Notes about my experiments in Dreams on PS4 and Unreal Engine and Blender on PC

Blender

Developed a few more buildings, I think it’ll feel really good once I add more variation. I recently learned from artist Martin Nebelong that you can use photogrammetry to capture sculptures from Dreams, so I am interested in bringing my knight into Blender and rendering it as part of this scene. Obviously one could say it would have been better to sculpt only in Blender, but Dreams gets me experimenting and making things quickly.

Playing around with atmosphere in Blender. Will create variations of this building and populate a broader scene. Still working on the knight figure I started recently.

 

Dreams

I spent some more time on the armour I started the other day. I painted some texture using a blend of different greys and soft and hard shapes. I also added a gorget and a pauldron. I really like the pauldrons I’ve seen that have a really high panel protecting one side so I had a go at making that. Not based on one exact real piece so I’m sure it’s not the most realistic but it feels pretty good.

The pauldron is quite a complex shape that took me a while to figure out. I added two intersecting cylinders and started carving into them to get the general shape, then had fun creating dents by deforming the surface with different sized spheres set to high blend. For the cuts I used the edge of a pyramid to get a clean edge. All of these details catch the light really nicely.

Below you can see a stone version, which is what I originally had in mind when I started this. It will need a slight repaint but it’s cool to see that it’ll work. The gorget isn’t painted yet.

 

Unreal

Further work on the sequence I was developing using the set that Paul Kind of Epic built for their online training module. I blended several of the prebuilt character animations and keyframed the cameras with a combination of ‘look at tracking’ and manual camera moves. The blend into the ‘cast’ animation at the end of the second shot needs tweaking a little but it’s a good test of putting together a few different techniques.

An animation I created using the level provided in the Sequencer module of the Epic online training. I tweaked the lighting slightly and animated the character, Sparrow, using the existing run cycle. I animated the camera and set it to follow Sparrow as it tracks across, using the statue as a foreground element to emphasise depth and then using a focus pull for detail and a different way to create depth along the arrow. Once Sparrow lands her jump the final position and focus points are keyframed separately. The pacing needs tweaking but I like the move generally. The focus pull at the end miiiiiiight be a bit much but it was good to test all of these keyframable attributes together.

Putting stuff together in Unreal using the Infinity Blade content. Lots of fire because FIRE IS COOL. Seriously though, I wanted to have sunlight struggling to get into this canyon statuary that I made, so much of the scene is in shadow. Warm torchlight adds some colour contrast and shape to the statues. The foreground statue now has highlights from the sun, soft ambient light, and soft warm light highlighting the edge details. Great foreground effects when looking past the fire with a long lens. WIP.

Dreams

9th June 2020

Built this cave environment and put together a short sequence. As before, in this engine, it turns out the best way to move the camera smoothly is to keyframe the position of an object for it to follow, and set the camera to always point at it as it follows. This way the dampening settings keep the camera’s movement and momentum smooth. These are keyframed at different points to adjust speed on the fly.

Some neat tricks: I added a few spotlights on the ground pointing at the cave walls to simulate the light bouncing off the hot spot on the ground. The light coming down on the patch of green is made up of two spots, one of which is narrower and brighter, to give it more texture and definition.

Update 15th May: Created a rain effect and softened the lights on the fighters. Created a camera flythrough to see how the fog a rain feel with motion. Slightly reduced depth of field means that the rain close to camera is nice and soft and less distracting, and the background falls off a little bit as well. I just had to keyframe the camera focus as well as the positions. Feels pretty good. The shadows are a little too harsh, might need to up the fog a little.

Update 14th May – Working on a new scene. Fog is an issue in this engine but I think it will work better in motion.

Update 12th May – Experimenting with keyframed camera and waypoints. Waypoints for the fighters are keyframed, so they fly along a path that uses the movement mechanics I created. The camera is keyframed as well. Needs a bit of work and background elements but the movement feels pretty good.

Update: 11th May – I iterated on my fighter sketches and ended up with something I’m really pleased with. I had a strong idea of the general shape of the ship in profile, that smooth curve combined with hard edges. I always like the look of cars that seem like they could pounce at any moment, like they have kinetic energy even when they’re not moving. I think this ship has that feel. I painted the whole ship yellow using a variety of tones randomly applied using a rectangular brush, which gives it a nice texture, rather than just a solid block of colour. Few simple details here and there give it a bit more character.

Update: I’ve started to sketch out my own shapes rather than riffing on existing art. The forms are ubiquitous in sci-fi design but I think that’s how everyone starts ^_^ Below are some rough sketches, I was just looking to create some forms I had in mind, in particular the smooth curved silhouette combined with hard edges. I found this really difficult to figure out, but eventually got something I liked by blending an elongated spheroid with a long hexagonal prism. I then started cutting into this with more hexagons and added a couple of details.

2020 – I’m using this lockdown time to learn to create 3D scenes in Dreams on the PS4. To learn how to model and light in this engine I’ve been using some Homeworld concept art by extremely talented artist Brennan Massicotte as inspiration.

Learned to animate by developing logic systems that simulate flight mechanics for my fighter model. I’ve set it so that it will follow a moving sphere, point in the right direction as it does so, and roll as it turns along it’s own X axis. Videos below show what I’m describing.

I also developed a system for the fighter to lead its target; it calculates where the target will be by the time its weapon can hit it and aims at that point. This is calculated based on data about the distance to the target, the projectile velocity, positional data and the current velocity of the target. I made the aim point larger than the actual target so the fighter takes imperfect shots; this feels more natural than the fighter just nailing its target every time.

By creating these systems I’ve been able to set up procedural animations. I animated random paths for the target to follow, so the fighter’s movement is all dynamic, rather than keyframed. This means I can look for neat camera angles find interesting moments. I set up a camera that also moves dynamically. I set it so the camera follows the fighter but can’t change it’s momentum as quickly, so it sweeps past dramatically as the fighter changes direction and speed.