Saturday, June 6, 2009

Denise: Post #1 (First plans)

After having a taste of environment design this past quarter, I’ve decided to devote the majority of my summer to working on another level.

Currently my goals for the summer are as follows:

1. To make a portfolio site

2. To import my level design project last quarter (Bonabba Village) fully into Unreal. As well as give it some updates.

3. Concept Paint, design, model and texture a 3D environment (while using primarily 3Ds Max and Unreal)

4. Possibly a character design with the help of zBrush.

As I’m starting to budget out my time and figure out what I’m going to do for my Level, the character seems less likely to happen. But I’d like to get another sampling of that kind of modeling before I rule it out entirely as something not for me.

Anyway, onto my environment project, which is my primary reason for being here. I went to my local Half Price Book store in order to see if I could find some nice architecture reference books. Just something to inspire me on what I wanted to do. Back in the winter, I did a quick environment of an attic scene. I really liked the aesthetics of it. This old farm house kind of feel. So I was leaning more towards that kind of design. As I was browsing I came across the following 2 books:

Both I’m pretty sure were meant to be part of a set. One is a collection of photos of English country villages and homes, the other is of their interiors. Perfect. But I don’t want to mimic just one village’s looks. I was very drawn towards the aesthetic look of Great Tew in Oxfordshire.

There very old buildings generally boast thatch roofs with old stone and brick walls and just an overall sort of eroded and shabby look to them that I find to be visually very interesting. But as I started to try and sketch out an estate (and I’ve decided my level will focus around a single home, primarily an interior, but with an exterior as well) I realized that even with Great Tew’s style it was still feeling somewhat generic. I wanted this building to be something that isn’t quite so everyday. So I started just tacking on bits onto a basic home, while trying to create a sort of saggy look to the building. With leaning walls and oblique angles. Sort of as if every different section of the house was supporting the other. I came up with the following quick sketch:

I’m starting to get the concept I want down. The section of the estate on the left with the chimney I imagine as being what was the original part of the home, while the other sections were tacked on. But even so this wasn’t quite enough for me to know where I was going so I decided to do a quick 3D sketch in Maya. I came up with the following:

It’s much more “leanier” than my sketches were since I was able to directly move walls here and there to see how it looked. I’m considering adding more sort of tacked on upper rooms like the one on the far right of the building. It will have random planks of wood helping to support it against the outer frame of the house. While doing this I’ve also started to think of the interior and where things will lay. The book of the English cottage interiors is very interesting with the amount of clutter and just funny objects that can be found inside, so it’s this part that I’m most excited about doing. Hopefully I’ll have a layout for the interior soon, and then I will start on my actual concept paintings (once I get my tablet laptop back).

In other news, need to start thinking about my website also.

Please give your thoughts. I almost want the house to be more exaggerated in its strange angles. But I’m afraid that may be going a bit too far.


  1. Denise, I think your concept has a great atmosphere and some great potential for level design. I like the tacked on home made style you're going for (reminds me of the treehouse that was on the cover of one of those B&N books).

    Obviously, this is still a very preliminary stage of the level design, but have you decided on materials (brick, wood, stucco, etc)? Also, what time of day are you thinking of?

    In regards to the actual building, I think you've established that the key is going to be an old dilapidated feeling. With low-polygon counts in consideration, it's going to be a bit of a trick because it's crucial for you to have lots of clutter and bent/broken angles. With that in mind, I like the preliminary mock-up, but as is, it looks rather cartoony. This is mainly due to the exaggerated angles you have created, however. I'm not necessarily suggesting that you lessen the angles, but I think you need to be extra careful about establishing a president for all those wacky angles. For example, you need to consider: was the house just built poorly or are these obtuse angles the result of shoddy architecture?

    If it's the former, then I think you might want to pull back a little, specifically with the chimney stack & tower (those look particularly cartoonish). Also, think about gravity - in the 2nd image, both the walls are leaning inward. If this were the case, then the roof would have to be severely buckled in the middle, but it is not. In other words, old buildings tend to lean to one direction rather than both.

    On the other hand, if the building is just the product of shoddy construction, then you shouldn't have to worry about the 'accuracy' of the dilapidation.

    One more thought - if the building's main material is stone, then you might consider making the walls straight but making the roofs and add-ons the saggy and leaning parts. This would also add some interesting contrast to the parts of the structure and possibly help tell more of a story. Building off this idea, you could also have a few more sheds and rooms tacked on to the structure as seen in your sketch (the 3d mock-up feels a little lean in this regard).

    I like where you're going, and keep it up ;)

  2. Time of day I haven't considered yet. Good point on that I'll need to think about that when it comes time for concept paintings.

    Inititially I suppose I wanted to blame it more on just shoddy architecture. Considering rooms are just sort of tacked on, in a sort of last minute sense. Also, I was thinking of it in more of a fantasy like setting in a way. Which meant, sort of going in a more cartoony direction. But I'm starting to rethink that and just go for more realism. I dunno, its difficult to decide on which I'd prefer.

    As far as materials go, from what I've been studying most of the village homes I've seen are made of brick or old stone. I like the thatch roof of Great Tew, which is why I'm using it as a basis for my design. However, I'd like to have varying stones throughout the building, to show the different stages it went through in being built.

    I'll be playing around with it some more in the coming days. Will keep you posted.