan worked on re-topology the Alice mesh. This is the process of getting the high poly information ‘down rezzed’ in order to become game worthy. This is because very high poly assets in engine, may cause drops in frame rate and unnecessary crashes. Throughout the process, Dan used 3D coat, in order to complete this task. Of course, the process of re-topologizing is an arduous task, however this is only as he needed to focus to get it just right.
Final character topology
When the process was complete, we had a game-ready Alice model. She was 17,000 triangles and had 3 texture sheets for her body, hair and clothing. Using 3D coat made the process of unwrapping easier for Dan. Granted, he still had to make a few tweaks in 3ds Max, nonetheless the majority of the work was already complete. Following this process, Dan then baked the high poly information onto the low poly mesh, using the X normal software.

He ran into an issue, as the fingers were so small in comparison to the rest of the body it caused some clipping issues when baking. Yet, after reducing the cage size, Dan was able to resolve the issue. The textures were originally 4k sized, however they were scaled down to be fit for game. Now we have a real and believable Alice model, who looks adorable. We all thank Dan has done an excellent job, thank you very much!

Braden has also been busy this week. Even though he had complted all the tasks asked of him by the team i.e. texturing assets and UI work, this week he devoted himself to populating the level with assets and helping others with texturing.

He endeavoured to get the level polished by placing assets where appropriate. In addition he was able to improve the lighting in our level and get a ‘zoom-in’ camera mode working, in the level.

Afterwards Braden textured Luke’s frog and dragonfly. We feel that Braden did a fantastic job with these textures. The textures for these assets adhere to the style of our level, whilst the moistness of the frog’s skin gives it that touch or realism. All of which look whimsical, when placed in the level.

Luke decided to devote this week and next to completing his texturing and engine effects. The ‘spawn’ in his falling leaf particle effect wasn't working and it certainly needed a look into.

Over the Easter break, Luke worked hard to get the falling movement looking better. Since the level update to unreal engine 4.7, Luke has been able to import his particle effect into the level and they look fantastic! With the help of the timetables, Luke is now clear of what he hast to complete between now and the final hand in. He is working hard and we are proud of his progress. 

Amber and Freddy worked hard together to complete the textures. With the materials imported we are really getting the level to come together. More importantly, with their hard work, we are now beginning to see the level resemble the original concept very well.
Even when Amber was working with Freddy, she was able to work with Braden to polish our level as much as possible.

This week was a productive week for Denzil as he endeavoured to finish all his work, starting with the Cheshire cat that he had been working on before the Easter break. After polishing this mesh he sent it off to Freddy to be textured.

Once this was completed, he moved onto working on the dancing mushroom that was yet to be completed for the level. Fir this, Denzil took inspiration from toadstools, referring to them as often as he could.

It was an enjoyable experience top create the mushroom as he had as much creative freedom as possible. He sculpted the dancing mushroom and when this was created top his liking, he began to polypaint the mesh. He enjoyed the process however he needs to work on his polypainting skills in Zbrush as some areas of the dancing mushroom look slightly patchy.

When this process was completed, he received feedback from Freddy. He made the necessary alterations and when he got the approval from the team, he baked the mushroom textures using X-normal. Voila! We now have a beautiful mushroom.
Following on, Denzil unwrapped and textured the mine cart; completing all the tasks that were requested of him for the team.

He played around in engine afterwards and was able to create this fantastic water caustics effect, taking inspiration from the ‘Elements cave’ level by Epic games.

Now Denzil is helping the team in any way that he can, this includes texturing assets for the deadline.

So there you have it, our week, quite productive eh! We should be comfortable for the DMU deadline However, we have one week left, so it’s all hands on deck. Nevertheless, by the way things are going, we know that the level will look spectacular when it is complete. Can’t wait!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Week 9: Feedback and Planning

This week was back to work for the team on the ‘Off the map Project’. It had been a long extended Easter break for our team, due to the other assignments given to us. Nonetheless, the team was ready and eager to get back on track with the wondering lands of Alice.

To start the week we had to present our Off the Map progress to the lecturers. For the most part we were given positive feedback from the teachers.

They like the quirky and original style to our level, furthermore they loved Braden’s user interface.

However, among many things, they mentioned a number of issues that we need to resolve and/or improve for the final deadline.

Namely, they wanted Alice to be put in the level. This was to assess whether Alice’s design worked well in the level or whether we were successful with the combination of different colour schemes and atmosphere’s throughout the level.

Our lecturer Stash, wanted us to focus on the strongest elements in our work and maintain a coherent theme throughout the level. This is as there are various sections in our level with their own colour scheme. It would be a simple mistake to make the level feel inconsistent.

However, getting the character just right is a very arduous process, once of which requires a lot of time.

Nevertheless, Dan was able to get a sample Alice unwrapped, re-topologized and rigged, that could be used for a test run of our level.

After importing Alice into our level, we were able to identify that the cream dress didn’t work well in some parts of the level. Similarly, we were able to see that some lighting and texturing incompletions, detracted from the level design cohesion. We will continue to correct the errors, however for the most part we are happy that Alice works will throughout the level.

Aside from fixing the lighting and completing some of the textures for the assets, another comment that the lectures made during the presentation was to improve the leaf pile in our level.

Due to the bizarre but quirky design for our level, we wanted the leaf pile to resemble the appearance of a cat; a ‘Cat-pile’. However, the lecturers commented, how it looked less like a life pile and more like a cat, which detracts from its purpose in the grand scheme of the level.
Original leaf pile
In response, Braden scrapped the old pile. Since, he had been working on it for so long he commented how it was hard to see its displacement in the level. Successfully however Braden was able to make a new leaf pile, which looks great!
New leaf pile
The pile has a slightly high triangle count than the previous version, nonetheless, it shows great improvement from the teacher’s comments. What is more, the leaf pile has a fantastic design.

Following this, Braden got to work on the User Interface. Unfortunately, he was not able to get the ‘restart’ and ‘restart to checkpoint’ buttons working. To resolve the issue he shortened the menu, nice thinking.

This week Luke worked hard to get the falling leaf particle effect to work. He has done a great job of the particle effect. Of course, it was by no means an easy task. Nonetheless, he has created an excellent and believable falling leaf effect. Moreover, when falling the leaves may change direction or even flip over. 

Freddy continued to work on her texturing and she is working well. Like Denzil however, she was preoccupied with the reflective essay and so progress has been slightly halted.

After the feedback Amber put together an action plan of what we have to do within the next 2 weeks to get everything done.

Amber received an email from Game city listing the requirements for the final hand-in deadline. They are as follows:

5 – 10 page presentation document/PowerPoint.
This should introduce your project to the judges and provide an overview of your project and process.
A longer document, either via blog or pdf format, covering your workflow throughout the course of the project.
Please use the following folder structure:
Top Folder (TeamName_ProjectName)
– Project Document PPT
– Project Document Detailed – Team Picture
– Project Logo
Game Executable (windows / OSX executable file/ installer)
Videos – 1 – 2 minutes long. First 3 – 5 seconds should contain the following information:
– Team Name & Project Name
– British Library logo
– GameCity logo
– Final 3 – 5 seconds should also contain the information above

To finish the week, Amber upgraded our unreal engine level from 4.6 to 4.7. This was to get all of the particle effects in to our level. She has done a fantastic job and here are a few renders of the results:
Here's a quick look at the level so far:
So there you have it, our week; quite eventful as you can see. Nevertheless we are still on track and look forward to polishing the level next week.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Week 8: Getting back on track

Progress this week for the team on the Off the Map project, was rather slow. It was the first week back from the Easter break and we had other project assignments due in the upcoming days. As a result, most of our team had to divert their time and resources to the other projects.

With the majority of the team working on PowerPoint presentations, character re-submissions or reflective essays- Braden became the vanguard for the Off the Map project.

From Easter, Braden had spent his time completing the textures for his assets. These consisted of a number of smaller props for populating our level.

Of course, at the start Braden had disliked the hand-painted texturing process. However as he progressed and began to see his improvement, hand-painting texturing is a practice that Braden enjoys very much. Below are a number of texture sheets that Braden created:
Braden's textures
For his assets Braden had the opportunity to high poly bake during the project. Nevertheless, due to time constraints and his fear of the process consuming scared time he decided not to.

Despite being preoccupied by matters of her own, Amber continued to keep the team up to date and organise the team for the week’s following the re-submission and presentation deadlines. She has done a great service to the team by doing so.

After texturing, Braden continued work on the user interface for the level. This consisted of UI animations.

Successfully, Braden was able to make the HUD (head’s up display) ‘pop-up’ like a tutorial, at key moments throughout the level. Although the final result was not exactly as he hoped for, he was able to resolve the issue. The main aim was to make the HUD message as clear as possible- and he did so successfully. Moreover, the HUD is designed for all age ranges of players.
Finished and animated pause screen
New pop up tutorial
New pop up tutorial
Over the Easter break Dan was able to make a few iterations to Alice, by raising her cheeks and giving her a slight smile, this really brightened up her features and maked her stand out a lot more.

Braden has made great progress for the team this week and we hope that he keeps up the good work next week!