Day 34 – Further A4

Today I finished the A4 loco by adding wheels and grab rail details, and got it in-game. Once visible, I realised there was an issue with the model’s normals – most of them were inverted, probably a result of using splines to cut geometry. After fixing most of them (manually, before I discovered Blender’s Recalculate Normals Outside feature šŸ˜¦ ) and sorting out a strange self-intersecting poly, I finally got to see it in action.

Disappointingly, there was quite a bit of graphical flicker on some of the finer details – notably the silver lines across the body. I’ve been creating the details as-if the model’s going to be shown taking up a large portion of the screen – in case they ever go into a shop/unlocks library, but it’s definitely a balancing act deciding how fine to go. In this particular case, the silver lines were too thin, causing them to alias awkwardly as the train moves. I didn’t really want to lose the detail, so I made them slightly chunkier and they came out much better. The similarly-thin grab rails got some adjustment too.

I then started working on a smoke effect, which the HST diesel I had before didn’t need! Like most art things, I’ve not done much particle effect work before, and this is pretty much my first stab at one.

Gif showing the A4's smoke effect

The sprite is the Unity default one, and most of the tweaking I’ve done is to create the right “rising” effect – train smoke tends to shoot up (or blow into the driver’s face, depending on the loco) and then slow down as it disperses.

I’m going to go for a stylised effect that is regular, and discrete. I did briefly try a continuous stream, but while it looks very smokey, you can’t see the train (especially when travelling up/down the screen), and weirdly I couldn’t help but think about the damage it’d be doing to the atmosphere! I really can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to use a mainline station in the days of steam. In addition, too many particles could be too heavy for weaker mobiles.

At the moment the puff interval is based on distance travelled, but I’m tempted to tie it to the music beat; that can be something for later.

I still need to make the rest of the A4 trainset; it looks really weird pulling HST coaches, and needs a tender. That can be tomorrow’s task.

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