Silent Threat: Reborn Campaign Walkthrough

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Silent Threat: Reborn

SPOILERS: As this is a campaign walkthrough, all spoilers for that mission and all previous ones will be unmarked.


Mission Walkthroughs


Intro Developer Commentary

The ST:R intro movie was created as the final project for my Fall 2008 Introduction to Animation class at NJIT. The original cutscene was modeled and rendered entirely in Blender without post-processing, 2D elements either procedurally generated in Blender or edited with GIMP, and audio edited in Audacity. Mjn.Mixael later re-rendered the cutscene with enhanced effects.

The general concept was to evoke the same atmosphere as the second half of the FreeSpace 2 intro with a touch of the devastation shown in Independence Day. The FreeSpace 2 'Failure' debriefing music was essential for the ominous feeling of dread, and to pace the opening credits.

At the time, the high-poly Hades model had complete geometry, but no textures, which was not an issue as it's shown in silhouette. The timing of the shadows passing over the landscape was completely coincidental after the lighting and ships were animated (as I couldn't get real-time previews) and the voiceover was edited to match.

The Vasudan skeleton was based on an old Vasudan character model by Venom/Nico, and rigged as a character model for distribution over the ruined landscape. The wreckage is debris chunks from the MediaVPs Aten cruiser.

The little bug scurrying into the Vasudan skull is called a 'kartenta' and is based on the GVA Setekh concept art. A Vasudan science vessel using this design appears in Scroll of Atankharzim.

Galemp 17:56, 27 January 2016 (UTC)

This cutscene was an interesting bit of development. I got involved when I learned that Galemp was rendering the scene in HD and it was going to take months! I offered to render it on my production rig, which finished in a few days. However, there were issues with the render caused by transferring the Blender scene to my computer. These issues were specifically caused by a particle system used to create the dust blowing. So I ended up completely rebuilding the scene from scratch to match Galemp's original. One of the only problems I ran into was the ground. Trying to texture the sand in such a way that looked good up close at the beginning of the scene, but didn't look tiled when the camera zoomed out. I used a combination of oversized tile and masking effects in post production to make it work. It was much the same process I used to upgrade the old retail Voltion cutscenes. My fun-filled fact here is that the dust blowing in my render is a post production effect. It is just some stock video of dust that I masked and then scaled in time with the camera move in the scene. I don't get any credit for the design and direction of the scene. I just gave it a facelift.

MjnMixael 16:09, 28 January 2016 (UTC)


Endgame Developer Commentary

Now this was a fun project. We knew we wanted an ending cutscene and that it would focus on the Hades' crash into the planet. We also knew that the scene would follow the Voltion format of an action half and a monologue half. Goober took care of the monologue audio and I just started in on a few ideas. I started placing assets in the scene.. Hades, Orion, fighters, bombers, cruisers. I tried to match the positions to the final mission as well. Then I just started playing with the camera to see what might look good. My first cut focused a lot on the fighters and bombers. However, Goober wanted it to focus more on the capital ships. It was then that Vasudan Admiral showed off some of his early test footage ideas, which if I find, I'll upload! It showed a scene where the camera strafed the hull of the Hades as it's being hit by Orion turret blasts. It looked really cool. So I focused more on that idea. I aimed the camera more at the Hades than at the friendlies, though there is a shot that still exists from my original cut that follows the bombers.

It was around this time that Dan Wentz started posting on the forum and was redoing a lot of FreeSpace music for FS1. That started a natural conversation between Dan, Goober, and myself. We asked if he wanted to do an original score for the cutscene. It was also somewhere during this time that Goober mentioned in passing that a Protoplanetary Disk would be an interesting thematic visual for the monologue. I wrote the idea down.

One difficulty I had originally was the low-res Deneb map. If I made it big enough in the scene to make sense that the Hades would crash into it, it looked terrible. If I made it too small, it made no sense. I think it was AdmiralNelson who came to the rescue and provided a very high-res clean map. So with everything I needed, finally, I came up with a final cut. Yes, I did save the source scenes for the actual Deneb crash. When I redo the FS2 Intro in the future, I've already got that crash surface ready! Vasudan Admiral also took his Hades model and made a damaged/destroyed one which I'll use in the FS2 Intro. But he also went a step further and made a version of the textures that show damage from based on each laser bolt in the cutscene! So as you watch the scene, watch how the hull is visible damaged from each shot. It's subtle, but it's there.

Some of the more nitty-gritty development stuff are things like how I animated green point lights in the scene to be the turret shots. They didn't show up as an object when rendered, but they did light up the Hades hull very nicely. I added the laser bullets in post production. In fact, all explosions and lasers are post production effects. I did a similar trick with the explosions. There are point lights in the 3D scene that light up at the time of the explosion. This method really helps sell the effect. The atmospheric re-entry is a fluid dynamics effect.. which turned out OK. I modelled it after the Apollo 13 film's re-entry visuals. The damage lightning is actual splines in the 3D scene with a glow map instead of a post effect because the post effects I tried just didn't look great. It's also hard to see in the scene, but if you watch the Hades' engines, you'll notice the starboard engines cut out first. This was my own little way of trying to sell to the cynics how the Hades might have ended up in Deneb's gravity. Not exactly realistic, but it works I guess. The idea is that starboard cuts out and the port thrusters push it into a slight turn toward the planet until the Hades goes into freefall.

The Protoplanetary disk was a unique problem. How do you render what is basically a giant dust cloud? Particles? Volumetrics? I went through about 10 different methods and what's funny is that the version you see is just a textured disk with a wave effect and a bump map. Simple is often better! I did use some particles and volumetrics when the camera is up close to help sell the more cloudy look, but the bulk of the scene is just texture work.

With the scene finished, I did some SFX work and sent the whole thing to Dan Wentz. He added a musical score and touched up the SFX and then the scene really came alive. It was really cool.

MjnMixael 17:03, 28 January 2016 (UTC)

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