Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fake products in games + Making Of "Wood-Be-Gone" spray

     Coming across a fake product in a video game is a very common thing to happen to the player and placing such products in the game is a design practice that game developers/designers have been doing for ages now. This practice of course is also done in other formats of media outside gaming such as films, tv shows, comics, paintings, etc. I personally believe that fake products typically stand out the most in games because usually the player gets a better chance to explore and find something on their own time where as in a film, the viewer might miss something placed in a frame or not catch it the first time they watch the movie.

But why? What is the point?
This is going to sound like basic design for beginners or something that is just common sense, but artist and designers are constantly looking for ways to make their game world or film, art project (what ever work they are doing) feel as believable as possible. What is one way they can achieve this? Simply ask themselves, "What kind of products would the player expect to find in this world?", "What kind of products do the characters use in their own world?' etc. Maybe you are working on a modern day city environment so people should expect to come across things like vending machines, billboard signs that advertise a new phone, etc. Or maybe you are working on a futuristic world that takes place in space. The player would expect to come across more futuristic and advanced products instead of your regular bag of chips and cigarette packs. The products along with every other art asset should be as consistent as possible in order to not break any immersion in the world that the viewer or player is experiencing. Of course this is just my own opinion and not a mandatory design rule. The world can still be immersive while at the same time feature out of place items/products, but it can be much harder to pull off.

Optional and mandatory products/items.
It really is not hard to come across such items in games and almost any game you play most likely does have it's own set of products placed throughout the world. The GTA series with it's line of food products and drinks is a good example. One I could think of off the top of my head is the Sprunk energy drink you can find. The Dead Rising series is another excellent example of a game that maybe has hundreds of fake products. Speaking of Dead Rising, this brings me into my next point. Some games feature fake products that are just there to make the world believable while other games create product brands that are absolutely mandatory to use in order to progress in game. A game that did a great job of doing this was again Dead Rising. Introduced in Dead Rising 2, the Zombrex was a key item to have. You might be thinking "so what? every game has key items the player must get" - That is true, but what made Zombrex so unique was how important the game made it seem. There were ads for it, branding and everyone in the game was aware of it and how important it was. You are in a world in which a zombie outbreak has happened, but a semi cure has been found to prevent you or loved ones from turning into zombies if bit and you could get this product in places like pharmacies, over the counter. Dead Rising 2 made it feel like an actual real product in the game world. While it was a mandatory item to have, the game never really forced you to go out and get it. It nagged you to get it, but you didn't have to listen if you didn't want to. However, it made the player very aware of how important it is to have and naturally, the player would keep track of time and go out to try and find this product just to have it on hand. Like in real life, if you go grocery shopping you always make sure to grab that one really important necessary thing, like toilet paper for example. It added a bit more immersion to the whole experience and just made the world you are exploring feel more believable.

Every detail counts.
This is kind of more related to the paragraph before I talked about optional and mandatory products in games. Sorry to keep jumping back and forth between subjects. But, going back to talking about design and making the world as believable as possible. To many, placement of fake products is just a minor detail that is often just looked past. Often, the player won't even really care if they come across something like this. And it really isn't that big of a deal. I'm not even sure if this post was worthy of having it's own large article written out. But I am running out of ideas for my blog. Anyway, I personally love coming across small details like this in games. I like taking the time to just look around the world a bit and see what products it has to offer and compare them to real world items even. (I know, I am a huge loser) But as an artist you want to try and pay attention to these small details, learn from them and see how you can incorporate them into your own works and make them more believable. The fact that the designers and developers took the time to create a their own line of products and fake brands just for the sake of their creation to make the game world (or movie) feel as immersive as possible shows how dedicated and passionate they are about their craft and is something that I personally do appreciate seeing.

Anyway, this was just my own little theory and views on the idea of fake products in games. I'm sure not everyone agrees or feels the same, but I think it is an interesting subject to talk about relating to game design. I tried to word this as best as I could, but the post was kind of all over the place. Apologies if I didn't really make much sense in today's article. With that said, I also have a new "Making Of" that I would like to share. I decided to design my own fake product for one of my upcoming games that I am currently developing. Below is where I discuss the process and share the workflow of how I created "Wood-Be-Gone Bug Spray" - An original fake product by ME!

     Product design is something that I never really payed much attention to until one day I visited a local Chinese store in my area. It was my first time there and there were a lot of products I have never seen or heard of before in my life. For some reason almost everything stood out to me and was very eye catching because of how well the packaging was designed. Bright, colorful and full of character I suddenly became interested in all of it. I would stop, look at something and say "the packaging on these items is done so well!" and then it dawned on me how important product design actually is. Having nice packaging, branding, and eye catching designs are just as important as the actual product itself.

Anyway, that was just a little short story of what got me interested in product design. Let's get into this fake bug spray I made.

"Wood-Be-Gone!" is a fake bug spray I created for my upcoming game. This is a common item that the player will come across. It is also a usable item that could be picked up and used against enemies. I don't want to get into too much detail right now, but quick summery: there has been an outbreak of these new type of insects in the game that carry a deadly (fictional) disease that has gone viral in the games world. The spray is used to instantly these bugs. The bugs typically travel in packs and the spray acts as a quick solution to neutralize any threat they impose. This is an item that will aid the player through their journey. As for the name "Wood-Be-Gone", it will be explained in the game why it is named that.

Break Down:
First I started out with the modeling. This was a very simple and quick process. Since I was modeling a spray can, I started out with just a basic cylinder shape and then modeled in things like the metal rims, the spray cap, etc. The whole model is just a circular cylinder. Nothing fancy and nothing over complicated. After modeling, I quickly layed down some base colors (which change by the end of this) and marked my seems to prepare for unwrapping.

Texturing the model:
This was probably the most time consuming part of the process because I wanted to make it look like an actual real life product. I began by adjusting my UV map, baking base colors and exporting my diffuse and uv map out. I brought those maps into GIMP and experimented with various concepts and designs until I finally created a texture I was happy with.
uv map layout

initial design I created.

I would constantly switch between blender and gimp to see what my texture looked like on the 3d model.

texture test

The Logo Design:
Everything on the texture map is made from scratch bit by bit. I didn't want to just go get some stock clipart or texture images and create the design out of that. Again, I was aiming to create a believable looking product that would make sense in my game world. The game has these very unique bug models that I created a while ago and I wanted the bug spray can to be advertised in the game as something that fights against those specific insects. So I took the actual bug model, which is this:
bug from my game.

And I created black 2D silhouettes out of the 3D model as icons and branding logos for the bug spray.

"Wood-Be-Gone" logo/branding

Text Logo:
For the text logo, I decided to give it a wooden texture. Kind of a burnt wood kind of appearance instead of just a basic boring black and white text logo.

Text Logo made of REAL WOOD!

More Texturing and finishing touches:
I eventually decided that yellow wasn't a good color to represent the bug spray can and instead created a nice gradient purple to serve as the can's main color.

That's better!

More details and touchups:

Even better!

Final touch:

Now it's PERFECT!

With a ton of other Blender props I made:

Inside The Unity Engine:
Once I finished, just like any other model I made, I exported my new bug spray product to the Unity engine. It will be used as an in game item after all. Down the road I will program this item to actually have functionality and fight against enemy bugs. In the meantime, here is what it will look like in game:

Taking it a step further with Cycles:
Even though the actual game asset was done at this point, part of me still wanted to create a semi photo-real rendering of the product to see if I can fool anyone into thinking that it actually is a real product. So I went back in Blender, switched over to the Cycles render engine and setup a scene, lighting, skybox, etc to create a good looking high res billboard ad for the product.

Scene setup and previews

Test renders and tweaking until it was right.

Final Render:

Does this look like a real product to you?