Road to SimPit - Behind the Scenes
Descent Underground 3d modeling Design concept
In its current form, Descent: Underground uses unmanned drone ships (for now, more on that in Single player). For VR purposes though, it is best practices to have a cockpit.
From the idea side, things were easy, just use the existing hud and make a cockpit/Simpit around it. However, our existing HUD is a single plane that’s attached to the player's camera view. Having a 3D model just slapped on the front doesn't not look good when you would turn your head in VR mode. Without VR you could have pulled this off, though.
Initial planning included lots of reference pictures from existing cockpits, bomber turrets, etc. The process in itself was simple- first create a few different mockups of the would-be cockpit layout. Then, I'd show them to the team and get feedback of what worked and what needed changing... maybe.
So, once there were a few iterations and variations, we agreed upon a very simplistic approach that wouldn't obscure the player's view. The key was to give screen space as much as possible. Even then, it took a couple more variations to come up something that would still look good. On the texture side there were also a few alterations. The first one was way too bland and didn't have depth!
Even once this one was finished, we knew this was always going to be a placeholder cockpit. We are still going to break the HUD down into separate pieces and have a much better one...
Behold the Simpit v2:
Now to start off with, this was that the HUD elements themselves wouldn’t be changed, or at least very little. So this time around I was able to approach this like screen panels. I made a 3D model around the HUD elements matching the size of them. I had placeholders for those and started moving the panels in their places in real 3D and this time I had the help of the Miner as a reference for the size and placement.
As we are pushing towards a working radar, its base now needed to be more prominent in the HUD. Once again, I made a couple versions and the back wall got more attention to be more like a cockpit. The screen stayed though, something for people to snap their neck trying to look at.
Once that was done, I moved to create a rig for it so it would work in the world properly. In this case the rig is pretty simple, however there were a few for programming things to do. I had to make sure the panel placement’s was set up so it would be easier for Tyler to position everything, including the radar and reticle points.
In both versions, the little details were painted using a normal map, since adding bolts and stuff that way is faster than actually making the geometry for them. I just needed to plan ahead on what will be geometry and what I would paint. In this case, since the player’s head is the same distance from everything, it works better with a normal map.
Once the actual model was ready, textured, and pushed into the editor, it was then time to hand it to Tyler. He's going to do his programming magic and actually add the HUD elements and make it all work.
But wait, things don't end there!
Small things matter, things that make you think "something is off but I can't really put my finger on it". If they are there, you know things are right. So here is a really early prototype version of having the glass fracture when you get hit. I can't stress enough that this is very early, and might not even make it in the game if we see it hurting framerates too badly. So, the very first view on the prototype:
Thanks for being a part of Descent: Underground with us!