useful slug High tech boutique Wed, 06 Apr 2016 09:47:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Polygon article Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:55:33 +0000 The huge gaming website Polygon recently did a piece on a bit of technology I have developed to ease the character generation process in games. Be sure to check it out on the link below:

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useful slug and Order brings top secret BAE Systems sketches to life. Mon, 17 Jun 2013 11:41:27 +0000 BAE Systems wanted to create some animations showing off some of their previously top secret designs that never got off the ground.

From the sketches we received of the various designs we collaborated with Order to produce full 3d animations displaying what the crafts would have looked and moved like, had they been made. A hypersonic space-plane capable of going into space at five times the speed of sound and returning to earth, a Jeep that leapt over enemy blockades, and a commercial aircraft able to take off and land vertically in cities were among the designs they wanted us to demonstrate with the animations.

The animations and accompanying sketches have already gathered much press attention with sightings on ITV, The Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Telegraph and The Metro among many more.
MUSTARD Heritage Sketch

The animations were produced to coincide with the opening of a new centre in Warton, Lancashire, to celebrate the history of the company.

Client: BAE Systems
Agency: Mischief PR
Storyboard, sound, text: Order
Animations: useful slug

In 1964 the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) designed a hypersonic aircraft capable of flight at five times the speed of sound, nicknamed MUSTARD (Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device).
The project would have created the world’s first reusable ‘space plane’, with the cost of development having been estimated as ’20 to 30 times cheaper’ than that incurred by the expendable rocket systems in use that eventually put man on the moon in 1969.

The ‘Jumping Jeep’ was a concept reconnaissance vehicle capable of leaping over obstacles – a 4×4 transporter flanked by 12 vertical lift fans, whose angle could be adjusted dependant on the situation – allowing the jeep to overcome enemy barriers.

The Fighter Jet Take-Off Platform was a concept platform that would rise vertically from the ground, and allow an aircraft to take-off from its back — allowing planes to operate from small airstrips or narrow forest clearings

The Intercity Vertical-Lift Aircraft design from the Hawker Siddeley company was an attempt to bring vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to commercial aircraft, to allow airlines to put airports amongst densely-populated cities, open up more direct travel for passengers and to cut down on the amount of space required for airport runways.

Full news coverage:
National online
Major online
Regional online

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usefulGUI Tue, 16 Apr 2013 23:34:32 +0000

usefulGUI example | by useful slug

usefulGUI is a practical approach to working with 3D GUI elements in Unity.
It is created as an extension of the GameObject class in Unity, and results in short, easy to read and write code.
An example button can be created with code as simple as: gameObject.Clicked() or gameObject.CheckBox() for a checkbox type button. The same interface code works across all platforms.
You can download usefulGUI and the first example project for free here:
Below is a tutorial video showing the setting up of the example above.

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Real Big Deal WIP Mon, 04 Mar 2013 18:57:40 +0000 This is one of these Work in Progress personal animations that have a tendency to stay on the hard drive and just get fiddled with from time to time. Model and texture maps by Lee Perry Smith Infinite Realities LTD. Rigging, animation, shading and shader technical [...]]]>

This is one of these Work in Progress personal animations that have a tendency to stay on the hard drive and just get fiddled with from time to time.
Model and texture maps by Lee Perry Smith Infinite Realities LTD.
Rigging, animation, shading and shader technical by Vegard Myklebust at useful slug.
Audio from Undisputed

The character is hand animated to the audio using a standard skeletal deformer and some custom deformers. The animation is tied to a series of texture maps with animated object space weight blending so that only a portion of the map can be faded in where needed. Color fluctuations are also in animated object space weighting to achieve differentiation of color for example on the lower lip as it gets stretched.

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Grandmother’s Footsteps released on iOS and Android Thu, 28 Feb 2013 14:17:44 +0000 Grandmother's Footsteps Title
Get it on iTunes or Get it on Google Play
Grandmother’s Footsteps plays as a party game, with each player tapping in one corner to make his character run, and holding to stand still when the person who’s it turns around. When one player wins, he then controls the pace for all the other players on the next round. Although the game is the most fun to play with all your friends or family, the computer AI will take over a character after a period of inactivity, so when attention spans differ or the kettle is boiling, it’s easy to take a break from an ongoing game for one of the contestants, and rejoining is as easy as tapping back in. With over 20 different ways of failing to stop and jovial characters, it’s a nice and quirky take on the old classic schoolyard game.
Check out the Trailer below:

The game has many names and is played all over the world. It’s known as Grandmother’s Footsteps or What’s the time Mr.Wolf in the UK, Red light/Green light or Statues in the US or Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil (one, two, three, sunshine!) in France for example.

-It’s not always easy to stop:

About the creator:
Vegard Myklebust is a London based independent game developer and technical director. Working under the company name useful slug, he has previously helped create everything from award winning animated kids TV shows, to music videos, short films and games. In April 2012 he decided to try to fend for himself as an indie games developer. This is his second game to be released since then. In this title, Vegard created everything but the music, which was created by Hollywood based composer Haim Mazar.

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Grandmother’s Footsteps first sneak peak Mon, 07 Jan 2013 18:12:11 +0000 Grandmother’s Footsteps is the next game for iOS and Android by useful slug. A classic schoolyard game taken into the digital age. The game has many names all over the world, “Grandmother’s Footsteps” or “What’s the time Mr.Wolf” in the UK, “Red light/Green light” or “Statues” in the US [...]]]>
Grandmother’s Footsteps is the next game for iOS and Android by useful slug. A classic schoolyard game taken into the digital age. The game has many names all over the world, “Grandmother’s Footsteps” or “What’s the time Mr.Wolf” in the UK, “Red light/Green light” or “Statues” in the US or “Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil” in France for example.

It’s not always easy to stop, here’s some WIP footage of some of the many ways it can go wrong.

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Soft Contact Deformer Fri, 07 Dec 2012 18:39:23 +0000 The return simulation can be anything from immediately (0) to never (1), [...]]]> Get the latest soft contact deformer for messiah:studio. Based loosely on Pixar’s ‘Acting with Contact’ white-paper and with some added tricks of our own. Get it now for the small donation of $40 to our beer fund!

The return simulation can be anything from immediately (0) to never (1), creating effects ranging from human skin, via bread dough, to snow.

Very useful for things like:
-A character pressing his finger against something.
-A character poking another character
-Dough effects
-Memory foam effects
-Water droplets
-Footsteps in snow
-Any contact that needs the surrounding area to react.

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DangleSmash Fri, 30 Nov 2012 13:52:15 +0000 Play as a Soviet space dog fighting off an alien invasion in our unique physics-based, turn-by-turn, smash-em-up. Check out screenshots videos and more here:]]> DangleSmash is now available on the iPhone app store! Get DangleSmash

Play as a Soviet space dog fighting off an alien invasion in our unique physics-based, turn-by-turn, smash-em-up.
Check out screenshots videos and more here:

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useful slug announces DangleSmash Wed, 24 Oct 2012 13:36:12 +0000 Background DangleSmash is the first game by useful slug, a duo and occasional [...]]]> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – LONDON, UK, OCTOBER 24th 2012 –
useful slug announces DangleSmash for iOS and Android.

DangleSmash is an upcoming game where you play as a Soviet space dog fighting off an alien invasion.

DangleSmash is the first game by useful slug, a duo and occasional collective of illustrators, animators, and programmers.  Vegard Myklebust handled programming, game design, and animation while Peet Lee created most of the graphics and audio. Vegard and Peet have previously worked in the animation industry on award-winning TV series, music videos, and short films.

DangleSmash was completely independently funded out of the pockets and passion of the creators. In true Norwegian tradition, Vegard also vowed not to cut his beard or hair until the project was complete, which has left him rather unkempt.

Danglesmash screenshot 020

The Game

Facing down an alien invasion, you play an intrepid Soviet space dog whose capsule becomes entangled with the already orbiting Sputnik I. Chase down opponents in a series of one-on-one duels across the planets of the solar system, mastering the effects of each planet’s unique gravity (and yes, Pluto is still a planet!). The game is set in the early days of the space race, which you view through recovered footage from a secret 1950s Soviet Space Program. Graphical effects, such as dust and scratches, Russian-inspired fonts, and audio of old Soviet war marches gel with bright, fun, full-3d graphics.

Each battle survived earns you precious ‘Space Rubles’ in loot, which can be spent upgrading various aspects of Sputnik I to better tackle the increasingly tough opponents you meet. For example, you can uncover a Luger attached to a robotic arm hidden in Sputnik I by a nervous scientist ‘in case of unforseen circumstances’, or equip alien technology, such as repulsing shields. Each upgrade tactically alters the game dynamics from that point on. DangleSmash also features a recurring eye-patched nemesis and a cast of unlockable cult sci-fi inspired characters to challenge you with their advanced techniques and tactics!

DangleSmash was inspired by the traditional school-yard game of ‘Conkers’, played in autumn by children across the United Kingdom and beyond. String is threaded through a horse-chestnut to make a ‘conker’, with players taking turns to smash their own conker against an opponent’s until one obliterates the other. DangleSmash takes this classic experience into space; in a physics-based turn-by-turn smash-em-up!

Danglesmash screenshot 038


  • Turn based spinning and smashing action
  • Full physics based momentum, collisions, and damage
  • Gravity changes from planet to planet, altering the course of play
  • Multiple upgrades change the course of battle – shields, guns, speed boosts, and counter-attacks!
  • Fiendish foes to fight across seven different planets
  • Strange alien obstacles to navigate

Danglesmash screenshot 034

If you wish to preview the game we can be contacted in lots of fun and modern ways, such as:
Twitter: @danglesmash/@usefulslug/@peteorstrike,
Email contact form:

Press assets:
You can download a full set of screenshots here:

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Making EPIC Thu, 03 May 2012 01:32:31 +0000
See examples of the work at:

Over the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of working on the rendering and effects side of Plankton Invasion, and in so doing I created a very extensive system that would go from A to as near Z without artist intervention in as many cases as possible on this effects heavy animated TV production. The system was dubbed EPIC (Extreme Plankton Invasion Code).
The system was very successful in how it worked and in this post I will talk a little bit about the experiences I had in building it and hopefully it can help trigger some ideas for others, or serve as a help when thinking about your own systems.

— If you want to see the effects of this, check the post about plankton invasion in general:

First a little brief about my experience before plankton invasion so that you know where I am coming from. This way of working was quite new to me, so that is why I would like to document it a bit, and my path to programming is part of that story.
I’m educated as a traditional illustrator, and taught myself 3d from I was about 16 years old, so that’s a good 13 years now. After college I taught myself how to rig better because I wanted to be an animator, and had realized that good rigs were important. I started getting work as a freelance generalist and character technical director. Already after the first TV pilot I worked on, I realized how useful scripting and programming was, so I decided to try to learn that by reading open source code for some expressions used in messiah:studio by christopher lutz. I didn’t know much about math, next to nothing about programming and the source code to the first major plugin I made, ‘Walker’, is so hideously inefficiently and inelegantly written that it is almost embarrassing. But the system worked, and ‘fake it til you make it’ was going to be my modus operandi from now on. Several plugins, scripts, rigs, procedural animation systems, short films, small scale feature, music videos and adverts later my knowledge of what was needed in fast paced 3d production had grown, and I was called in to work on Plankton Invasion, a 78 x 7 minute FX heavy TV show being made by TeamTo and Grid VFX.

The obvious problem in producing TV animation, is that if you want it to be any good, you need to do a mother-load (excuse my french) of work, and you don’t have the luxury of time. That’s just the reality of that, plain and simple, and if you can’t stand that heat, then the kitchen is no place to be. Luckily TeamTo and Grid VFX are both very experienced facilities.
I started making EPIC at Grid, when I saw that we were repeating a lot of tasks as vfx artists. Generating UV passes for explosions, adding particles to feet as the characters were running in the sand, dust impacts, fire on matches, objects on fire, smoke plumes, smoke trails, water splashes, depth of field focus fixes (the characters are really small so they are being filmed by tiny cameras!), tv screens, and a whole bunch other effects needed to be done for the show (about 60-70 different types of effects and fixes were eventually automated and added to the system).
For season 1 (which we just finished), this was 6.5 minutes per episode (title’s about 30 sec) x 39 = 253.5 minutes of animation to render. On average, about 50% of shots were effects shots (remember, not just explosions!) so that’s something like 126.75 minutes of effects shots.
In one year, we made roughly two hours of effects in season 1, chew on that while I adjust my hat.

Lesson One: Is it ready yet?
EPIC had to be made during the production, gradually expanding as new episodes came with new effects to put in. So it needed to be ready to use all the time. I chose to build it in python, even though I had never coded in python before, because I knew it was a flexible scripting language, and this system would have to be very dynamic. I built a system that would read from a .csv file, the breakdown of which effect was tagged in each shot. Any shot could have multiple effects. The system would then basically do a big ‘swich/case’ for each effect (basically a bit of code that would determine which function to call based on the name of the effect). Each effect had it’s own response, like generating certain render passes, or adding something to the compositing flow, and these were functions that were generalized in two code files, one for doing stuff in 3d, and one for doing stuff in compositing. I used text files as templates (I didn’t know about the template module at the time) and directly modified the ascii files for compositing and 3d with these.
The system was basic enough that it could be built in a hurry, and it could be used straight away, even if only for one effect at the time, but it was already saving time. Lesson One: Make it lean and mean but ready for use immediately, you can expand later.

Lesson Two: Can I do that in a more general way?
Treating 3d and compositing files directly in ascii format using text replacement, regular expressions and templates is not always straightforward. What each effect needed to be able to do was very variable. Some effects needed to place particle emitters, some required a bit of math to do rotations or other calculations inside the 3d scenes, some needed to adjust parenting and a whole bunch of different render settings and things needed to be tweaked for each type of pass. For the first effects I just took the whole block of text that made up the effect in comp or 3d, and just pasted it into the right place in the ascii file and tested the file in the 3d/compositing programs to make sure I hadn’t screwed anything up. That wasn’t going to be enough when things got complicated. At first it was just one or two effects that needed something special changed in the file so I just made some functions to set all the things at the same time. Bad idea, mostly. Soon enough I needed to combine some of the settings from one effect, and some of the settings of another effect, and set some third setting in a different way. I needed to start doing things more generally. Gradually I created all the functions that were needed, like setting lighting options, adding particle emitters, parenting stuff etc. Now the responses in the effect code themselves were easier to make, as they just needed to call any of the functions they required. I still kept some functions ‘big’, like doing all that was required to create a matte pass for an object (checking a bunch of options, looking for names and setting output paths) as a single function, because it was effective to be able to just call ‘createMattePass(path,objectNames)’
Lesson Two: Make functions general if you can, but also allow ‘straight to end product’ functions.

Lesson Three: Can a computer make that decision?
When working with visual effects, it is a bit weird to suggest that a script can do all that work that the artists are doing. What the artists are doing requires visual decision making and subjective judgment of what looks good in a shot. The fact of the matter is, the script can’t think like an artist could. Here’s how a typical workflow goes: The artist does task A, then task B then task C … Z
A – B – C – D – E – F – G – H – I – J – K – L – M – N – O – P – Q – R – S – T – U – V – W – X – Y – Z
Then the technical director goes, ‘hmm, you just pushed all the same buttons in a sequence there, let me make that into one button for you’.
Now the workflow is like this:
A – C – E – G – I – K – M – O – Q – S – U – W – Y – Z
That’s how it stays, because the artist has to make some decision at all those points.
But this is inefficient, so what is the answer?
Actually a lot of those decisions that need to be made, don’t need to happen at that particular time. A lot of them can be made much earlier. During the breakdown for the effects, a person can make the decisions like how big should a dust roughly cloud be for this shot, which explosion will fit the shot and many similar visual decisions like that, and the system can simply allow them to be made. Now the workflow for the artist is like this:
A – U – W – Y – Z
What a time saver! By simply making the decisions up front for as many of the variables as possible, we save a huge amount of work. The artist will still have to make decisions, and then treat the final composite, maybe even tweak the 3d shot, but we’ve moved all of the decisions to a few central points. For each thing we have to do, there might be different how far we can go towards Z, but our system should go as far as possible. To the artist, it should feel like they have an artist assistant in the system, not that it is ‘taking their jobs’.
Lesson Three: Design A to near Z systems. Let the artist make decisions early.

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Help other people! Tue, 01 May 2012 03:21:08 +0000 There are many reasons for why you should take the time to help out your peers in a professional or learning environment. Here are some motivators:

One: Helping others helps you!

If the person you help buggers off and you never see them again, you will at the very least have managed to solidify your knowledge of the matter of the problem by thinking about it again. This is great professionally as it helps make sure you really know how to respond when someone asks the same question later. Trust me, someone will! That’s the worst case scenario, the better is that you end up helping people again and again, until you really know what the hell you’re doing.

Two: Become the go to man!
I made ‘Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy’ my professional slogan. No technical challenge, problem or anything else was wrong to come to me with. However I would let them know if it was simply extremely unfeasible or overly difficult. On a whole, the whole point of the technical director/artist is to say “Don’t worry, I will deal with that problem for you” OR “I’m afraid that is not possible in this world”. As a technical artist/director, what you do is a kind of magic to everyone else, don’t expect anyone to know what that involves. It is either possible, come hell or high water, or it is not. Everything between is your domain (including how long it will take even if you don’t know). The guy that says “Don’t worry, I will deal with that problem for you.” is usually the unsung hero of the production, but everyone will remember him well later on simply because it is what everyone from producer to artist wants to hear, and you can deliver it.

Three: You can help the entire company by applying your thinking generally!
There is nothing wrong with stepping outside of the daily grind of rigging, programming tidbits and tools, or slowly moving vertices about, to take a grander view of the situation. Especially as a technical artist/director you are probably the most capable of doing this and even though the production staff might not appreciate it at the moment you do, they will (or should) kiss your feet when you save them from that 20th production problem that was narrowly avoided because of your clairvoyance. Make sure you have an understanding with your production staff that your role is not just that of an artist, but that of a scout and that of a strategist. I can guarantee you that every production that fails to invoke the use of their technical staff for these other jobs/hats, will fail in one or (much more usually many) more ways. If you find yourself in the need of having to convince a producer, let them know what amount of man days it would take for you to fix something, versus what it will potentially take everyone involved once they have walked into the trap already.

Four: You get a different satisfaction from helping someone else than yourself.
No shit Sherlock, said the bored reader, but it’s an important part. When someone else succeeds after having learned something from you, you feel good in a certain way. I distinctly remember some years ago when I helped someone, who was almost a complete stranger over the internet, understand some fundamental bits about lighting and 3d artwork in general, and then that person went on to produce better lighting than I ever did and ended up in Dreamworks and many publications within a few years, and even credited me in a ‘special thanks’ list in a publication. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take credit for anything this person achieved, but the pride I felt for having helped was enormous!

Five: Being helped is also great!

When I started doing 3d professionally, I got a huge amount of help, artistically, professionally and just simply by getting work from another freelancer called Pål Syvertsen (Flottaltså). The amount of appreciation I still have for this help, as well as the others in that first year (especially William Eggington, David Maas, Christopher Lutz, Shane Ushijima, Brian Nicolucci, Peet Lee) amounts to the volume of a mountain in the Himalayas, if not more. One remembers the help one receives.

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Plankton Invasion Mon, 26 Sep 2011 21:27:42 +0000 The past few months I’ve been down in Belgium working with GRID and together with TeamTo on setting up the pipeline, rendering and effects for Joeri Christiaen‘s Plankton Invasion. Finally some of the images are ready for the small screen and will be hitting VTM in Belgium this month, Canal+ [...]]]>

The past few months I’ve been down in Belgium working with GRID and together with TeamTo on setting up the pipeline, rendering and effects for Joeri Christiaen‘s Plankton Invasion. Finally some of the images are ready for the small screen and will be hitting VTM in Belgium this month, Canal+ in France next month and then hopefully soon global domination! The revenge of the infinitely small is upon us, watch the trailers below.

UPDATE!: check out some full episodes in french on Canal+:

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TensionMorpher for messiah:Studio! Sat, 03 Sep 2011 14:19:48 +0000 useful slug is pleased to present this new TensionMorpher deformer for messiah:studio. Below is a video tutorial on how to set it up. The deformer / weight tool combo uses the tension of the edges to find out if it’s being squashed or stretched, and performs a tangent space morph.

In the spirit of dare to share the deformer will be available for $100 $50 $20 for the first couple of weeks. Get it while it’s hot ;)

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18 messiah tips in 3d World #142 Wed, 06 Apr 2011 09:43:00 +0000 I wrote a 5 page article with 18 tips for messiah studio for 3d World issue 142.
The tips range from beginner to advanced level, and include video tutorials as well as start and end project files.
Make sure you pick up a copy!

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850 meters teaser Sun, 13 Mar 2011 18:30:44 +0000 Learn all about it and watch the making of at: Make sure you watch the making of’s:

Learn all about it and watch the making of at:

Make sure you watch the making of’s:

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