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ARpocalypse diaries 3 – 3D environment for Spatial AR

Intro

The first step in any project is the idea, the concept. What do we want to build? What would be cool or something never done before? How big of a scale can we push ourselves to? 

For this project we knew almost right at the beginning that we wanted to create something big using spatial AR.

So the assets needed to be in realistic scale. Spatial AR meant that the content was going to be placed on top of real world objects and also for this project it needed to represent the real world objects they were attached to.

Taking pictures and searching for reference photos is one of the first important steps in the pipeline.

We collected a bunch of reference material and photographed our target environment. We started tossing ideas and sketching different kinds of appearances for the assets and the environment and location. 

We were thinking about things like what kind of different environmental events and elements would have affected the world. What kind of story it would tell to the player and what would happen if the player interacted with it.

We created all of the concept art and sketches together with my colleague Eero.

More sketches came later when the idea of the games puzzles were developed much further.

Most of the final ideas and concept art was made by my colleague Eero.

Clear forms, clear shapes and notes help the modeler to understand what is required for the asset, what parts are static and what parts need to be animated and in what way.

Reference

Frans and Eero had this little secret that they used previously in their projects. When modeling a part of a city what’s the best and easiest way to get all the proportions and distances right? 

Surely you could go to google maps and take screenshots as a reference but that still doesn’t give you the realistic measures right at the get go, which is extremely important when making spatial AR!

So that’s why we used a reality mesh model of the city of Helsinki as a reference.

The reality mesh model is a photorealistic city model that, according to its name, it’s a visually high-quality and geometrically accurate model based on aerial photographs. 

Screenshot of the model we downloaded for reference.

From this model we could accurately measure the area we needed for our game and start blocking out the buildings and other elements we needed.

Blocking

Here is where we start laying out the scene or the level of our game. Here we determine where everything needs to sit and what are the approximate heights of the assets and the distances between one thing to another. Where does the big ass tree stand and how big should it be and how wide it should be. 

This for me is kinda like the sketching part of the 3D modeling process.

Using the reality mesh model I could easily determine the right scale for the environment.

After the blocking was done the reality mesh could be hidden and were left with the blocked out model.

Final result

With our foundations done I was able to model the assets for the environment with relative ease. I didn’t have to worry about my measures and knew that my layout was what it needed to be for the game. 

That in turn gave more room for creativity and a lot of new ideas emerged while I was modeling the assets. And anytime I needed to check my proportions I could just unhide the reference layer and check that everything is still at a relatively right scale.

I won’t go into detail about the modeling process itself (at least for now!) so here’s pictures of the final results that came after using this method for enviroment modeling.

Also just for fun, here’s an embedded version of the environment model! Do note that this model is not meant to be viewed in this scale (all at once), the content really comes to life when viewed in the spatial AR setting. 😉