theta legion vr|Player Lobby
One of the first environment designed for the game was the player lobby: limited in scope, it would be a good “proof of concept” for what the rest of the game environments would be. It would also allow us to front-load some graphic work on the UI, knowing that coding UI functionality can be time intensive.
As usual, before starting any work, I gather inspiring images that I put together in a moodboard. This allows me to identify the “graphic grammar” of my favorite environments and helps me define the art direction for my own.
In this case, a lot of these environments are defined by smooth 45 degree angles, mixed-material surfaces, a clash between predominantly cold palettes and warm highlights and an overall “utilitarian” feel.
I particularly liked the top image, with the bed located right by the window: even though the whole cabin needs to feel functional, a room with a view is a welcome small luxury 🙂
3D MODEL (3D Studio Max)
The model of the room was done in 3DSMax. Everything is “boxed modeled”, meaning that everything starts with a cube, with a lot of attention to keeping the polycount as low as possible.
Normally, I should have been careful about removing every single geometry that doesn’t appear on camera (like some backfaces, for example) but in order to save some time, and stay flexible on reusing the models, I only removed the large ones.
The whole environment is less than 2K polys and uses only 2 texture maps: one for the floor and walls, and another one for the furniture.
The Texture work is done in Photoshop. The larger texture file, the floor and walls is 512*512, while the texture file for the furniture is only 256*256 pixels. Praise be pixel art!
Because the models are so low poly, it is important that the textures feature as much details as possible that couldn’t be included in the geometry – which definitely was a challenge when using very low resolution such as 512/256 pixels.
Some elements in the scene, such as hanging pipes, ladders, tableware, etc are just “billboarded” quad/planes in the engine, relying exclusively on a sprite to convey the meaning of the object.
Not only my intention was to limit as much as possible the geometry to limit the overdraw in VR, but I also firmly believe that the simple, somewhat square-ish geometry contributes to the “pixel art” vibe I wanted for the game.
As I was painting the texture in Photoshop, I would test it “live” in my Unity scene, check out how it would look, the areas that needed more details, go back in Photoshop, make my changes, re-export my texture, and so forth: the whole process of making the texture involves Unity opened at all time and a constant back and forth between the engine and the painting software.
As I’m painting the texture and checking it in Unity, I consider primordial to also work on the lighting at the same time: lighting affects the texture, and in case of static lights, can help define “areas of focus” that will require more details, or, at the opposite, darken other areas, precluding important details from being seen.
The lighting of this scene is pretty straight forward and minimal: all lights are baked (In game, I will use a dynamic point or directional light that will only affects the gun layer, in order to simulate spacial lighting on the character)
The scene includes 8 baked lights that allows me to convey a tonal mood for each section of the environment: soft blues and whites for the resting area, yellow for the living quarters, darker moody blue for the weapon storage and red/orange for the exit. Of course, all of these mood lights are subtle and softened by one white area light in the center of the room, and 2 exterior lights simulating outdoor lighting.
THE CENTER MENU UI
User interfaces can be tricky within a VR context: nobody really wants to have a menu shoved right in front of their eyes. Since we did had a player lobby, and since our setting is Sci-fi, I thought it would be fun to use that room to hold the main UI, that would be represented as an hologram, at the center of the room: this way the player could get as close or far as she/he wants.
Also, since we are using the same “point and click/shoot” mechanics as the rest of the game, the lobby would almost act as a mini-tutorial on how to use the controls: if you can click your way to selecting your first mission, you are good to go and kill your first enemies!
Here is a video of the environment in game (at the time it was still work in progress: pay no mind to the big center User Interface, it’s been heavily edited since then)
and some screenshots: