Monthly Archives: November 2014

Snake Struggle

We looked at all the creatures that we created for the previous specials and wanted to create more. Thinking a snake would be easy was a mistake. The problem didn’t come with the modelling, that was easy and it was modelled and textured in a short time.  What was difficult was the animation of it moving. Want it to sliver in a kind of ‘S’ shape and go around the level with a cannon on its tail. Shooting it at any Zombies that it can see, one of the best companions in the game.


Takling this sliver I created a rig that was using bone rotation with the root being at the centre of the snake to be able to arch the neck upwards when its shooting and spin the tail around before shooting. This didn’t work when trying to rotate the bones to match the S shape. The snakes body needed to pass through its own line and continue forward. Tried a few different ways to rig this and kept hitting a block where the snake would almost straiten out between keys breaking the S shape.

Rob tried another solution which was to programatically make the snake bones move in a frequency. This created a wave like structor to the animation but didn’t look like a snake following its own line. With no control over the head movement and would have to create a script to merge it to the animation of the snake shooting.


So we were working late trying to solve this problem both went home and were still like what are we missing this should be easy. I started to think how I would do it in just an animation program without thinking about how to put it into a games engine. I would use a spline deformer in Modo or Maya (I use Modo 701) to create a spine like deformation and create the correct animation keys moving forward. The hardest thing to get my head round was that this kind of animation doesn’t transfer well or sometimes at all. I thought again how I can do this with bone animation and not with spine. Combining both techniques and made locators that follow a curve down then made the bones link to the position of each of the locators. The snake followed its own body and transferred to unity. It worked. One problem with this is that it created loads of game objects that unity didn’t need and the spline made it impossible for me to do a animation of it shooting. Thought about it a little and figured how the game engine uses the animation and how it can transfer between characters with the same bone structure and naming. Created a Modo animation of shooting in a separate file to the S animation with a totally different rig but with the same bone structor and only the necessary game objects. Imported both into unity and applied them both using unity’s mecanim system. Checked the blend to see if it work and it did. Sliver then curl up and shoot.

Rob was looking at the programming of the snake at the same time trying to make it sliver round the level using programming. He created a movement of each bone following each other which created a snake that was long and had no S shape to it but slivered round corners and other areas perfectly. Couldn’t blend to shooting at this point. That would require whole new script. It didn’t have the characteristics of a snake S shape and looked to see if we could give it more shape. Combining the frequency movement from the previous day. Still didn’t look right.

So we went for the animation method. This seems to work well with the snake slivering round the level and then shooting at zombies. The disadvantage of it is that it doesn’t move round objects as smoothly. Think we will in the future look at ways of combining both methods and create smoother more organic movement especially in corners. Looks good for now.


Friendly Flamingo Turret

Created a flamingo turret this week. The aim was to create a turret that can stand in one place and scan around and shoot zombies it sees. We were thinking of a few animals but both thought a pink flamingo has a funny kind of comical element to it. Looked at a few pictures and did a few tests to see if the size would work and how it would look. A couple of hours later flamingo was born.


The flamingo needed some characteristic animations. The classic flamingo we think of standing on the one leg and with an awesome beak and backwards knees. Created some animations of it shooting. We also needed some characteristic animations of a turret so created a small animation of it unfolding up when you put it down. The mixture of both a mechanical look and an organic look worked well. I added abit of personality to the shooting animation with the head swaying backwards and forward and it almost looks like its laughing really enjoying shooting those zombies.

Programming up the turret Rob looked at it rotating from the feet and scanning round. This looked very mechanical too much so that it just didn’t look realistic. Flamingos are elegant creatures that move there bodies slow. So we needed to change the way it scanned around, creating the rotation on the neck so it looked around then turned its whole body round and started firing at the zombies. Looked much more natural.

The Friendly Flamingo Turret is a great small companion to give you backup.



Play testing with Nephews

Was at my sisters recently and my  three nephews who are 4, 6 and 8 kept asking about my new game.  Natures Zombie Apocalypse is aimed at more of the 11+ age so was pretty hesitant on showing the game to them. The eldest helped me colour up one of the zombies and realised that kids have the most gruesome imagination. He was like I want brains showing with blood his ribs showing and creepy reddish colour. Asking my sister if it would be alright to let them play the game I opened my laptop and hooked up 3 controllers.

Showed the eldest the game first see if there were any game breaking bugs. Set up two players, he chose to be the gorilla and I was the bear. Took him a little while to get used to the control aiming. At first he was aiming in the direction he was going then I showed him the second joystick on the control for aiming. Think we will need a nice tutorial for controls.

Few minutes later and he was running backwards and shooting zombies. All going well…. then the other two nephews get all nosey and find us playing and want to join in. Now its gets interesting wanted to see how the dynamics of a group would play even if they are different ages. Its a true test to see if the Co-op experience gets them working together and communicating with each other to help each other out. The youngest took a while to get used to shooting zombies and ran out of ammo really quickly but I held back on giving him too much of a tutorial just to see if the elder nephews would help him out. The eldest strait away told him to go to the ammo box and press to buy ammo. The aiming slowly got better but was always with the one movement stick. Great exactly as I expected a novice way of playing and an expert way of playing. 6 year old Nephew didn’t need much guidance just learnt from his younger and older brother.

I left them playing together and interestingly they started to build tactics the eldest started to defend the young ones and guided them to shoot zombies early to gain some points to buy a stock of ammo on each of there three guns. They then started moving together in a group keeping close to each other and one going round one side of the cars and other two going round the other covering each others backs. Then things started to go crazy around round 5 when more zombies were coming and the youngest found that throwing grenades was funny when a big group of zombies character rag dolled and fell to the floor. At the moment the grenade button isn’t limited to just one or two grenades its infinite he just kept throwing them in all directions making it quite hard for his brothers to dodge. How do the brothers deal with this. Well they teach him how to use all three of his weapons one of them being the flame thrower. Awesome he says and starts shooting fire around zombies that are surrounding his brothers.

When they all died they decided they wanted to choose some other and characters guns. I gave them free choice of the guns and they chose there own animal. Madness getting even more crazy so they all go in with strong random weapons and 6 year old nephew chooses the freeze canon. I could tell he was thinking despicable me because he strait away said Freeze Ray. Pressed play and watched. They shot the first few zombies went for ammo on all there guns (its still in tester mode ammo is soooo cheap) and started to work together defending each others backs. The eldest nephew spotted that frozen zombies are easier to kill and worked with his brothers to get them freeze them and shoot them all in a bunch. They got a few waves further on the game and left them clicking replay.

Fun had to stop at some point and easiest way is Dinner time. So we stopped playing and they started chatting between them about the game. “You kept freezing the zombies while I shot them”. Think overall for a small test it stood up really well. Some of the guns didn’t quite work right and few bugs.

Looking forward to adding more to the weapons changing the dynamics of how people play together. The crab turret in a previous post should add some interesting strategies.




Suicidal Snail


Modelling the snail making it look realistic but with a comical, kind of threatening look. Snail with TNT suicide belt sounded like fun. Created a snail and strapped a small three stick TNT to the snail. It looked a bit pathetic and very unbalanced. Went to work on changing it. Made the snail a bit bigger and strapped the TNT all the way around the shell. It looked like a snail with a warning. Big red beacons on the side showing that the snail is more then just a slow moving creature.


Graphically what else can I add to this creature. A snail trail, lets just use the standard trail renderer and created a funky looking texture. A shiny texture with a sticky kind of web like look too it. Tried it out added a slight yellowish tint and it looked to be working. One problem hit the snail with a grenade it goes flying up into the air with a trail behind him.  To me this didn’t look right to me. It should just fly up into the air or even just explode. I think the trail should disappear. Kind of looked like a slimy trail stretching from the floor. Is this a good thing. Lets try both and see what looks better.

When does the suicidal snail have enough and just want to give up and blow. Well we added some Logic to the way it thinks. So if only one zombie comes in range it doesn’t explode unless its really close to it. But when theres a few zombies in range its like great I’m in a group GOODBYE ZOMBIES!!.

The Crab Turret!

Creation of new random weapons in progress..

Each character is created with the animals intelligent design in consideration – the characteristics, the movement, the colours etc. First up, the crab turret.

The crab turret was designed to walk from side to side but, with a huge minigun stapped to its head.


Designing the crab was straight forward as I wanted a typical crab with big claws and six legs. I managed to dig up some photos I took from a holiday on Puket beach where I had taken a series of photos of crabs running along the beach (legs looking like they were on fire).

To animate the walk I started by making the legs run from side to side with one leg keeping the crab balanced whilst the others grapple across the ground. I realised that this allowed the crab to walk both left and right which saved me some time as I did not have to duplicate the animation. With the crab scurrying left and right it was now time to focus on the turret.(animation)Placing the mini gun on the crabs head proved more difficult than I had anticipated. I decided to strap the turret to the crab, to hold it to its head. However getting it to look just right took some fine tuning. Placing the mini gun above the head with the handle inside the crab made it look like it was wielded on to the crab.(picture)Great it’s almost ready to go. Wait, colour! I knew I wanted a red crab – a quick search through various photos to use as reference and found a few close to the colour I wanted. I used these to paint the crab tinting textures to get them to merge with each other. Texturing the gun. As I already had a mini gun I decided to make life easy for myself and use the same texture.. After a little programming and seeing the turret in action we wanted to add an animation of when the crab runs out of ammo or health. Initially we we were thinking it would rag doll and collapse on its own legs. After testing it we thought it needed a more dramatic death. Something that makes it more obvious its out of ammo. Jump up in shock and flip over sounded like a plan. So I created a dramatic animation for the death.


We also planned that you could give ammo to your crab turret keeping it alive for longer and making it a lot more useful in game. Rather than creating another animation, I created a blend to show it going from death back to full health, which worked perfectly.

How does the crab turret work and play? Play testing this on the street level with a few people. The crab turret has some great benefits playing it as your own personal backup. Holding the line you can shoot the oncoming horde from one direction and your turret can go side to side on the road shooting the zombies with you. Think with turrets I always think of there turrets from Alien and think I want to defend a corridor full of enemies. Crab turret does this but the corridor can be wider.

This will be one of many turrets types, each with there added benefits..