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We’ve recently hosted a webinar about our new 2D sample project, Lost Crypt. Huge thanks to all of you who joined and contributed to a great discussion about all things 2D! Many of your questions were about art creation and the integration between tools like Photoshop and Unity. So we went back to the artists behind the brilliant visuals of the demo, the Montreal studio Back to the Game (B2tGame). You can watch the webinar recording and read their answers below.

At the webinar, we’ve shown how 2D lights, shaders, and post-processing in the Universal Render Pipeline contributed to the visually ambitious project. The R&D 2D team also joined us to answer your questions about our new suite of 2D tools and discuss what they’re planning to work on in the future.

Unity global content evangelist Andy Touch presented the webinar. He was a central figure of the entire project, making sure everything fits together, adding visual effects, and getting Lost Crypt ready for the Asset Store. You can watch a recording of the webinar below:

First, a little behind the scenes about how B2tGame contributed to Lost Crypt. The B2tGame team for the project consisted of three people. Michaël (Mika) Renaud, Art Director, created all the art in the project, from the initial concept to the final polished assets. Richard Rispoli, Creative Director, defined the pipeline for the production and took care of all the lights and shaders effects. As a technical artist, he tested our newest 2D tools to their limits. Ivano (Ivan) Mansueto, Technical Director, was the technical lead on their part, dealing with the repository push and pulls. 

“We had a lot of fun working on Lost Crypt with Unity. Unity’s team was incredibly talented. We were so pleased to work with the latest 2D tools, and to be a part of getting the new-gen 2D into the hands of everybody,” says Richard.

What were your sources of inspiration for the art?

Mika: Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the references that Unity’s team gave us as an example of great looking 2D visuals. Rayman Legends also has some beautiful backgrounds.

What is your usual workflow when creating and formatting assets?

Mika: I start pasting my concept in one big document. It helps me keep a consistent level of detail across all the sprites. Then I make a list of all the different elements I will need to compose the scene. This helps me to see what must be painted, and what can be reused. After that, I start cleaning everything for integration. Once the asset is in, it’s a lot easier to polish.

A few of the webinar attendees were interested in learning more about converting textures to normal maps. What’s your process?

Mika: There’s a built-in filter in Photoshop to generate normal maps from an image. Try it first on some assets you know, like a sphere, for example, to make sure it works well in Unity. There are different conventions on how the tool encodes the normals’ information so you may have to experiment.

Do you have any tips for artists preparing assets that will be used by our Tilemap tool?

Mika: Go to the Asset Store and use an existing tileset as a starting point if you can.
Otherwise, I would encourage people to use some smart objects in Photoshop. Creating a tileset involves repeating some patterns a lot. Whenever you need to alter the overall look of the tileset, having a good portion of the tiles updated simultaneously saves a lot of time.

What do you think about the new PSD Importer package? Did it improve your workflow between Photoshop and Unity compared to your experience with previous projects?

Ivan: Definitely, it’s very convenient being able to import a PSD directly into Unity while retaining the layer structure. It removes a step for artists and makes further modifications easier to maintain.

What was your favorite new Unity tool while working on the project?

Richard: Shader Graph is so cool. It really helps you push the overall quality. If you look at the Night Ghouls for example, their shape and style is quite neutral, all the magic is in Shader Graph.

Any other external tools besides Photoshop that you’d like to recommend to developers?

Richard: Crazybump and all similar tools can be really helpful to generate some maps for very detailed objects. Blender is definitely an excellent tool to integrate into your production pipeline, even in 2D. It requires a small learning curve, but overall it gives you more solutions than any other 3D software and it’s 100% free.

Are there any performance tips for optimizing art assets settings that you’d like to share?

Ivan: The biggest performance costs we ran into were due to overly complex puppets, so make sure to reduce the number of Sprite Skins in puppets by having as few elements as possible. Also, lower the geometry in the Sprite Skin Editor as much as you can.

Lights had very little impact on performance so you can pretty much use as many as you want, but try to use as few sorting layers as you need.

If you’re looking to optimize even further, try reducing the Render Scale of your RenderPipelineAsset and/or the Render Texture Scale of your custom 2D Renderer Data (if you have one).

Any other tips or advice for developers planning to work on visually ambitious 2D projects?

Mika: Start with the best concept art possible, and keep an open state of mind: everything is possible. Break down your concepts into single elements, and think ahead for what you should do first and what will be reused.

Richard: Favor some more “neutral” or local colors, as opposed to fully lit sprites. This will help you to make sure your assets work well with a vast array of lighting scenarios.

Use the mask channels (RGBA) to integrate all the different lighting information: rim lights, subsurface scattering lights (SSS), ambient lights, fx lights, etc. Then use a shader to get the most control on each element.

Remember that normals will give you texture and grain, but only work close to some dynamic light sources.

Huge thanks to B2tGame for being such a great partner on this project! If you’re looking for more information on our 2D tools, we’ve gathered all videos and documentation on our new 2D tools website

If you’ve got follow-up questions or feedback for our R&D 2D team, get in touch on the 2D forum!

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