Sunday, 13 July 2014

Foliage & Overgrowth

     From a very early point in development we toyed around with the idea of an overgrown version of Whitby and after a handful of concepts we felt it really worked in the context of what we wanted to produce for Off The Map. Come production this obviously meant that a large quantity of foliage assets would be required to convincingly pull this aesthetic off but they also had to be a major player in driving the Gothic atmosphere of the level. 

      Over the course of the project foliage was predominately my responsibility and during pre-production I spent a lot of time researching the species of plants that grow around the Abbey and the greater Whitby area and was able to narrow it down to what I felt best fitted our needs. From here I drew up quick info sheets on the unique elements of each plant such as bark texture, colours and leaf shape to help model realistic looking foliage assets. While we didn't concept each individual plant as I felt a lot of the form and design of our assets could be left until modelling and by utilising an flexible modelling system not only did we allow ourselves the room to edit the models relatively easily but also produce models and variations fairly quickly.

     One of the most important things to me was creating a foliage library that was A) reusable without repeating too obviously B) Compliment the colour palette and push the tone we were aiming for and C) could be used as a compositional tool to guide the player or emphasise certain features such as with the establishing shot of the abbey. There would also be plants specific to the exterior or interior for instance with the ivy and some of the trees had specific variants for areas for example within the abbey and, as I've just mentioned, with the establishing shot which you can see in the concept below.

     What did I need then in terms of plant life? Trees and grasses of course then I felt Heather would play an important role in breaking up the grass clumps while adding a new harmonising colour into the level. The Heather was used predominately on the cliff top and the cloister to give a wild look to the level and as a plant that I feel is quintessentially northern would hopefully help sell to the player that they were in Whitby. Ivy was also important for the interior and in establishing the overgrown aesthetic of much of the level. I challenged myself to create an almost modular Ivy kit that could be pieced together to create larger clumps quickly and with relative ease. For the Abbey's interior Kit produced a number of assets including ferns, cow parsley and nettles to further vary the foliage to create a more convincing look for the player. Below you can see some of it in action.

     The foliage plays a key part in our level, by supporting the atmosphere through form and colour to guiding the player with its placement and strengthening the composition of the key areas. In the end though I feel I was able to achieve my three goals that I mentioned before and was able to create a strong foliage library which we could utilise through out the level. So while perhaps not the most interesting of topics or roles within the team  it's certainly a challenging and important one.



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