Freja’s Journey: The Graveyard Environment Art

Freja’s Journey will take the player in a magical viking land, so when it comes to the visual side of our little game, environment diversity is a top priority for us.
Here’s something a bit different than what I previously posted: The Graveyard

(since this post focuses on the environment, the enemy AI is disabled in the video)

 

 

Look Development

The Graveyard is not a full level yet. Currently we have built only a small piece of the environment to do the look exploration and while this is just the 1st iteration we liked it enough to share it with you guys.

(click on a picture to enlarge and rollover a slider for controls)

FJ_L09_04

 

As Freja’s adventure progresses through Midgard – the land where the first episode takes place – the areas she travels will change as well. If the quest starts in her cozy, little village at the edge of the woods, towards the end of the journey she will explore less welcoming places like The Graveyard.
While the mood and the characters she encounter will vary, it is important for us to keep the cozy, friendly look throughout the game – and at times that can be a challenge :-)

 

 

With The Graveyard we knew from the beginning that we don’t want to go with grey or to use very desaturated colors since we tried to avoid any chances of the place looking scary or even worse, creepy.
So we settled on a fairly saturated green that we then balanced with some cozy, warm yellow / orange light from the candles. The atmospheric effects played a big role in making the place look mysterious and I’ll talk more about the effects a bit bellow.

 

 

Effects Work

As I was saying above, the environment effects – especially the mist and fog – played a crucial role in making the Graveyard a mysterious place.
While the generic fog-planes would have been enough for an Ok result we knew we could do better so I spent a bit of time working on a Ground Mist Effect that needed to be fast, flexible and easy to work with.

FJ_L09_GroundMist

 

At it’s base is a vertex shader that uses the individual RGB channels of a texture to define the look: the Red channel is used for the static mask while the Green and Blue channels have the two scrolling “diffuse” maps. There’s of-course some overlapping between the channels but it works fine for this soft, wispy look.
The shader can also do some “wave” vertex animation but for the Graveyard we kept that to a minimum.

TheGraveyard_GroundMist

 

Attention to detail is something that we pride ourself with so I thought might be a nice touch to make the candles that are close to the main path react when the characters are running close.
It’s not something that will stand out but I’m convinced that together with other similar small touches will create a living environment that the player will be attracted to.

So I made a simple C# script that detects when a character passes by and it uses it’s direction and speed to modify the properties of a particle system, in this case the velocity and the emission rate. Bellow you can see the system modifying two particle effects that Silvia created.

 

The Graveyard environment also offered the chance to explore a bit how the Ghosts will look.
To work on the shaders and effects I used the goblins that Mads made, but the Ghosts will be based on another class of characters – the goblins are only used as a mesh placeholder.
The look is very much work in progress and I’ll post new updates as we’ll refine it in the future. Bellow is the 1st iteration:

 

 

Contributions & Gallery

  • I did part of the modeling, part of the effects, the shader work and I supervised the lighting.
  • Mads Jakobsen did the concept art, rigging, animation and some of the modeling.
  • Silvia Lazar did the set dressing, lighting and the particle effects.

 

In the end I would like to mention that since we’re so early in production anything could change and most probably will since we’re constantly refining the gameplay and the visuals.

Thanks for following,
-Adrian

 

<< Next post: Shader Look Exploration

>> Previous post: The Tiny Village Environment Art