Change of plan

Our entire set for Black North was optimised and packaged up, which we then handed over to them and they seemed pretty happy with it. At our most recent meeting we were told that a few more blocks of ice were needing modelled and textured…

Below are a few images I looked at to see how ice would react to light (is it transparent, is it solid) and how the surface of the object could look: scratches, cracks etc…

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I then used the tutorial below as a guide/starting point for texturing the ice model, the results were achieved by using a ramp shader and noise map:

Starting off in mud box, I created a rough shape from a cube…

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I then brought the model into maya, where I started applying the techniques from the link above, but also making a few adjustments of my own to fit the requirements of what Black North were asking for…

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first render:

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I felt that the render above was a little plain looking.. there was no colour, nothing interesting about it, so I tried to change that. I duplicated the model and resized it so it would fit inside itself,  then changed the colour of this smaller model to a light blue and gave it a slightly brighter ambient colour, in the hope that the extra light might bounce around a little inside the larger object. The transparency of the object was also adjusted to make it more solid/ visible through the first model.

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I still wasn’t happy with the colour, there was too much blue – no other colours were present, so in an attempt to fix that I placed a cube inside the smaller model, which was less transparent than the others and I gave it a grey colour. Im a bit happier with the render below as now there are a couple of colours bouncing around.

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We then received a message from the guys at Black North to say that the game had been changed and could we create a new level based on the new designs, giving us 4 days to create the level so it was going to be a bit tight with time. The file below is the example we were given…

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This time our set would be 7 tiles that would join together (we will create one each.) This time the models were to be as low a polycount as possible, this being the main reason the game was changed, and we would still be sticking with the ice environment.

I started off by modelling an environment in mud box…

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which I then brought into maya and retopologised using the quad draw tool (remembering not to press three to smooth the model as it will be taken into soft image when we pass it on) :

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Unwrapped the UV’s by firstly unwrapping using the best plane, decided where my seams would be and cut the UV edges before finally using the 3D unwrap tool. These UV’s were obviously a lot easier to unwrap compared to the previous set…

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This time regarding textures were decided we would go for more ice rather than rock and snow, seeing as the panels looked like they were some sort of cave. Below are some of the textures I experimented with…

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Before settling with the textures below:


Originally I had ice walls and banks of snow at each side but it just didn’t look right, so I switched it to be snow walls with banks of ice which just in general a lot better.

The ambient occlusion was baked in:

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And multiplied over the textures in photoshop:

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A normal map was also created using crazy bump:

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Then it was onto lighting the scene, I added an ambient light with a rather low intensity to give some basic light. I wanted my light source to be coming form the ice.. as if it was giving off light that was then being reflected by other bits of ice. So to create this I added in a few spot lights, all different in size (penumbria and cone angle) intensity and colour giving the results below.

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Once I (and the rest of the team of course) were happy with the lighting, the light and colour were baked in:

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Fly through:

Ice Environments…

After another meeting with the guys at Black North it was decided that we would all be working on the ice level together as they really liked Emma’s concept below which is really interesting to look at!


It was nice to have a change and to get away from the sci fi style of work, although there’s only so long that a person can stare at shades of blue and white for! The next week was spent creating concept art for the level which we would then piece together to create one environment (the level) which we would then go on to model.

While researching I came across ‘Chasing Ice’ a documentary that shows the changes of our planet over a period of three years.. some of the photographs these guys managed to capture are just stunning, along with the film’s cinematography, it can even be said to be haunting how the videos show the changing of the environment in just seconds!

I also looked into concept art from a few films.. X-men:days of future past, Oblivion and even Frozen and Harry Potter, to gain an idea and understanding of the landscape, how other people have approached the idea…


The image above would make an interesting environment, seeing the open and vast landscape before diving down into the crevice to dodge obstacles and race through, although the vastness of the image below is also works, the atmosphere created by the light is interesting, the use of the light would create a focal point/ destination point for the player.

Below are concepts from Frozen and Harry Potter… In particular I find the use of light really interesting with the images below and how it draws the viewers eye.. e.g. with the image of the shrieking shack, the light reveals to the audience where the characters are heading to next, the next part of the story…

Frozen-Concept-Art-of-Arendelle-frozen-34496741-5000-2331 FROZEN The_Shrieking_Shack_(Concept_Artwork_for_the_HP3_movie_01) Hogsmeade

The technique we have been using to create our concept art…

My first concept for the ice level was created from the an image of the view from behind a frozen waterfall and a snow wall texture that was then duplicated down the left side of the image.

ice environment

With this concept I was trying to draw the player into the action happening on screen, by creating the shape of a tunnel I was trying to make it seem as if they are being lead around the back of the waterfall. The tunnel also acted as the focal point of the image, somewhere for the player to aim for.

However the colours of the water may be too harsh when placed against the softness of the snow texture.. the colour is possibly a little too bright.

Again with the concept below I wanted to create a sense of action happening within the scene – Creating this by placing an ‘overhanging icicle’ to make it feel as though the ships are moving through the image at speed – having to tilt to avoid colliding with the landscape and creating  a sense of depth by placing an image of mountains in the background, the overhanging icicle was also to placed to hide some of the image from viewers to draw them in… they should want to know what is behind it, what will meet the ship as enters out into the open sky?

ice concept 2

With this final concept I was trying to create more of an ‘open’ image, the previous concepts all had something enclosing the ship into a small space. I decided that an ice wall was a good place to start, the image was duplicated across, at a slight angle to add a bit of drama and blended together. Also to give the player a destination/ focal point of the level – something for them to travel towards – I added a cave, giving the image an element of mystery, the player is going from a wide open space to an enclosed tunnel, also adding to this are the mountains in the background, meaning the player has to travel through the cave, will they be travelling through the mountains? and how long for? The ship was then added and placed at angle opposing to the background and in the foreground a slightly blurred (to convey the speed the ship is travelling at) ice/rock formation… has the player just left a cave/enclosed space which will create a contrast to the open ice field they are entering?

ice evironment 3

The next stage will be to model our environments – not concentrating on detail as this is still just pre-vis – to get an idea of layout and what assets will be needed throughout, there will be at least 7 parts to the level as we each will model a section and then bring them together to form one.

We decided to print off some of the concept work we had created and stick it up on the wall, give each image a number and from there we could connect the images to help us visualise the different sections that were going to be modelled, this also allowed us to make sure that no-one’s would be following a similar path.

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Some other concept art I used as inspiration…

Feng Zhu environment concepts: The vastness evident in the two images below is what stood out to me and what I tried to create within my own concepts.

feng_zhu_07 winter_travellers_by_andreasrocha-d4ij92a

Ice Age concept art: This work was an example as how light would bounce around the inside of a cave.

images Ice-Age-4-Characters-design-by-Peter-DeSeve-7 adIA3__0002_treeCave3

Cracking the ice

Daryl was able to create a crack in the ice using a locator and curve which we were then able to animate within the scene. Hannah then animated the scene but ran into a problem when rendering, where the penguin would not smooth so she passed it onto me to fix.

An over the shoulder type shot in which the penguin would be reacting to the crack forming before him in the ice:

I felt that with the animation above the penguin appeared to already know where the crack would appear next, his actions needed to happen after the movement of the crack:


Ice Environments

We are trying to decide on the design of our landscape so I went in search of some concept art to see some of the styles already out there…

Some concept art from Ice Age:

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The colours used in both of the images is fantastic especially the lighting in the landscape image, however the height of the icebergs is what caught my attention, the size and scale compared to everything else in the composition.



The colours used for the shadows and highlights of the snow are something we could possibly apply to our environment depending on what style we choose, I just thought the above image had a very simple style through the colours used that could be recreated.

Below are a few other images I came across on pinterest. I took these images because of the colours used, they have a range of styles that we can choose from and adapt as our own.




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I especially love the colours and patterns used in the image above, they are just so different to any of the images in the rest of this post but this is something we could possibly try or even use in the background of our set – the backgrounds will be painted in photoshop.