Saturday, 25 January 2014

Project Underway!

Usually the hardest thing with a large scale project such as this FMP is, where to start?! Luckily, I've had a bit of practice during the previous two and a half years on the Game Art course, believe it or not, most of the time our tutors know what they're talking about! So, my answer to the question? Im going to go with Whiteboxing! 

One thing I didn't know until now though is that the term white box actually comes from PC's that don't have a brand name, hence, a white box! A little trivia for you there.

As I have a pretty decent idea of the overall layout of my level I decided I can pretty much get stuck into this quite quickly. Because, I have a feeling that once I've got the bulk of the main features of the level in place it may still look quite open and empty, so the sooner I have my level white boxed, the sooner I can begin to look at which areas need more attention, and use the whitebox to design some more concepts with more focus on the finer details.

I began by modifying the track diagram I had designed in Photoshop by roughly dividing the track itself using a simple grid, simply for me to follow inside 3DS Max;

I did this, as I decided the best way to model the circuit itself was to use a Spline as this would enable me to follow the track precisely and give me the most flexibility with the mesh density whilst the circuit itself is quite twisty and obviously is wider at some points and narrower at other.

To ensure the white box was to scale I applied the track diagram to a plane within my 3DS Max scene, if you look closely at the diagram you can see a scale indicator (bottom right) of 20m. I simply created a 20m box within the scene and then scaled the plane until the circuit diagram matched the box.

Spline tool (shown in blue) used to model the circuit
Just modelling the track itself took ages! much longer than I though it would. I assume that this wont be the final mesh used so I couldn't decide how many tri's would be reasonable for it. To help me with this I thought about what features of the track itself, (bare in mind I am only talking about the tarmac part now!) should have the highest priority. At the end of the day its a fairly flat open thing, but on the other hand it is the focal point of my whole level. So, keeping it simple for now I decided that, with the main layout of the track modeled, I should concentrate on;

-the corners, to ensure that each corner has enough geometry, consistent with the rest of the circuit to ensure they flow without looking too 'jaggedy' as they can in older racing games, even on PS2 and Xbox. 

-track banking, in real life even the roads are banked (also referred to as the angle of camber), where the road turns or angles, usually towards the inside of the corner. I decided that this needed to be included in my level for realism, but I also have a feeling that this will aid in the play-ability of the level, making easier for the player to turn the vehicle at each corner, (although this is just a theory!). 

For now, as you can see from the images below, I divided the track quite generously, and have kept it ever so slightly higher in the middle all the way around. I have a feeling though, that I may come back to it and reduce how many times I have divided the track, all depending on how the final level build performs. Apart from the track, I've only managed to get a few of the main buildings in place, again using my 'to scale' map as well as some placeholder tyre walls along one part of the circuit, but for now I think this will do. 

I dont really want to spend any more time in 3DS Max at this point and think it would be best to get this stuff straight into the Cry ENGINE to finish the whiteboxing stage, as the terrain surrounding the complex and the track itself will all be done using the terrain paint tool within CryENGINE.

NEXT JOB - install the latest Cry ENGINE and familiarize myself again with the basic layout and tools. Then begin importing this weeks white box models and develop the whitebox from there!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Project Brief

Main goals; Create a racing game with one track based on a real-world circuit (Stretton Circuit, Leicester) with an interactive element in the form of a playable vehicle which represents the main character.

Purpose; Emphasis will be on the accuracy and attention to detail of the real-world circuit in order to showcase my environmental modelling skills, the vehicle model will also demonstrate my ability to model existing objects/ vehicles with a high degree of accuracy and attention to detail. The playable vehicle will demonstrate my knowledge with the chosen game engine as well as my problem solving abilities. The main goals will have complete priority during the project and will need to be completed to a visually and technically high standard.

Secondary Goals; My secondary goals include items highlighted in page 11 of my design document including sound, a HUD, variable weather and the inclusion of AI etc. These items will only be explored depending on the status of my main goals


Mobile Device/ IOS;
  • Huge market appeal for mobile games development which may result in better job opportunities
  • Mobile devices are becoming more and more powerful, and are able to run games with reasonable 3D graphics
  • Support for mobile game development from Unity 3D and UDK
  • More suited towards solo game development
  • Graphically less impressive that console and PC games
  • Have to be extremely optimised to function properly, some sacrifices may need to be made on more CPU intensive tasks such as particle effects etc.
  • Less functionality typically due to lack of dedicated gaming controls, usually touch screen/ tilt functions
  • Outrageous number of devices and operating systems on the market, IOS or Android are probably the only two worth approaching
  • Would possibly need mobile device to demonstrate project for degree show

Current Gen (PS3, Xbox 360, moderate gaming PC)
  • Most familiar modelling 3D assets with specifications aimed towards this category
  • Good graphical capabilities
  • Reasonable freedom with ranging poly counts
  • All supported by optional game engines (Unity 3D, UDK and CryENGINE3).
  • Project development will take place using lab computers which falls into this category, lab computers will also be used during degree show
  • Potential for fantastic looking portfolio work
  • Lots of job competition in the current market
  • Next gen consoles now released
  • Finished project would have to be extremely polished to be acceptable as a current gen game

Next Gen (PS4, Xbox One, High-end gaming PC)
  • Familiarity with 3D model asset creation for current gen is easily transferable
  • Extreme graphical capabilities
  • Lots of freedom modelling and texturing with huge budgets
  • Only recently released, little support from optional game engines (Unity 3D, UDK and CryENGINE3) apart from the CryENGINE3.
  • Much longer development time required to reach next-gen standard
  • Need to consider hardware limitations, are lab computers on par with next-gen consoles?

Choice; (PS3, Xbox 360, moderate gaming PC)

Tools and Software
  • Digital camera for gathering reference images.
  • Photoshop CS3 for image manipulation and texture painting.
  • 3D Studio Max 2012 for Modelling, Mapping, and manipulating UVs (texture coordinates).
  • Zbrush for high poly meshes and normal mapping.
  • The internet/ library for research and any additional reference material.
  • nDo2 for Normal and AO maps.
  • Marmoset Toolbag for final renders.
  • Open office/ Microsoft Word

Engine possibilities;

Unity3D Engine;
Notable games developed in Unity3D; Drift Mania, Rain, Call Of Duty Strike Team

  • One notable racing game as noted and extensive car tutorial available
  • Meant to be an easy engine to learn
  • Ability to develop for multiple platforms
  • Extremely large developer community and lots of documentation is readily available (car tutorial available).
  • No prior experience with the engine and no support available from tutors at uni as the engine is not used on the Game Art Design course.
  • More advanced features such as real time lighting/ shadows does not come with free Unity3D download
  • Not as many advanced features as UDK and CryENGINE3
  • More suited towards smaller mobile games
  • Hardly any tools in comparison to UDK and CryEngine3

UDK (Unreal Development Kit);
Notable games developed in UDK; Remember Me, Dishonored, Borderlands, Mass Effect

  • Extremely large developer community and documentation
  • Some tutorials and documentation available on vehicle export into UDK
  • Lots of knowledge available at uni to help with an problems during project
  • Some experience with the engine through uni projects (Blitz Building and Rooftop projects)
  • No notable racing games developed
  • Program can be temperamental at times
  • Poor lighting compared to CryEngine3, lighting needs to be built along with other paths before playing level which is more time consuming
  • Tool-set and user interface can be complicated at times
Notable games developed in CryEngine3; Far Cry, Crysis, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2

  • Incredible real time lighting and rendering inside the viewport which is more suited to outdoor environments such as my race track
  • Better for 'realistic' looking environments
  • Substantial developer and community support on the CryDev forums as well as the CryEngine3 SDK documentation including vechile asset production pipeline.
  • User friendly Engine and scene management allowing for higher polygons, more draw calls, and overdraw
  • Intergrated time of day system
  • Tutorials available on vehicle creation and AI usage
  • Documentation available on UI and HUD
  • artist-level programming in flowgraph is extremely powerful and simple
  • No notable racing games developed
  • Needs to be connected to the internet to run (only for first sign on in 3.5.4)
  • Smaller community and less documentation than Unity3D and UDK
  • Editor can run slow with real time viewport without decent specification PC

Choice; CryEngine3

Technical Specification

Final Project
  • Final project will need to run on lab computers
  • Target Framerate; 35 FPS, Lowest acceptable framerate ; 30 FPS.
  • Draw call limit;
    • Maximum average; 500 calls
    • Maximum Peak; 2000 calls
  • Track scale can be seen in page 14 of the design document, track length is 850m and should take on average 60 seconds to complete one lap depending on player skill.
  • The whole environment including track, props, surrounding complex and environment backdrop should be no more than 500k tris (subject to change).
  • Only the race track area will be explorable using the vehicle, this includes grass embankments and curbs etc.
  • The race track and surrounding complex (explorable area) will contain the most detail and therefore demand the highest poly limits. Poly counts for backdrop environment objects should be kept to a minimum to ensure the target frame rate and draw call limits are met and the final game runs smoothly.

Preliminary Environment Assets

    -Track, curbs -Track lights
    -Control Box, lights -Pit Lane and complex
    -Foliage -Fencing
    -Tyre Walls -Smaller huts/ buildings
    -Foam Crash Walls -Crowd Area assets
    -Cones -Environment background elements
    -Barrels -Fuel Tanks
    -Signage/ advert boards -Other unique assets

A range of these assets should be re-usable and/ or modular and have enough detail that little or no repetition is noticeable.

A full range of textures will be used ranging from 256 pixels minimum to a maximum 1024 pixels.

Preliminary texture usage;

-Diffuse, Diffuse with alpha
-Specular, Colour Specular

  • The drivable vehicle should be no more than 40k tris (subject to change)
  • If included, AI opponent vehicles should be no more than 30k tris (subject to change)

  • Vehicle should require no more than 2 unique textures at 1024 pixels.

Preliminary texture usage;

-Diffuse, Diffuse with alpha
-Specular, Colour Specular

Issue; Despite the chosen engine's (CryENGINE3) advantages in support of making my project look realistic, my research on using vehicles in the engine has so far failed to show any 2 wheeled vehicles being used, all documentation and tutorials, including the Crytek Dashboard documents, only describe vehicles with 4 or more wheels being exported. If I am to include a 2 wheeled vehicle (minimoto) in the final build of the game it would need to animate properly including leaning, tilting and correct physics. I will not immediately write off the possibility of the inclusion of a 2 wheeled vehicle, but at this stage the inclusion of a 4 wheeled vehicle (go-kart) seems more achievable all factors considered.

More research will be done on this before a final decision is made. I think the best way to approach this will be to export a very simple 2 wheeled vehicle and explore the various parameters to see if the correct animations needed can be achieved. Before this is done further consideration will be taken as to which vehicle (minimoto or go-kart) would be better suited to the final build.

My Final Major Project will be documented in my design document;
The design document will be on going and will outline the whole project, including research and development, problems I have encountered and solved, concepts and planning, as well as documenting the assets that are produced.
My Final Major Project will also be documented on this dedicated blog;

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Here are my first concepts from the previous post on their own so that you can view them larger.

These concepts are purely to illustrate the atmospheric conditions that I'd like to capture during the main game-play, with strong warm lighting creating a vibrant level full of rich tones and a diverse colour palette, which I feel the cryENGINE will enable me to do. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Proposal, in detail - Part Two

At the end of the summer break last year, before beginning my third year I spent a day at the Stretton Circuit with my minimoto. As well as spending the day racing around the track I also thought it would be a great opportunity to begin gathering some reference images for use in concepting, my project brief and during the proposal stage. So, I took my camera with me and walked around the track between sessions to snap some pics.

Below are some examples of the photographs I was able to take;

These initial reference photographs weren't intended as reference for the modelling stage but instead to highlight the richness of detail at the circuit on and off the track, from the wealth of racing oriented props to planes and helicopters flying overhead from the adjacent airport to racers preparing their bikes/ karts in the pit areas. 

These first reference images were a great starting point to begin developing the visual style of my project. Also, with it being the summer, the conditions were perfect to describe the atmosphere and conditions I'd ideally like to achieve during the game-play.

Firstly, using satellite images from Google Earth I constructed a circuit diagram to describe scale, the playable area and the level of detail likely to be used throughout the level. 

Below is my circuit diagram to scale;

Explorable area;
Only the part of the map highlighted in red below will be explorable using the vehicle;

Level of detail;
The heat map below describes the amount of detail contained within the environment in relation to polygon counts and texture budgets etc.

Visual Style and Game-play;
The game should be visually accurate and realistic to the real-world location but should be strong and vibrant similar to the notable games above giving it a wow factor and grabbing the players attention. The game-play should be less simulated than some of the above games with a slight arcade feel so that the game is easy to pick up and is quickly enjoyable and fun to play.
The diagram below best describes my aim for visual style and game-play in relation to other notable games;

From this I began to put together some quick concepts intended to highlight what's described above, the visual style my project including lighting, weather conditions, and colour palette etc. 

Below; screenshot concepts of how the game should look during gameplay;

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Proposal, in detail - Part One

The Final Major Project needs to provide me with an amount of work that, within the given time scale, January-May 2014, will be achievable yet challenging, will demonstrate my best work, will allow me to produce work that enables my strengths and skills to compliment it, will be enjoyable and engaging and enable me to produce a quality of work that I will be able to present in my portfolio.

Although the proposed track is a GoKart circuit as opposed to some of the large scale international circuits featured in some of the games described in the previous post the location is ideal for a solo project considering the time-frame. As described earlier, the Stretton Circuit is 850m in length located in a rural area of Leicester and in contrast to larger scale race circuits, the complex sits in a more confined area creating an environment with lots of interest within it including a pit lane building and outdoor seating/ spectator area, a huge array of race-circuit oriented props such as tire-walls, cones, flood lights, starting grid etc. with lots of surrounding interest also, including near-by buildings, Leicester airport, as well as lighting, fencing and lots of foliage including plenty of grasses and bushes lining the track and over-hanging trees, there is isn't any large open, empty areas like you might usually find at outdoor race circuits.

One of the biggest advantages of this project is the fact that the Stretton Circuit is located in Leicester which means I will be able to go and collect reference first hand. Without this option the project could not be executed properly and would simply not be viable as I aim to follow the same procedures as a real development studio by visiting the circuit before the production stages in order to photograph the circuit in detail, and hopefully, have the opportunity to actually walk the track in order to gather this reference. As this is a fairly demanding request I have already been in contact with the Stretton Circuit during the summer 2013, in order to explain my plans for the FMP and make my proposal.

Stretton Circuit contact;
  • First contacted 24/4/13, recommended I speak to Stuart or Ruth Bingham who are the owners of the track.
  • 24/4/13, spoke to Stuart Bingham and my proposal to use the circuit for my FMP was accepted
  • August 2013, visited track for Minimoto practice day, had the opportunity to spend the day riding the track as well as taking an opportunity to gather some initial reference photograph's (see below)
  • Update; 4/12/2013, Contacted Stretton Circuit in order to make plans to gather track reference before Christmas, spoke to Ruth Bingham circuit owner, ok to go ahead.

With this considered I can expand on my project idea and begin to develop more in-depth aims and objectives. As stated, my two main project aims, the re-creation of the Stretton Circuit in detail as well as the inclusion of an in-game vehicle that should be playable will be the largest components of the project and therefore demand most of the time. As well as these I have also considered other elements that I could potentially expand upon, time permitting, that would enhance the finished quality of my project. The table below illustrates these aims, prioritised from top to bottom, no priority from left to right;

Some FMP Research - Notable Games

Gran Turismo Series
  • Massive attention to detail designed to emulate the appearance and performance of licensed reproductions of real-world vehicles.
  • Unrivalled selection of content representative of real-world vehicles and locations, the latest instalment, Gran Turismo 6, boasts over 1200 vehicles and over 30 tracks and locations including Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Laguna Seca Raceway, The Nurburgring and The Goodwood Hillclimb!
  • Accurate driving physics emulation
  • Dynamic weather simulation based on factors like temperature, pressure and humidity, all in real time as well as day-time/ night-time transition during races.
  • 70 million sold

  • is an online, subscription-based racing simulation service widely regarded as one of the most realistic racing simulation games to date and is also known to be used as a training tool by real racing drivers.
  • Established numerous partnerships with real-world racing organizations and series, including NASCAR, IndyCar, V8 Supercars and Williams F1 among others.
  • Officially licensed cars engineered from the ground up in cooperation with real-world race teams using real-world physics
  • Officially licensed, laser-scanned exact replicas of real-world race tracks
  • Over 35,000 active members as of July 2012.
  • To achieve the exceptionally high level of realism, uses a pioneering, propitiatory application of three-dimensional laser scanning technology, every playable track is visited to laser scan as well as taking thousands of photo's on location. 

MotoGP 13
  • MotoGP™13 is the official video game of one of the most famous brands in sports. The game features all the official contents of 2013 Championship: MotoGP™, Moto2™ and Moto3™ riders, teams, tracks and rules are in the game.
  • Loyal to the MotoGP™ spirit in all aspects of the game, from photo realistic graphics to TV style interface, including menus, sounds.
  • Realistic handling you can really feel the bike in your hands and you can choose to ride with scalable aids or in pure simulative way for real fans! A new immersive career mode, with first person elements like 3D pits and helmet view, grants a full immersion in the rider's shoes!

Formula One Series/ F1 2013
  • Formula One has been part of the video game racing genre since 'Pole Position' in 1983, in 1991 the title 'Formula One Grand Prix' played an integral role in moving Formula One games from arcade games to becoming full simulations of the sport.
  • There has been around 150 different Formula One inspired games
  • FORMULA ONE! F1 2013 features all the cars, stars and circuits from the 2013 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP™. The F1 2013 game features all eleven teams and twenty-two drivers competing in the 2013 season, as well as the nineteen circuits and Grands Prix. A "Classic Edition" of the game features additional drivers, cars and circuits from the 1980s and 1990s. Additional circuits include Estoril, Imola, Brands Hatch and Jerez. 

Race Driver Grid/ Grid 2
  • The Grid games, developed and published by Codemasters, aren't racing simulators like Gran Turismo but include a handling system developed by Codemasters which aims to find a balance between realism and accessibility/ usability.
  • Includes real world vehicles, locations and cities including the Le Mans 24 hour race.
  • Includes comprehensive campaign modes which enables the player to participate in a variety of motor-sport competitions, starting by racing for other race teams and eventually earning enough money to purchase your own vehicles and run your own race team with customisable team colours and liveries just like a real race driver's career.
  • Advanced AI delivers aggressive competition and blockbuster races giving the games that 'arcade' feel in some respects.
  • Powered by Codemaster's EGO engine which delivers extremely realistic visuals and vehicle damage effects. 

Other notable games;


Forza Motorsport Series

Dirt Series

FMP Proposal

I aim to make a playable minimoto/ go-kart racing/ time-trial game with one race track based on a real-world existing race circuit (Stretton Circuit, Leicester). My main focus for the project will be re-creating the real-world race circuit with a high degree of attention to detail, realism and accuracy as well as the inclusion of an interactive element in the form of using a vehicle (minimoto or go-kart) to explore the race track environment. 

Idea Background
I am a passionate motor-sport/ motor-racing and racing game enthusiast and am particularly interested in motorcycle racing, including British and World Superbikes, the Isle Of Man TT and MotoGP. The first notable racing game I ever remember playing was Codemasters' TOCA Touring Cars Championship in 1997 on the Playstation aged 7, I had my first motorbike at the age of 10 and then began racing Minimoto's when I was 12 years old and in that time have raced a number of times at the proposed Stretton race-circuit. I continue to visit the Stretton circuit time permitting, racing my minimoto purely as a hobby. The circuit itself is known for being one of the most challenging tracks in the UK, with wide, sweeping bends, high speed corners and a total track length of 850m, it is widely regarded amongst the UK club racing community as a 'real racers circuit'.

Me, age 12
Racing games, both realistic and arcade, are an extremely popular video game genre in the current market and have been since games could be played on PC's using floppy-discs. One of the oldest known single-player racing arcade game's is Gran Trak 10, released by Atari in 1974, and is also considered one of the first racing games to include a steering wheel, gear shifter and accelerator and break pedals!.

Gran Trak 10, Atari 1974
A racing video game, is a video game genre, normally playable in the first or third-person perspective, in which the player takes part in racing competition with any number of possible vehicles. A racing game may be based on anything from real-world racing competitions to completely fantastical settings and in general they can be distributed along a spectrum anywhere between hardcore racing simulations and more simplified arcade racing games and can often also fall under the sports games category.

Because of my interest in motor-sport in the real world, I mostly enjoy playing racing games that represent this, games that give me the opportunity to use real-world vehicles in real-world locations and race track's. As with most others who play these games, as well as any other sports oriented games, I admire these games accurate representation of their real-world counterparts and will always look to the games that most closely resemble them. I appreciate these games attention to detail from large details such as race track layout down to minor details such as accurate prop placement. Motor-racing could be called somewhat of a hobby of mine, and as I immerse myself with it in my spare time either watching motor-racing on TV or actually visiting real race circuits to watch motor-racing events, as well as a keen interest in motor vehicles and motorcycles in general I could never pass up an opportunity to experience these things for myself in the virtual world, likewise, due to my knowledge of the area in the real-world, I can also quickly notice if something has been misrepresented.

I think my knowledge in these areas, as well as my strengths in attention to detail in both 2D and 3D subjects will enable me to achieve my goals during this project.