My name is Siân Butcher, I am 21 years old and I am currently in the third and final year of my Computer Games Arts Degree at Teesside University.This blog will mainly serve as a work in progress blog for my Games Practical Project module, showing the natural development of my work and this project.
For my Games Practical Project which is my final year project, I will be creating an environment that will run real-time in Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). This environment will be inspired by the home of the Addams Family, in particular the home that was featured in the 1991 film ‘The Addams Family’. For this project I wanted to keep the scope limited whilst also still making it challenging. I will be creating a small section of the ground floor of the Addams Family’s mansion. This section will be several rooms including the porch, the entrance hall, hallway and Gomez Addams’ Office. Originally I had planned to create all the previously mentioned rooms plus the living room and library but this was way too ambitious a task which I quickly realised after my initial research. So with the advice of my supervisor I scaled back to these four rooms as 3 of them (porch, entrance hall and hallway) are mainly structural assets and a few furnishings therefore contain very few assets overall. In comparison Gomez’s office is by far the most difficult and complex room due to the sheer number of assets needed to populate and decorate the room.
Although I choose to mainly be inspired and influenced by the 1991 film, I still did a large amount of research into the original comic strips by Charles Addams, the 1960s TV show, the 1977 TV special, the 1993 sequel to the 1991 film and finally the 1998 TV show with its accompanying direct to VHS film.
The reason I decided to focus on the 1991 film for the design of the house is because I found it, along with the 1960s TV show version of the home, the most appealing and interesting, and they were also the only homes I could get comprehensive research from.The reason for this is that most of the other homes in the movies, specials or TV shows were either barely featured or it was not possible to find decent copy of the work to use as reference. The 1977 TV special, ‘Halloween with the Addams Family’, was only ever released on VHS which also happened to be the case with the 1998 direct to VHS film, “The Addams Family Reunion’ (which is unrelated to the 2 other earlier 1990s films). Whilst the 1998 TV series, ‘The New Addams Family’, did have a DVD release it only contained 8-10 episodes out of the 65 that were made, so whilst I have researched them I am probably not going to incorporate them much into my work. The reason I found the 1991 version of the home more apropos to my project’s needs over the 1960s one is fairly simple; the home has tons of interesting objects/furnishings but in comparison to the 1991 version it is very cluttered and complex. Therefore I feel that this would quickly become too ambitious a project here, especially when in view of how much taxidermy there is which will need fur shaders which currently I have no experience of making. I would also have been heavily hampered by the lack of colour in the original program.Finally, I feel that the 1991 film more closely resembles the home in Charles Addams’ Illustrations.
This is a Charles Addams illustration depicting the outside of their home and how the Addams family deals with Christmas carolers.
This is the depiction of the comic’s above joke in the 1991 film.
A comic which features their living room/parlour room.
The pictures above shows both the black & white and colour versions of the 1960s Addams Family living room. It’s actually very surprising how colourful it actually was in reality and how cluttered it was in comparison to the comics and 1990s films.
This is the parlour/ living room in 1991 film which is much darker, gloomier and far less cluttered. It is also noticeably more unkempt with dust and spiderwebs and appears to be much closer to Charles Addams’ work.
A family portrait of the Addams c1991 in their parlour/living room.
Nonetheless I realise that much of the Addams family mythos/iconography was established thanks the 1960s show. Most of the characters were given their names because of it, as well as them gaining the name “The Addams Family” as to that point in time, they were just a recurring set of characters with no names in Charles Addams’ work. Therefore I plan to include some aspects of the home’s interior/furnishing inspired by the TV show to pay homage to it and a to make it more Addams Familyesque, with the inclusion of items like the butler bell noose and marlin head, for example. This is also a way to make it look less like some other haunted house and more obviously their home.There is a fine line between creepy, spooky and ooky and looking similar to Disney’ Phantom Manor/ Haunted Mansion
Disneyland Paris’s Phantom Manor (French counterpart of the Haunted Mansion) and Second Empire in style.
The Addams Family home in the 1991 film which is also Second Empire in style and generally spooky looking. The Second Empire style of home is often associated with haunted houses in the United States of America, in part due to the Addams Family and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
The facade of the 1960’s Addams family home which was only ever seen during the opening.
Speaking of the exterior, although this project will not entail creating the exterior of the home, I hope to do so next year as a personal piece and continuation of this project, outside of my studies for my portfolio. I would love to be able to have my project along with a work in progress of the exterior to show at Expotees should I be chosen for it.
Getting more into the technical aspect of the project, aside from my aim to create an environment that runs real-time in UE4, I hope that this project will allow me to further develop my abilities and understanding of the various types software, workflows and techniques that have become industry standard practice when creating current generation environments for video games, and in particular AAA games. I also want to further strengthen my knowledge of particle effects, high to low poly modeling and finally lighting an environment for use in a video game. I also want to continue to develop my interest in shader creation which is a passion which was ignited during the Journey Man Project in my second year at university which naturally led me to be interested in PBS/PBR and to the switch to it. I actually wrote a a paper for university on ‘How has the switch to physical based shading affected the artist’s workflow?’ last year. The software I will be using for this project, aside from UE4, includes 3ds Max, Mudbox, Photoshop, Quixel Suite, Substance Designer, Substance Painter, Substance Bitmap2Material3, and Xnormal. I have previous experience with all of them aside from the Substance programs.
My deliverables for the project will be the UDK/UE4 project files and a packaged version of the project, a series of beautyshots and a video showing the environment running real-time. I will also submit each asset’a 3ds Max source file, textures and .fbx file along with an inventory list noting every asset contained in the environment/level.
I will be regularly updating this blog to show research, preparatory work, screenshots, work in progress, workflows and any general other work relating to this project, as well as any issues I face until I finally submit this project in March 2016.