Friday, 23 May 2014

Dissertation Summary

The end to the dissertation has arrived and it's definitely been a journey, that of which I'm pleased to say that I've learnt a lot of new things on the way. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the whole production process was in fact the researching of the history of ancient Chinese architecture. I have always had a personal interest in ancient Chinese architecture, however I never had the opportunity in which I could use the research for a specific purpose.

In particular, I enjoyed the fact that the carpenters of the ancient Chinese world were able to construct massively complex structures using only a small range of simple assets, such as 'Dous' and 'Gongs' hence the name, the Dougong system. Furthermore, I also discovered that the system was so successful at withstanding the test of time due to the fact that the downward force of the higher tier frameworks are dissipated equally throughout out the whole construction system.

I liked the challenge of my project, however at the same time I felt as though I had over scoped the amount of time it would take to complete a working system of my own. Because it took so long to complete this system I therefore had to rush other processes such as texturing, unwrapping and testing. In addition to this, I failed to model the amount of objects that I had originally intended to create. From this, I also was unable to create a set of Normal maps for the objects I initially planned this mainly being the roof tiling texture.

While I struggled to complete my model within my self set time period, I however managed to achieve a primary goal that I had set during my proposal of completing my whole kit within 45,000 polygons. After the completion of the modelling process my total polygon count was 25,043. Although I am pleased with the fact that my polygon count was lower than anticipated, I feel as though it would have been better to make use of the full amount of proposed polygons. On the other hand, if this was the case, I believe that I would have been less efficient at completing other goals and therefore completed overall even less tasks.

At the end of the whole process of my dissertation I found that the gathering of the final assets within UDK produced a large set of unforeseen issues. For one, my mesh instances did not work correctly on all of the assets due to the fact that UDK does not support more than one base material per item. Although 3dsMax did produce the result I first desired for my final outcome, My main goal was to produce the assets and place them within UDK. Another error during this process was that the objects origin point was not centered and I completely ran out of time so I was unable to fix this.

On completing my research, I was able to answer my overall question around my dissertation, which was to see if complex structures could be made and constructed from modular assets for use in a game engine. I would respond with that they can indeed be produced using this method however it requires a lot of measuring and preparation beforehand to produce assets with such precise and accurate parameters.

Adding the models to UDK

Here I will be exporting my Chinese village kit of models and placing them within UDK to create a small village. I first then exported each individual object from 3dsMax as an ASE file extension. Overall there were 47 files to export.

Adding all the static meshes wasn't difficult as I put them all within the same grouping of 'Meshes.' Next the materials were to be imported. At this point I like to add one material at a time so I can tell when I have a problem. Because I was using PNG's I instantly ran into a problem with my texture diffuse files. The texture came out in a variety of multicoloured yet some would come out perfect. I consulted our lecturer Chris Janes and he challenged me if I had given the page an alpha channel as within UDK if a PNG is used it needs one. To make sure it does, the texture needs to have the wasted areas either white or transparent. So at this point I went through all the diffuse maps and changed them so that they all had an alpha channel which then resolved the issue.

The same problem also occurred with the specular maps and so those also needed to be edited. I then had to assign the textures to their model counter parts. At this point I realised my earlier mistake of giving them mostly all similar names, this proved to cause a few organisation problems when assigning textures.

Here is a problem that I only encountered within UDK, within 3dsMax the above model uses separate texture files and is able to do this without any flaws, however within UDK the program does not allow the the user to use multiple texture maps for a single object, for example 2 diffuse maps per object. In the object above it uses the material 'Courtyardwallmaster2' but it also contains several mesh instances from another model. This seemed fine in 3dsMax as it allowed the texturing of both instances on the model however UDK does not. At this point I did not have the time to improve and fix this issue, however if I did have some extra time at the end of the project, this would be an issue that I would try to have overcome if possible.

In addition to this, whilst manipulating the models within UDK, I immediately found that the pivot points of each individual object did not retain the settings I originally hoped for. This was a problem that I would have also hoped to change however, I had 47 individual models to alter and thus I didn't have time to make the changes.

Subsequently, this caused the above problem to occur. I believe that this was the reason why the kit within UDK did not function properly, in that I struggled to fit some of the pieces together and had to keep adjusting the scale, this was an issue with all the pieces that within the original design were not set on a factor of 16.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A look at the kit...

Here's a quick look at the kit in all it's glory in the perspective mode of 3dsMax.

As you can see, all of the objects are organised and textured appropriately in order to aid quick level production, each of the individual building s re arranged by size so that a level designer can select and grab multiple objects at once.

Diffuse Texturing Process Completed

I have now completed the diffuse texturing process and have still to do a set of specular maps for the models. As of now here is a quick screenshot of a UVW unwrap and it textured fully with a diffuse.

Here you can see I've put emphasis on the grain of the wood, the majority of the objects are placed along similar grains to save time during this process of texturing.

Here you can also see the texture of the tiles that I've begun to complete. The detailed dragon was taken off of a picture of an already existing Chinese tile, which can be seen here...

I changed the colour values to match the tone of roof I desired for my models, which was a swampy green. This was done with the colourise function within Adobe Photoshop.

Unfortunately I don't enough time to complete a set of normal maps for the models as I've run out of time for this process which I really wanted to complete. It was a goal I set myself If I had more time but unfortunately I can't.

Some of the grass pieces I used seem less textures which I also found helpful online, they were also free to use and can be found here...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

UVW unwrapped and texturing process begun

I'm pleased to announce that I UVW unwrapped all of my models earlier utilising instances where possible. Some examples of the unwraps can be seen below. I often struggle with unwrapping but I seem to have coped okay with the overall amount of objects I had to unwrap. I have given certain UV islands more space if they were used frequently within the model or were at the players head height. This was to reduce stretching of the pixels that is obvious to the player and could be seen from the players point of view.

This UV map is the whole unwrap of the main building excluding the roof. This is also both double building and triple buildings. It's tried my best to pack the UV islands so that there is the as least possible texture space wasted. The unwrap is a 1024 x 1024 render as this was what was stated on my proposal for my maximum unwrap dimension size. 

Here you can see the full scale of the set of models I have made. The blue indicates the model pieces being fully unwrapped. The black area is the part that was being currently unwrapped when this image was taken.

From this point I thin started to create the diffuse texture for the models. I began on the part of the structure that was most important to the dissertation, so I began with texturing the building, a piece in particular was a Dou piece that had been instanced nearly over 100 times throughout the model kit.

To get this wood texture I used a hardwood texture online and then multiplied it on a separate layer to give the textured layer on top of a base red colour. The texture I used can be found here and was posted and has a public domain license.

From this point I will just keep working on my texturing process, until completion.

Kratochvil, Petr . (N/A). Wood Texture. Available: Last accessed 20th May 2014.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

UVW unwrapping started + Preparation techniques

Just a quick update, I have prepared the models for unwrapping, as a solution to the many pieces I have to unwrap that are similar I have developed a simple solution. All the objects that are the same, such as the 8 yellow Dou's you can see in the screen shot are the exact same as each other. My plan is to now delete all of those that are copied and create a 'Master' clone. From this I will then copy the master clone creating instances and replacing the deleted clones with the replacement instances. This will then mean that I would only have to unwrap the single 'Master' Dou and it shall unwrap all of the copied instances. Although the textures will come out the same, the materials of what they are made of (red stained wood) will be the same and that's what I'm going for.

From the image above, you can clearly see the 'master' Dou for this model, unwrapping this piece would unwrap all of the yellow ones. So this method should hopefully save me some extra time whilst unwrapping. I've never done this method or thought of doing this method previously to this but I'm hoping it can shave some production time off of my creation process.

To show clearly what I'm talking about I have a quick demonstration below, I'm going to refer to this as the 'master and slave' technique. Here you can see the whole main model with the master and slave technique. The master pieces are in black and the slave pieces are in bright green.

From this you can see how much less unwrapping I have to do, this will also be the same fore texturing also. Let's have a closer look at a whole set of brackets.

Black pieces = Master | Green Pieces = Slave

This side shows a lot of master pieces in use, however I tried to keep the master pieces to all one side of the model so I can keep them all grouped to ease the unwrap process. Here below you can now also see the other side of the model, this can really show the amount of reduction to the unwrapping stage this could potentially do, green being the parts I wont have to unwrap again, only once with the master piece.

For a quick demonstration on a single master piece of how it will work. Here is a small 'Dou' with it's master being affected in some way, as you can see it affects all instances within the scene.

Honestly I wish I though of this much, much sooner into the production process as it would of saved a lot of time, but oh well. We learn and must soldier on...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Resetting my Xforms and finishing the modelling process.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed these white bounding boxes around my models becoming slanted and I was concerned if they would affect the final outcome of my project. I did some searching online to find out what the issue was and according to a forum post on the website, the issue is with the bounding box. The bounding box coordinates have shifted and have turned on their side, and seem to have warped completely out of shape, this can be seen below.

I did some further investigation on the Autodesk 3dsMax help document on their website and it states that.

"The bounding box is the smallest box that encloses the maximum dimensions or extents of an object. A bounding box appears around selected objects in non-Wireframe viewports."

I also then found out on the CGArchitect forum that to reset the bounding box, all I had to do was reset the objects Xform.

And now you can see the bounding box fits parallel to the ground now.

In the picture above you can see a cross section of a small roof piece, here I am applying a symmetry modifier as I was advised by a friend of mine that I could cut down polygons by using this modifier and then merging it at the seem on the roof tiles. This would also remove any unseen anomalies within the structures dimensions.

A technique I've been using myself is that when a model is ready for UVW unwrapping, I will change their whole model to a certain colour, in this instance for the walls I'm using green.

Here you can see this and how close I am to unwrapping, the yellow model is the current model I'm preparing and So after this post I will begin the unwrapping procedure. Which is something I can't wait to begin.

AutoDesk. (N/A). Bounding Box. Available:,topicNumber=d30e600845. Last accessed 8th May 2014.

Wildman, Peter. (2010). How do u reset the bounding box to align with the object?. Available: Last accessed 7th May 2014.