CAMP HANGAR: 01 - PLANNING
Here is my post-mortem of my Final Year Project (FMP) titled Camp Hangar, providing and in-depth analysis of the project overall as well as breakdowns of the process of development from start to finish.
"In the beginning..."
In January of 2018 I returned to University as a student, after working full-time in industry for the 18 months prior. Working from home, I returned to my studies full-time to finish my degree and create a portfolio piece that I hoped would showcase my skills on my online portfolio; something that would then earn me a position as an Environment Artist in a AAA games studio.
I wanted to work on a project based around a theme I loved. I had always been fascinated with the post-apocalyptic setting in entertainment media, especially with games like Naughty Dog's 'The Last of Us' and films like 'The Girl with all the Gifts', so I knew that I wanted to produce something that had that same feel of desperation and survival, while embracing the beauty of nature, as life returns to a dormant abandoned world. I also love games such as Tom Clancy's The Division and Destiny for similar reasons, a post-catastrophe game with environments that show extremely well crafted story-telling elements. I also am a fan of the Destiny series and wanted to incorporate a similar lighting scenario that can be seen in Destiny's early game, which shows the environments lit during the golden hour; with streaks of orange from the bright evening sunlight, as well as those deep blue shadows, going a long way to produce a dramatic time of day. Many of these aspects I would cannibalise, hoping to create an amalgamation of the lot, to create a scene that is my own personal love letter to these many themes, franchises, films and games that I adore.
After much deliberation, thought and brainstorming, I came up with the idea of a:
'3D Realistic Environment, featuring an Abandoned Aircraft Hangar turned Refugee Camp, in the not too distant future, in a post catastrophe setting. Set during the Golden Hour, in the springs of Eastern Europe, overlooking the Carpathian Mountains.'
This group would have made use of the storage facilities to feed, cloth and shelter themselves, appropriating technology inside the hangar for their own means - whether that was simply for shelter or for developing better technology to help them survive. I wanted to incorporate a lot of things into my project that spoke to what I loved, and that would keep me inspired throughout the project.
In that first week, I gathered as much reference as I could, for lighting, visual reference, style, mood, colour, technology, etc to refine my idea. Creating a reference library early on is extremely important and I would highly recommend any aspiring artist do the same when starting a new project.
I then quickly blocked out several levels using Unreal Engine 4 to get a feel for the space. A lot of planning was done before creating a single asset, so as to save time later, with a lot of iteration. I changed my mind on the composition and layout of the scene at least 20 times across the project, and a large majority of those changes were in the beginning stages, all done when using with simple shapes.
For planning I would also go on to document my progress, my work, my schedule, set out short term and long term goals for the project - everything to keep organised. I had 20 weeks to complete this project, and so a solid plan had to be devised.
Once I had a plan of action, a concept in mind and on screen, I would spend those early weeks developing the larger structural parts of the environment. Starting first of all with the construction of the scene, the pillars, the beams, the roofing, the walls etc. This took perhaps two weeks to complete, developing a modular kit that would go on to be the very skeleton of the level, the shelter above the heads of these refugees.
I would then go onto create the larger room located in the deepest part of the hangar and the catwalk that runs along it. I had the idea originally that the wall of this room would be blown out, destroyed by some kind of explosion or piece of falling debris etc, so I spent some time here, more than I should have, on developing the right amount of debris and damage for this area to read effectively.
Moving forward I would then design and create the larger props and assets to be used across the level that would help block in the play space, large assets such as shipment containers, portacabins, tents and vehicles to function as boundaries.