Insurrection: London is a short gameplay cinematic for a 1980s FPS stealth action game set in a dystopian London. An invading alien force has seized control and trapped the survivors within the city limits.
Insurrection London is our final-year university project. Our objective for this project was to produce a realistic gameplay cinematic that takes place in a dystopian version of London in the 1980s, where an authoritarian alien power has seized control. After 8 months of passionate and dedicated work, we can confidently say that we achieved exactly what we wanted and are extremely happy with the result. Insurrection London was created in Unreal Engine 5, utilising real-time Lumen lighting and adhering to optimized and current-gen standards.
The Alien: An Enemy Character - Zuzana
(tri count: full mesh = 95k)
My goal was to create an intimidating, oppressive and intelligent species. The concepting and sculpting stages were the most challenging. I used crab shapes and textures, including other alien skin, for the soft-surface parts of the alien. Stylised human anatomy helped me to achieve a better flow between different parts of the alien. For hard surfaces, I experimented a lot with abstract shapes and brutalism. I also researched industry professionals and their different approaches to anatomical stylisation (Marco Plouffe’s humanoid robots).
I had to often think multiple steps ahead so that the retopology, rigging and texturing ran smoothly for me. During the hard-surface sculpting phase, I constructed a joint logic to know which mesh parts to separate for retopology and baking.
The lower body of the alien is mostly robotic - which applies to its movement and rigging with limited rotations. The rest of the alien joints are crab-like with free rotations.
Throughout the development of the alien I had to jump between various stages of production, and the workflow was not so straightforward and linear. The hardships during the production process make me appreciate the final result even more.
Breakdown: Wireframe - Base Colour - Roughness - Metallic - Normal Detail
Vikki: a punk rebel character - Zuzana
(tri count: hair = 25k, full body without hair = 75k)
My goal was to give proper time and energy to all respectful aspects of character creation, including hair creation, texturing different materials, and creating wear and dirt to make the character feel real. I sculpted the body and head In Zbrush, made quick garments in Marvellous Designer and used them as a base for further Zbrush sculpting. I created seams for the clothes to achieve the same effect from the reference. I also created a few unique pins referencing 70s and 80s British punk bands and designed a patch for the jacket, testing some patch generators for texturing.
Right from the beginning, I was double-checking the texturing from Substance Painter and hair card placement in-engine so that I could make notes, compare them to the reference and enhance the look. To see the hairstyle from all sides, I braided my hair and used it as a reference.
I knew that the character would be speaking close to the camera. We did not have a rigger or an animator as a core member, so I used my character's head sculpt and converted it into a metahuman rig. Then I retextured all parts except the eyes and used my topology to achieve a lower tri count. I managed to align 2 different rigs together (Vikki's clothing and accessories, 2. metahuman facial rig + metahuman body that had neck and head rotations) after retargeting the mocap of the body. To get the facial animation, I used LiveLink and then cleaned it up in Unreal Engine.
Breakdown: Wireframe - Base Colour - Roughness - Metallic - Normal Detail
Environment Art - Dan
Throughout the development of Insurrection London I wanted to create an environment that felt "realistic". To me, realism comes from ensuring that the placement of every asset feels grounded, with the placement of the assets feeling natural and believable. "Dystopian London, controlled by an authoritarian alien force" - My main focus when designing the environments was to create this. A version of London that was once filled with life but now stands empty.
To provide a frame of reference for the location we opted for Hackney. The towering brick buildings create an ideal ambience by obscuring any far-off structures, inducing a sense of confinement at ground level. I found the buildings to be quite repetitive, making it easier to determine which modular assets I needed to create. However, there was enough variation to avoid making the repetition noticeable. This, combined with the incredible shopfronts provided by our Asset Artist Harley, I was able to make each building unique.
The buildings, cars and other large assets/assemblies provide the primary details for the environment. Secondary details were added through the addition of pipes, wires and medium-sized assets like AC units, signs, electrical boxes and rubbish. Tertiary detail was added through the use of rubble and many decals. Whilst being the final stage of detailing the environment, the tertiary level is what makes the environment feel realistic. The accumulation of rubble and debris in certain areas, leaks from pipes and other locations where water may flow, and overall environmental build-up all contribute to creating a living and dynamic environment grounded in reality.
Environment Progress from blockout to the final environment
Environment & Cinematic Lighting - Dan
All lighting in this project is optimised real-time Lumen lighting, with no raytracing. I decided early on that I wanted an overcast lighting setup for our environment with an emphasis on creating a lighting approach that felt cold and isolating. Although overcast was decided on early I experimented with multiple different lighting scenarios such as daytime, sunset, early evening, night and stormy. Whilst these scenarios looked great they did not capture the vibe I wanted to achieve, especially the daytime scenarios.
Despite wanting a cold lighting scenario I felt it was important that the environment had plenty of colour, as an environment consisting of only one colour can easily appear flat and uninteresting. The yellow/orange was an obvious choice being complementary to blue, it is also a very popular combination in general.
To introduce further visual interest into the environment through lighting and contrast, highlights were added in multiple places. The highlights consist of bright blue spotlights aimed at precise locations, resulting in the illusion of directional lighting, whilst creating art-directed focal points.
A consistent goal throughout the project was to keep the environment lighting optimised and game ready. To optimize performance, I made sure to keep the number of overlapping light sources low and then adjusted the view distance of each light to only what was necessary. This ensured that any lights that were not visible would not be rendered. In the cases where the cinematic lighting setups overlapped the environment lighting, the light complexity did occasionally increase significantly, but the same optimisation steps were taken to ensure that this did not cause any issues.
To effectively draw the viewers' eye towards animations and characters I relied heavily on lighting channels. Lighting channels enabled me to illuminate specific meshes without causing unwanted light to affect other areas. It is a toggleable feature that makes lighting design more efficient and precise. For the majority of the animations and characters a 3-point lighting setup was used, on top of the ambient scene lighting, which consists of a back light separating the character from the background, a key light increasing the brightness of the character whilst also acting as a highlight and a fill light reducing the shadows created by the key, further separating the character from the background.
Ensuring a plausible source for each of these lights in the environment greatly enhanced the authenticity of their appearance. If a plausible source of light was not nearby, a more intense form of the ambient environment light colour was utilized.
To illuminate the player's weapon a similar process was followed. Two lights are used: a Fill Light to enhance the brightness of the weapon relative to its surroundings, and another light to create a highlight along the gun barrel that captures the viewer's focus.
Cinematic Character Lighting Example
Asset Art - Harley
As an Asset Artist, my Job is to create high-quality game-ready assets and modular asset kits so that the environment is consistently cluttered and packed with detail. My workflow consists of modelling high & Low poly assets in Blender and texturing in Substance Painter, taking in and adapting to feedback from peers and colleagues upon every iteration. Throughout the process I assure that my models are consistent with current-gen poly counts, keeping the poly count low whilst preserving detail.
Artistically, my motivation when developing assets stems from my obsession with micro detailing, specifically the satisfaction I get when being able to inject an otherwise soulless object with as much character and backstory as possible. A continual goal throughout the development of Insurrection London was that I wanted to guarantee every possible area would feature assets that provided rich environmental storytelling. I wanted Insurrection: London to feel like a once-lived-in environment with a deep history, despite the streets now being abandoned.The second most important part that I played was creating the main character’s signature submachine gun, the L2A3 Sterling SMG. I spent a week researching the history of the gun, its context and how it would be a suitable option for our choice of location. This was proceeded by an incredibly detailed modelling stage where I focused on measurements and the functionality of the gun. I originally wasn’t planning on animating this asset however I was required to animate the firing animation featured in the project.
Substance Materials - Dan
I designed various materials using Substance Designer for Insurrection London. These materials were used for all the buildings, pavements, and the Underground. Combined with a vertex painting material in Unreal Engine I was able to create various intensities of wear and grime.
Lloyd Hickman - Animation (Player Arms, Alien, Vikki)
Veda Anarghya - Animation (Partial Mocap Cleanup)
Zachary Allen - Ford Escort (Mesh Only)
1980's Sedan Car - Iyoshko
London Telephone Box - Endim8
Graffiti Decals - Voloshenko
Old Heater - Brido
Leather Suitcases - Mad_Lobster_Workshop
PTish Phone - Schmoldt.Art
Trash Bags, Decals, Debris, Plants, Slate Roof Textures - Quixel Megascans