Power Transfer Conduit Area
The final area of the complex to be created was the area where the power transfer conduits lead away from the warp core sending power to the rest of the ship.
The conduit itself was fairly straight forward to model, due to the symmetry of the shape the model was able to be textured using a quarter of the space. The centre space on either side of the conduit was unwrapped independently to allow for the glowing material that travels across in UDK. In Photoshop a masked alpha channel was created in order for the glowing power material to affect only the required area.
Within UDK material was created using a ‘Panner’ plugin mixed with the emissive power texture and masked alpha channel in the diffuse map to create an effective animated pulse traveling down the mesh as seen above. Do to the way the model was unwrapped when the mesh was placed end to end the appearance of a seamless pulse travelling down several was achieved.
The PTC corridor area was created in quarters in order to maximise texture space.
The larger outer wall segment was created and textured using tillable metal and ribbed textures.
From that model, the “wing” shape was created from in order to create a perfect snap between the models in USD. The wing mesh is textured using predominantly the ribbed texture on the exposed panelling. A small arm was created so when the model was placed in the final scene it would appear to be supporting the power transfer conduit.
Finally a simple cap mesh was created for the end wall, which was snapped together from the edges of the wall mesh to ensure a perfect snap in UDK.
Lightmass & Emissive Materials
Once the final scene had been constructed it was time to enable the emissive lighting properties for use with Lightmass.
The advantage of this system allows the user to enable the emissive lighting on a per model basis, including the option to choose the resolution of the baked light map, how far the emissive lighting will travel away from the object and being able to choose how much an influence a particular emissive object has.
Below, the finished environment is shown with only the lighting available. The baked static lighting from the blue ceiling lights and orange strip lights along the wall provide a great level of detail as well as the lighting provided by the LCARS consoles.
Once the most technical aspects of the environment were completed development continued onto to the remaining assets.
The flooring for the environment was relatively simple plan and construct. They key feature was the circular shaft that led down to the base of the warp core
Due to the repetitive layout of the room it was decided that model could be created by modelling a quarter of the environment, mirroring the other half in UDK and the duplicating the rest and dropping it down to create the split level from the concept.
The model was textured using a combination of UV unwrapping for the panelled areas such as down the cylindrical shaft area and UV mapping using seamless tiling texture such as the a brushed metal texture.
Four materials were applied in UDK to create varied detail such as carpet, metal and ribbed panelling. The final model is shown below.
The handrails were based off the existing ones seen in several of Star Trek series, design of the chrome parts of the rails were replicated and the red bannister was textured using a seamless wood material and enhanced to appear glossy within UDK.
The handrails were modular in construction so that they could be placed easily around the octagonal shaped walkway and around the staircase area towards the back of the complex.
Due to the curvature of the warp core area a variation was made in 3DS Max where a row of handrails were placed together and a bend modifier used to curve the selection 180°. This version was placed around both sides of the warp core area.
Finally, three variations of the handrails were made to accommodate the staircase model. A top, middle and bottom version were made using an FFD modifier to curve the bannisters, this allowed for a sleeker look as the player travelled down the stairs. The final models are shown below.
Walls and Ceiling
The walls were modelled with the intent to be textured in a very modular way. Towards the bottom of the walls where the detail would be greatest a modelled grid was created which allowed for the repeat texturing of the panelling material, the same method was applied to around the archway openings which allowed for an emissive light texture to be tiled.
In addition to the panelling material band of a tiled heated metal texture were used to break of the lines of the walls.
Three variations were required, the standard wall the majority of the complex, a wall with a huge open for the power transfer conduits to travel through and a third all variation that had an open at the bottom to all a staircase for the player to gain access to the upper walkway.
The ceiling model was created a cylinder mesh that was snapped exactly to the wall meshes within in 3DS Max. From there the majority of the mesh was deleted leaving only one eighth of the original model. Like the wall meshes, the pivot points were centred around the warp core allowing for a perfect fit for the modular assets to snap together.
In order to break up the roof space a simple beam was created that locked in around the roof and the warp core. All wall meshes and ceiling assets are shown below.
The first asset that was developed was the free standing console that would be used in conjunction with the handrails. The shape varied little but from the concept two versions would be made, a small square console and longer rectangular one.
The assets were modelling and textured as normal. When it came to applying the LCARS design onto the mesh some research was need on how to swap out the texture to create some variation.
After investigating how this could be achieved it was decided that the LCARS area of the console would use a different material channel as shown in image below. When imported into unreal the different material would allow the user to interchange the textures of a specific part of the asset rather than remove the entire texture.
Once the core LCARS material was set up and applied to several of the smaller console it was time to create the larger main engineering console. These workstations were created in the same manner in addition to creating multiple screens on one model. The larger consoles had addition of quite a few material channels due to more than one screen existing on the model.
The larger console used 6 material channels, one for each material variant, this ensured the most diversity possible.
When the larger consoles were placed in the game it became apparent that there was too much going on visually. From there, a blank material was created and substituted over one on the LCARS screens to give the appearance the monitor was not in use. This broke up the visuals nicely. In the final package ten console variations were create as shown below.
Modelling & Texturing
As the main focal point of the entire environment it was decided that this object would be the first main object to implementing in to the level. From the blockout, the warp core was broken up into its core modular shapes.
The above image shows how the four individual shapes are repeated and snapped together to form the full sized warp core. From there each component was refined and full modelled in addition to creating the additional detail of the struts and central housing.
After the main assets were fully modelled development started on unwrapping and texturing.
The next step was mock up the environment within UDK to gather metrics of the proportions and scale of the environment as well working out the scale of individual assets.
The individual asset scale was calculated using existing character models from the game which were scaled correctly to six feet tall. This equated to 96 unreal units in height which gave the foundation to the roughing out the size of the individual assets.
Once the rough shape had been blocked and the environment felt the right scale, the entire blockout was imported in 3DS Max where assets could be refined as seen in the above image.
From there individual assets were roughed out to basic shape and tested for the correct scale and look. A lot of time was spent getting the headroom of the balcony and stair height correct to the size of the environment.
As shown in the above image the blockout continued to be refined until the entire core shapes of the main structure were complete. From there development moved on working on the individual prop assets and the main warp core shape where full production started.
The first stage of the design process was to take the concept image of the environment and analyse it and identify the core assets and shapes to be constructed and where possible which assets could be repeated in a modular fashion.
As show in the above image the concept was broken down into approximately 16 assets not including the core structure such as the walls, ceiling and walkways. The colouring depicts how the one asset a can be modularised and reused elsewhere in the environment. This was especially important for assets such as the handrails and consoles which were expected to be repeated around the scene often.
The Warp Core
In Star Trek the warp core is the beating heart of the ship, providing power to the warp drive. Traditionally the warp core is characterised as a large cylindrical object in the centre of the room which pulses with blue and/or red light into the dilithium chamber, the wider domed object in the centre usually with white glowing hatch. From there, two power transfer conduits (PTC) travel away from the core at 45° increments towards the warp engines off screen, depicted by a stream of red or yellow pulsing lights travelling away from the core into the walls.
The image shows the variety of warp cores seen in multiple series and movies. Generally the blue and red, ribbed warp cores appear to be the most visually striking as well as the cream coloured power transfer conduits that provide a good neutral colour balance.
The Engineering Consoles
These engineering consoles display all of the ships systems and schematics, characterised by their black reflective glass screens; typically angled towards the user at approximately 30°, smooth plastic or chrome house and rounded screen edges.
Shown in this moodboard is one of the most well-known components to The Next Generation series onwards was the LCARS interface on the screens, an acronym for Library Computer Access/Retrieval System, designed by Michael Okuda. The LCARS graphics typically used complementary colours traditionally yellows and blues, with alternating panels using oranges and purples. In the later movies such as Star Trek: Nemesis (Paramount Pictures, 2002) and in Star Trek Online (Cryptic Studios, 2010), the LCARS become mostly blues with slight accents of orange.
Other Key Assets
One of the more important computer consoles in engineering is called the master systems display, also nicknamed the “pool table”. It is a large central device, usually positioned in the centre of the room. Displaying the schematic of the ship as well as other functions when necessary the pool table is typically hexagonal in shape, in The Next Generation the console had two hexagonal shape joined together that provided an interesting shape.
As referenced in the original concept was a large use of angular handrails, however after looking at references collected in Figure it appears that the handrails around the warp core are traditionally of the same appears, the chrome handrail fittings have appeared from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Paramount Pictures, 1979) right through to Star Trek Voyager (CBS, 1995).
The handrails are topped with a glossy red panelling that sometimes is singular or double mounted.
Typically Star Trek interiors have always utilised a combination of carpeting and either metal or a type of vinyl material for the flooring. From Figure 4 there have been several variations of carpeting colours as well as vinyl floorings, in later movies metal plating and chrome plates were often used. For this environment a combination of metal and carpet will be used to ensure a mix of textures, rather having an overly plastic feel.
There has always been something compelling about environments in games. Unlike some TV shows and big budget movies, computer game environments have a way of realising the most fantastical locales and creating spectacles that go beyond simply seeing it on screen; to experience it, to interact with it through games. There is something special within games where a player can travel through an environment and be able to pause and take in the view of a vista that isn’t afforded in the world of a film where the viewer is simply taken for a ride by the director.
Personally, Star Trek has always been an inspiration in creating realistic environments within a science fiction setting, whether aboard a starship or an exotic alien planet. As a child it was always a goal to create an environment based in that universe and now with movies, games and art books now is a great time to create such a piece.
As an aspiring environment artist, it will be vital to visualise concept art into a working 3D space, for which the preliminary inspiration of the project will be to create a Star Trek themed environment based from an existence production concept piece by John Eaves.
For this project the aim is to develop a broader understanding of the key elements to creating a large scale game environment, learning the principles of creating modular assets as well looking into creating advanced material setups to creating more realistic textures within the game world. The goal is to create an environment that is recognisable and faithful to the visuals and concepts of the Star Trek universe by creating art assets and props to a high standard.