UTMC - Two Listen

polycounter lvl 9
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Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
I suppose I need to try to get in on this. Contest happened to land on the busiest month of the year for me so far. I'm not at all familiar with Unreal Tournament, have never played a game and information on the game's lore and universe seems...sparse and a little all over the place? Since we're not designing levels and the "theme" seems to be the main criteria to focus on, not knowing what fit was at first fairly burdensome.

But I tried to do some research and from what I can make out - arena based shooter, pew pew, stuff about space and different factions/races trying to kill each other because why the hell not. Saw screenshots of everything from high tech ruins to asian-esque temples to space stations with planets visible in the background. Mulled it over for a while and figured I'm just going to try to expand my horizons and have some fun; if it fits it fits if not well I'll hopefully have done something that made me happy. Wanted to get a thread started so I can post the crappy early stuff.

First sloppy idea to get the juices flowing, natural/mechanical spire type things on a planet with significant lightning activity in the atmosphere. Spire facilities designed to harvest said lightning as an energy source for...stuff that probably glows and moves a bit. Fighting takes place atop one such structure.


Next will be trying to figure out a proper composition for a better, closer, more fleshed out version I suppose. Fairly unfamiliar with larger scale environment stuff.


  • threadlock
    Nice! I love the atmosphere of this.
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks threadlock, I appreciate that. That was a big purpose of the initial scribble, to give me a vibe I could try to refer to off and on while figuring out the harder stuff.

    Speaking of harder stuff, here's some more experimentation. It's apparently been too long since I pursued environments, and I don't know that I've ever worked with much in the way of man-made structures. ...it's not as simple as working on other illustrations (anything with a character). Getting the base down has always been a reliable starting point for me, whip out a pencil and do a loose pose/sketch or what have you. This is different. On one hand it feels more...malleable, like larger portions are up for changing and painting over more often. On the other hand I lack the knowledgebase and experience to pull from to quickly get down decent looking large shapes for a nice read.


    Still a lot to experiment with. Not entirely sure yet where I'm going so far as overall scale, structural style, how advanced the tech is... Just trying to get used to what feels like a new different mindset. Probably need to buckle down and do some research/referencing/inspirational study next.
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
    So I haven't given up on this, but I also have not dedicated nearly as much time as I would have liked. I don't normally like to post my progress (...and in this case, HUGE failures...), but in the interest of not ninjaing in at the last minute with a finished piece, I guess I will.

    Fair warning, some of this is pretty bad.



    After that I tried to set up something I thought I could push a little farther, and screwed up big time right from the start. I never once was able to have even a hint of a clear mental image for direction, or overall feeling:






    After the above I took some time to step away and do some reading. Perspective was really kicking my ass, but I did not want to do a 3D blockout. I don't think there's anything wrong with using them, but I wanted to learn and work in a strictly 2D manner, because I felt like I'd learn more in the long run in doing so. I'd seen people set up perspective grids in photoshop before, saw remnants of them in people's work, but had never done it myself. I tried a couple different things, including this, but found it somewhat limiting. I then ran across this perspective grid script for photoshop, and found it much more helpful.

    So here's where I'm at now. Stage 1, just learning to work with the perspective grid, blocking things out. Could be that it doesn't look that much different to other people than the above, but I'm able to get a better read on things in my head and I think that will be a big benefit. I have a couple days to hit it hard and hopefully come up with something alright. Here's hoping. :)

  • Suidae
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    Suidae triangle
    Hey, thanks for linking those scripts, they're awesome. Especially the parallel lines. I've tried setting up just the star shape in photoshop but was never content because the lines actually get further away the closer towards the horizon you get, which messes with my sense of depth.

    So far it looks good to me. It looks like a very unpleasant place to take a vacation. The theme would fit in well with the original Unreal tournaments I think. Don't beat yourself up over everything, have some fun!
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
    No problem Suidae! I'm trying to treat this contest less like a contest and more like an opportunity to challenge myself, learn, and share that experience with other folk at least a little bit. I'm glad you found the script useful, it really helped me out and will surely help me out a lot in the future. And I am definitely having fun. The commentary on those last images was largely lighthearted rambling, I just decided to add the text to lighten my mood in the evening. Truth be told, I'm so used to screwing up and making noob mistakes by this point that it's become pretty standard procedure, no less important a step than adding color or putting on the finishing touches. :)

    Worked on it a bit more today. Going slooooow. It still takes me quite awhile to really get my brain in the mode for man-made structures, designing them is very hard. That being said, I am really looking forward to tomorrow (and quite possibly later this evening assuming I won't be able to sleep). Didn't make a huge jump today, but I think I got it to a point where the loose building blocks are there. I am relieved to look at the image and have it feel familiar, not unlike a very recognizable step (for me) in the workflow of my other paintings.


    I am considering extending the canvas up a bit on top, since the massive pillar/lightning rod type structure things are...sort of important and it might give me something more fun to paint (more lightning), but I will save that consideration for the end if there's time. I will try to update this again tomorrow!
  • FirebornForm
    You've definitely drifted a long way from your original idea, I don't really have a preferred one as they are both cool. While the original had a more utilitarian like look this looks something into fantasy. The architectural stuff you have here is a strange mix almost roman+industrial with those archways. Since they are so radically different, you could enter both of them to the final submissions thread. Yeah it might not be "polished" or finished but people from all skill levels are posting all sorts of stuff, whatever Epic can see with the more options to use the better.

    You've got the right idea on how to treat this contest though, keep pushing yourself to outdo your old work, contests are great excuses to kick us into gear.

    I havent used your script though it looks like it could be pretty useful for 4point perspective. I've used freehanding, line tool, star point, and vanishing point brushes but for extracting perspective out of an image I use this one. [ame=" Tools for Photoshop CS6+ (1.2 update) - YouTube[/ame]
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
    Fireborn - Well hopefully it doesn't seem like I've drifted too far. The original idea, especially the first image, is so far zoomed out as to not really offer much in the way of detailed readability. The overarching idea of "facility atop a natural spire that harvests lightning" is still present, but from a workflow standpoint adding some of the more distinguishing details (like lightning, perhaps other spires off in the distance) will be done last. Not only because they're easier to do, but because it's easy to get caught up throwing lightning everywhere and I don't want to ignore the more physical aspects of the painting. The shape of the facility has changed fairly drastically from 2nd post on, largely because I didn't think the other designs resembled anything "playable" and I wanted to keep getting closer and closer views, because they're something I struggle with.

    It's interesting that you mention the archways, their usage is partially intentional in a vague attempt to relate back to the "lightning" theme - electric arcs, and all that.

    Thanks for the perspective tools video, I don't have CS6 but I plan to upgrade at some point in the near future and that might come in handy. :)
  • FirebornForm
    Hey Two. I think at the end of the day as a designer the sorts of decisions you make fall back on your own adventure. Your concept idea has been pretty much the same so I don't think that's drifted too far away (the only thing I can't tell right now is that it's powered by lightning) but your shape language has gone through the mill. I went overboard on my own design throwing out every iteration so I know the feeling.

    I can still see there's an electrical theme going on, though it could be pushed further with actual electrical power grid references. Not saying that everything must look like this because this is modern and therfor "boring" but you can take some general shape language ques from it like the ribbed design of transformers

    Since you're pressed for time, looking at your image as it is now I thought you had a good set up for a lightning strike if you wanted to get the message across that it's harnessing that power. You have a taller "spike" that makes me instantly think of a lightning rod and while realistically speaking it might not make sense because lightning is attracted to the tallest thing in the area you could get away with it by saying the rod is charged with ions to attract the bolts.


    I think your image you had in "Oh god I dont know what I'm looking at" had a cool concept of lighting up "the grid" in the area. Even if you can't finish it, I would still include it into the final submissions with a little explanation on what you're conveying.

    The shape language is a bit odd in that one, but the idea of arc gates and other structures being electrically charged, and seeing that definitely fits into Unreal territory. I might suggest instead of nonstop lightning strikes, turn it into a more reoccurring event that happens enough when you see a bolt the area gets temporarily charged sending a current around the whole map, including electrifying the arc gates and possibly frying people inside. This is getting into level-design discussion and we're not designing that but I just wanted you to be reassured that your idea can easily fit into UT and inspires thinking about running around in an environment like that.
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks again for the reply Fireborn. I had considered along the way attempting to implement everything from transformers, large capacitors, Faraday cages, power lines, etc. Unfortunately, a majority of those things are tedious to paint (and I don't like to use bits of photos), and would also require some research to use in a fashion I felt made a lot of sense. The idea of painting a semi-industrial environment on its own was already foreign to me, so I didn't want to take up a lot of time trying to implement them. I also figured, most players wouldn't actually understand what they are anyway ("stuff to do with electricity"), so decided to go with things I thought I could pull off a bit better.

    Regarding the implementation of lightning in gameplay, it was actually the numerous potential uses of lightning in a game map that made me want to do it in the first place. I envisioned lightning strikes turning things like jump pads on/off, creating temporary environmental hazards, changing the lighting in certain areas, etc. Whether or not anything of that nature would ever get implemented, if the overall theme is even considered, I can't say. But I thought it could be a cool idea for game developers of all sorts to potentially have fun with. I am happy to hear you think it could fit into the UT universe, I was really uncertain of whether or not that was the case.

    I think I've managed to finish it. Or at least, I'm largely out of time and really need to step away from the desk for awhile:


    Those two glowing square things on the ground are a rough idea for jump pads, just for the record.

    I wasn't able to define as much of it as I'd have liked, and there are a lot of design aspects that I don't think turned out all that stellar, but looking back on where I started with this project - I think it's something I can be fairly proud of. :) The process was more tedious and not as free feeling as painting characters and more organic things, but I acquired some new skills and am actually sort of excited to try other sorts of environments down the line. :thumbup:

    I generally keep a separate .psd file with screenshots while I'm working, so I'll update this a bit later on tonight or tomorrow with progress shots for anyone interested. For now it's time to go stick this in the final submissions thread!
  • FirebornForm
    Glad I was able to give you some help working up so close to the deadline, stuff like having the bolt visably connect to something in the scene is better than needing to paint entire areas extending the canvas.

    Nice compromise working with the deadline. I like the added electrical bolts and the electric charged jump plates, makes the area feel more connected to the theme instead of just some architecture that catches lightning. Good choices on splitting the arches up to feel more like electrical arcs. I like your extra touches of steam blowing out from the main building, helps sell that this is harnessing intensely hot energy.

    Finally, nice stormy sky. Visually I still get a tech+gothic castle vibe from this image but that's part of the appeal of it standing out from the norm. :)

    Regarding all of the electrical details, I totally agree that they are tedious and time consuming details like that would take up a lot of time to do. I'd probably attack that in the terms of a custom brush in photoshop.

    I completely agree with you that the concept art of environments for harder surfaces like architecture and indoor shots is an entirely different ball game, one that's much slower and needs more precision than just winging it with landscapes. As a general landscape painter myself this was a whole new challenge for me. Landscapes are just easier because they allow more chaotic "mistakes" and randomness, where as architecture is more structured defined and repetitive patterns of design
  • Two Listen
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    Two Listen polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks for the kind words Fireborn, I'm glad you like how it turned out. The more I look at the image the more I'm happy with it. I'm glad the sky looks nice and hopefully gives off that heavily charged sort of atmosphere; I was pretty confident that once I painted the sky and other glowy bits that it would help sell the concept. It was difficult to save them for the end of the painting because I knew it would be a lot of fun to paint something familiar (clouds) and dive in with that tiny few pixel brush for the lightning. I'm feeling fortunate that I stuck with a concept that challenged my existing skillset, while at the same time involved enough of the familiar that I could eventually string it together. ...just took a good few tries. :poly122:

    Here's a WIP gif for anyone who might be interested. I feel like gifs are a bit more fun to see progress in than a really long, static set of screencaps.


    As a side note, the original resolution of the image is 7000x3400. I got into the habit quite awhile ago of working large, not only in the event anything might need printed, but because whenever I'd paint characters I'd get annoyed at not being able to really zoom in on interesting bits like their faces. Shrinkage can also do wonders to hide messy brush strokes.

    Good luck to all other participants. I was happy to participate in polycount's first 2D contest.
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