SOMA Fanart: Deep under the sea

[Warning, long text ahead, just skip to the Blender-Section, if you don’t want to read about the background-story]

Hey guys,
one of my favorite game developers Frictional Games has started a contest this september where you can create a mod/fanart/cosplay etc. for one of their games.
Since I had some free time the last weeks I decided to participate and create a scene that takes place after the end of the game SOMA.

For those who don’t know the game [Warning, Spoilers ahead!]: the main protagonist Simon is basically a brain scan placed in the mind of a robot deep under the sea after a meteor hit the earth and destroyed all life. His mission is to safe the last bits of humanity in form of other brain-scans and send them to space.
In the last scenes after you succesfully start the “arch” (the satellite with the brain-scans) you realize, that even if your scan made it into the “eternity among the stars”, your current consciousness stays under the sea until the battery runs out or something else happens. So instead of the screen switching to the virtual paradise that you just launched into space, you stay at the exact same spot, other than you expected.
In the very last moment Simon sits in the chair from which he launched the arch and the light around him turns off slowly. The only other “human” companion he meets during his journey across the bottom of the sea is a scan of a person called catherine, which communicates via a small device with Simon. In this last scene, Catherine shuts down and Simons last words are “Catherine? Please don’t leave me alone”.

After this exact scene I was so speechless and felt so sorry for this poor robot/person sitting all alone on the bottom of the ocean with no chance of any help that I decided to make a render out of it.

My idea is to show the protagonist sitting in the chair from which he launched the satellite. It is already a few weeks/months after the launch and his batteries are still running (but who knows for how long more).
Out of the deep darkness of the ocean comes a small helper robot (that also helped in the game but doesn’t have a consciousness) that shines light on him with his small torch.
With this scene I want to create a very dark atmosphere, since the topic of the contest is “decay/autumn”.
The deadline is this sunday already (22nd of september) so I don’t have that much time left anymore.
I took waaay to long to create the robot and the chair and also to create the sitting mesh of the protagonist. But I also learned a lot about texturing/modeling during these weeks.

My next steps are:
-Texturing of Simon [priority]
-Adding signs of decay (corals/other plants on or around Simon and the chair)
-create the floor and background objects
-Dealing with the lights (important)
-Make the scene look more underwater (with particles/bubbles maybe)
-Adding details here and there

I really hope to finish this render before the 22nd september and hope you guys can give me valuable tips/feedback/critique on the scene. Especially the composition (where I should position the camera, the robot, the lights etc.) is going to be hard for me. I want to show some of the details but also to create an atmospheric feeling.

Thanks for the long reading and I will show my progress in the next days.



The helper-robot K8:

The chair:

The protagonist (unfinished):

The scene (quick attempt):

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I finally finished the main character. Now I hope I will still finish the scene before the contest ends tomorrow.

Today is the last day of submitting the work and I’m really struggeling to put all the elments into scene. Also I’m not sure how to make the scene look more “underwater-ish”. I tried volumetric lighting but there still seems to be room for improvement.

Which camera angle do you guys like more? Or do you have any good advices how to improve the scene until this evening? Thank you!

Only a few hours left, do you guys see room for (quick) improvements? And is the scene too dark?

I have so little time today, but I will try to help for a minute…

[1] Your volumetric cone does not appear to jive with the light source.

[2] My eyes are drawn to the bottom of the chair, where the tubes go in, because of the contrast between tubes and chair. Darken this part of chair. And tubes pretty much always have fittings wherever they enter something.

[3] The texturing is flat in such a way that you are not getting good highlights on him.

[4] Sea water has more particles than this, imo. Water looks almost drinkable…

[5] Next time nail down (to the floor, figuratively speaking) your composition and camera angles etc, then make your final models, with only geo and textures for things that are actually going to be seen (with some bleed of course, in case the camera needs tweaked a tad)… this is a key to meeting deadlines, be it for clients or contests…

Edit: [6] Always, always, always use reference images! You should have been using a shitload of refs of scuba divers with lights, mini-subs with lights, etc, etc, while you were working on this… and did I mentions you should always do this?.. Never, ever work from memory of how you think things look in the real world. Even if you watched The Abyss (et al) a thousand times, you should have had ref images in front of you when finalizing scene, lighting, volumetrics etc…

Initially, I was like “SOMA?.. hmmm… sounds familiar…” then I fired up Steam and double-checked, and sure enough, I own the damn thing… Apparently played it for about 8 hrs total, and forgot about it… I hardly remember it, beside the fact that it did have some creepy atmos and took place underwater…

Good luck with the contest bro!

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Thank you norka for your feedback!

[1] Yes, that’s also what I noticed, but I couldn’t find a quick way to widen the “peak” of the spotlight without interfering with the robot-model. But you’re right, thats something that could/should be improved the next time.

[2] I agree, I tried to darken the parts around the tubes by texture-masking some mossy parts on it, but in the final render it can barely seen. I added some dark fittings around it in my current render.

[3] Hmm, I also agree but I always used normal maps, maybe the factor was too small? I think in the detailed views in my first post it looks better, but maybe the factor should be higher for the final rendering.

[4] The scene is supposed to take place at about 4000m depth (in the game). On the reference images I looked at from the game and real photos, there are infact more particles but not that much more. I agree, you could add some more, but I simply didn’t have the time for that detail.

[5] You’re absolutely right. During these 2 weeks I learned so much by trial-and-error like hard-surface modeling (at least the basics), texturing by using masks and texture-paint (NO Substance Painter! :stuck_out_tongue:) and especially in the last 2 days the importance of having a picture in your mind/ a rough layout of the scene and THEN detailing the bits that can actually be seen. At least the scene could be used for a 360°-view, since the details are not only from one side. But let’s see if I’m going to make an animation or something else out of it.

[6] I did, I did. I have a folder full of mostly screenshots/concept arts from the game so that I could recreate all the details from the chair/the robot and especially the deep-sea diving suit in the game.
If my time management was better during this project, I should have worked at least a few days to get the volumetrics/lighting and the water effects right. But I’m quite happy what I did in one day only. Basically the whole background was created in only a few hours and with zero knowledge about underwater-scenes.

Yes, if you’re somehow into psychological horror games and are ready for some plot-twists you should give SOMA another try. The ending was definitely one of the best endings I’ve ever experienced, because it created such a sad atmosphere, which I wanted to capture in this rendering.

Since the submission time for the contest is over and I don’t want to put much more work in this scene, here is my final rendering. Do you guys think I should upload it in the finished projects category? Or is it still too unfinished?