Grads in Games Search for a star. Page 1: Concept and Planning.
What? – Brief
This project is for the Games in Grads ‘Search for a Star’ Competition. The environment art brief states that I must create a 3D environment, rendered in Unreal Engine. My submission must conform to one of the themes and have four specific assets (as stated later).
Theme: “Don’t look down”
(My concept’s appearance does not deviate far from the original hospital concept that I changed, see “Concept Change” post)
What do you think of when you read the theme “don’t look down” and the size restriction of a 30x30x30 cube. For me it was spacial manipulation. Specifically through the use of an infinity mirror and a dynamic structure to be repeated in the mirror, a spiral staircase. There will be an infinite mirror on the floor and ceiling, a spiral staircase with landings for doors, and themed content based on the chosen setting. A modernised and refurbished but old art gallery staircase. The environment narrative has the potential purpose for being a hidden in-game environment, for a role-play scenario. The overall tone of the environment should depict a well-used area, with heavy daily foot traffic.
Of course, I initially though of looking down from a skyscraper and fear of heights. Especially the skyscraper scene in the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The protagonist, Miles, jumps down from a skyscraper with incredible visuals. If you look at how they made that scene, you would see that the buildings are not actually all straight, but more in a angled the further our they are. I have always admired this scene and how they managed to produce it. Mostly through the visual and camera effects, the action and the way that the camera moves is very dynamic. However, looking down from a skyscraper by itself is not very dynamic or appealing without that sense of action and narrative. This is something that my environment design would lack without the character essence in it.
Four Assets Required – Check List
- Centrepiece focal object = Infinite Mirror
- Large decorative piece = Exhibition pieces.
- Supporting prop = Bench, door signs.
- Architectural piece = the circular staircase.
Need to test:
- Measurements between Maya and Unreal- make sure they are the same.
- Height/ inclination of each stair step. how to make the stair steps fit into the shape and size that I want with the standard dimensions of a step.
- How to make the infinity mirror work in Unreal 5.
- Can/should the mirror have window frames in the middle of the mirror. With actual windows around the edges that let in light. Would this take away from the visual content of the mirror
- Banisters – should they be barred or completely blocked out? From the mirror’s perspective which looks better?
- Can the inner stair area have lighting on it. This would look good in terms of the aesthetics and the reflection, but it may take away from the focus.
Wood: Stairs, doors, window and door frames.
Walls: half painted half wood? All wood with slates or wall paper. Themed or simply. Research and relate to concept.
Lighting: metal and glass.
Glass: windows and mirror top layer.
Reference for visuals:
Reference for staircase: https://www.thisiscarpentry.com/2016/03/11/curved-stairs-no-mystery-just-simple-math/
Here are close ups of the ref board in two parts:
If there is a start and end to the stairs then what is there? How do people get in and out and what is in those empty areas at the top and bottom. For example, the top of the stairs could have an attack door. This would also provide me with an opportunity for narrative elements. I can manipulate through positioning how the people inside the space would use the attic in that situation. So, I will need to work out placement between the stairs and circular mirror assets.
How many stories/ floors? Maximum about 9 or 10 according to spacial allowance. If each floor is about 3 meters tall then the 30m height limit means I could potentially have 10 floors. Taking into account space for the top and bottom platforms, I should have 9 maximum. Though this does not necessarily mean I have to use up all of this space. Since, what would be the point of my ‘elongating space’ concept if I have a very tall tower. The point is to use the infinity mirror to manipulate the perspective of the shape.
How to organise the lighting for the infinity mirror so that it looks natural for that time period?
Would the infinity mirrors may have the be the same width as the inner staircase? (where the banisters are). In order to see the reflection in the correct place. Would this be big enough? Will need to test the mirror location/size in blocking phase. In consideration for this, how big should the centre width of the stair case be? Answer: enough to take a good look at everything with a rendered photo.
Considering rectangular staircase, with straight stairs. This would make my modelling process easier, though it would not have the same effect as the spiral staircase. This would result in a change of shape throughout my whole project – will have to theme the shape to be more cubic than cylindrical and organic.
This is the decided upon floor plan. Although, it will likely change during the blocking stage, where I will test and alter the composition where necessary. I thought about how the stairs would realistically work, in terms of dimensions and decided to try an oval shape. Although I would have preferred to stick with the circle/ spiral shape. It would be logically easier and quicker to plan out and model curved stairs with a rectangular platform in the middle. Though some feedback on this caused me to second guess this method. I will rethink it in the blocking stage where I try out both shape types.
In my measurements diagram for the stairs, I converted the inch values for each part of the stairs into centimetres and then rounded the units into have whole numbers (easier to apply into 3D). I kept the inch units alongside the diagram. Just in case it would be useful to others, in a realistic production environment, or myself later down the line.
Since I am choosing to create a gallery space, I have to take consideration for the location of the gallery (staircase) that is being used. It is not typically a place that would be used as actual exhibition space. Though, more permanent decorations with the the galleries themes would be appropriate. To decorate the space as it would be styled to the purpose of the building. I can’t leave it empty. Therefore, I thought that I could include two exhibition pieces to the walls, to emphasising the purpose of the space. These assets would count as props decorations, supporting the setting and narrative.
Exhibition Piece 1 – ‘Twist’ (AKA onion or the pipe idea)
At first for the twist asset, I imagined this piece to be similar to pipework, connecting pieces that slither up the wall. This would look great if there were mesh lights illuminating the shapes from within, next to the wall. However, I then found Richard Deacan’s “Deep State” art forms (London 2020). Sculpted wood lengths that twist inside each other, the final appearance looks very aesthetically pleasing. I was inspired by his work, and wanted to recreate something similar. I implemented the wavy shapes and lines on sea shells. See figure 4, the bottom left, for my primary research images of sea shells. See figures 6-8 for my sketches of the preliminary forms. In fig 6 I used my imagination as to how the front view would look, though without the perspective of intertwined pieces, it just looks like an onion, hence the nickname. Within figure 7, I implemented another photo in my ref board, the line drawings. These created some nice forms, with the crossover clearly visible. In figure 8, I implemented the forms of the sea shells. I believe that these turned out the best, mostly for the sense of contrast I added to one side and the curling shape that moves up and down. However, I am not sure how I could theoretically add this sense of density and contrast in a three-dimensional form.
Exhibition Piece 2 and 3 – Bead Branches and Geometric Mirror Wall.
In exhibition piece 2, one I call beads and branches, see the lower half of figure 9. I took inspiration from native carved beads and lit up wire trees that are used to hand jewellery on. See the middle of figure 4 for the ref images. I could add mesh lights onto the ends of the ‘branches’ and beams on the base of each branch. These beads could have sculpted carvings on them, with wooden material and coloured paint to make them more interesting. The models would need to be big enough to see the detail on the forms. This idea, is nice, though I am not sure how much time I will have to spend on small details like sculpted beads.
Exhibition piece 3, see the top half of figure 9. For this asset, I thought about one piece of mirror material. WIth simple angled geometric segments that would reflect light and colour onto the environment.
Next I will work in Maya for the blocking and composition stage.