Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Miegakure Update November 2020: art direction in 4D

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Development on Miegakure is going well.

Modeling the large buildings is very far along and will be done soon.

I polished many things across the entire game.

In July I recorded my SIGGRAPH 2020 Talk about my Technical Paper on n-Dimensional rigid body dynamics, and will post it publicly soon.

I started working with a new artist to *really* nail down the final look of the game and environments across the whole game in a more integrated way. In the process we finally fully switched the engine to Physically Based Rendering (It was an easy switch, actually, contrary to what could be expected!)… and it makes the game look even better.

These were my thoughts as we nailed down the look of the game, and about how 4D space constrains our art direction in Miegakure:

In Miegakure we procedurally generate many 4D meshes and 3D textures. Just like 3D objects have a surface that is 2D, 4D objects have a surface that is 3D! The game also has many regular 3D meshes (with 2D textures) which are embedded in the 4D world, by giving them 4D thickness.

At first it might seem difficult to generate procedural 3D textures which are as detailed as 2D ones made by hand. And we need both at the same time!

In order to have details that aren’t noisy during transition, for a while I was using a combination of a 2D texture and a 3D texture, where the 2D texture contained more detail but was not affected by the slicing, and was just projected onto the sliced object’s surface. This was a hack, which you can see in the trailers: the high frequency detail of the texture just either slides or streches.

However too much 3D texture detail looks bad during the “transition” anyway. (The transition is what I call the time when the slice rotates 90 degrees after you press the 4D rotate button.) If the slice goes through many tiny objects as it rotates, the time each tiny object will be visible will be very short. This would look like many appearing/disappearing objects. The smaller the objects, the quicker they will be appearing/disappearing. In this video of an MRI of a fruit, the tiny seeds look noisier than the larger overall shape as the slice changes (but the colors are all grayscale and the size is still fairly big so it doesn’t look bad). So if a 3D texture has too much small detail, even if it looks good as a static 2D slice, it will look very noisy during the transition. So actually we don’t want to generate too much 3D texture detail, even if we can!

By the way there is a noise issue in 3D too: when the 3D camera moves over quickly changing detail it can create aliasing (a “shimmering” effect). Much of our 3D handmade content (large buildings, trees…) was already made to be less noisy in that sense. Stylized games have an easier time avoiding this problem since they often contain large flat regions of color.

Also, note that we can replace texture detail by geometric detail. This is part of what happened in the games industry with the transition to Physically-Based Rendering. Textures in PBR are not supposed to contain lighting/shadow information, only material information. For example, a rock texture might just be a simple gray color, and if we want actual cracks in the stone we model them as geometry (or normal maps) instead of dark lines in the texture. One of the goals of PBR is to make sure that the props will look good under many lighting conditions: for example a texture where the dark shadows are already stored in the texture (as opposed to computed using the light source) makes it harder to do that. Here is an example comparison/explanation.

Traditional and PBR textures

So it is in some sense more correct to use geometric detail instead of texture detail anyway. And most of the time it is simpler to procedurally generate geometry, so!

Miegakure can display more 4D geometric detail now compared to when development started. But there is obviously a similar limit for geometric detail where too much looks noisy.

So we can’t have too much texture/geometry detail, but on the other hand I don’t want the game to have very large flat section of colors like so many games have these days. I think it doesn’t work very well with the dioramas seen from far away, where all the visuals are condensed in a small section of the screen. I think it’s fine for the visuals to be simple if they fill a large area like the entire screen, but if they don’t then it does not give enough interesting stuff to look at.

The slicing mechanic also forces upon the game a certain level of realism. For example the tree canopies need to look good when sliced. We could model the canopy with a small number of large flat planes to give a nice painterly/low-noise vibe. This looks good in a regular game, but not when sliced, because the inner structure of the planes is revealed. It just looks like a bunch of simple intersecting planes instead of many tiny leaves creating a canopy. So we need to model leaves more realistically, but we can always make them mostly the same color to reduce noise, as shown here:

So to summarize: we want detail (enough to look good when sliced, and in dioramas, etc…), but not so much that it looks noisy (in the 3D and 4D sense). Compared to texture detail, geometric detail is easier to make and more correct (in the PBR sense and in how it doesn’t require 4D hacks). The final result is a combination of these constraints. It looks much more polished than before. I can’t wait to show it!

More Miegakure Concept Art!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Here’s more concept art for one of the realms in Miegakure. I also showed concept art and explained some of the ideas behind the different realms in this post.

The people who inhabit this realm live longer and are in general happier than humans, but it does not mean their society is perfect — it also has a darker side.

This piece was just selected for inclusion into the twenty-fifth volume of Spectrum, which selects “the finest in the fantasy, horror, science fiction and the surreal genres from around the world.”

Three Arch Building Concept Art

[It’s actually not the first time a piece done for one of my games got selected (previous selections included an illustration for 4D Toys, and previous concept art for Miegakure).]

Here’s another piece I really like:

Aqueduct City Concept Art

We have so many more but I don’t want to spoil the game too much!

Old Building Sketch Concept Art

The World of Miegakure (+Concept Art!)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

When I first started making Miegakure, my goal was for each puzzle to be about a cool consequence of being able to move in 4D. For example, entering a temple that is closed from all sides but not from the fourth dimension, going around a wall in 4D, appearing on top of hill too steep to normally climb, etc…

But it was also clear to me that there should be regular characters that also live in the same world. These characters provide a normal human’s perspective on the 4D miracles the player is accomplishing. For example they might be astonished at how the main character managed to appear on top of the hill. They also make the game much more alive because it’s not just about the pure puzzles themselves.

If characters live in each level, there should be a consistent world they live in. So the temple might be located in the outskirts of a village the player explored previously. The player might meet a few characters from that village multiple times, etc.. A bit like an RPG, except without fighting but deeper puzzles, and split into levels.

It’s possible to think of a 4D world as a bunch of parallel 3D worlds (just like it’s possible to think of the 3D world as a bunch of parallel 2D worlds, see the trailer for more). I use this fact to make the levels easier to understand, so a level might have a “desert world” and a “grass world.” (Actually there are infinitely many worlds, but they are grouped together so worlds next to each other in the fourth dimension look very similar)

So if I use this fact in the levels, I should use it in the world building as well. And hence the world of Miegakure contains a bunch of parallel universes, some of which containing their own civilization. The world the main character is from is a bit like our own, with a Japanese/European medieval theme. But there are others. For example here is some concept art of a windmill from a civilization that is wealthy, extravagant, but also a bit dark, with strange beliefs and customs…

Art by the amazing Kellan Jett (He may post concepts that are in-progress ideas and not representative of things that will actually be in the game).

New Video: A Grove scattered with 4D Spherinders

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

We are working on making every level in the game beautiful right now! Here is quick nice-looking video to make you happy!

Old tales say that deep within the Ancient’s Grove one can sometimes find scattered stone pillars, remnants of the old gods and those who worshiped them. Some people even claim they have seen stones levitate above the ground, held in place by a strange power.

But as you may start to know by now, it is not quite as it seems.

First, if you haven’t seen the game yet, this video is a good introduction:

This is way to much detail and nothing explained here is required to play the game, but I still think it’s really cool.

Spherinder Columns

The columns are in fact spherinders, which are one way to generalize the concept of a cylinder to four dimensions.

Extruded Circle

A cylinder can be thought of as a circle that has been extruded upwards (perpendicular to the plane of the circle).

Extruded Sphere

In a similar way, a spherinder is a sphere that has been extruded in the fourth dimension (perpendicular to all 3 directions of the sphere).

Depending on how you slice a cylinder with a plane you might get a circle, an ellipse (if slicing at an angle), or a rectangle (if slicing straight down the main axis). (One may also get a truncated ellipse if the slice goes through the top end of the cylinder)

Cylinder Slices

Rotating a cylinder while stuck in a 2D plane

Similarly, if you slice a spherinder with a 3D plane you might get a sphere, an ellipsoid (if slicing at an angle), or a cylinder (if slicing straight down the main axis). (One may also get a truncated ellipsoid if the slice goes through the top end of the spherinder)

Rotating 3D Cross Section of a 4D Spherinder (source)

Many of the spherindrical pillars found in this grove have tilted over the ages, and so one may look at many different slices of them. The ones still standing straight will look like cylinders, but the tilted ones may look like floating ellipsoids. Look for the one that has completely fallen to the ground and hence sometimes appears as a sphere.

Concentric Spheres Carved into the Ground

Concentric Spheres Carved into the Ground

While dirt and moss have mostly reclaimed the area, one can still see that around each spherinder the stone surface was carved in a series of concentric spheres. Yes, an entire 3D sphere can lay flat on the ground in 4D!

In a 3D game the ground is 2D, and so in a 4D game the ground is 3D. That means that if you are standing on the ground there are six possible directions you may go: forward/backward, left/right, and ana/kata. However, in the game, because you are only seeing a 3D slice of the 4D world, you only see a 2D slice of the 3D ground at any given time (only two pairs of directions out of three).

Slicing ConcentricS pheres

And therefore the concentric spheres look like concentric circles to a regular 3D person. Depending on which slice a person sees, the circles might look larger or smaller (if one takes a slice near the side of the sphere the circles will be smaller than if the slice is taken near the middle of the sphere).

Because the spherinder lies in the center of the sphere pattern, during the transition (when the character changes which way they are facing i.e. the orientation of their slice), one can see each spherical pattern “anticipate” or “follow” the spherinder that stands at its center: the circles grow larger before the spherinder is about to become visible, and after the spherider disappears the circles shrink. I think this effect looks so freaking great!

4D Grass

4D grass

Other curious things one may find in the Ancient’s Grove are blades of grass that appear to float in mid-air. This is because the point at which they grow out of the ground is out of sight in the fourth dimension. (The same effect makes certain slices of spherinders look like floating ellipsoids) Some grass bunches are more prone to this effect, based on which direction their blades tend to grow.

Seeing Inside Trees

Seeing Inside Birch Trees

While the character is facing the fourth dimension, they may also examine the inside of the Birch trees. This is just like how for a 2D being a house only needs four walls but us 3D beings can see inside the house by just looking at it from the third dimension.

2D Temple

I love how art and mathematics blend in this game!