11 bit studios Posted:
Thu, April 13, 2023
11 bit studios’ Frostpunk: The Last Autumn DLC is a prequel to the events known from the base game and takes the player to the times before eternal winter. What significantly distinguishes it visually from the base game is the world full of green colors, with grass, moss, snow-free trees, and rocks. From the developers’ point of view, the task was risky – this meant a departure from the winter climate which characterized Frostpunk from the very beginning.
It became apparent that we were unsure if we were moving in the right direction, and whether Frostpunk would remain Frostpunk despite such a fundamental visual change. Therefore, in order to see the new environment in its entirety fast, we started considering the use of RizomUV, which was already known to some 3D artists in the team. A quick analysis showed that thanks to the use of RizomUV, we would save at least 2 weeks of work for the entire 3D team on the UVs of buildings alone, not counting a large number of environmental assets. The decision was quite obvious.
The Last Autumn
BUILDINGS AND CONSTRUCTION SITE
Working with RizomUV and our texturing pipeline became so intuitive, as to almost eliminate the process of creating UVs for models. This not only gave us additional days to spend on other things, but it also gave us a new artistic freedom as the cost of going back to add or change things with the final assets, became way easier to deal with. Normally, when we decided some changes would improve the final product, we would have to consider whether it’s worth removing a 3D artist from their current task, for at least one or two days. With RizomUV that time was often reduced to hours if not minutes.
Due to the nature of Frostpunk, the buildings were never overly complicated, allowing us to quickly cut them up and in some cases (like with the dock piers) overlap similar islands to save texture space and memory. Both of those actions can be done automatically in RizomUV with just a few button presses. In the case of more complex geometry that required seams to be created by hand, the software also proved to be extremely helpful. Easy-to-learn controls and tools created specifically to work with UVs go a long way.
After completing the mesh, I throw it at RizomUV and I try to combine UVs into the largest islands. Those with the same material are combined into groups so that they are close to each other – metal against metal, wood against wood etc.
When everything is nicely grouped, starting with the largest groups, I move them to places that will be on the texture. I start with the biggest ones and move on to smaller ones. If I have some spare time, I break up one of the groups and manually arrange the position of each island in order to use the Maximum surface area.
In each Frostpunk scenario, we made sure that our environment told a story, and in Frostpunk: The Last Autumn it was especially important to us because it was the biggest DLC telling a story from before the base game scenario. Before our eyes, the atmosphere of an environment inspired by Iceland and the Faroe Islands was changing beyond recognition. The green hills turn into post-apocalyptic permafrost known from previous DLCs and the struggle for survival is replaced by a struggle against time to build a generator that will protect us from the cold and give hope to humanity.
The model that tied all the rocks and cliffs together on our stage, was the snow cover model.
It was a giant model that flooded the models beneath it and linked them together with the terrain template. RizomUV was used to unfold the UV maps and prioritize parts of this model to those that can be seen from a greater or lesser distance.
Rizom UV was a great convenience, the quality of the unwrap algorithm is amazing, it works especially well in very complex models full of small details. Something that particularly helped me with the speed of working on the models was the clarity of the interface and the good placement of hotkeys.
When it comes to workflow, we always start with the blockout of the scene. The main difference between our workflow and other studios’ is that we make sure that the models are not gray boxes but prototype assets showing the character of the scene from the very beginning. RizomUV turned out perfect for such a task because it allowed us to lay out a lot of UV maps very quickly and get the desired effect.
I prepared a separate set of scale pieces to show the character of the place. It was particularly demanding because each of the objects had three material settings prepared, sometimes also three separate texture sets. All this so that the transition between the rainy cape somewhere in the north and the permafrost would be natural. A very important role was played by RizomUV, which I have been using in the company since Frostpunk, and it allowed me to reduce the stretching of textures to an absolute minimum, which resulted in the effect of model clarity.