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WPG: Particle systems in Ether

Particle systems in Ether posed pretty much the same problems as everything else so far. How to make them fit the Ether style? How can we make them quickly? Bellow you will find some of the particle systems I created for Ether and how the process was.

One of the main issues with VFX work is that it can be very time consuming. The other issue is, when making Ether in a hand painted style, you almost want to stray away from using technology too much and avoid normal maps or anything too “techy”. When making particles this was to be the same, however, since we didn’t have much time to meet our deadlines, We allowed technology to do most of the work for us. I figured, as long as the textures look like they belong in Ether, that’ll do!

The first particle system is the Flies that hover around the port’s lamp posts. This was simply made by creating a soft edged 16×16 texture of a yellowish dot. After that, I just applied an orbit module to the particles and adjusted their velocity and spawn areas. A very simple yet efficient particle system.

The second particle system is the chimney smoke. To make this I used a flipbook technique, in which I divided an image in 16 parts (4×4) to create the different steps of the animation of smoke from its birth to its expansion and eventual disappearance. This allowed me to make the smoke look hand painted and fit the ether style, while not having to worry about actual animation for the smoke. When importing, it’s important to check the “Flipbook” option. After that, I edited the material and applied it to the particle system, and after a few tweaks I got the effect I wanted.

For the wind particle systems, we decided to go with something more painterly, as if an invisible brush was drawing the strokes of wind within the world. To do this, a simple, soft edge 16×16 texture was used and a Ribbon Particle system was created. This allowed us to animate the particle system and move it around the level as it leaves a trail of paint on the world. The results are surprisingly nice for such a simple particle system!

The last particle system I wanted to look at is a prime example of how to create workflows that are efficient and fast for small teams. In the case level, the team had the idea of having birds flying around the level. Since creating 3d models of these and rigging them and then animate them would have taken up too many resources, I decided to tackle the problem with a particle system. I applied the same Flipbook principle I used for the chimney smoke and made a texture with the different stages of wing span of a bird’s flight. This allowed me to create hand painted textures of the birds, and after that, I was able to use an orbit module in the particle system to recreate the flying of the birds. The results were convincing and far cheaper than making a 3D version with animation.

You can find a video breakdown of the particle Systems of Ether here:

Particle Systems in Ether (click)

Thanks for  keeping up with our progress, it’s really motivating to see the support! Makes us want to work even harder! Keep the questions and comments coming and we’ll try and get a few more lined up for you :)

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Posted on by Pete Bottomley

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