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Hello 5.3. Goodbye 4.x

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I have been steadily working on a new, updated version of the Clean Sci Fi asset pack. I’ve found that coming in to work an hour early each day when it is nice and quiet is the best time to try and move forward on this. I solved the First Person Controller issue by simply making my own. It behaves properly, unlike the Unity Standard Assets version. If the elevator prefab was rotated in any way it would throw off the Unity 5 version when the player was parented to it. I couldn’t see a way of solving it after much experimentation. I came to the conclusion that I needed to simply supply my own. People using Ultimate FPS (UFPS) have not previously reported any issue so I assume that controller works just fine. If you have a different experience please let me know. So I was steadily working towards a new version and I began the long process of switching (where possible) to the Standard PBR shader for materials. However I suddenly got an email from Unity telling me that my asset was going to be auto-deprecated because it contained Unityscript. I had to abandon the work on shaders […]
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Life changes

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I am alive! I have not passed away. I’ve just been rather busy. I’ve also had a few life changes. Life is the key word. I have aging parents who now need constant care. Lucky for me, and them, we have a large and loving family who are able to see to their needs. I also have two young children who take up a lot of spare time. So not much time left for my own game development. The most significant change however has been my relocation to Germany. I left full time teaching and I was lured back to professional game development here in Munich by an old friend and former colleague. So now I am working as Lead Artist for Travian Games. Recently Unity has contacted me to tell me that they are dropping support for java/unityscript. I have always included the Unity4x First Person Controller in my asset pack because it was better (in my opinion) than the newer version in Unity5x. Unfortunately the old Unity4x controller used java/unityscript. So I need to replace it. This is throwing up some issues. I’ll post on this subject soon, before the release of an updated version of the Clean Sci […]
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PBR and Custom Shaders

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Teaching has put a real slow down on my ability to update the assets as frequently as I’d like. But, it has not stopped me from responding to support issues with alacrity, I’m pleased to say.   Currently I’m on Easter break so I’m managing to put in some time for the long-overdue switch to full PBR for the Unity 5.x version. I’m discovering that I can plug in the PBR lighting model into my custom shaders. That’s good news as I was scratching my head over how to implement my ‘cheat’ with static props not contributing to the light map atlas (a saving I have been quite proud of). The baked static environment can use the vanilla Unity 5 standard shader but I need a solution for my props. Looks like I’ve found it.   Hopefully, by the end of this Easter break, I’ll have the next version of the asset pack published. Expect a video explaining the changes around that time too.
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Out of the Blue

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Sorry for the lack of news. Aside from my previous excuses of (chiefly) fatherhood and other issues delaying my progress in updating the asset pack, I now have another reason for the slow progress. I have a job. Not another freelance short-term contract type of job but a full-time position as Video Games Development teacher at Totton College, near where I live in the South of England. It all happened very quickly as their previous teacher left abruptly just before the start of the teaching year. Apparently he was quite inexperienced and a recent university graduate himself. I heard about the job on a Friday, interviewed for the position on the Monday and started work on the following Thursday. So my head is still spinning. I’m trying to adjust to the new circumstances as I’ve never taught at this level before: university – yes; college – no. I need to get on top of things so I can plan the year’s units and start teaching to a plan. At the moment I’m teaching by instinct and simply throwing information at the students. Speaking of which, the students are great, the college is great, the facilities are excellent and the staff are […]
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Much head scratching

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After that last post I took a break. Something I’ve needed for quite some time. I’ve been burned out for a while so some rest and time with the family was much needed. After a week or so I got back to it. Was it really over a month ago? Time has flown. Well, what have I been doing all this time? Many things, but mainly I’ve been mired in technical issues with Substance Designer. I know I’ve posted about this before, but essentially (to keep it short) I’ve been seeking a workflow that will realistically let me convert all the assets in the pack to PBR so that Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 4 can use them to the fullest while being sympathetic to authoring substances that end users can tweak. By this I mean create custom colours, add custom decals and add degrees of damage and dirt to taste. It’s a big ask and a major update so it is taking a while.
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Substance Compatibility Issues

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Work on the addition of substances to the asset pack has been challenging. Substance Designer, as I’ve previously stated, is very powerful. Furthermore it is a great thing to be able to put a range of customisable options in the hands of the end user. The reality, for me (the dev), is that all this power takes a bit of wrangling to get right. Substances can be complex. The more complex they are usually points to how customisable they are, and thus how useful. The complex the beast, the more fragile it becomes. For example, I have now discovered that I need to avoid using some of SD’s new node features (version 5) if I am to use published substances in Unity 4.x. That’s not too bad. It amounts to about four new blend node modes. No big deal, I just wish I had known that instead of having to ‘discover’ it when my substances wouldn’t import. Rather more serious is the fact that it appears that even with my deprecating some SD features I cannot use them in my original target Unity base version – 4.3. They flat out refuse to import. Version 4.5 of Unity, however, works fine. So […]
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Clean Sci Fi gets down and dirty

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I was all set to leave the environment pack for a while. I’d been working on it for so long I needed a break. While working on, and enjoying, the character design process for the synth security droids (see posts below) I began to grow uneasy. It felt bad to release the environment pack but not follow up, as soon as possible, with an update. Great, the assets may be, but they can always do with improvement. I have a roadmap for where I want the pack to be in a few months. I will be increasing the price accordingly, as I add value to reward the early adopters. One area I felt was lacking was support for Unity 5’s shiny new PBR standard material. I’d started work on the pack way before PBR had gained such traction in game engines as it does now. Back then it seemed best to develop and write my own custom shaders – which I duly did, and they ship with the pack. As good as those shaders are, they are old tech and Unity 5 has been out a while now. Other developers on the Asset Store are converting their assets to U5 […]
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Review the reviewers

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Wow! My appeal for reviews and ratings for the asset pack in Unity’s store has had quite a response. Many thanks to everyone who took the trouble to click on those stars and jot down a few words. I’m very grateful. You guys are great!
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More Synth Droid WIP

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Work on the synth droids is slow. Life is getting in the way, as usual, but I’m hopeful that progress will accelerate. One of the things that has slowed me down (not family related) has been a ‘re-tooling’ on my part. The screen grabs you will have seen in a previous post were from ZBrush, which is a new package to me. So I’m essentially getting up to speed with everything it can do. My previous experience with sculpting packages has been the excellent, and free, Sculptris. Now it is also part of the Pixologic stable of programs. But I’ve probably done most of my sculpting in Mudbox over the last few years, but never in anger – not for a ‘live’ project. We teach Mudbox to the students at Solent University on the Computer and Video Games degree course in the South of England. So I knew it well enough to really enjoy it (it is a great program) and to be able to teach it to the students. My experience with creating game characters is a little dusty. In short, at the start of my career in games (at the end of the nineties) I was an animator […]
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An appeal for reviews

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I’m reflecting upon sales of the assets in the Unity store. When I first got the idea to sell some assets in the store it was quite some time ago. At that time there didn’t seem to be much in the way of competition. There were some high quality assets packs of the sci fi persuasion out there, most notably from the excellent Manufactura K4, but even his pack was of the classic dirty, industrial sci fi look. So in choosing the clean look I thought my assets could stand out. It’s my own fault. Too much time has passed and now there are plenty of other assets competing for screen space in the store pages. It’s tougher to stand out. Like any on-line store, assets are sorted by attribute chosen by the user: by date; by rating; by name; by popularity. When you click through to the category you are interested in (3D Models/Environments/Sci-Fi in this case) the default attribute for the page sort is by ‘Popularity’. So naturally this makes it the most important ‘sort’. If you are on page one for this sort then your asset will be seen first. First in the queue is always best. It […]
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