I can’t believe how fast the time is flying by on this project. After I post this, I will be getting on with my last week of work on this diorama before I move on to the next one.
Here it is so far;
This week has probably been the bumpiest of them all so far, as I’ve been trying to make a few untested things work, and dabbled in animation and blueprints which are always a cause for stress. Fortunately, Dom Mathuse in my year has been ever so kind in helping me create blueprints to meet my needs. So I want to give him credit for reducing my stress levels by about a million when it came to making the fish swim on a spline in my level, and making the Wind Directional Source actor have more strength variation. Thankyou Dom!! I’ll talk more about those blueprints in a bit.
First, here’s a shot of my time schedule so I can talk through what I’ve done this week day by day;
In terms of timekeeping, I’m actually back on schedule pretty much completely now despite getting ill with a cold. I’ve constantly been evaluating and re-evaluating my schedule at the end of each day. With each evaluation, I’ve considered whether assets are unnecessary or no longer would suit the diorama. I’ve also been modifying my time schedule on the go. These actions have helped to keep my stress down and myself on schedule quite nicely. Should I reach the end of the week and realise I should have kept something, I can easily add these things in my allocated polish time later.
Assets in the list on the left that have a blue bar are assets that are currently not factored into my 5 week schedule due to time limitations (such as the candle stand), or I may consider removing from the scene (such as the loom). I will be evaluating this list at the end of the 5 weeks to see what I would like to add during my polish time. Green assets are complete, and orange means incomplete assets for that week. So I’m doing pretty good.
I think for this project I have done my best job of time-keeping on a project at university so far. I’m really glad that all my self evaluation and attempts to rectify my timing problems have paid off.
The first half of the week went really smoothly, and I found that by Wednesday I had some spare time. (I had decided to do much less than my original plan due to showing a Level Designer from Codemasters around university after a lecture, and feeling too ill and tired to complete my to-do list.) I decided I would try and implement a blueprint that I had read about online to improve the appearance of the wind in my diorama. I’m using a Wind Directional Source with APEX cloth assets to create the wind, however despite having a series of editable variables to change the wind behaviour, it wasn’t meeting my needs; the wind would only appear to blow at one strength. This looked really silly, but I learned that it was possible to use blueprints to change this, using a workaround for a bug that was affecting Wind Directional Source actors.
I spoke to Dom Mathuse about this, and he helped talk me through it and create exactly what I wanted in less than half an hour. The wind now blows on a timeline and varies from very weak to much stronger over the course of about 50 seconds. It looks much more natural and adds a lot of movement to the scene that I didn’t have with just the standard actor.
The following day I decided to add the fish to the level. This was a very stressful day indeed, as I felt tired from the cold and was trying to deal with animating this tiny fish that wasn’t doing what I wanted at any step of the way. Firstly, I encountered a bug that wouldn’t allow me to use a skin modifier with my mesh. I battled with it for about 3 hours before finally realising what the problem was (which was not my fault, but this stupid bug). Then I had to try and work out how to go about animating this fish. I considered creating a spline in 3dsMax and animating along this, but with my limited animating experience I didn’t know how to move it along a spline and then have an additional animation of the fish swimming on top of that.
I crawled back to Dom for help, and again he talked me through it. I created a looping swimming animation for the fish, threw that into UE4, and he showed me how to create a timeline and a spline within UE4 for the fish to wiggle its way around. This one took a little longer with a few hiccups, but once again Dom did it and I have exactly what I wanted. The whole animation sequence looks a little retarded at times, but overall, as a tiny building block, it’s great. The addition of a second fish helps distract from the derpiness of the animation a little.
Feeling oh-so much better with two of the most stressful and frustrating elements of my diorama out of the way, I continued the week feeling much calmer. I made some flowers to decorate the scene, both for the vases I had made and for floating the fish bowl, as mentioned in Robin Hobb’s writing.
I’ve done a lot of fiddling with lighting and post processing this week, from bloom to ambient occlusion to global illumination and much more, but I finally feel that the atmosphere is where I want it.
For this final week, I’m going to be working to continue adding assets to the scene, and I will be also adding music and hopefully limited camera movement for when the file becomes a playable game. There are a few things that I will not have time to get finished (blue bars on my schedule), but they are the smaller assets that I will as a result have time to add during my polish time. I also have a few things I will need to polish or implement, but I’m not worried at all about getting this diorama finished in time for my hand-in deadline any more.