This week on Firefall Live, Frank was joined by Technical Artist Marc “Eniac” McCall and Visual Effects Artist Scott “ScoobyMatrix” McCall to talk shop about the programming side of art as well as visual effects in general. Marc, Scott, Frank, and chat reminisce with their Chosen Offensive stories following the Developer Discussion. At the end of the show, the crew goes over some Travel Tuesday sample entries and closes out with Caption This.
What does a Technical Artist Do?
Marc: There are a lot of flavors of technical artist, but to describe what I do is a bit of graphics programming and tools programming. I’m essentially the bridge between the programming department and the art department. I’m responsible for getting a lot of the assets in the game.
Some of Marc’s work that you can notice in the game are: The Melding Wall, Melding Tornados and even the Scan Hammer waves.
What is does a Visual Effects Artist do?
Scott: Explosions, lasers, smoke, all that stuff is visual effects. Marc helps me out by giving me the tools to create the different effects we do. For example we’ll put in a request for fog volumes and Marc will give us what we need to complete that task. Another example is the new effects for Fuel Air Bomb, Marc gave us the tech to turn that into a nice explosion. (pictured below)
What are the one or two most things you are proud of creating or being a part of?
Marc: I’m proud of Firefall the game itself. It’s the project I’ve worked on the longest in my video game career. I’ve been working on the project for five and a half years.
Another thing I’m proud of that I worked on is the vjay software that my brother and I have worked on over the course of ten years. I’m not working on it actively anymore, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve created (link to example of vjaying and Xsynth in action).
Scott: Xsynth, definitely, not just the software but the opportunities we got out of it. I got to work with my brother for all those years and traveled to many countries and got to use the software for different things such as clubs, dolphin shows, Vegas clubs, and such.
Bronto-King is still dragging our Framerates into the dirt on PTS, as we speak. Isn't there anything that can be done about the Particles, Textures, SMOKE, and Emitters being used in this fight to make it less ...... "laggy"?
Scott: I can take the blame for that, but with a caveat. I began work on the effects but then was moved on to a higher priority task. It will be getting another full effects pass using a lot of the new tech we have now and performance will improve and it will look a lot better.
Why some effects like plasma cannons fire, absorption bomb and stuff like that look awesome but there are a few like the smoke from kanaloa volcano or the smoke trail left by rocket launchers look cartoonish like they are from a different game? Do you plan to rework some of them?
Marc: The smoke trail texture did not come from another game, but it came from a very early version of the game. With all the new content and reworking of weapon effects, there is a lot of work to be done, and it’s a lot to go through to update everything. We see these things too, and taking a pass at the older textures is in the backlog and we’ll try and get around to it as time permits.
As far as the volcano smoke, it was a shader that I worked on and I never brought it up to the level that I wanted it at as priorities shift. That’s going to get a pass in the future as well. The effects that look out of place are on our radar and we’ll get to them.
Is it possible in the future to have an option to toggle effects such as the bubbling effect from chemical weapons turned off?
Marc: Possible? Yes it’s definitely possible. It really comes down to the stakeholders of the feature and if they feel it’s an aesthetic that’s by design, then it comes down to a choice the team is making for it to be there. It has a lot to do with having the visual language present to reinforce that the weapon is a chemical weapon.
Can I have the tiki torches buoy light barrier float around me permanently and do you have any plan to turn it into a melee weapon?
I noticed an fps increase on the PTS version. What has been done on the visual effects side of things for that increase?
Scott: There’s a lot more fire now and our worst enemy is transparency. When you have smoke and flames, you get potentially dozens layers of particles and that’s the biggest frame rate killer. One thing that helped out a lot was doing the core of the effect not with transparency and now it runs ten times faster, and we just use transparency around the edges so that everything runs so much smoother. Try the Incendiary Cannon and putting it to the test and you can really tell the difference in performance.
Marc: Part of it is also improving the design of the effects, so as Scott says, you’re using less overdraw and transparency, so you have better performing particles. Also, outside of the effects, Lutz, who is our super genius programmer; is constantly improving not just the underlying rendering technology, but also how that data gets to your computer. The improvements in performance that he’s been able to pull off have been awesome.
Can you visualize programming so effectively as to view programming's effect before it's in effect, or do you view programming as more effective if the visualized effect is programmatic to the overall viewpoint of the program's affect?
Marc: Finally, someone that speaks my language. I’m much less of an artist than I am a programmer. What’s cool about working with shaders and other things that are generated programmatically is tweaking the numbers and tuning the algorithms to have the effects have a particular feel or look. It’s an artistic process in itself to combine different factors in your algorithm to look something just the way you want.
Firefall Remix will return on Sunday and we will be giving you two weeks to enter this time. We’ve created a barebones kit with Firefall assets that you can pop into the screenshot at your leisure. We pick two winners for each Remix so if you have some serious editing skills or even just make us laugh, you can win! We also raffle off prizes to everyone that enter, and the prize pool grows based on the amount of entries, so be sure to enter if you can! Keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook page, or the forums for Remix posts!
Travel Tuesday is another fun game we have on Social Media. Each Tuesday we post an area in the game and all you have to do to enter the raffle is post a screenshot of your character on location. It’s as simple as that! Here are some examples from this week (winners are selected on Monday).
As always, each week on Facebook, we post a candid picture of people working at Red 5. Today we have DanceCommander showing off something he’s been cooking up.
“No I’m not going to give him a top hat and a cane.”
“Hey, you said this was a cat video!”
“Ummm, I can explain these my little pony plushies”
“Really man??? You doing this??? Can’t see I’m working??”
“You said we could bring something from Everquest into the game… I submit to you, the skeleton dance.”
“My little pony, my little pony” REALLY BRAD?... REALLY?...
“Okay guys, no need to panic but everything got deleted”
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