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  1. Off the Map 2013 - Afterthoughts

    Tuesday, 5 November 2013

    Hello everyone. Firstly, we'd like to apologise for the amount of time it's taken us to respond to all the interest you've shown in our level. I mean, wow. Really; the amount of publicity, and all of the amazing comments we've received over the last two weeks has been staggering, we could not be more grateful.



      
    A quick intro for those who don’t know us. We are six students studying Game Art Design at DeMontfort University, Leicester, all in our final year. During the latter half of our second year studies, we were invited to take part in a brand new competition set by Crytek, Gamecity and The British Library collaboratively. The competition was titled: Off the Map. 
      
    The six of us established Pudding Lane Productions as part of our second year group project. We chose to take part in the Off the Map project as we knew that it was an opportunity to develop our 3D art and concept design skills, as well as demonstrating how video game technology can be used in a variety of different ways. 

     On  the 23rd of October at Gamecity in Nottingham, Pudding Lane Productions were announced as the winners of the 2013 Off The Map competition for our 3D reproduction of 17th Century London, which we had designed using reference taken from the historic maps in the British Library, and built using state-of-the art CryEngine technology.
      
    Since winning the award a few weeks ago we’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback and response from the general public to the mainstream media, something that none of us were expecting when we began working on the project. Many questions have been highlighted in recent weeks some of which we can answer here for you now.

     As already mentioned, we chose to participate in this project and establish Pudding Lane Productions, as part of our second year group project. We never intended for the final map to be available to play for the general public as releasing a game in the typical fashion for PC or games console is a completely different ball game. Our London has had a lot of love (and disease) poured into it, and whilst we'd love for everyone to have a stroll in it's unsanitary streets, it was created primarily as an accurate, immersive visualisation rather than a durable game experience. If, however, we can find a way for you to be able to experience the level first hand, preferably bug free (we did not have a dedicated QA team, and 14 weeks is a pretty short amount of time!) then we will certainly consider making it available.
      
    In regards to what the team is planning to do next; we'd love to say more projects. But, of course, we are all still university students, and our course eats up a lot of our time. Off The Map was a completely new venture for both the course, and us as individuals, and we used every hour we could of those 14 weeks to get it looking the way it does.

     Again, the team would like to thank everybody for the incredible amount of feedback and support we have received over the last few weeks, and we're overwhelmed that our project has spread so far and been of interest to such a wide and varied audience. From historians, to primary school teachers using our work in their class rooms, we are all extremely happy that our work has made such an impact.

    We'd like to thank the British Library and in particular Tom Harper and Stella Wisdom for the access we were given to their incredible resources at the library, as well as Crytek for the use of CryEngine, which truly is an artist's tool.

    Last but not least, we would like to thank our tutors: Mike Powell, Heather Williams, and Chris Wright for their ongoing support throughout the project.
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    Also, if you would like to get in contact with any of the team, we'll post e-mails below, but our blog links can be found on the right hand side of this page which have portfolio and contact details as well.

    Dan Hargreaves: dan_7115@hotmail.com
    Joe Dempsey: joedempseygameartist@hotmail.co.uk
    Luc Fontenoy: lucfonzy@hotmail.co.uk
    Dominic Bell: dominicbell2206@gmail.com
    Daniel Peacock: dan.pea@live.co.uk
    Chelsea Lindsay: chelsealindsaydmuga@gmail.com
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  2. Map Submission

    Tuesday, 27 August 2013

    The level has been submitted as of today. It's out of our hands!

    While we actually finished back in June, we had the summer to push the level, but unfortunately due to the group going seperate ways, communication was tough and the level was pretty much left as it was. Needless to say though we're all still very happy with the results, and a couple of us did continue to add some more detail and life to the level.

    We've had great support from our tutors and the people at Crytek, it's been a blast working on this project, having the opportunity to work in a team on such an interesting subject.

    Below are some screengrabs, and a video flythrough.










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  3. We are now entering the last push for the deadline. Which means there’s a lot of work on our plate to polish our level to a degree we are happy with, which seems to be pretty high.

    In our last presentation before the final one last Tuesday. We received a lot of helpful feedback and ideas from the tutors and fellow students. The main issue being we need to bring the level more alive with movement, as at the time walking through the level felt like a ghost town.

    Most of the props for the level have been finished, so the main task was to tackle the lifeless level. We did this by making loads of little scenes to place throughout the level, such as market stalls, and knocked over pub furniture to imply a fight the night before. The whole point of this is to tell a story, making the level more believable. To tackle the lack of movement in our level without being able to put characters in was tricky. But we decided that making loads of little particle effects will solve it.

    I (Dan Hargreaves) was tasked to create bundles of firewood, a terrain texture of wet mud with puddles, a haypile and some flowers.

    3 types of fire wood which can be arranged into large bundles

    Tiling texture of wet mud with foot prints

    3 types of flowers. Although the daffodils have been removed as the don't fit with the season we are aiming for 


    Dan peacock was tasked to create a variety of meats to add to market stalls, a range of decals to break up the tiling textures and a skybox.


    Various chunks of highly detailed meats to place throughout the level



    Dans sky box with a distant skyline


    A decal shows the materials behind the plaster


    Dom used the week to make amendments to his boat models, produce a range of farm tools and ropes.

    Selection of farm tools



    Ropes to add more character to the docks




    Chelsea made a wide range of market stalls along with a number of small props. She also made a few changes to some of her older models.

    A massive range of market stalls


    A range of posters with related news to the time period for extra authenticity

    Luc had the large task of putting all our props together in engine, mainly focusing on the doc area. As well produce the much need movement in our level through particle effects.


    Smoke and fire particle effects
    Flies buzzing around a slaughterd pig

    Docks are starting to take shape


    Joe used the week to produce a large array of environment clutter and some little scenes to fill out the bland streets.

    A large array of furniture to little the empty streets




    Keep an eye on our blog, as were just finishing off the last few bits, then our level will be complete.


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  4. Over the last few weeks our level has grown significantly in scale and in quality, but one problem we have encountered that has been mentioned in previous posts is the majority of the level looking very similar. There has been multiple suggestions for trying to combat this issue such as colour grading specific areas of the level, the inclusion of smaller prop assets should help break areas up and finally modelling a selection of unique buildings.

    Chelsea Lindsay has already begun this process by building a selection of unique tavern buildings to place around the level as well as various unique signs based on actual documented buildings from various sources souch as the diary of Samuel Pepys, and whilst it has been my job throughout the project to plan and produce concepts for Pudding Lane I was happy to take on the important job of designing and building the model for Farriner's (or Faynor) bakery which is located on Pudding Lane. The bakery bears some significance to our project for a number of reasons, first of all our teams name 'Pudding Lane Productions' and the fact that our level has expanded outwards from Pudding Lane. As well as this Thomas Farriner was actually the Kings appointed baker, but most importantly Thomas Farriner's bakery on Pudding Lane is the location in which the Great Fire of London is said to of started.

    More information on Thomas Farriner can be found here;
    http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Explore-online/Past/LondonsBurning/People/record.htm?type=person&id=150785

    The team wanted the bakery to be unique but not stand out so much that it looked out of place in our level. That in mind I tried my best to design the bakery using the materials and textures we had been using. I also wanted to the building to have an interesting shape, although not unimaginable, as well as considering the inclusion of some important elements such as where the shop sign would be placed, chimneys,  large display windows etc. Thankfully I had managed to gather some invaluable reference during our visit to York as well as throughout the project. Below are my initial sketches, final concept, renders of the model and examples of the model in the engine.

    My initial sketches of Farriner's Bakery building designs 
    Final concepts for Farriner's Bakery including various ideas for props to be placed outside
    You might notice from the renders of my final model below that the bottom right window is slightly different. This is because I've also included an alpha channel in this one window with a simple interior inside, including doors, stairs and a simple oven. Once in engine, Luc Fontenoy has said he will be able to place lights inside the room and inside the oven to give the impression that the bakery is being used during gameplay.
    Orthographic renders of the final model

    And below is a selection of the final bakery model in engine in our level. The team struggled to find any reference in relation to where the actual bakery was situated on Pudding Lane so when Luc Fontenoy put the model into our level he placed it about half way along the street. In the screen shots you can see some of the bakery specific props starting to populate the surrounding area built by Dan Hargreaves and Dom Bell as well as the unique bakery sign that Chelsea Lindsay has designed.



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  5. Propulating

    Friday, 26 April 2013

    Hey all!

    Despite having street upon street of our London fully built and explorable now, the level is still looking a bit empty and similar  So to avoid creating what is essentially a very pretty labyrinth right now, our top priority was cranking out more and more prop assets again this week.

    I've (Chelsea) been making a bit of an assorted collection of smaller assets to add a little bit more interest to some of our streets.

    Farriner's Bakery Board - I made the texture with composite layers, so  I left my  layer details on the render for Luc. But since we're not really sure how to translate to Cry, I'm probably gonna have to remake this simpler. Doh.

    Stray planks - Tudor streets were lined with these for use as pathways amongst the mud and filth.
    Tavern signs and the sign for Farriner's Bakery. Based off real documented taverns.
    Market Cross

    Fish Stall Set-up - I've started merging my produce assets with our stalls to create individual merchants
    Joe's been on building duty this week, tackling the docks area in particular as we had yet to replace our warehouse placeholders.

    He made two more wooden textures for use on the warehouses as well as any of our other upcoming props

    Storage shed


    Warehouse building

    Full selection of Dock buildings

    Dan Hargreaves has been focusing on ground details in particular, such as remaking the cobblestones and making grass.

    New and improved - The previous cobblestones looked a bit more like beach pebbles in our level, so this new texture was a much needed upgrade
    Planes of grass, which blow in the breeze and add a little more movement and life to our level.
    Misc - Guts and Manure. Nice surprises to find in our streets.
    A standard crate - for use basically everywhere.
    Dan Peacock has been working on butchery assets in particular such as meats and carcasses. In particular, he's been spending a lot of time making a high detail pig to draw a bit more interest to our butchers.
    Draining pig - appetising
    Dom's been on smaller clutter props, such as various tools and utensils to scatter around some of the corners of our level and outside specialist buildings.

    Bakery goods

    Boats

    Blacksmith utensils




    Luc's mostly been improving our lighting and importing/placing our props as they are made, but he's also took up the responsibilty of constructing London Bridge and the gate in particular.

    Concept of London Bridge - The gate.
    He also made a brick texture especially for the bridge.
    Lighting upgrade - new shadows and cubemaps are making our level look a lot more atmospheric and a lot less flat.

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