The ARTM Model
The ARTM (Auroral Redirection and Transfer Module) was designed as a way to make the game more interesting between puzzles. After the first 10 weeks, we reviewed the feedback we got from play-testing and found that the gameplay between puzzles was boring and uninteresting. We decided that our previous mechanics - zombie possession and and energy manipulation - were not as lucrative in practice as they were in concept. Kyle Hanselman came up with a solution - a multi-functional tool that would allow players to traverse the environment and combat zombies in interesting ways.
The tool would function differently based on the different upgrades the player unlocked. The player would get a different upgrade every few puzzles solved that would grant access to new areas. Unfortunately our team never made it that far, and only included one module that would be picked up mid-game.
After the idea was pitched, I started sketching out ideas of what the tool would look like. We all agreed to try and avoid a silhouette resembling a gun. In the three sketches above, I tried adding funnels, light bulbs, mop flaps, nails, dials, cranks, and vents to make it original. Eventually, after some feedback, I took to Autodesk Maya to start bringing my sketches to life.
My first block-out took most of its influence from my first sketch design with a mix of the others. The first addition was to add a syringe to the front. We decided to have an ammo system in the game; since everything was fueled by aurora energy, and zombies were possessed by it, we thought it would be cool if ammo was replenished by extracting it from zombies. The next change was to the barrel. Instead of having any type of proper firing chamber, the tool would launch small orbs that would act differently based on the modular upgrade active. The light bulbs indicated how many orbs/ammo the player had (it would be hard to see them in first person view). The orbs would float magnetically in the chamber which is connected by wires to a mechanical contraption in the stock. Finally, I added a sidebar for stability.
After getting feedback I moved on to my second blockout. This time I removed the light bulbs, and instead moved the orbs to the side of the tool where they would be more visible. I fancied it up with magnetic plates to emphasize their floating, and replaced the center of the barrel with a ray-gun design. I significantly reduced the size of the syringe to be more practical and ran wires from it to demonstrate its use better.
After getting feedback I moved on to my last block-out. I began to color code my work, and make some adjustments to the overall aesthetic of the device. I added vents to the side of the barrel to release steam on activation increased the size of the syringe in the front. I removed the stock area, and instead added a mechanical panel to the side of the device where wires from all over would lead to. This would be the main power source. I added tubes to hold aurora energy in the back and light bulbs to the top to indicate to the player what ability/module they had selected during game-play. Lastly, I added a tripod to give it a more scientific and less weapon like feel.
Kyle Hanselman took my design and added his own flavor to it, creating the final game-ready hero asset. To learn more, visit Kyle's website.
Rigging and Animation
Based on the pace that the team was running at, I had time to rig and animate myself instead of outsourcing to other students. I took this time to brush up on a long underutilized skill of mine.
Rigging was a nice refresher for me. Re-learning proper control heirarchy and kinemetic workflows was fun. Ultimately the rig worked very well, and it was easy to set up the arm for the necessary animations.
Animations were fairly straightforward. While many animations were done in Maya, a handful of location-based animation was done using blueprints. These include animations such as the tool recoiling back and the laser shaking the device around. Beyond animating a penguin, all other animations in the game were done using Mixamo. In the blueprint sample above, "anchor" is the parent for all the tool and arm components. Pulse Color and Pulse Heat are point and spot lights that brighten when the tool is fired.
I also worked on particles for the Radiant Dark revision. For the ARTM main function, the pulse (left most particles) I was inspired by the Scattergun from Naughty Dog's Jak 2 and Jak 3. I wanted the the effect to be more of a disruption of matter around it instead of a traditional projectile. When creating the pulse material, I added noise to the refraction on the transparency and added a ring of light around it. I feel that I succeeded in making an interesting pulse fire.
Blood was a real challenge for me. Having never really worked with liquids before, I wasn't really sure how to get the correct volume and random generation for it. Originally a particle made by Benton Pellet, I went back to improve upon his design by adding more blood materials, more streaks, and blood decals that spawned on the floor. It was definitely a challenge to get it to look right, both in the way the particles moved and in the masked images to make it. If I were to go back, I would scrap the blood images entirely and rework making the blood out of simple masked shapes.
The ARTM steam and pipe gas came out very nicely. The ARTM steam (the six small particles) was designed to be more of an intense, straight burst of water vapor. The pipe gas was designed to be a bit slower and unstable, moving about in the direction it pleases.
Lastly we have the endpoint for the laser. It was intended to simply be the energy emitted from the orb that is released. I felt it had to be pretty intense to be able to slice up zombies! The tether from the ARTM to the particle is a mesh spline that is updated with both the floating orb vector and the tool vector.