Sunday, 13 March 2011

Dead Space and rigs

Once again, blog is lacking due to just being busy and not having much to show.
But now I do. Hoorah.

So, firstly, I FINALLY got Dead Space 2 (after a month of email back-and-forth with Visceral). It was totally worth the wait, however, as not only did I get the game, they kindly sent me a few other goodies too:

Yes, that box was signed by the Dead Space team.

Now that I've -finally- played it (I'm already near the end, unfortunately, though I have been playing a lot over the last week) I got to see myself and meat cello in action.

This video shows both me and the move:

(I'm the guy scrambling into the lift at about 1:40, meat cello is at about 3:45. It's weird hearing someone else referring to it by name)
They ended up shortening the move, which I'm fine with - I think it looks better - but instead of the leaper jumping back onto Isaac once it's punched off, Isaac grabs it and does the 'cello business.

A here's a close-up of me pulling a weird face.

I'm known affectionately on the Dead Space wiki as 'elevator man'.

So the game itself looks really nice. The lighting is wonderful and the holograms look beautiful, character and environment textures are detailed and sharp, I've stopped on numerous occasions just to take a break and admire the outer-space scenery.
Playing it feels fresh and streamlined compared to the first game.
I love the new zero-G thrusters mechanic, it feels like a tangible and believable method of moving through a weightless environment.
The one problem I have is that we're never really told about them until they're used for a completely different reason, see here:

Now, I do like the idea of this sequence, but there's no explanation that he has little jets on his suit, he just jumps out of the train without warning and we just have to accept it and do the sequence.
I think that if they'd had just a short zero-G sequence beforehand, just to let us know that Isaac has these jets and what they're meant for, then we can take them out of context for this emergency use.
Or even a simple "Hey, I can use the CO2 thrusters on my suit to get to that carriage" would suffice.
Oh and perhaps adding the air meter to show that we're outside in space between carriages.
(I know I'm nit-picking, here, but the overall game is good enough, it's only little bits like that which I can pick out nits)

I'm still not sure if it's as scary/less scary/scarier than Dead Space. I've heard and read a wide spectrum of reviews, each with their own different opinion. There are definitely scary bits and possibly the necromorph which instills the most fear is the Stalker; On their own, they are relatively easy to dispense of. But they're never alone. They are always in packs of 5 or more in rooms where they have plenty of cargo crates to hide behind and sneak up on you and surround you from all sides, poking a head out just long enough for you to catch a glimpse in your torchlight before they retreat behind cover again. Taking them out requires some strategy, as one of them might come out of cover to distract you, while another creeps up behind you and tears your face off.

Clever girl...

There are also some well crafted scripted parts where the combination of sound cues, music and lighting make you scared to carry on because you know that there's going to be something ahead, and no matter how much you mentally prepare yourself, you still crap your RIG when something jumps out. They do mix it up by having some of those moments completely safe, giving you false positives and just generally screwing you around. These moments are well separated and the game is much better paced than its predecessor, having intense bursts of limb-cutting action separated by calm puzzle time and reflection time.
Some of the scariest moments are still, by far, when you've been stabbed, sliced and bitten down to a last, flashing red segment of health, gasping inside your helmet and limping through the dark in a panic to find the next save station or store because you've only got 5 shots left, no med packs and your stasis meter is empty.
It's this survival-horror aspect that makes most horror games so frightening; being weak and vulnerable, knowing a sudden and gruesome death could be waiting round the next corner. This was a big talking point when Visceral announced that DS2 would be more actiony than DS1 (and it is in isolated parts) and as such, would remove that feeling of vulnerability and lose the horror aspect. Olly wrote a good little bit about Amnesia: The Dark Descent (which I'm sure he's glad I introduced him to) talking about the same sort of terrifying weakness. And that game IS horrifically frightening.

There are some clever uses of Isaac's psychotic hallucinations and flashbacks in DS2.
One of the best examples was when Isaac returns to the Ishimura, walking down some of the same corridors from the first game, although now the walls and vents are covered in plastic and decontamination equipment and the occasional UV light (making all the blood glow a pretty purple)
There's a sequence in this part of the ship in Dead Space 1 where just as you leave a centrifuge room, a huge drag tentacle lunges out of the darkness and drags you into its tunnel, and you have only seconds to shoot the tentacle in the weak spot before it pulls you in forever.
Well as you leave the same centrifuge room in Dead Space 2, the drag tentacle returns and grabs Isaac, once more, by the ankle and reels him in. The same terror and tension from the first encounter is brought up in me again, ready to take it down. Only, it suddenly disappears. silence. Isaac is fine.
(this explains it better)

For me, this is where I empathised with Isaac's flashbacks and hallucinations the most, as they were sort of flashbacks for me, too. It almost made me sad that they couldn't have done more similar ones through the game before this point.
So far, they were used to show his late girlfriend, Nicole as a manifestation of Isaac's guilt and bereavement (although they don't quite hit the mark in the emotive sense.)
(Those videos are also great to compare how much better DS2 looks)

Overall, I love the game and I'm looking forward to how the story will unfold. I'm yet to try the multiplayer, but I'll report on it when I do.

Real work.

So I've finally finished rigging Sally the spider, and I'm pretty proud of the result:

Controls include:
Body segment control.
Eyes controlled by moving an 'aim box'. Scaling this yellow box makes Sally blink. Inside the box are the 4 individual eye controls, which are parented to the aim box. Above it are the eyebrow controls, which can be rotated to give the eyes more expression.
Individual IK control and pole vectors for each leg.
IK/FK switch for the front two legs (also used as arms).
Direct on-mesh point control of mouth (with cheek raising).

I discovered that rigging a model isn't complete until the animation is done, as little glitches occasionally pop up which need fixing, especially because this is the first proper rig I've ever made and I've learned on the go.
I've had a week off of rigging to let my sanity coagulate before I begin rigging Frankie, the old man in The Little Helper

Also, there's post production, I'm working with Loz to make little doodles pop out of a sketchbook.

We had to reshoot at the weekend because our last clip was just so poor that MatchMover was too busy tracking noise to follow the markers.

So the new tracking is under way. It's going much better.
I'm happy with the idea, but in the back of my mind I still want to make holograms.

Final of my stuff, here's some sketchbook stuff:

Life drawing.
I figured I'd use some different media in this session, I went for coloured pencils and my new markers, which haven't gotten as much use as I'd hoped.

I started with rough shading, then refined the shape with fineliner. I'm quite happy with how it looks. We were also told to draw the model in a more stylised way for one of the drawings.

Markers are no good for sketching, and they cause other pens to bleed like hell.

Here I broke the model down to constituent polygons.

Different music was played during these to see if the type of music would affect how we drew and the styles we used. It's a surprising result.

Just ordinary black colouring pencil. Could be done better.

I've been neglecting life drawing this term, which is a shame because we've had a different model to draw, and she's much more interesting to draw than Shaky McShakerson we've had so far.
While trying to draw spacesuits and more recently, scenes for the Inbetween project, I've come to the conclusion that I may have forgotten how to draw people realistically. None of the poses hold any weight and are all slightly anatomically off, and it's quite a concern. I guess spending the majority of one's time realistically depicting alien anatomy affects how you draw real body stuff.

At least these guys look muscular and shapely.

A new anatomical feature I've refined in Fentil Vertebrates is the 'spur' which has a soft pad on the end, allowing grazers to 'sit' comfortably while feeding.

Observe this with post-modern eyes.

Here's a sci-fi gun I designed (poorly) for a first-person reload animation thing (because they always look cool) in Maya. It taught me that camera settings can be a tricky beast - you can't just make a model of a guy, pose it all right then slap a camera in his face - it jsut doesn't work - you can't see anything. The only way to make the hands visible is to set the focal length so shallow that it looks like the scene is being sucked into a black hole.
I think some clever trickery is at work with FPS makers. I shall have to discover their secret.

Better quality version of those doodles I put up last time. Oh, and a dinosaur I doodled whilst practicing in Composite.

I saw Princess Mononoke the other night at the Poly - I forgot how good that film was. It made me want to watch all the Ghibli films again. While I was waiting for the film to start, I decided to sketch the DVD menu (that's right, I payed to see it on DVD - though it was on a nice big screen)

Oh, and more dinosaurs.

Now some cool stuff I found for you to watch:

Now, to bed!

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