Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Off the Map Competition Runners Up!

(Presenting at GameCity 8)

Quite a lot has happened with this since the last entry.  We were very happy to be shortlisted for the final three, and had to do a presentation at an event during this years GameCity in Nottingham.

Our entry had a working Scaleform title screen, two cutscenes, two levels with level transitions that loop back to the menu when completed.  It also had basic puzzles and platforming, so we managed to squeeze a lot into it.  The part we were most happy with was that it was one of the few entries that contained gameplay.

The presentation went very smoothly despite being a bundle of nerves beforehand.  But even with such positive feedback on the forums, from judges and the audience, we were unable to obtain the winning place.

This competition has been a valuable learning experience for the team and gave us a better understanding of how parts of the industry works.  It was a lot of fun but it had to end sometime.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

End Sequence

(Video showing the destroyed version of Stonehenge)

The last thing we wanted was for the game to just end abruptly, so we decided to include a short end sequence.  This was created in the trackview, with a bit of flowgraph to get it to play when the player reaches a certain point.

The video shows parts of the map from angles you wouldn't normally be able to see in-game.  It meant we could also showcase some of the assets in more detail.

Though the project was hard work, we all believe it was worth the effort.  Hopefully anyone who plays it will enjoy what we've produced.  A playable build may be made available on the Crydev site at some point in the future, but for now it has been entered into the competition.

Thank you.

Friday, 13 September 2013


(Example flowgraph from the second map)

To get the level running we had to use Flowgraph.  This is a way of visually scripting aspects of the game, connecting various nodes together as shown in the picture above.

There was quite a bit of Flowgraph used in this project for things like the teleporters, particle effects, playing cutscenes, layer switching, as well as hide some of the default aspects like the HUD.

Gameplay Aspects

Though we are focusing most of our attention on the visual style, we still wanted some element of gameplay. We're happy that the player can interact right away, with the menu in place, but we felt it needed more than just the ability to walk down a path from A to B.

We decided on a simplistic puzzle style so the whole map is easily accessible.  By touching crystals, the player activates platforms, allowing them to progress in the level.  The crystals have particle effects attached that, when touched, disappear to show that they have been activated.  The particle effect is present to show the player that the crystal is interactive.

Following the crystal puzzle, players need to navigate through a platforming section, leading to teleporters and a final climb up a giant root structure.  Again, particle effects signpost interactive elements.

Building a Path

(Screenshot of the path being made using grass assets)

It was important to block out where playable areas were going to be, to save putting assets where they weren't necessary.  The path was created using grass assets on a vegetation layer.  The rest of the grass was made up of standard meshes to help save on resources.

The terrain was painted green where the grass assets were so that if any models disappeared due to distance, it would still give the impression of a grassy area.

Solids were used to create collision for the path to save on draw-calls.  We thought that putting physics proxies on the grass might have been a bit too much, considering the number of instances used.

Game Assets

This post is to show some of the 3D assets that have been made for the project, including some that may not be in the final entry.

 (Low poly beetle enemy)

(Bluebell details) 

(Coltsfoot which was never used in the final entry) 

(Cowslip with yellow flowers) 

(Purple texture variant of the Cowslip)

(Blue texture variant of the Cowslip) 

(Foxglove used in level) 

 (Different variations of mushrooms)

(Work in progress shot of the wasp enemy, which was never used)

Stones and grass assets can be seen quite clearly in screenshots from other blog posts, so they're not included here.

Design Changes

(New level design with numbered references to other sketches)

Our design changed considerably from the original concept during production.  The main cause of the changes was the art style.  Because of the artistic (almost cartoon) style we decided to change the game type to an exploratory rather than one focused on combat.

The other significant change was the camera.  Originally we wanted a third person perspective, however, after the whitebox testing we decided against it.  This is due to the grass assets being 3D rather than sprites.  With a third person camera, more of these assets would have needed to be placed to cope with the higher camera angles, with a possible drop in performance, meaning lower spec computers wouldn't be able to run it at all.

(Opening area of the playable map, #1) 

(Concept showing path, #2)

(Path concept, #3) 

(Path opens up, #4) 

(Open area with overhead roots, #5) 

(Root tunnel, #6) 

(Final part of the level section, #7)

Though the original concepts didn't show specific areas of the level in detail, these ones were made to show most of the playable level, particularly the path that the player will take.  They were created to speed up the placement of assets in engine.  Following this section will be some simple puzzles and some possible platforming sections.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Second Map Underway

(Starting the destroyed Stonehenge map)

The second map was created in a similar way to the first, using the reference map to guide where most of the assets go.  We wanted the map to have some resemblance to the reconstructed map, rather than just place the stones randomly.

The second map shows Stonehenge, having been destroyed by an unknown evil force.  Giants root structures can be seen all over the map, providing players with a unique and interesting environment to explore.


(Scaleform implemented in engine)

We wanted to have a go at implementing a main menu screen in our project, so started looking into Scaleform.  This involved using Photoshop and Flash to produce suitable assets for it, as well as researching how Scaleform works with CryEngine.

The documentation on the Crydev website didn't quite cover everything we needed, so we had to look elsewhere.  We found a video covering implementing the engine side of things by bazmod.

Rather than use Flash shapes as buttons, we wanted to use our own artwork.  All of the images were made to the power of two so the engine has no problems using them.  It used ActionScript 2.0, as the engine uses a slightly older version of Scaleform.  The Start button plays a cutscene showing the reconstructed Stonehenge as described in the library map.

It works well and gives the level a more professional finish.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Project Updates

We haven't posted any updates for a little while now due to a few technical difficulties, so there will be a number of posts following in quick succession.  The content will be separated in a similar way as it has been to show how the project progressed during that time.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Stonehenge Restored

This is our first video showing the restored Stonehenge environment.  We've worked hard to reach this milestone and are now working on our second map.

Everything is much bigger in scale than in real-life, so being able to use 3D objects for the grass meant we were able to reinforce how small the player character will be.  We're also happy with how it looks in motion, with grass and flowers moving in the wind.

There scene itself is not completely finished, so the final game's version will most likely have a few new additions.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Grass & Flowers

To make the map look pretty and match the concept as much as possible we decided to make assets that would ordinarily be sprites into 3D objects (this was briefly mentioned in the previous post).

(pretty flowers and other bits of vegetation)

Closer inspection  of the scene shows the chosen art style in action, with it looking almost like an illustration from a children's story book.

(close up view showing the art style)

There will be a few more later on in production, mainly to populate the second map we have planned.

Assets and Level of Detail

I've fallen a bit behind in with all this blogging, so I've decided the next couple of entries will bring everything up-to-date.  Starting with assets.

(the stones with added normal maps)

The stones that make up Stonehenge are the most obvious assets in our first map, so they needed to look good.  In saying that, the amount of detail that could be added to them was limited because we wanted to re-use the same models (one model for the stones that make up the outside ring, one for the inside etc).  Any obvious changes in detail would look a bit silly if it was repeated on all of the stones.

As a result we used a standard stone effect, which was achieved using Mudbox.  Normal maps were produced from the high poly models and baked onto the low poly versions.  A diffuse texture has been produced for these assets since.

The UV maps for all of the assets produced so far have been made with as few separate islands as possible.  The stones mentioned above are made of a single piece, as well as the grass also seen in the image.

The reason we are being so careful with the UV's on the grass is because they are 3D models rather than just sprites, meaning they will have a high number drawcalls,as well as having a high poly count on screen.  We want them run smoothly in engine, as well as look good.

(using debug mode to view LOD's and poly count)

To ensure that we can use higher poly models, we have been making use of LOD's (level of detail), so that assets being shown further away are less taxing on the scene.  We have worked hard to ensure that the transition between each LOD is smooth with no obvious popping.  Using the debug mode in CryEngine we were able to view when LOD's changed in the editor.

All of this is for one of the maps.  Thankfully we can use some of them in the other maps too, so production should speed up a little bit now.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Choosing Styles

(example of art style tests for the grass assets)

Before we could produce any finished textures, we needed to confirm our in-game art style.  To achieve this we decided to create a selection of textures for a couple of the models and see which ones looked best in engine.

We were surprised how good even the simplest of textures looked in engine.  The whole process really emphasised  the benefits of real-time changes to lighting that CryEngine 3 delivers.  The image above shows a selection of the grass assets using some of the different textures.  The one on the far right is just a single colour, the two in the middle are the same texture with different colour levels, whereas the one on the left used a storybook painterly style.

To fit in with the theme of the game and achieve the desired atmosphere, we decided on the storybook style.

Friday, 7 June 2013


(Whitebox of reconstructed Stonehenge)

To help get a feel for the scale of the world, as well as test any assets, we created a whitebox version of the map in CryEngine.  We set up the file structure ready for the assets and created some basic placeholders to populate the scene.  These were named appropriately with the real assets in mind.

(Concept / Reference Art)

The whitebox was created using a piece of reference art.  The measurements shown are those from the British Library map we chose.

(Whitebox image of Stonehenge game level)

We decided rather than making the player character smaller, we would make the world bigger.  This meant that the version of Stonehenge we've made in CryEngine is in fact twelve times bigger, as this is how many time bigger the standard character in the engine is in comparison to the faerie.  The reason for this is so we can easily implement changes to the design if we need to at a future point.

(Construction of the whitebox level using a reference image)

The whitebox was created using the map as a reference image in engine. We used the solids tools to create box to the size the diameter needed to be and scaled the map image to match.  This meant we could place the stones in the level accurately.

The next step in the production process is to test the art styles we are currently thinking of using before replacing the placeholders with more detailed finished assets.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Unfortunately we haven't had the opportunity to visit locations to get primary research for the stones.  However we have been using internet sources to get the imagery we need.  Also we can photograph similar stones in the local area for texture references.

In regards to the other aspects like grass and environmental obstacles, we have taken huge number of photos of various bits of vegetation etc, both at the park and in gardens.

Not only have we been looking at content for the project itself but also on the technical side side of things.  With the project taking a unique approach to perspective we've needed to learn a lot about the CryEngine SDK.  The documentation on the Crydev site has been very useful for pointing us in the right direction.

Our next step is to create a whitebox with some 'place holder' assets to set the world scale and help with further asset creation.

Friday, 31 May 2013


Mystical Wings will be the name of our entry for the 'Off the Map' competition.  We would like to be able to make a third person game so we can include a character of our own.

We have decided to incorporate a sense of scale into our design.  Stonehenge will be a vast landscape in comparison to the character who is a mere 6" tall.  

The chosen concept emerged from conversations with other students on the programme, inspired by fairy tales and some of the folklore behind Stonehenge, the main character,  a faerie named Liliana, is tasked to discover the details behind a deep rooted corruption that has befallen Stonehenge.  We have written a full design document so that all team members know what the goal of the project is.

The design was built upon further through group discussion, refining and finalising the use of scale and perspective, turning it into the game we are currently working towards.

The most important part of the design is the map.  It will be used to create parts of the level, as well as other visual aspects of the game like any HUD elements that we make.  The concept art has given a further inspiration, particularly for the visual aesthetic.  They can be viewed on our project page.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

British Library Maps

The whole point of the competition is to create something in CryEngine 3 using the maps provided by the British Library.  These ranged from maps based on London in 1667 to those based on the Pyramids.

We considered various maps and scenarios but eventually settled on Stonehenge.  Particularly the 'Stonehenge Restored by Inigo Jones' map, which provided measurements of various elements we could use.

(Above is the map we have decided to use for our entry)

Though the competition doesn't state what the entry needs to be, we have decided to make a game and use the map in as many ways as possible, not just for the environmental layout.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Faery Fire

Welcome to our development blog for team Faery Fire!

We are a group of five students from Newport University participating in the exciting, and most likely challenging 'Off the Map' competition being held by Crytek and The British Library.

Though this first entry  may seem late in terms of the overall time-scale of the competition, we have been keeping a detailed record of everything we've worked on thus far, so lots of entries will follow shortly.

You can also visit our CryDev team page.