In total I have developed approximately 50 building models for the interactive London map. Accompanied with each building model is also a customised information panel that displays further information, imagery and website links related to each building. Considering the scale of work required, it was vital to implement an efficient development process. Within the initial project stages I developed a list of major landmarks and buildings that I wanted to include within the interactive map. I would therefore work my way through the list developing up to 5 buildings a day in order to meet my requirements.
Development Process – building creation from Maya to Unity/WebGL
The development process started by simply researching the building in question and gathering imagery from which I could start modelling within Autodesk Maya. I would use a variety of modelling techniques I have learned throughout my University modules and personal use of Maya that enabled me to quickly produce complex and accurate shapes within a short time frame. The use of the duplication tool also became increasingly handy in order to recreate recurring building elements such as the viewing pods seen on the London Eye (360 duplication). Each model would on average take between 30-45 minutes to develop however some buildings where continuously developed over a number of days such as the complex City Hall building and the Gherkin (St Mary Axe).
After completing the 3D development within Maya, I would then save the building as two filetypes (.Ascii and .Fbx). The Ascii files form the original Maya files that I can always use as a backup in case a building is lost in the export process. Moreover the .FBX file is the file format needed to export to Unity.
I would open Unity and import the relevant building models as .fbx files. Due to the complex model mesh’s I often set Unity’s mesh compression option to high in order to maintain user computer speeds.
After importing, I would then accurately scale and position the model within the interactive environment. The additional Unity functions would then be added to each building game object allowing users to highlight the building, search for the building and open the additional data panel.
The last step in the process was the production of the data panel. Before creating any models I setup a data panel template within Unity with placeholder text and imagery from which each data panel would then be based on. This ensured each panel looked consistent and uniform across the interactive experience no matter what building the user selects. In order to complete the panel I would gather a royalty free image of the building alongside three major facts such as the buildings location and construction date. Moreover I added a further button link to each data panel in order for users to find further information about each building.