Ubisoft NXT 2017: Learn by doing.

  1. This year we were at it again, myself and a few other Game Design students with no regard for sleep took on the annual NXT Showcase challenge from Ubisoft Toronto.

This year’s theme was a story about a Russian science team investigating a 40-year-old soviet sub that crashed on top of the ancient desert city. Here is a breakdown of my entry, and a few takeaways for the future.

Here is the fly through that Ubisoft received along with two beauty shots.

A desk in the runis of Petra with tech on top.
The scientists have setup a portable antenna, radio, and some laptops to stay in contact with their colleagues at home.
An artistic shot of a Cold War era soviet torpedo being dismantled.
An artistic shot of a Cold War era soviet torpedo being dismantled.

This project let me test out a lot of what we have learnt here at Sheridan, from lighting and level design to the import pipeline for unity (with Blender added in). I would model a low poly model, then sculpt in details on a high poly version. I would take both models out of Blender and into Substance painter where I could paint on the necessary materials and grunge to fit into the environment. Overall about half the materials used came with Painter, the other half were designed by me in Substance Designer. THis is my first run at bringing substances from designer into painter, and I would (and will) definitely do it again.

Here are two assets that I baked High poly details into with Painter.

A wireframe view of the Laptop asset showing baked details.
A wireframe view of the Laptop asset showing baked details.

* I realized after that I painted a bit to low on the flag decal… sh, don’t tell anyone (;

A wireframe view of the desk asset showing baked details.
A wireframe view of the desk asset showing baked details.

This pretty much held for all my assets, here are the two I think came out the absolute best (I reeeaaaalllly like these ones, but the first one is trash, and the second should probably be benched):

“But matt why so many benches and trash cans?” you ask. Well, after hours of parousing Petra on Google earth there were three things that I kept stumbling across, merchant tables and shops, Benches, and Garbage cans. So to add some authentic modern flavor I referenced those benches and garbage cans down to the last iron bolt to ensure the accuracy that the site deserves!

So those are the great things from this round of Ubisoft NXTing, this project honestly made my year. It took my entire reading week (minus two days seeing family again), but it was well worth it!

Lessons (Re)Learnt

Oh my.. there are many. First off (and this should be a no-brainer):

Some very sharp seams in a cliff texture.
UV’s can really break immersion!

Those poor UVs. I feel like every once in a while a new tool comes along that makes life so easy we let it do some of our work for us. This is bad, this time it was Substance Designer, with it’s mix of particle brushes and smart materials I figured I could neglect my UVs a bit more than usual and it would cover up for me… I was wrong. If you look closely on the terrain you’ll see some very, VERY sharp edges where the floor and walls meet, as I said respect you UVs (and the rest of your model).

    1. Test you pipeline first

A very un-realisitc cliff wall.
Imagine this with 4x lower resolution!

There are two issues I ran into with this, the first was a material one, the other a texture one.
When I designed my gorgeous bricks in Substance Designer I tweaked them to perfection. A day later I’m painting them in on my models and I notice all sorts of lines happening where they shouldn’t be. This si pretty simply just some bad authoring on my part, but if I had taken the time to test that or similar, materials in substance I would have know to do things a bit differently.
The texture issue came in when working on my terrain, I ended up half fixing it, but it’s still not great. My problem was that I had a lot of space and a max resolution of 4096 x 4096 for my textures. I discovered this by painting the entire terrain on one map. As I’m sure you can guess this was REALLY blobby and smooth, very ugly. Panicking (I was short on time) I came back to this once everything else was set. I broke the cliff into 4 sections, giving each a 4k map of its own. This was so much better, you could make our rock patterns and gravel. It still wasn’t hyper-real (See the video) but it was a lot better. If I had tried messing around with terrain import settings before hand I might have tried more seams, or even slat painting my environment for a higher quality output.

    1. Check for recent updates that can help you out

Some of you may know that Unity’s new Adam demo featured some sweat lighting, well, it turns out that you can have it too, for free, from the Unity page on the Asset Store. If only I had looked that up a week ago! I used the old SSAO and other post-processing scripts that ship as standard assets. These look good, but after running it through the new Adam Effects (Post-Processing Stack) It looks so much nicer.
That said, caution serves a purpose, sometimes upgrading to the new shiny thing can break your project. Always test it first! (Take it from recent experience :P)

    1. Allocate more time to your projects.

Some floating debris chunks.
Good check to do before submitting, do things fly? I guess it’s all part of the supernatural phenomena!

I spent about 7 days directly working on my submission (Not counting doodles and random thoughts about the layout for a few months prior), this was enough time to submit something pretty nice. But I would rather spend a few weeks and have something Super Nice then a few days and pretty nice.

    1. Last but not least… Have fun, honestly, what’s the point otherwise?

Really, if you don’t love this stuff then go do what you love. I truly do love working on this and I would love to see more people involved!

Thant’s all I’ve got for now, happy modeling and designing! Let me know in the comments what you think, post links to your work, and let me know if you’ve done the NXT challenge/plan on doing it next year.

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