More than a year ago I published my last entry about Far (Away) on this blog, since then many things in the game have changed, even its name, which was then Hero’s Journey.
That Hero’s Journey has become a completely new game, not at playable level, which in essence remains the same, but at a visual and level design.
For various reasons, mainly due to illness and a creative crisis, I temporarily abandoned the project. The creative crisis was due to numerous problems that had to do mainly with the level design.
CHANGES IN SCENE DESIGN
As I said in *indev.2, to design the scenarios I was using real scenarios and heightmaps, this came up against my intention to create a detailed landscape, since the level editor of Unreal Engine 4 has limitations, especially in terms of details of textures, because it supports a very low level of detail.
By the time I decided to go back to work on the game I had one thing clear, I had to change the mode on that I worked with the scene design. The new design process consists of five parts:
- In the first part I draw a map in a 2D drawing program. I use Krita, but you could also use Photoshop or any other program that allows drawing in 2 dimensions.
- In the second part I convert the 2D drawing into a 3D model manually, not through heightmaps. For this I use Blender.
- In the third part I add hand drawn textures to 3D models, for this I use Blender’s texture paint.
- In the fourth part I add the 3D model already finished to Unreal Engine. In Unreal I continue working with the terrain editor to create general elements that have not been created in Blender, mainly I make the ground.
- In the fifth and last part I add details that I have previously created in Blender, such as vegetation, some small rock and other assets that are not part of the land itself.
On some occasions I can skip some of the phases or modify them. For example to create some scenarios I used concept arts instead of 2D drawn maps. The method of work I have established is not an absolute norm, but a guide that helps my work, if there are alternatives that I consider more appropriate for a particular design I do not hesitate to use them.
NEW PROTAGONIST DESIGN
Rae, the young protagonist girl, has been also deeply changed. Rae’s first design, which remained virtually unchanged from the first concept art, did not convince me at all. For the story it’s important that do not been seen any part of the Rae’s body, that forced me to add to the character design gloves, hat or a mask.
Rae has gone through three different 3D designs, the first using the Mixamo character editor. It was clear from the outset that the first design was a prototype, it also had a 3D mesh too complex and difficult to repair that caused bugs of textures and other problems. So, based on that design created in Mixamo I made the second design, something custom but still maintaining the “Mixamo look”.
After several considerations I decided to completely change the first Rae’s design for the new version of the game. There were two main reasons, on the one hand the strange combination of clothing and the gas mask made her look too sinister.
For me it’s important that Rae would be a strange character for the player but it’s also very important that the player can empathize with her. That even if the player does not see the face, he feels Rae as someone friendly. But the colors she had worn for the red and black dresses, along with the presence of the always terrifying gas mask, gave Rae a little scary look.
There was also a second reason why I decided to change Rae’s design and it was that she didn’t look like a child. It is difficult to know if a digital character is a child or an adult without seeing a single part of his body and without comparing its dimensions with another character, but certainly the appearance of the first design did not help.
The new design is characterized by being more simple and pleasant, now the colors are clearer and the clothing is more combined, has greater unity. I have also changed the gas mask for a skull-shaped, disproportionate and simple, thus neutralizing the aspect of death or terror that is associated with bones. It is a simpler mask and gives Rae a tribal look very in keeping with the story.
One relevant element that I have not commented until now and that is reflected in the new designs is that I wanted to give the game an even more cartoon aspect. To and-drawn textures is now added a change in illumination and effects and also a considerable reduction in the number of polygons in 3D modeling.
In the first version of the game I was not worried about the number of polygons, I tried that the cartoon aspect was reflected by the textures. Now I reduce the number of polygons to a minimum without this means that the game is low poly. The game design key is that: simplicity is beauty. For example, Rae’s new design has only a tenth of the old Rae’s polygons, this does not make the new Rae simpler, but more clearly, everything is seen with the naked eye.
In large part this simple but not naive design is inspired by The Witness game. The Witness is one of the most obsessively detailed games that I have played, the whole design of the game is worked individually, each stone, each brick or each tree are unique. When you play The Witness you are amazed by the great level of detail of everything you see, but interestingly the models are very simple, they are not worked with complex textures or tessellation effects, but are based on a clear and simple 3D modeling , as worked in clay. That’s what I’m looking for to Far (Away).
But that simple cartoon look would not make much sense if the lighting was too real, with fine gradients or glow effects. That’s why I added a post-processed cell shading effect that simplifies lighting, giving it a more defined and simple look without losing appeal.
Far (Away) is not the type of game that search for the realism or spectacular special effects, but it bases its beauty in an own, artistic and detailed style.
FAR (AWAY) STORIES
I am not currently working directly on Far (Away), Far (Away) is a long project that will still take me a long time. That’s why I created the so-called “Far (Away) Stories“. Far (Away) Stories are short games located in the same universes of Far (Away), the first of them is Into the Ocean of which I will speak later in an *indev own.
Far (Away) Stories allows me to work on faster development games on the one hand, so I can start creating a player base for me as a developer and for Far (Away) itself. In addition the sale of these small games can bring some income to my battered economy.
On the other hand working in games located in the world of Far (Away) will allow me to take much of the content that is developing in this little games for Far (Away). So, as I said, I’m not working directly on Far (Away), but when I work on a Far (Away) Story I’m also creating content for Far (Away) itself.
VIDEO: DEVELOPMENT PROGRESS
Nothing more, at the moment this is all about Far (Away). To finish I leave you with the last video I have published about Far (Away). This video gives a quite appropriate idea of the current state of development of the game.
Until the next *indev!