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Well Well, Look Who Decided To Drop By!

It took me a few days of experimentation to sort out the animation workflow but I finally got a handle on it. What I assumed was going to take me months to do (all monster, NPC and first-person animations) won’t take me that long at all. All the monster animations have been tweaked and exported and are now in-game thanks to the ease of using Mixamo and the range of animations that they offer. I just uploaded my base monster meshes, Mixamo rigs them and then spits out the animation (pretty much)

There was a time where I would describe this as “cheating” but hey, at this point in I’m just ready for it to be done as quickly as possible. I don’t want everyone waiting any longer just so I can “do it all by hand” and puff up my chest and sit here with a smug grin. There is just no way in Neptune’s blue balls that my keyframe animations would ever look as good as those mocap animations so I’ll take the shortcuts, I’ll take the help and assistance if it delivers a better-looking product and also shaves off time.

A long time ago I made most of the Blueprints that I needed for the Out Of Hell UE4 framework. I coded my own stamina functions, health, fall damage, firearms, hunger system, inventory, text and note files, examining items, monster AI etc. I was proud as hell (because coding is not my specialty) that I made this all myself and it worked!

Over time I started looking into adding more functionality and just for fun, I perused the UE Marketplace to see what was out there. Some of the frameworks that were sold had demo versions so I tried them out thinking “Hey, what’s the harm in looking?” and OMG

What I saw was just on a completely different level in terms of functionality and polish! For example, my note system was “Approach note, press E to read, display large image with text on it. DONE.” but the methods I saw in this other framework was “Approach note, press E to examine note, have option to rotate note and look at backside, open note, display an image of the note, press E to darken the screen and display the contents of the note using engine font, use left and right arrow to flip pages etc.”

I mean, the level of attention put into this framework made mine look so very, very underdeveloped! And that was just the note system! I eventually bit the bullet and bought a freaking fantastic framework for this game. I heavily modified it for my needs and successfully merged/grafted whatever features I needed into Out Of Hell. It’s awesome.

It took me some time to come around to taking that plunge because there’s this part of me (I guess it’s the ego) that wants to do it ALL MYSELF or else it isn’t pure! But in hindsight that’s such a stupid, silly way to approach things. Why was I always trying to reinvent the wheel? And where is the line drawn with this kind of mentality?

For example, I would have a problem using a HUNGER SYSTEM that someone else offered because I myself didn’t make it from the ground up BUT I had absolutely no problem using a videogame engine or software that someone else made? And really, what is the difference between buying a banana model on a Marketplace (not that I did but just as an example) or employing another artist to model a banana for me if time was a factor? I already know I could do it (and have done: OoH 2009, YPAPSG) so what the hell was I still trying to prove to myself?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that to all those that believe in me and have been there since the beginning, to those who have had the patience to stick with this project for years and all the newcomers, I want to make sure you get the experience that you’re deserving. I won’t deliver a shitty, half-assed experience that doesn’t live up to the real potential just because I refused do what was necessary to take it to the next level out of some dumb sense of ego preservation.

So this is just a quick update on where I’m at right now. The monster animations are all done, the 3rd person player animations are done (I say third person because of body awareness. When you look down, you see the legs and body) and I just need to finish up the first-person weapon animations (there’s 18 wieldable weapons to do) And speaking of body awareness, look who’s here! Donovan Ling himself, no longer confined to a 64×128 dialogue portrait!

It’s not finalized (I’ll take care of that much later) I just needed it so that I could send it to Mixamo!

 

We’ve Got Movement!!!!

All the levels are complete! (as complete as they can be without the details anyway) I was going to post a video of the Midtown area and some screenshots of the remaining 2 maps but I’ve decided against it. I’d like some places to take you all by surprise when you see it for the first time.

In all truthfulness, I actually can’t believe I’m here at this point about to head into animating all the weapons and monsters. I’ve often wondered how and when the hell I would get here. There was just so much work left to do that I couldn’t really predict when I would be finished all the levels. Now I’ve finally progressed to the place that I fantasized about being at years ago!

And in an amazing example of synchronicity, I got this text from a friend just this morning:

The very same morning that I started my animations! I take it as the Universe approving of where I’m at right now! I’ve never had a request like this from anyone I know before either.

I thought that animation would be a little on the difficult side since I haven’t done it in years. All I have are memories of how much of a pain it was to rig, weight and keyframe a model. Animation was never my strength (actually, I don’t even know what is!) and I barely got by with what I did animate. But…

I started to look into the various options out there and I am just blown away! The tools and software at our disposal right now (many of which are FREE!!!) is absolutely insane compared to when I graduated Computer Animation School in the late 90’s!

Here’s just two that I’ve looked at that allow you to grab motion capture data from a video you record on your phone. F***IN NUTS I TELL YOU!!!!

RADICAL https://getrad.co/

DEEPMOTION https://deepmotion.com/

I also looked at Mixamo and uploaded a model to see what it was like. Expecting it to be somewhat clunky and difficult, it actually took less than 30 seconds to do! Something that really blew me away was how the software was able to automatically rig the model (I already have a rig in place but this is much better) by just specifying a few reference points.

I started farting around and made a hilarious animation but as a friend just told me, it would unintentionally be quite terrifying being chased around by this thing! AHAHAHAA!

I plan on utilizing Mixamo animations to save time and alter them further where I need. The animations look fantastic, smooth and are lightyears ahead of anything I could make! I thought that animating all my stuff was going to take a few months but now it seems like it might all get done in a week! I said in a previous post months ago that when I got to a certain point, things are going to start moving very fast.

Well, that time is NOW my friends!

Building…Buildings!

I had forgotten about how much of a total nightmare wonderful challenge it was to build a city-themed map! Anyone who has ever modelled a city by hand can tell you; it’s no walk in the park!

I spent a big chunk of time since the last update just working on the buildings and coming up with all the signage that should accompany them. I made some basic buildings then created variations from them. I wanted to avoid the issue of having a bunch of non-descript buildings (like in the original) and so this time around almost every shop you come across will have its own signage (which helps add personality to the visuals)

Designing all the signs, ads and awnings was actually pretty fun and came naturally since I used to do it for a living! I’m sure you’ll all get a kick out of some of the more humorous ones you’ll come across!

Speaking of which I added a nice little surprise for the people who contributed to the indiegogo drive long ago. Originally, they were all supposed to get their initials scrawled onto a wall or spraypainted throughout the game but now I’ve decided “FUCK IT, I’m naming buildings after them instead!” These are just 2 examples as they’re scattered all around town and I don’t want to spoil all of it:

In the original, massive sinkholes appeared around town after an earthquake hit but the only time players saw one was near the end. Well that’s all changed as you’ll come across a lot of them this time around (they also serve as a natural barrier and a great excuse to prevent players from exiting the world bounds!) The sinkholes now serve a more prominent purpose for the story as well.

This is another fairly large map and encompasses the entire area from when you leave the trainyards to the gas station area to the gunstore in the original game. The layout is complete and I’ve just got to fill in some rough details here and there for the time being. When I revisit it later during the polishing phase, I’ll add in some more wear and tear to sell that “lived-in” feeling.

You may have noticed that the new maps don’t have any clouds in the sky. This is because I have abandoned my original method of having a sphere with a rotating cloud texture on it. I don’t like the way it looks and so I am looking into alternative methods. One is to have real-time dynamic clouds but that is very costly and the solutions aren’t great for the version of UE4 that I’m using. I’m still using 4.20 because I HATE that they took Matinee out of all the newer releases! I am fully aware that the newer versions all have improvements and even built-in dynamic clouds but I’m not budging because I’m fucking stupid like that! :P

An idea dawned on me when I saw the way sunlight passes through the edges of my foliage. I think I can come up with a way to model some cloud planes, animate their movements and tweak my foliage material to give the clouds a sense of body and depth. We’ll see how that goes when I try it out later.

I’ve got about another week or so worth of work on this and then I’ll head into the next map. Just a few more to go!!

Quickie!

Just a quick, small update since I’ve wrapped this location up. Here are some shots of the truck area and nearby surroundings. I’ve been blessed with a seemingly limitless supply of energy and motivation lately so I’m just flying through these maps! There is less than a handful of locations to go and I estimate that I’ll be done all the maps (if I keep this pace up) in about 2-3 months. Mapping (and what comes with it such as modeling and texturing props as I need them) is the most time-consuming in my opinion.

Here is a roadmap of what is left after the maps. If you don’t see something on this list, it’s because it’s already done:

Animations (Npc, enemy, cutscenes, First-person weapon and interactions)

Importing (Npc, enemy, weapons) and coding the behaviour

Implementation and testing of various player mechanics

Detailing phase of maps, implementing sound and notes/items/spawns/2D Art

Optimization of assets and code

What is left isn’t all too difficult for me (you can thank YPAPS-G for the massive experience and confidence boost) but I haven’t done any solid keyframing in a loooong time so I’ll be a bit rusty. I’ll look into a couple of options suchs as motion capture with an app or even using Mixamo animations to save some time but I’ll see when I get there.

Everything in the roadmap including the entire Steam process is now just a straightforward thing to me. After all these years, I think I’m finally in range. This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned anything on this site in regards to Out Of Hell UE4 but I am starting to think that a Halloween 2022 date is very plausible (including beta testing)

I’ve got my eye on the prize and let’s hope that nothing prevents me from achieving this goal!

 

Incredibly Sad News!!!

Everyone, I literally just came across this news and I’m devastated. Justin Lassen, a friend, collaborator and fellow artist has passed away and I’m sitting here in complete shock. I don’t know what the details are but I found some information here and here.

I was looking around for some textures and out of the blue his name just popped into my head out of nowhere! I typed it into a search engine to find his facebook (I severed all my social media ties back in 2013) and I saw the headline “Justin Lassen – In Memoriam” I thought to myself, no, that can’t be..do they know what memoriam means? But when I clicked on it, it was him.

According to his facebook post he had a really rough year. I always remember his gentle nature and his creativity. He was an artist through and through and I understood and connected with him on that level. This was a type of man who suffered for his art and I look up to and respect that quality.

Justin composed an unforgettable soundtrack for the Out Of Hell mod. We met several times in real life (he came to visit me in Canada, we met up in Vegas and had a hilarious and awesome time, we went to GDC 2010 together and he introduced me to some incredible people) and shared some awesome stories and ideas.

We lost touch over the years (the last time I talked to him was probably in 2017 or maybe even earlier) over Skype. I should have tried harder to stay connected and offer assistance where I could. I intended to go in another direction with the soundtrack for the new Out Of Hell and I remember one of the last things he said to me was “I’ll cut off my own hands to work on the soundtrack for your new game!”

If I had included him, maybe things might have turned out differently. Maybe he would have had something to keep him inspired. I don’t know guys, I don’t know. There is so much more I want to write about him but my mind is a storm right now. I’m still trying to grasp the gravity of this. He had so many aspirations and so much more to offer and this loss cannot be described.

Rest in peace my friend. I will never forget you.

A Birchy Mood!

Hey! I just decided to upload some video progress because…why the hell not? The next area in this map that needs to be built is the small trucking area from the original:

Outside that it’s just applying a few broadstrokes of details here and there and filling out some distance visuals. I should be done this map by Sunday and onto the next: North Chester!

Old Grinny Appears!

It’s nice to be above ground again! I’ve got an update for the Inlet (the name is a bit misleading since it’s a reimagining of 3 different maps from the original) Its about halfway done and still needs some fleshing out but I think it does an alright job of conveying the mood so far! I worked really hard to give each location its own “feel” which is in itself a separate challenge. For this, I played around with the overall color scheme by using different types of trees that had more vibrant autumn leaves. Even though I used some of the same assets from the Laughlin Lake map, this area feels totally different.

If anyone remembers the Grinwood Tree and playground from the mod, you’ll know exactly where this is supposed to be! I fixed the nonsensical designs of that old map, expanded upon it and incorporated other maps into this.

Speaking of the Grinwood Tree, I swear to you that this is a completely true story. When I made this tree in SpeedTree, I needed to add a face to it (to live up to its name, -GRIN-wood) like in the original Out Of Hell mod:

I was trying to figure out a way to do this because it’s not possible to model such a thing inside of SpeedTree itself (SpeedTree generates random trees based upon user settings but as far as I know, there isn’t a “Generate a goddamn scary human face on your tree” setting)

So I was brainstorming and just screwing around with my time of day system when all of a sudden a F*CKING FACE ACTUALLY APPEARED!!! Look!

Isn’t that just…weird?! It was fortunate, awesome and creepy all at the same time! At least now I don’t have to waste time hand-modelling a different tree and carving a face into it!

I also included a couple of screens with some familiar lore from the mod (I did change it up a little bit so that it didn’t seem as though a kid wrote it)

I do plan to have all notes/logs and such displayed the way they do in games like Silent Hill but in some cases like this, the text is large enough to be read as is (if you want)