AC Unity Project - Concept, Reference Gathering and Planning #1

Making Of / 11 August 2021

--Concept--

I recently bought the Art Of book for Assassins' Creed: Unity as I began to think about what I wanted to do next for my portfolio piece. I came across a piece of concept art by Félicien Nourry for a building in the game's rendition of Paris that I liked and saw an opportunity to explore a lot of things while keeping the scale down.

Original Artwork by Félicien Nourry


--Reference Gathering--

In beginning this project I defined two faults I've had when planning previous projects which I saw had room for improvement; the first being a lack of proper reference gathering as I tended to do the bare minimum in the past and find references as the situation arose. The second being that I would typically gather my reference from games.

While from a learning perspective there is value to using game art as a reference; I would use it to understand the approaches and techniques the original artist would have used, it more often left me recreating what I saw the artist did rather than take my own lead.

With this project, I pushed myself more to finding appropriate concepts and references relevant to that time period and style.

I tend to use Miro in the pre-production phase for quick breakdowns and planning and then screencap specific references into my PureRef when it comes to modelling and texturing.

[General Reference gathering with Miro]


[Specific reference notes where a detail catches my eye or such that could influence the project further down the road]


[Matching real references to the concept]


--Project Outline--

Once I had the concept and had done a look over the gathered references I started plotting ideas for what I wanted this project to cover.

I've reached a comfortable point in my learning where everything I've done so far has covered some aspect of environment art creation, and so it's easier to have a greater picture of the project going forward, and now start looking to take my work further.


--Advanced Shaders--

One aspect of environment art I've come to really enjoy is the shader sets ups and how far you can go with them. With each project I've dabbled more and more with what I can do with shaders typically covering them in blog posts.

https://www.artstation.com/aknightfallows/blog/MZ7d/vent-scene-progression-2-master-material-part-a

https://www.artstation.com/aknightfallows/blog/wXG2/alleyway-environment-breakdown-3-materials-shaders

With this project, I want to put my experience to practice and create something more advanced that could fill a lot of my needs.

The general idea is to compose the building of modular components utilising weighted normals in combination with tiling texture workflow across all assets to cut down production times and limit the number of unique assets necessary. This means I can focus on implementing an advanced shader using material blending and masks to get an interesting final result that avoids the obvious repetition that comes with modular work, as well as explore using more than UV set per item.

[Rough outline of my shader set up done quickly in Miro to get the ball rolling]

The general idea is to have one UV Set be texel density correct, allowing a tiling texture or trim sheet to be applied through it. The second UV set is a 0-1 pack of the modular components where I can, using stencils and generators in Painter, paint detail for material blending, dirt and more.

I also want to explore experimenting with different texture packs and textures themselves used, something inspired from this presentation by Ben Cloward in his 'Shading the World of Anthem' GDC presentation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjQWRjWZGn0&list=PLjOKHSnRUhd0QYEgTLJUseNxL_qoI2rcc&index=2&ab_channel=GDC


--Houdini--

In researching workflows and the industry as a whole I've started to become fascinated with what can be done with proceduralism and Houdini, and how it's already being used in the industry.


Some of the videos that have inspired me:

Technical Artist Bootcamp (GDC) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LHj7-kROoo&ab_channel=GDC

Directed Procedural Workflows - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up97rAuXBwU&list=PLjOKHSnRUhd3fzzBZBAVJXQYfDfppQhHZ&index=5&ab_channel=Houdini

Rebirth - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CTg6Pq4cOs&list=PLjOKHSnRUhd3fzzBZBAVJXQYfDfppQhHZ&index=8&t=4940s&ab_channel=UnrealEngine

Procedural World Generation with Far Cry 5 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfizT369g60&ab_channel=Houdini


My eventual goal is to be more comfortable with procedural workflows to speed up my production times in the future and maybe one day dabble in Technical Art roles. So the idea is to lay the foundations to my understanding with this project by implementing Houdini where best. The most immediate plan is to do this with rain generation and wetmaps on the final building that can be used in conjunction with the shader to get a more realistic final look, or even snow buildup.


--Optimisation--

A recurring element I've seen across a few job postings has been Level of Detail (LODs) and player collision, two things I don't really bear in mind when working on the portfolio as I focus on it looking good other actually being playable. The aim for this project is to have both components properly implemented in my work, and more specifically have player collision be close to that which would have been present in the actual AC: Unity game.


[General coverage of elements I want to cover in this project]

[General planning]


--Shader and Material Blending Research--

It's always helpful to research and see how studios have approached similar situations within their workflows and take aspects to be used in my own. This helped influence my shader set-up and modular breakdown.

 [Most relevant or interesting workflows I could find online with a small descriptor and link]


My main workflow references so far:

Insomniacs 'A Deep Dive into the Look Creation of Manhattan' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgUaPmDJ2r4&ab_channel=AdobeSubstance3D 

Dices' 'Behind the Art of Battlefield and Battlefront' - https://80.lv/articles/001agt-dice-behind-the-art-of-battlefield-and-battlefront/ 

Insomniac's 'The Ultimate Trim' - https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022324/The-Ultimate-Trim-Texturing-Techniques

Player Unknowns 'Creating Diverse Buildings for PUBG' - https://80.lv/articles/creating-diverse-buildings-for-pubg/

Morgan Camenens' 'Neoclassical Building' - https://www.artstation.com/artwork/PoWeyo

Andrea Rondenas' 'Venice Building Breakdown' - https://www.artstation.com/artwork/XBlaDy

Ben Clowards' 'Rain Materials in UE4' playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYGOZYST-oQ&list=PL78XDi0TS4lHpIHseomZCPRm_NkyUMkPs&ab_channel=BenCloward