The Thumblog! Day 1 - A Pot is Broken / by Andreas Kopriva

Greetings and welcome to the first installment of the Thumblog!

Firstly, I must explain that I've been away from the site for some time primarily due to poor time management and a large amount of work that I loaded myself with. I was also kinda lost as to what I wanted to contribute to this online space and as such handed over the reins to my associate Frixos, who enriched it with his Living Tale concept (update on that coming shortly btw). I now have a clearer vision along with some more time (paradoxical, considering that I enrolled in an Architectural Engineering diploma) to start working on this site again. 

Following recent discussions with friends (and hopefully, future associates :)), I was spurred to finally begin working on that game concept I initially had mentioned months ago. 

That original concept was a 2D platformer with combat elements (Metroidvania I guess?) taking place in a world where cadavers are repurposed by strange little creatures into architectural constructs. That is still the long-term plan, but over the past few days, I've come to understand that I have a long way to go before I possess an adequate skill-set to bring that to fruition. Furthermore, at this point (and especially considering my recent university enrollment) I do not really have much of a budget to pay people to help out sooooo yeaaaa. Therefore, I will be trying to create smaller projects as I come to grips with the tools, while simultaneously generating a larger project brief for the aforementioned larger game. 

Enter this blog. 

I am starting this Developer Diary of sorts, to essentially track my own progress, share my experiences, and also to keep me motivated in a way. As mentioned, the purpose is to create mini-projects which, when complete to an acceptable standard, will be made available to download. To be honest, I haven't considered distribution and availability at this point as I am at the very beginning of all this. But I'll probably be sharing models, maps, distributables, textures and whatever else I generate through this platform (probably under the Creative Commons license as well). 

With all that out of the way - here's the first concept outline and what I've done today : 


I've always been a huge fan of environment destruction in games, with my personal favorite being Red Faction: Guerrilla. Though I was a fan of the previous games, it was in this one where everything clicked into place for me and the destruction was glorious (even though the GeoMod engine no longer supported terrain deformation in Guerrilla :/) causing me to spend more time toppling buildings over than actually completing the game. 

Over the years I dabbled in modelling destruction, and with fluid simulations as well, having toyed around with Realflow enough to be able to build these guys : 

In terms of destruction, I familiarized myself with prefracturing objects using Voronoi diagrams and just setting up scenes where I would bombard rudimentary structures with heavy objects and watch them break into pieces. Here's a video :D : 

All this was done in a pre-rendered setting, so I currently have zero experience creating scenes such as the one above in a game engine such as UE4 (which is my engine of choice). That doesn't mean I wasn't gonna try. 

Like the real manly man that I am, I did not read any documentation and just proceeded to model a rudimentary pot object in C4D (my current editor of choice, though I am thinking of jumping to Maya LT in the near future) : 

Simple spline with a lathe modifier applied

... which I then exported and threw into Nvidia's PhysX Lab where I applied some Voronoi fracturing and got this really cool exploded view of it : 

I must have spent at least 15 minutes 'exploding' the pot - sooooo cool!

Now, I had done *some* research, primarily to see how feasible a massive scale destruction simulator would be in UE and found the following clip which lead me to begin looking into this methodology - 

The above video was done with UE3, but a subsequent search lead to the discovery of UE4 based examples. All of the available material suggests that not only is such a simulator feasible, but APEX object integration is pretty much built in UE3/4 at this point. Armed with the foolish confidence spurred by the belief that I'd just click on the mythical 'make stuff awesome' button surely placed in the middle of the UE4 interface, I opened a first person template in UE4 and imported my magical, prefractured pot. 

And it was at this point that I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Though I had gone through some UE4 tutorials months ago, and knew how to import and set up a rudimentary map, I had no idea how to make APEX items behave the way that I wanted them to. In other words, to fracture upon projectile collision and to then have those fragments conform to physical rules. 

After some tinkering, I managed to make my pot object fall apart but not upon being fired upon. Instead it fell apart if my actor bumped into it. Ideal if one is making a 'Clumsy Individual in an Antique Store Simulator' (hmmmmm...) but not exactly the desired outcome when one has visions of apocalyptic levels of destruction. 

Why shoot when your mere presence is so positively Cthonic that matter just disassembles in your presence?

I find that I am at a junction here and can either :

  1. Create what may be the world's first Cthonic entity simulator, whereby the mere presence of your character forces items to surrender to inevitable disassembly as they cannot fathom the madness of your presence on an atomic level - OR
  2. Begin learning the engine and maybe even learn some coding on the way.

Haven't yet decided to be honest :) 

Nevertheless, today I learned a bunch of things that I did not know yesterday, such as what APEX objects are and that UE4 appears to be flexible enough allow for the creation of relatively massive destruction based games. 

Not quite sure what tomorrow will bring, but it definitely feels good to be tinkering again :) 


-Andreas Kopriva