Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Retro FX

I'm starting up a new project with a couple friends. A tactical multiplayer room breaching game. We're planning on going with a pseudo-retro style, where high detail models have retro pixelated textures. This presents a really interesting and fun challenge for me; How do I make detailed particle effects with a retro pixelated stylization to them?

I've always been a huge fan of arcade game fx. I often reference them as much as I reference modern games, there's a lot you can learn from them. Games like Metal Slug or Raiden had some dazzlingly detailed visuals.

I've only just started establishing the style I want to work in, but I'm already having a lot of fun coming up with interesting ways of making pixelated effects. These are some textures that could potentially be used for a futuristic muzzle flash.

I can't wait until we get further in development. VFX will be a large part of the game so I've got a lot of fun work ahead of me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

VFX Tips - Making Smoke Textures

I was playing Space Marine the other day, and I was interested in the way they handle their smoke textures. The textures aren't animated as far as I can tell, and manage to get a lot of mileage without needing too high of a particle count.

I decided to try painting a smoke texture similar to the ones they used.

First I painted a brush to use to make the body of the smoke.

I made it out of a gradient circle brush and the smudge tool. I set it to use a bit of scatter, random angle and size, and a dual brush with a gradient circle to help unify the edges while painting.

I painted the general shape of the smoke with the brush.

I always like the paint on a midtone color because it gives you a better idea of what it could look like ingame. I then dropped the cloud I painted down to a dark tone.

They layed on highlights using a soft brush.
I then added a bit of darker value to help separate the cloud shapes more.
Then added a brighter highlight to better define the edges.
I slightly overlayed some photos of real smoke to add a bit more internal noise, and made the whole thing a slight tone of yellow (giving a texture some internal color differences can help your effects not look so uniform when colorized)

Now perhaps the most important thing to consider when making a smoke texture is the alpha map. You want to break up your alpha map as much as you can. Give it a lot of gaps and turbulence in the texture. You want to do this because when you have a particle fade out in a particle system, less of the detail is defined by the diffuse texture and is instead defined by the alpha texture, so if your alpha is a big opaque blob, that's what it's going to look like at a low alpha.

Good alpha map...
...Gives good results!

Bad alpha map...

... Gives bad results :(

Friday, April 4, 2014

Insurgency Promo Artwork

I'm still trying to hone my skills as an artist. I love looking at concept art from games or movies, it always motivates me to improve. But I was thrown from the frying pan and into the fire during my work for Insurgency. I signed on to do VFX work, as well as concept art for their next project. Keyword being concept art. Not marketing art. However, when the time came to release I was asked to create the image that would go up on the Steam front page. A daunting task to say the least.

Nevertheless, I accepted. It was a great opportunity to see what I've learned so far and how far I can push my limits. The results were better than I could have hoped.

The piece got a lot of praise from the team and looked great on Steam. My anxiety turned into excitement after seeing what I was capable of. So when they asked me to do art for their latest content update I approached the job with a newfound vigor. Hoping to see if I could do even better than the last piece.

Doing these two pieces was a great learning opportunity, and have made me feel even more exited about what I can learn to do in the future.