Secluded Hive & Vanguard Archer

Secluded Hive & Vanguard Archer

Hans Palacios
by hanspalacios on 24 May 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

With a background in architecture & computational design, I have gone beyond to explore all realms of spaces (real, virtual, and everything in between) with an emphasis on procedural modeling & pipeline optimization. The following are my latest works & documentation from graduate studies at SCAD (Fall/Winter 2019).

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This is a collection of my latest work aimed at showcasing my ability to quickly implement from concept to dynamic game environments, characters, and assets. I have always been fascinated with problem solving and technical pipeline development, so my transition from architecture and generative design has evolved well into procedural modeling, automation, and streamlining game development.  While I am well-versed in a variety of tools and methodologies, my greatest strength is quick problem solving to capture my creative designs in dynamic visualizations.  I aim to constantly be learning and see every challenge that I encounter as an opportunity to improve myself, collaborate with others, and share my creativity and expertise with others.

Environment: Secluded Hive

Spawned from my own concept, this is my rendition for a game environment and cinematic showcasing the numerous drones sited within an abandoned courtyard and serving as their secluded hive of operations. The intent of the environment is to portray a game boss battle arena with many enemy agents. All of the assets within this project were modeled, textured, and coordinated by myself. The architectural elements reference a variety of historic sites and exhibit my ability to develop an intricate environment from a modular kit. Hero assets were conceptualized by myself and also developed from modular kits. The effects throughout the scene were setup with blueprints in UE4 to create variations and dynamics. Various tools were used in the assembly of the assets: concept taken through low-poly modeling (Maya), UV layout (Headus UV Layout), high-poly sculpting (ZBrush), texturing (Substance Painter), procedural assembly (Houdini), game engine integration (Houdini Engine), lighting and effects (Unreal Engine 4), and video/audio composition (After Effects).

Project Breakdown

Below is the complete environment modular asset kit used to create the game environment. Each are used in multiple instances and linked to specific locations in a Houdini Digital Asset and coordinated with the Houdini Engine and Blueprints in Unreal Engine.  Materials were structured with vertex painting parameters to enable variations throughout the environment.

Below is a showcase of the details behind the drone variations, including the land and aerial drones, drone hive, as well as other hero assets used in the environment. 

The drones, drone hive, orb pedestal, and bridge were procedurally assembled in Houdini with modular kits created in Maya and linked to Unreal Engine through Houdini VEX parameters and Houdini Engine. 

Character: Vanguard Archer

This was a project that I used to refine my skills and methodologies in taking a personally-conceived concept sketch (Affinity Photo) through low-poly modeling (Maya), UV layout (Headus UV Layout), high-poly sculpting (ZBrush), texturing (Substance Painter), rigging (Maya), and some visual effects and fabric simulation (Houdini).  The intent was to explore a combination of hard surface model assets, dynamic fabrics, optimal geometry and textures, and intricate facial details for use in a game environment.

Project Breakdown

The process guided me through efficient ways of linking the concept design, low-poly base model, high-poly sculpt, rig, maps, textures, and fabric solutions using various interoperability tools so that quick edits could be made and propagated throughout the pipeline.

The archer's bow is a unique asset that was really fascinating to compose, rig and program.  It started with my hobby of recurve bow archery and visualizing the stabilizers and attachments as serving more purpose than originally designed.  The designed bow combines a futuristic weapon and shield into a compact and quick-to-deploy asset for the archer.  The effects were programmed in Houdini to enhance the concept beyond a static asset and to visualize the dynamics of its many modes of operation.

Workflow Analysis

The following videos are some of my documentation used in the above Secluded Hive game environment project.  Documentation is a critical part of my workflow as I use it to reinforce my learning, preserve knowledge of the project, and to showcase my methodologies.  My aim is to breakdown key steps in the process so that I can refer back to them as necessary over the course of a project or in other projects.

The Secluded Hive project was initially called Waterfront Courtyard, as it is intended to be part of an ongoing project to further develop the environment beyond the inside of the courtyard.

Mesh To Texture Documentation: 
Workflow documentation from modular mesh kit development and organization in Maya to coordinated texture sets in Substance Painter for use in Unreal Engine 4. Using the modular mesh kit and their corresponding textures, the aerial and land drone configurations were assembled in Houdini and UE4 blueprints and linked to material instances that read the textures to allow for vertex painting.

Mesh To Texture Documentation:
Workflow documentation defining a mask layer and texture for meshes to receive color variation in Unreal Engine via an exposed color parameter that can be defined per instance. It notes the mask definition in Substance Painter, material master and instance structure, and application in UE4 level and blueprint instances.

Current Work-In-Progress

I had a lot of fun developing and generating the Vanguard Archer character that I wanted to see it in action, so this is the first work-in-progress of gameplay footage as I attempt to integrate the character and its assets into Unreal Engine 4. It includes cloth simulation and socket assignments to manage the bow and knife assets.

As a big fan of augmented reality, I saw the drone asset as a good opportunity to test its versatility in AR using Unity and Houdini Engine. The short video below showcases it with some interactivity built into the UI.

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