Week 15 – Open House and Finals

We’re working up on wrapping things up at Studio Duat. It’s been a really long semester and we’re walking away with a lot of valuable lessons learned about being a creative team using technical tools, bringing an artistic vision to life together.

The ETC hosted an open house on Friday, opening the building for the public to come and experience the spring 2018 projects at the ETC. We received a lot of encouraging feedback from our guests, and overall, we’re proud of what we’ve made this semester. This post will be updated with a full video playthrough of the experience when it is ready.

Meanwhile, we’re putting on our final polishes to our production, wrapping up our documentation on the preproduction package, and getting everything ready for archiving.

We’ve got finals next week, and then we’re signing off on a great semester!

Week 12 – Soft Opening

For student projects at the ETC, soft opening is when projects are meant to be in a completed state. We’re currently now in our final production phase, and are putting together our documentation archive and our preproduction package.

Softs went very smoothly for us; the faculty came around and went through the experience either in the Oculus or in the CAVE. We received a lot of feedback which is directing our efforts for the next two weeks.


Our most immediate goal now is to make sure that everything is properly put together and bug free for finals.

See you next week!

Week 14 – Cleanup, Polish, and Preproduction

We had some time to go and have our team dinner this week! We’ve all been working really hard, it was nice to get out of our project room and go bond at The Melting Pot.

For our preproduction package, we have researched and put together guides for the following:

–  Hair simulation

–  Water simulation / Underwater environment

–  Shaders research

We’re also creating more concept art, a mood board, and templates for the script and storyboard.

Week 13 – Feedback

This week was a pretty heavy week; we’ve mostly been polishing our experience for softs. VFX, audio, and timing have been our focus. We put a freeze on our art assets on Wednesday and have worked towards making sure that we have clean builds for our demos.

We had faculty come in this week to give us feedback on our experiences, and this will help guide our direction for after softs, as we move to finals.

Shirley Saldamarco and guest Anthony Daniels came to give his insight

Most of what we will be doing up until the end of the semester is putting as much polish as we can. Playthrough video to come soon!

Week 12 – Sprinting to Soft Opening

After the direction we received from Playtest Day last Saturday, we’ve given ourselves a deadline of 4/18 (next Wednesday) to polish the art assets as much as we possibly can. We’ll be freezing  our art then to make sure that we can debug our experience and prepare materials for our preproduction package.

The Land of Night’s portal to the next world
The Land of Day
Acting out the scene in the Judgement Chamber

After Soft Opening (week 14), we will be revisiting our priorities again and deciding on the elements that we want to refine for the remaining two weeks of the semester.

Week 11 – Prep for Playtest Day

This week’s post is a day late because we wanted to include some takeaways from our Playtest Day (Saturday 4/7). It was a long and fun day, and while we know we can’t clean up and polish everything with the time we have left, playtesting helped us come away with some clear priorities.

–  Camera movement through the world

–  Animation production and implementation

–  Model and texture swapping in the Land of Night and Judgement Chamber

Things are heating up in the last few weeks of the semester, we’re going to be in a mad rush to get a few more essentials and layers of polish into our experience.

We’re working to get cleaner coordination among the different specializations of our team to make sure that we can reach softs (Week 14) with a bug-free, completed experience.

Personality posing tests with rigs

We’re also replacing a lot of our placeholder assets with higher resolution models and customized textures.

Textures applied to the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus
Poor man’s coffin
Scales of Judgement
Anubis, fully rigged and textured


Updated lighting in the Land of Day
Staging out the final judgement scene
Reworking the larger layout for the Judgement Chamber

See you next week!

Week 10 – Halves and Refinement

It’s been a pretty packed week in the studio, with regrouping after most of our team was away for Spring Break and GDC.

This weekend we prepared for halves, in which we present our project’s progress and plans for the remainder of the semester to the student and faculty body.  We presented on Monday, and were met with generally positive feedback.

Last minute rehearsing

At this point, we are moving into refining and polishing what we’ve built into a cohesive experience.

Our next milestone is ETC Playtest day (Saturday, 4/7), and we will be aiming at presenting a smooth experience of all of the broad strokes for story and visuals to our playtesters. Following this, we will use our playtesting results to determine our priorities and scope for the remainder of the semester.

We’re working on polishing our environment layouts…

Updated tree portal for Land of Day
Updated layout setting for Land of Night

…and working on smaller details…

Textures being developed for sarcophagus and jewelry

…in order to have a smoother experience that we can get the greatest amount of feedback from by the end of next Saturday’s playtest.

We’ll also have our voice actors coming in next week to record lines for us, which will help animation make more progress.

See you next week!

Week 8 – Adventures in Scaling

This week, we analyzed our playtest results from last week and used it to dictate our highest priority targets for the experience to work on both platforms.

One of the most important challenges is to optimize the scale of the models and layout of all the environments for both of the platforms we are working on. We are also refocusing efforts on our opening and ending scenes to get them to the same level of development as the Land of Night and the Land of Day.

Rich man’s side in the opening scene
Land of Day
Land of Night portal

We are also making progress on getting our characters ready for animation, with our judged characters in the rigging and UV phase.

Given the temporary Oculus blackout this week, we took our Oculus build and demoed it in the CAVE for our faculty advisors. They gave us a lot of good insight and feedback for dealing with the issues of scaling in each environment. A big takeway is that even though both platforms provide guests with similar fields of view for important environmental elements, we will need separate versions of the scenes that are scaled accordingly for each platform.

Opening sequence critique
Land of Day critique

We are experimenting with tricks and are drawing inspiration from different tricks used in traditional animation.

Our other focus this week was practicing for halves. Next week is spring break, and most of our team will be absent the following week for GDC.

Reviewing and rehearsing halves presentation slides

As part of the preparation for halves, we had to discuss our plans and priorities for the rest of the semester in order to be able to concretely communicate them to the faculty in Week 10.

See you in two weeks!

Week 7 – Playtesting and Scheduling

Now that we’re into March, we are starting to feel the urgency of time.

After receiving our first background music demos (courtesy of Yutian Zheng), we playtested the emotional impression that our environments left on guests in both Oculus and CAVE this week, and discussed the feedback we received to create a plan of future development steps for each environment that would enhance our emotional targets.

We took the results of the playtest and created a plan of action for each environment to better reach our goals for each one’s visual development and the resulting emotional impact.

This week, we are starting to make some significant steps forward in terms of populating the environments we are building. The character pipeline is well into rigging the humanoid story-centric characters, and building out creatures that will push the rest of our environments to the next level.

Given that almost half of March will be lost to spring break and GDC, we made a plan for how we could effectively spend the time we have to push our project forward. We have also begun discussions for how we will organize the creation of the preproduction package, and are executing a plan for our halves presentation on March 26th.

Week 6 – Production and Testing

After receiving feedback from ETC faculty this week, we had a couple of serious discussions in which we discussed how we would shape our future workflows and pipelines going forward.

Now that our story is locked into place, we spent a day putting together an art style guide for each of the environments that we are developing. Since we don’t have a dedicated concept artist on the team, we collected references from all kinds of sources as a team, printed them out, and discussed the elements of each one that we wanted and didn’t want in our environments. With decisions being focused on how the environment could tell our story and hit the target emotions we want to create for our guests.

Art style guide

We are in the process of reworking the Land of Day to better match a deep sense of comfort and peace.

Early draft of the revised layout for the Land of Day

According to some of the feedback we received, we also started putting more detail into the Land of Night in order to create a more claustrophobic environment that generates a deeper sense of fear.

Screenshot of the Oculus environment in progress
Testing… while Euna was aware of the camera pointed at the back of her head.

On the character front, we’re diving further into Anubis and his visual development, while starting placeholder models for the creatures that will also be inhabiting these scenes. We’re doing a deeper dive into the visual development of the other characters in our story as well, by researching the ancient Egyptian concept of the spirit.

Current state of the character model in ZBrush
Low poly version of a snake for the Land of Night

As we move forward, we’re focused on identifying how to direct our guest’s attention around our experience by using various methods of indirect control. We’ll test these methods to see which ones are most effective for us, and start preparing for 1/2s presentations. See you next week!