The first challenge at White Paper Games came in the form of water. Replicating realistic water is quite a feat on its own, however, for Ether, we required the water to make sense with the world and follow the artistic style that we had already established for the game. This created a number of challenges that needed to be solved:
- How do we make the water hold up to the visual style of Ether?
- How can we make water using the minimum amount of resources possible?
- Can we make the water reusable and applicable to non-ocean instances?
- How can we animate the water without any physics simulations?
This set of questions had to be answered and here is the result we have come up with:
The first and foremost concern I had was to keep the visual style of Ether intact. Therefore, the normal map that would create the ripples would have to be hand painted.
I used Corel Painter for this instead of Photoshop. In Corel, you can adjust the amount of paint added to the brush and make it lit so that it feels thick and painted on canvas; I felt this was crucial in order to get a good painterly effect on the water. The result was pretty bad for the first set of tries but I ended up getting an effect that was quite nice:
Now I just had to mix a couple of sets of normal and pan them in different directions and a subtle effect was created!
Now that the ripples were sorted, I needed to focus on animation… an ocean has waves and this couldn’t be simulated with physics considering our limitations, so a workaround had to be found. I started doing a lot of research into how to solve this and began to create a solution to this problem.
Using the world displacement node in the material, I could displace certain parts of the mesh based on a mathematical expression. The fastest way to do this was using a Sine wave. In short, it creates a wave that varies from black to white, making everything that’s white push up, and everything that’s black go down. The good thing about this is that it’s extremely cheap (only 4 instructions in the material). The only downside to this is that it works based on the amount of verts the mesh has, so it meant our water shader had to be quite highpoly. In the end, we went with a 2048 triangle mesh, which is still pretty low poly for a whole Ocean!
The next problem was to make the oceans depth believable and also make the foam for the water when it hits other meshes.
For the foam, using a depth biased alpha with a foam texture worked fine. For the translucency, playing with a few values did the trick and the results were quite convincing.
Here is a picture of the full material expression and couple of videos, one explaining my approach, another just showing the wate rin action, inside the game:
This expression is highly reusable, in fact, it became the base for all foliage and wind based materials in the game! So I’m very happy I took the time to make sure this material was spot on and game ready as soon as possible.
Next, I will begin to talk about the foliage for Ether!
The work in December consisted of fleshing out the prologue to Ether One and working on the hub world for the game.
The shot above shows the hub world in a very bare form. Me and my fellow artist James sat down and planned out how we could make the environment more interesting. We discussed how a large structure in the center of the dome would help bring the environment together. Like a sauce for linking Jeans memories with the player.
The images below show 3 stages of creating the concept for the hub world.
This is how we intend the level to look once it is complete.
The Ether Institute and other Science Fiction environments are based in the 1950/60s so all of the reference images for computers and technical equipment come from that era. Me and James also visited the museum of science and industry in Manchester and found some really nice circuit boards and old computer systems.
The Ether Chair that was textured at the Futureworks presentation is the focal point for this room.
The shots Below are taken from the living quarters I was working on in the last post, this time they have the right textures and assets in place. These environments are still a work in progress, but none the less a step in the right direction.
If you have any questions leave a comment and thanks for reading !
I continued to create the new harbor area, in the next month we planned to put out a gameplay trailer so I had a few weeks to completely finish this area. The shots below show continued development.
I then had to move on to creating the second part of the mining area as shown in the development shots below.
Reusing Texture Sheets.
In a previous blog post I mentioned how i created a texture for the metal shutters with the intention of re-using it on other assets. Below are mine carts that I textured using the shutter texture. It is also used on the train tracks as well as the settling tanks, but these meshes also required the use of wood textures. It all helps in saving memory and with the amount of detail we want to pack into Ether, every little helps.
Player Arm & Lamp
In the first level of Ether the player has to hold a Davy Lamp so to help with immersion we need an arm with a hand holding the Lamp. Below is a shot of the Arm and the corresponding texture sheet.
Below are some texture sheets I created for the finished Harbor they are not yet complete as they need line work and some overlay textures.
Creating an important Area
After the release of the gameplay trailer I got to work on a new environment, it was a 1950/60s Science Fiction living quarters. The shots below she me using existing textures and assets to create an initial pass. The wall textures and furnishings would soon be changed.
I then textured the Ether Chair, showing all of my processes and steps to creating the Ether style. Below you can see the finished chair on the Steam Greenlight icon, a Reference image sheet and the texture sheet.
Thanks for reading this blog. If you have any questions/comments don’t hesitate to ask Next up, we’ll be showing the more sci-fi undertones of Ether in the HUB area.
Using the Mining environment assets I created some test scenes to see what kind of caves shapes can be created using the one rocky wall mesh. The results below show that a lot of natural open spaces can be created.
Small Vertical Slice
Pete was planning to upload Ether onto Steam Greenlight and wanted to create a trailer showing more of the game. I created this small vertical slice for a camera pan shot. Below shows some work in progress shots from editing the environment to finished lighting build.
Creating new Textures and Building Industrial Mining Area
I decided to create some more wall textures to add more verity to the games buildings. I had to create a large industrial mining area so brickwork along with metal paneled roof textures where needed.
Corrugated Metal Roof.
Painted Wooden Wall.
Bare Wooden Wall.
Once I had created an assortment of textures I set out building the industrial area based on Pete’s designs and research into Cornish mining areas. The shots below show the process of building the scene.
Once the exterior was built and finished I fleshed out the interiors by adding floors, support struts, stairs and railings. I also did a basic lighting pass.
Due to the fast pace of my work flow I was able to create this scene in a couple of days. The modular process has enabled me to work fast and precise and be able to create a verity of different buildings with little repetition.
Revisiting the Harbor
It was at this point that I decided to redo the harbor. I felt that the old design didn’t flow correctly or make sense as a harbor. I wanted everything to work well together and I felt I could improve upon what I had produced months earlier. The shows below show the work in progress of the new Harbor.
Concepts for new level
After the release of the trailer and a bit of a break from development I was drafted in to create some concept art for a new level. I was working from the levels block map which Pete created in UDK using the BSP brush. Using the block maps as templates I was able to quickly create some concepts that would help us visualize how the level could look. Below are 3 concepts I created along with the block map shots.
This was the first one I made, I wanted to create the illusion of open space and scale. It also provided direction on colour palette and atmosphere.
This concept was very fun to create, I decided to use this one to show how overgrown and derelict the level could look. I decided to add a pale yellow light shaft that breaks through from the left hand side. This makes the place feel a lot warmer and is a nice contrast from the dark corners to the right of the image.
Speed Painting Video
I was in full swing with my concepts at this stage and Ben suggested recording myself creating a one. The images below show the block map and final concept.</strong>
Check out the Youtube video of the Speed Painting Below!
Trip to London for Important Interview!
As a team White Paper Games got through to the final interview stages of the Prototype Fun and we were invited to London to attend an interview with Abertay University. This was an important moment for us and we knew how crucial it was to represent ourselves professionally and show that Ether was worth their investment.
The meeting was in a modern building that had exquisite interior design. We were interviewed for about an hour and then went on our way. I personally couldn’t tell how it went, we were drilled with loads of questions and were never given a clear indicator how well we had done. We just had to wait and see…
Back to Development
I was tasked with creating a unique building for the level, it was a large industrial structure that Pete designed. It required metal shutters railings and was the most complex building I had created to date.
Above are some work in progress shots and below is the texture sheet for the metal shutters and railings. I created this texture with the idea of using it again on other assets, this saves on game memory and is an approach that i plan to use a lot more.
Some shots of a final render and block map to finished environment comparison.
Our level is based on the Cornish coastline where mines where present, it was a very popular sauce of industry in 1950. It also provides us with cool game play opportunities. I had to create some modular wall pieces to be used to assemble the mining areas. It was my third attempt at creating modular assets so I was quite confident with my work flow.
The images above show some work in progress shots of creating the modular mine pieces. Bellow are the textures for the mine wall, floor and ceiling.
I also had to create some Support structures for the mining passages as shown below.
Creating the Village
The shots below show some work in progress images I took when I was creating the Village.
Next up: Making stuff and new textures!!!
Thanks for checking our development out and if you have any questions, fire away
White Paper Games is proud to announce the release of their first game play trailer for Ether One, the first part in a two game mini-series named Ether.
The game play trailer takes the viewer on a journey through a small portion of Ether One showcasing story elements, puzzles and interactive actions displaying the core game play elements of a science fiction first person adventure game.
Here are some new screenshots as well!
This is the first entry in a new series of Ether One updates that are going to chronicle the development of the game from its current position through to final release.
This post in particular is going to be an update on Ether One and the impact that White Paper Games recent success has had, allowing us to move forward confidently with developing the title.
Firstly if you have not already heard, White Paper Games (the developer behind Ether One) received backing from Abertay Universities Prototype Fund grant scheme, gaining financial aid of £25K to build Ether One to a completed beta standard. This sort of aid has allowed us to move Ether Ones development into a lovely and creative studio environment as well as focus our creative ideas and spirit into getting this title out to you guys so you can finally play it. We have also had the great opportunity to hire a dedicated programmer for the team, allowing us to troubleshoot effectively fixing any issues with our game mechanics that we have. Keep your eyes peeled for a personal tour of our new workspace!
With this boost we have been hard at work refining our environments and game play whilst building up a detailed and comprehensive game play trailer that we are all very excited to show to the world. We are particularly excited as we feel you guys will be delighted by the depth of game play as well as the way that the story is unfolded and the ways you can interact with it. We have a core Milestone at the end of October that we are incredibly confident that we will hit and hopefully we will be releasing our detailed Game Play trailer shortly afterwards. Until then we have a couple of new in-game screenshots from Ether One below for you to look at.
So thanks for checking out this post and we will be getting more info to you guys soon.
The White Paper Games team.
We are delighted to announce that we have been extremely fortunate enough to obtain up to £25K of grant funding to develop our two part PC adventure game, ETHER.
The grant awarded through Abertay Universities Prototype Fund has allowed uss to step up and focus on developing our classic science-fiction inspired adventure game for PC and Mac, as well as expand to a new studio location. Moving out of our ‘home office’ space, we have set up our new studio in the heart of the Manchester area, where a large array of creative and media industry resides.
This opportunity will allow us to fully focus on creating a great game as well as finally have a studio home. Below are some pictures from the move in
Thanks for all the support so far.
The White Paper Team
Hey everyone! Some big info coming in this post as well as some exciting news for Ether and the White Paper Games team.
Ether One News
Firstly you may have noticed a slight change in the name of Ether in the title of this post which is no coincidence or spelling mistake. Due to the scope and size of the project coupled with the size of our teeny Indie development team and financial situation Ether is now going to be in two separate parts. These parts are aptly named Ether One and Ether Two and will be impressive sized chunks of episodic game play for you to enjoy.
The great news about this is that by releasing in two parts you guys will be getting the first part (Ether One) a lot earlier in 2013 than we had initially penned Ether in for and hopefully Ether Two will follow shortly afterwards. Due to this change we have also updated out Indie DB site and our Ether Home site that has lots of features (and secrets) so check it out.
Steam Green Light News
Our next big piece of news is really exciting as we have just added Ether One to the list of awesome games over on Steam Green Light which means that you guys can go and view a new revised Ether One Teaser Trailer which shows some new footage of the game! Please help spread the word about Ether One and Steam Green Light, the more votes that we get the more likely we are to get Ether One on to Steam for everyone to enjoy! Our main goal as a studio was always to get Ether onto Steam and through Green Light we are hoping we can achieve this, but we can only do it with your help.
So Tweet, Facebook and tell your friends! Lets get Ether One onto Steam!