Wednesday, April 01, 2015

5:32 pm

Project Overview: Mirror the Mod contest entry
Project InformationFeatures
Rendering Engine: Unity3D• Manually created depth, normal, and specular maps
Content for: Warframe• Manipulation of original 2D screenshot to increase accuracy
Production Time: 1 Week• Additional video content to communicate progression

Warframe: Mirror the Mod


One of my favourite free-to-play games I keep coming back to is Warframe. Created by Digital Extremes (developers of UT99 and UT2K4, also favourites) and released to the public in March of 2013, it takes the crisp, twitch-action feel of the Unreal series and marries it to a third-person, co-operative sci-fi shooter. The game is constantly updated, which makes it very difficult to stay away when new content is announced.

The dedicated community makes this title vibrant; Digital Extremes actively cultivates player interest and input. Part of that cultivation includes contests and challenges that players can participate in, both in and out of game. The "Mirror the Mod" contest is an event which had many facets to it, allowing entrants to utilize a variety of skills in their entries.

First, a quick primer on the contest and an entrant's goals. In Warframe, players slot "mod cards" into their arsenal to modify an item's properties. These cards have a description on them, as well as an image, usually depicting an aspect of what its card can or does do. The contest tasked players with replicating the image seen on any card, by attempting the same pose in-game. These card images also have a pseudo-3D parallax effect on them as well...

"You went above and beyond. We asked, and you delivered."


Considering accuracy seemed to be the penultimate goal of any entry - and Digital Extremes stated that image manipulation was allowed - I felt a combination of meticulousness, Photoshop touchup, scripts for image enhancement and rendering, and Premiere for showcasing would help realize my goal of an accurate replication.

I used high-bitrate video capture software to record gameplay at 60FPS, and pulled individual frames that closely mimicked my target card: Marathon. From there, candidate frames were compared to each other, leading to a single selection. This image was then dropped into Adobe's Photoshop in order to correct any inaccuracies; including positioning, perspective, colour correction, and post-processing.

Once the image was sufficiently accurate, the original image was extracted from the target mod card graphic, and the card frame was overlaid onto the edited image. Because of how the card image is rendered in 3D, it was also necessary to replicate the info deck that describes the card's functionality. The side-effect of this necessity is a sharper final image.

Finally, the twist that was applied to the entry was rendering it in 3D in order to also mimic the in-game parallax effect, instead of submitting a 2D, static image. This required some extra work, as a depth map had to be created manually, and a normal map was required for specular reflections. Many disciplines were exercised throughout the creation of this entry, making this a fun side-project. A more in-depth album/build log can be found here.

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