Escape from Mill Station Blog
A special thank you to Anthony Sipsas, Francois Andlau and Dane Stack for their kind donations to the development of the World of Clouds and the Escape from Mill Station game project.
Thank you :-)
Consolidateed PBY Catalina 3D model
Teaser is done fundraising begins ...

Teaser is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUtaipgGZAQ
First big meeting that kicks off fundraising phase. 
4 AM.

Right at the end ...

I am on the very last things to do on the teaser.
Dealing with a swarm of birds.
I decided to build one bird as super simple skeletal mesh.
Then I use the same animation for each bird but offset it slightly.
Its working.
I am using a sequencer node in Blueprint and have 62 pins so far and its working fine.
I think the max is 250.
We will see.
Then all I want to do after the birds is 2 small fixes and a few extra touches.
Then trailer is done.
I should launch it on You Tube by tomorrow night.
Hoping.

Modeling birds for teaser trailer 1 ...

Animation coming along ...

Just saw Blade Runner 2049 ....

In Imax.
Its been a very, very, very long time since I felt the way I felt when I walked out of movie theater.
So relieved that someone can still make films.   :-)

Welcome to rope animation ...

Didn't know rigging and animating a rope would be so tricky. Of course there are better ways but for importing into Unreal reasons I chose to do a simple bone armature for rigging and automatic weights. That is fine but I found that I had to break the one long rope up into pieces in order to move the bones and make the rope move the way I wanted it to. Working but its tedious.

Kicking off on Roy's animation for teaser ...

Particles ...

figured out my particles rendering issues.
It was stuttering a lot during Sequencer rendering.
I added a GPU component to my CPU particles and that solved the problem.
Its rendering out fine now.
I decided on a design for my title / logo for my first teaser trailer and will be 
building that inside Unreal 4 and probably render that out with Sequencer too.
Other than that my bus this morning had the wrong route number displayed I told the driver and she changed it.
"Oh that is what is going on" she mumbled  LOL

Cascade ...

Learning Cascade in Unreal 4 today.
Have to create smoke.

Compile test ...

Did another compile test with all the detail added in level 1 for the trailer including the Catalina model with its 316 individual parts.
Worked fine.
It took a lot longer to compile the full game this time and I noticed it was mostly the new materials I added on level for trailer and the plane's parts.
But compiling worked fine.

Tuesday and finishing up on Stone Hunter ship ...

Putting last details in for the Stone Hunter ship. Looking good. I am confident that I will have the trailer done by mid next week.

Monday ...

I am building the rest of the Stone Hunter ship. Leaving a narrow "rim" of faces around the front edge to allow a little blue light to "bleed". 

Sunday ... working on Stone Hunter ships ...

Mountains are completed.
I discovered something interesting about Sequencer in Unreal 4 and that is that when you do a complete build, you should have the main subject with most geometry and complex shadows in the viewer frame. If you do not and you render out of Sequencer for some reason you get "twitching" of the shadows. Upping the lightmap resolution helps but its definitely better to "view" the problem parts in the viewer while doing the build. I suspect its some kind of cache issue. I am happy with the way the mountains are looking right now. I had to simplify one of the narrow vertical crystal like mountains in the background because it was drawing too much attention to itself.
For the darker further away mountain cliffs across the abyss I found what works best for texturing and that is that I use the same texture as the mountain that the Station is sitting on but I make it darker and tile it in bigger chunks. So technically they are "closer" to the camera because the texture is "closer" but it doesn't read that way. I had a funny feeling that might work and it did  :-) In that way I can avoid using texture bombing and get around the "tiling" effect that you would see if you are looking at a mountain cliff further away and that covers a larger area in the distance. 
I had my brother shoot another animation reference for me for the character's walk yesterday. We just did it here in the building. I simplified the walk to a great extend to save time on animating. 
I am working on the Stone Hunter ships for the trailer now. I went back to sketching a concept design real quick.

Mill Mountain completed ...

I had a few issues yesterday but I found solutions to all of them.
First problem I had with doing a test render for the trailer was twitching shadows.
I upped to lightmap resolution on the ledge's sand parts from 512 to 1024 and that took care of that problem.
I also had huge temp files on my C drive and that affected my RAM so I cleaned all that up.
Have to remember to keep and eye on that  :-)
Other issues were with getting the right brightness and texture on the frame left side mountain of the Mill Station. I discovered that if you just put one large mountain object in there the sunlight on it doesn't give the desired result. So I broke it up into two objects so the lightmap resolution could be more effective. Also just to get the shape of it right with smoothing and sculpting in Blender was tricky. When sculpting large objects like mountain cliffs I find those pointy features to be very annoying. It happens because you don't want to subdivide too much and then you get rogue vertices that sticks out and makes a sharp point in the mesh. It then looks "modeled" so you have to go back and smooth that point out. I also discovered that tangent space can only be calculated in Blender with triangles and square polys so you have to be careful when you subdivide after you triangulated to again triangulate the new subdivisions otherwise you get and export error. I first though it was a bug in Blender 2.79 but it wasn't. One thing I still have to figure out is how to match the smoothing in Blender with the imported result in U4. Somehow there seems to be less detail in the smoothing once inside U4. I am sure its just a setting I still have to figure out.
Other than that I have to smaller rocks on the ledge surrounding the plane left to do on the Mill Station's side of the cliffs then its onward to the surrounding mountains. I also knocked down the lightmap resolution of the far away mountains to 4. Since they are practically silhouettes and its very foggy so there is no need for high lightmap resolutions.

Monday ...

Two weeks left before I want to be done with my trailer.
I find that works best for Mill Mountain is one big piece at the top, the ledge of gravel all as one piece and one big bottom piece.
The subdividing the faces closest to the walking area for the character or playable area.
Further up or down I keep the faces fewer and bigger.
Smoothing on.
Lightmap resolution set at 512 and seemed to be holding up.
I pumped up the normal maps to make the texture more crispy.
I installed Blender 2.79 and seems to work fine with my older scripts.

Approach to mountains ...

1. Knocked down the lightmap resolution for the moss on the station walls to 8.
2. Moss do not cast shadows.
3. The very bottom parts of the Mill Station's lightmap resolution knocked down to
    4. That is the lowest a lightmap resolution can go on a static mesh.
4. The ledge gravel is a closed mesh, fairly simple geometry smoothed.
5. The texture of the gravel is tiled and fixed in world space.
6. Lightmap resolution for gravel is 512.
7. The vertical parts of the cliffs I am building with chunks with front faces only 
   subdivided and smoothed. The back ends I keep really basic and flat faces.

Mill's wheel is in ...

Mill Station coming along ...

Its my birthday today ...

Will celebrate with cake, free Starbucks drink and lots of gaming.  :-)

Boolean issues ...

I thought it would be fast to use a Boolean to punch holes into the Mill Station in Blender and that worked fine but ran into UV overlapping issues.
Looks like you have to make sure that every vertices along the edges are connected.
Now it works fine.

Crash on ROG and began modeling on the Mill station ...

I had a problem with my battery meter on my ROG laptop yesterday.
The machine shut off unexpectedly while my game project was open in the Unreal Editor.
It came back up but my user preferences were set back to default. I had to reset the colors of my folders inside my project and I had to delete empty folders that popped back up. Some meshes were scattered around outside of their folders too. So I had some Q&A and cleanup work to do today. I did a build of every level again. It all seems to be back in place.
The cleaner in the building was concerned that I used up all the toilet paper in the restrooms over the weekend. I guess he keeps a very good record on his toilet paper rolls. I rendered another version of the trailer out just to see how the plane renders out in its final state. No issues. Unreal did a fantastic job. Busy now on the Mill station itself.

Plane is now done. Onward with rest of trailer. 3 Weeks I hope.

Still building shaders and materials of plane inside U4 ...

Its going well but very slow.
Looks like its going to take 3 days to build them inside Unreal 4.
I am deleting some of the smaller parts since the camera is pretty far away in the trailer shot and the audience will never see it.
Watching the gameplay of Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.

Building shaders of plane ...

Going well just slow.
My neighbor's office door was left standing wide open and I pointed it out to the management. They closed it.
I met another game dev person who moved in on the same floor my office is at.
Interesting :-)
Watched some more Witcher 3 gameplay.

Building the materials and shaders for Cat inside unreal 4 ...

Imported Cat into Unreal and rendered a test trailer shot ...

Next step towards completion of the trailer ...

Is to position the Cat on the edge of the mountain cliff before I start breaking it up to make it a crashed plane.
It took 30 minutes for the Catalina to import into Unreal 4 but it did import and no issues.

Setting course for the last leg. Finishing the trailer ...

Pasted an Excel spreadsheet up against the wall. Schedule is worked out for every step towards the completion of the trailer.

Finally done with the Catalina model ...

Getting it ready for upload to my website now and adding PayPal button  :-)

Rear wheels texturing done ...

Front wheel greased ...

Bump maps, specular map updates and dirt passes going in ...

Have three things left to do on Catalina ...

1. Dirt pass.
2. Bump maps.
3. Updated specular maps with dirt added.
Then its done.
Looking forward to it.
I just did a pack test in Blender and it seems to work. Packed all the external image fils into Blender script so I can back the whole project up in one script.

Added lights almost done ...

I added lights.
I have the following left to do:
1. Dirt pass.
2. Bump maps.
3. Updated specular maps with dirt added.
4. Threads on tires.

Getting into final stages with Cat ...

1. Some objects on wing still need textures.
2. Dirt pass.
3. Bump maps.
4. Updated specular maps with dirt added.
5. Windows dirt and cleanup.
6. Threads on tires.
7. Weight paint fixes. 
8. Shorten stut pullers plus adjust its bones.

Colors almost done ...

Image texture / colors almost all in.
Then its just weathering and dirt pass.

Watching solar eclipse ...

Adjusted the sahders a bit but needs more fine tuning ...

... while waiting for the eclipse at 10.20 AM.

Colors coming in ...

Specular maps done ...

Finally done with the specular maps.
I picked up some minor artifacts in the painting on the tail fins of the plane.
I deleted Blender's temp files that was just over 4.5 GB in total.
Problem solved.
I am now ready to start putting in the actual colors of the plane.

Still working on specular maps ...

Going painfully slow but looking good.
Had panting specular maps.
After that I want to paint in the true colors and dirt and bump map passes.
Hopefully that wont take too long.

Working on reflection maps ...

Texturing begins finally ...

UV mapping and shaders done.
Its the final step.
Texturing! 

Cat still renders out fine ...

CPU render ...

My graphics card cant handle the Catalina render anymore.
Got out of memory errors.
So I changed over to CPU render and put the cap on Memory at 5000 GB.
Memory peaks during render at 2.6 GB on 8 processors.
It takes about 10 minutes for one frame to render.
About 200 of 309 objects have textures and shaders on them now.
Looks like the plane is holding together and Blender can still render it out.

Got my business license today yay!

Glass shader ...

Shaders with number mapping ...

Blender render layers ...

I will have to use render layers and combine those with nodes in the compositor in Blender. Blender is crashing on me with all the shaders.

Test render ...