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Alder's Bane Game Cinematic
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Alder's Bane Game Cinematic

This is a game cinematic produced using Unreal Engine 5 which we developed during our final year at the University of Hertfordshire.

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This is our Final Major Project Alder’s Bane, game cinematic produced at the University of Hertfordshire. 

In a span of 9 months we have developed an original story inspired by Siberian and Alaskan cultural landscapes. We were striving for the highest visual cinematic quality while maintaining an optimized PBR workflow. 

Afflicted with a formidable curse, a lone warrior ventures into a forgotten, isolated temple in search of a cure.

Upon finding the solution to his ailment, in the form of a sacred fruit, he is confronted by an ancient guardian protecting it. To take the fruit, and to save himself, he must face the enraged beast - the ultimate challenge of his treacherous journey.

Environment

Our environment is inspired by the Alaskan landscape. During the production, we looked at the chosen area's foliage types, rock formations and landscape features to depict the cold yet mesmerizing scenery. 

Characters

Alder’s Bane features two main characters – Alder, and the Guardian. Alder is a weathered and journeyed warrior desperate for his salvation from a debilitating physical curse. Alder’s design takes inspiration from the traditional clothing of indigenous tribes from coastal regions of Alaska, though we have also sought to find freedom in putting a creative spin on how he should appear.

The Guardian is a magical creature residing within the ancient temple, formed of manifested wood and leaves in the shape of a large bear. Because the Guardian exists to protect the magic of his temple against undeserving outsiders, Alder facing off against him out of desperation means that the two aren’t an archetypical monster and hero.

Animation

Protagonist’s animation was mainly aimed to convey the pain caused by the curse and eventually the relief after being mostly healed. Aiming for the unity of protagonist animation style throughout all the shots we had to keep in mind that all three animators have the same idea of the curse effect and the extent of pain it causes. For the walking shots we came to Motion Capture in order to reach the same pace of warrior-like gait, whilst all the closeup shots are hand key animation.

The Guardian animation was heavily inspired by Grizzly Bear and Black bear movement. We did research on several typical bear behaviour features such as head shaking, roaring and most importantly standing up. We had to make sure that bear is motivated to stand up as it is in the real life such as trying to understand who is standing in front of them or simply intimidate enemy with their height. We were aiming to give some charm to the bear creature and present him as someone who is there to protect rather than actually attack.

Technical Art

The procedural ivy tool was developed in Houdini and imported as an HDA into the engine. Live session between Houdini and Unreal Engine provided all necessary information allowing seamless debugging. Having the ivy live in the editor also gave artists full control in the scene without needing assistance of a tech artist for every change that they want to implement.

Everything magical in the trailer shares similar visual language in order to retain cohesiveness. This includes an SDF mask which makes the emissive veins look rounder, panning noise to help with variation and liveliness, and overall similar colours to portray the connection between the magical creature, the tree, and the curse.

The intertidal coloration of the rocks plays a significant role in integrating them in the scene along with the ocean. Using the location of the ocean mesh, it generates a distance mask, which is then  offset by random world aligned noise to break up the original straight line. The normalized gradient is then configured by separate curves in order to separate the different regions such as wetness, salt and moss lines.

Concept Art

Environment Concepts

Since our project went through some major setting changes in the beginning of production we had to develop a new exterior look and make slight adjustments to the interior concepts created by Charlotte Jennings. 

Lighting

With these we were trying to figure out the general mood of the film. It was a great practice to understand the atmosphere and colour palette of the chosen location.

Character Concepts

As mentioned earlier our story has changed since the initial idea, that is why we had to adjust the concept arts to fit our new setting. 
The creature went through a lot of iterations few of which you can see on the concept art page below.

Inspiration

Here are some of the films and games that inspired us to create this project. We were aiming for a AAA production quality and looked at the games like God of War by Santa Monica Studio, The Last of Us by Naughty Dog and Hellblade by Ninja Theory.

Pipeline

For the project management we used Git source control, Discord, Miro and Google Sheets. To streamline our process and make it possible for all three of our Unreal artists to work simultaneously without obstructing each other’s work we used Shared Derived Data Cache, Level Streaming and Movie Render Queue.


Core team members

Darina Koycheva - Tech Art, Rigging, Source Control
Diana Karakushyan - Environment, Lighting
Felix Hughes - Environment, Prop Art
Anna Sonkina - Animation
Maxine Lugg - Character Art

Freelancers

Marlon Gouveia - Music and Sound Design
Charlotte Jennings - Concept Art
Kahzhuan Wong - Concept Art
Lewis Reynolds - Animation
Alden Chen - Animation
Keelin Henley - Rigging

Third-Party Assets

Boat Lantern Fire: Vol2. Fire and Flames (Niagara) by M5VFX
Ocean System for Rendered Cinematics v2.0 - Dylan Browne
Luos's Free Noise Textures for VFX
Advanced Skeleton v4 by Animation Studios 

Quixel Megascans: Nordic Beach small rock mesh (2 var) and foliage (ivy, flowers and bushes) by Epic Games
Landscape Pro 2.0 Pine Trees by STF3d
Ultra Dynamic Sky by Everett Gunther at Unreal Engine Marketplace
EasyFog by William Faucher

Hair and fur material by Polina Shaman and Epic Games (Low Poly Cards Game-ready Hairstyle Mullet)
Digital Human eye mesh and material by Epic Games
Male Anatomy base mesh by ZERO ART PROJECT
3DScanStore Free Head base mesh by Ten24
3DScanStore Male 07 Displacement and Albedo maps 


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