Friday, July 23, 2021

Labyrinth VR - Tenth Update

We're in the home stretch for this project with just one sprint left after this one, so most of what's happening in the experience is related to bug fixing and ensuring the mechanics and lighting are in a good place.

I spent some time this week polishing the physics of the mute door knocker, ensuring that the handle is able to be removed from his mouth without issue or flying off into the ether. As of this update, the mute door knocker is not going to be interactive, since the handle clipping into his head makes the swinging physics joint too volatile. This was something I thought I'd fixed in a previous sprint, but it turns out I accidentally left it with physics marked "on," so I reset that and ensured it was working properly in engine.

The majority of my time was spent working on sound attenuation. I did a little more research into UE4's "Sound at Location" node, and realized the reason the sound didn't have a location was because it didn't have an attenuation radius. I set up one for the goblin laughs and one for the door knocker voices, and added them in game. Then it was just a lot of back and forth testing to ensure the sounds carry to the user, but seem to come from a location in the experience.

After Daniela spent time on another lighting pass in the tower, I went through and ensured my slightly "expensive" stained glass window still worked for the tower and wasn't causing any framerate issues. Thankfully this was a pretty "cheap" level, so we don't currently have any problems.

I've also been going through each blueprint used in game to ensure that they are as optimized as I can manage to make them. This is something that will carry over into next sprint too.

Lastly, due to recent feedback, I opted to remove the aura "guideline" post-processing shader from the game. I may try and implement something over the next week and a half that will be more subtle, but since this is supposed to be immersive and not a "game," I agreed with the feedback and decided to cut it for now. 

Currently, in lieu of the aura, the plan is to have Ludo's wave animation and call of "Friend," until the player interacts with him. Hopefully this, plus the addition of the sound attenuation (for the door knockers), will be enough to guide the player through the experience.S

Friday, July 9, 2021

Labyrinth VR - Ninth Update

 It was a major relief to finalize and ship out the second door knocker rig for animation:

I was hoping to get it done in the previous sprint, but I was at least able to meet my abridged goal of completing the rig Sunday, 6/27.

For the interior of the Tower Level, I wanted to make the goblin a hand drawn asset instead of a screenshot from the film, so I created this stylized little guy in Photoshop and then made him "wiggle" in engine. I tried to make some of the linework and colors exaggerated to ensure he shows up well in the shadows. I also added two other options for goblin laughter to add a little variety to when the goblins spawn around the tower.

This sprint I also made some tweaks to the lighting and textures in the Tower Level.  Following Crissy's lead of desaturating and adding some post-process static in the bog, I also copied that effect over into the tower for added continuity. Additionally, I wanted the floor tiling to have a little more of a "beat up" look on the edges, since I felt the tiles looked a little too perfect, so I played around in Substance Designer until I was happier with the effect of the ground tiles.

My final task was to rerecord and add the dialog for the door knockers.
Once both door knocker animations are fully set up in game, the voices will be fully synched up with the animations. This week, I did a quick and dirty set up, putting the dialogue and animations in the blueprint with delay nodes, but next sprint I'd like to polish these up and make them more efficient.

Not all of the animations were in place at the time I created this blog post, so some of the blueprints contain placeholders for future animations. As a result, some of the dialogue may get rerecorded next sprint to ensure it properly lines up with the animations.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Labryinth VR - Eighth Update

During this two week period, a lot of my time was devoted to creating the rig for the second door knocker. Due to some issues importing the initial knocker in game, I delayed creating the second one perhaps a bit too long as I still have some work to do to complete this rig. I was hoping that I could easily copy the first door knocker's rig over to this one with a few changes, but unfortunately that proved to be incorrect. Trying to reuse the rig has been fraught with technical difficulties. As a result, I'm working on a paired down version of the initial door knocker's rig.

I plan to have this completed and handed over to our animator by Sunday so Tyler has the entire sprint to work on it.

Based on feedback I received last week, I made some alterations to the starry galaxy, creating a simple mask instead of layering two types of noise to create the twinkling stars. This allowed for the sky to be less busy and more appealing, especially in VR.

In the previous sprint, I wasn't able to implement and test the new aura I created for interactive objects as the level was checked out, so I devoted some time this week to ensuring everything looked and worked properly on the Bog Level.

For now, ignore the water shooting up into the air. I used UE4's water system to place some ripples in the water in an earlier sprint, but for some reason they're no longer working properly. This is something I'll have to trouble-shoot next week.

I also finalized the appearance of the swamp bubbles, re-rendering them in Houdini, and changing the material to give them a better appearance. I also created a simple blueprint for the bubble, allowing them to be placed throughout the bog, each one with a different size and "pop speed." I also added in a 3D sound node of some "deep" mud bubbles popping, and placed it in the center of the bog.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Labyrinth VR - Seventh Update

As I was out of town for a few days, this was a somewhat lighter sprint for me. I originally intended to complete the second door knocker's facial rig, but as I got it Wednesday afternoon, I decided to focus on making some tweaks to various VFX in the experience instead.

I was pretty unhappy with the custom galaxy cubemap I made for the final level. No matter what the quality of image, it remained stubbornly out of focus, so I didn't consider the quality up to par. As a result, I began looking into creating a "twinkling" sky of stars instead. The material is composed of overlapping noise textures that slowly pan in a circle.

I made this material in UE4 based on a glitter shader I found, and created the base color for the sky in Photoshop.

Galaxy "clouds" - overly bright and stylized so it would show up properly behind stars.
Even this had to be multiplied by a factor of 10 in order to look sufficiently visible!

Twinkling star material.

I also made some tweaks to the "glow" that signifies what the player is supposed to interact with in the experience. The new glow has less harsh edges, and a more interesting ripple effect around the edges of the objects. It still needs to be tested and implemented in the Bog Level,  but below you can see the effect in place.

Below you'll see the changes I made to the goblin eye VFX in the tower. The original effect was a fairly simple orb, meant to stand in until I could polish the effect and make it spookier and more realistic. I drew the shape of the eyes in Photoshop, then took them into substance and made a "blinking" material.

Goblin eyes.

Texture created in Substance Designer. The gradient becomes a dynamic parameter that causes the eyes to "blink" when in the particle system.

Moving forward, I'm hoping that the rig I made for the first door knocker will transfer over to the second one with a minimal amount of tweaks. I know the shapes of the faces and features are quite different, in theory,  I can take the initial rig and move some parts around to get it to better suit the second door knocker.

New "mute" door knocker (right), modeled by Pedro, and original facial rig/controls (left).

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Labyrinth VR - Sixth Update

This sprint I spent some of my time helping my 3D artists with a little bit of modeling and texture work. I modeled a dripping candle and made several tile and wood textures to flesh out the Tower level.

I also improved the look of the light flickers in the candles as well as upped the light emitted by the light flicker BP. This tied into my overall lighting pass for the Tower level; I wanted to ensure that the light was only on the orb, orb stand and throne.

To ensure that the player doesn't "investigate" areas aside from the orb they spawn by, I also removed the option to teleport unless the player is in the Bog level.

Additionally, I created a layered light function to simulate stained glass, improving the look of the light pattern on the floor as it would be cast by the window. This is all assembled in one blueprint, each spotlight containing the same light function. The proper coloring for the glass is only visible when one light is set to only red, one only green and one only blue. Layered together, the lights make one complete image. The blueprint is fairly anticlimactic (just three spotlights), but the end result is pretty lovely:

To help guide the player, I placed a golden "aura" around each object the player must interact with - the aura will only remain as long as the interaction needs to be met, then it will move on to the next object. For example: The aura begins on Ludo, then after the user "pets" Ludo, the aura moves to the rocks. Once the rocks have risen and the player has crossed them, the aura transfers to the initial door knocker that speaks.

To make the swamp water look more "swampy", I've been playing around with the look of the material. I'm still not fully satisfied with what I have, but I think this is definitely an improvement. It now varies in color from the mossy green of the water to the grassier green of the foam.

I also changed the post-process fog that shrouds the Bog level. I wanted to give it movement as well as a larger variety of color (the below image is before I changed the water material).

I also made some tweaks to the sparkles that follow the orb in the tower level.

For some small quality of life fixes, I removed the physics from the first door knocker. Originally I wanted to let the player knock on the door, but the physics joints proved to be too finicky for me to be happy with the end result. Another quality of life fix comes into play in the Tower level; when the user picks up the orb, now the blueprint waits a fixed duration of time before automatically spawning the End Credits level. This way the player doesn't need to wait for additional input from an outside user.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Labyrinth VR Experience - Fifth Update

To bring motion and life to the Goblin King's tower, I added in a 2D goblin cutout and a pair of goblin eyes that appear and disappear in one of six random locations around tower room to "enhance" the giggling sound of goblins in the room.

One of my personal favorite goblins.

Niagara effect for the glowing eyeballs. This is a placeholder for the future as I would like to maybe make the eyes blink or perhaps have pupils in the future.

Blueprint for spawning points of goblins in tower.

I'd previously been working on a Niagara particle effect to create bursting bubbles in the swamp, but it proved to be very expensive. I'd recently been using vertex animation textures in Houdini to create waterfalls for Capstone, so I decided that the bubbles might be more interesting looking (and "cheaper") if I did them in Houdini as well.

The effect obviously still needs a little tweaking, but I'm pretty happy with the overall look in the bog thus far:

In order to bring more motion to the Goblin King's tower, I created some flickering lights. In order to make them as easy as possible to implement, I created a BP for a spot light and a point light that allow the user to control all the aspects of the light right in the constructor so it can be seen instantly.

Point light blueprint and demo video.

Spot light blueprint and demo video.

Proxy candles to go with flickering lights in tower.  

Redirected walking test to gain extra space along the x-axis. Tested this out in a first person shooter for initial mechanics testing, now to put it in VR for actual testing.

Original movement through game space.

Extra 25% gain.

I've also been tweaking the physics for the door knockers still. I'm struggling with the hinged joints, but the one that you pickup works now! Also I had some dialogue issues, so it was nice to get that sorted.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Labyrinth VR Experience - Fourth Update

Stained glass window and light "reflection" based on stylized version of the Labyrinth movie poster.

Post processing shader to simulate fog based on scene depth.

Another possible iteration of fog that will help enclose the game space for the player - this is a fog sphere that encloses the bog.

Doors now are updated to show Daniela's model instead of proxy doors. Pivots were adjusted so doors behave as expected, and rotate as if they had hinges.

Additionally, when the player guesses the riddle correctly, the talking door knockers are no longer visible, and ones parented to the door BP become visible instead. This allows them to move with the doors.

Spheres for Quit and Restart in End Credits scene were not behaving properly. Now they will spawn 40 seconds into the level, and if the player overlaps the sphere, they will either quit the experience or restart at the Bog Level. 

Second pass on "dissolve" for magic words that appear in Tower Level. Eventually instead of appearing from the middle, I would like the effect to spawn from left to right. 

Additional Notes:
Made changes to interactive door knockers. "Mute" knocker now inherits from BP_PickupCube VR Template, and no longer utilizes physics joints. Working on improvements to stabilize "Deaf" knocker so the handle doesn't rattle when no one is touching it.
Looking into fluid sim for rocks as they rise so they will create ripples in the water in Bog Level.
Added some location-based sounds to the to help signal to the player to look in a certain direction.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Labyrinth VR Experience - Third Update

I've primarily been iterating on things that already exist in the experience. Making small changes like adding a fade from black at the beginning of the bog to add cohesiveness to the experience. I've also changed the speed the rocks raise so the player has more time to turn and look at them when they hear the grinding sound effect. Below you will see some of the other things I've been working on.

Finished facial rig, shown here with temporary metallic material, delivered to Tyler so he can begin animating.

   Updated paintable landscape material to incorporate Crissy's bog texture (called "Puddles").

WIP on a shader I am creating for the spawning of the "magic words" that appear in the Goblin King's Tower.

Here you see the new option to exit or restart the experience. The orbs remain hidden until the end credits have finished playing. Tapping the orb with Jareth will return you to the start of the bog. Tapping the orb with Sarah's bedroom will quit the experience.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Labyrinth VR Experience - Second Update

Continuing on expanding the Labyrinth VR Experience, I focused on filling out the levels, building the interactions, and increasing performance. I've also been preparing a facial rig for animation.

Bog Level. Our proxy Ludo is now capable of movement thanks to our animator Tyler. Ludo will wave you over, and upon "petting" Ludo's head, he will raise the rocks for you to safely cross the bog. Upon crossing the bog, the door knockers give the player a riddle to answer. In this level, I focused on optimization, placement of assets, created a paintable, tileable texture for the splat map terrain texture, a tileable texture with a normal map for the tower, interactions, and lighting. I ensured that two rocks closest to the player, as well as the "BEWARE!" sign are things that the player can pickup/throw. I also set up physics constraints on the right door knocker. The left knocker was slightly problematic, but since it's in the proxy stage right now, I made it so you can pick up the object, but you cannot yet put it back.

Unfortunately, due to optimization issues, a great deal of fog had to be removed since the billboards were overlapping. You can see a smidge of overlap still, but it's slight.

Tower Level. Upon entering the Goblin King's tower, created by concept artist and modeler Daniela, the player can take the Goblin King's orb. They are then prompted to "Speak the magic words." Upon saying "You have no power over me," the player is transported to the final level. In this level, I've set up an initial lighting pass, ensured everything has a basic material, set up the interactions and sounds, and created the orb - which the player can pick up - as well as the "magic words" proxy effect.

The words slowly appear in the air after the player picks up the orb.

End Credits Level. This level is set in a dark night sky, and the player is suspended in mid-air. The Goblin King's orb rotates around them with a magical particle effect, while credits roll and "Dance Magic" plays. In this level, I kept the lighting simple because I wanted to emphasize the night sky, I also created the scrolling credits, rotated the orb around the player, and created the magic sparkle proxy VFX.

"Glass" orb with billboarded face of Jareth along with lights and sparkle effect.

Blueprint controlling rotation.

This week I also spent time working on the facial rig for one of the two door knockers that will ask the player to answer a riddle. I'll have this gentleman finished up on Monday, and will be moving on to the next one as soon as Pedro finishes him up.

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