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Josue Espinoza Beltran (Game Programming) is an avid horror game player fascinated by the hair-raising environmental change effects that many horror games have. This has always mesmerized Josue for its ability to spin a game’s story and make the player question reality.

One day while playing, Josue got to thinking about the possibility of changing a whole character model as players approached non-player characters (NPC). Specifically, Josue wanted to bring a mind-bending aspect to monsters — players can see monsters in the distance, but as they approach one, the NPC morphs into a human form.

Once he got the concept down, Josue started experimenting within Unity, which led him to use the Level of Detail (LOD) technique to accomplish the character model change.

LOD is used with several game objects. Sometimes it’s used for the scene, like when trees, mountains and other non-moveable objects transition into the player’s field of view. It can also be used to update character models into better looking versions with more detail, as the camera focuses on the character.

The LOD technique allows the number of triangles rendered for a game object to be reduced, based on its distance from the camera. To use it, a game object must have a number of meshes with decreasing levels of detail in its geometry. These meshes are called LOD levels. The farther a game object is from the camera, the lower-detail LOD level is rendered. Game objects appear and disappear as the camera comes closer or moves away from the game object.

Josue made use of Unity’s LOD system not only for the traditional use of updating the triangles, but also to transition the 3D characters to different models as the LOD levels change.

For game programmers, polygons and the high level of detail required for character models are not easy to create, understand and change. Speaking from experience, the LOD system makes it easier and more efficient for game programmers to facilitate changing character models in video games. Last summer Josue proved it — he tried the same transition with programming before innovating the use of the LOD system. The results? He’s been more comfortable using the built-in LOD system — with three character model changes, the LOD system was time efficient and easier to maneuver.

In the future, Josue would like to work to deliver more polished transitions between character models, implement his prototype into a game and make Project Transition available for interactable objects in addition to character models.


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