Since I found myself without any jobs lined up for the first time in ages last week, I decided to finally take some time for a bit of personal work. Feels good, man! I'm not very experienced with this whole modeling thing, since most of the time I'm more engaged on the programming side of things, but I want to use this to test myself a bit and create an entire small-scope game project on my own. I've done a fair few gamejams in the past, so I know that there are no particular areas I can't cover myself (besides perhaps sound design, but that's what licensed sounds are for) - and one explicit aim of this project is to let me do my own thing without compromises, as a change of pace from how I usually get to work. The other is to provide me with a sandbox to experiment with cool weapon and explosion VFX ;-)
This is all being made in UE4, and I'll be making liberal use of UE4 marketplace assets where appropriate (and will of course be labeling respective bits as such). In the screenshot above, the sky is from an HDR sky pack by the inimitable @Joost, and the detail normal on the sand is from Substance Share, by Käy Vriend
Let's start with the map. I experimented with world machine for a fair amount of time, and ended up with a nice, doubly-eroded 8k heightmap with warped terraces that I really liked. Lighting here is fully dynamic, with some light postprocessing to add a bit more vignette and grain. No LUT or color adjustments in post yet.
World Machine graph:
Here's a walkthrough of the steps taken to get to the final heightmap:
Wip shots within:
Earlier version of the world machine graph, without the nice warped terraces, but with more topsoil - something I eventually want to gain back in the new version. Splat map setup needed more work at this point, note the harsh transitions of the orange layer:
Had some weird artifacts though:
Wet mud instead of sand was in the running as well for a bit:
Here's one of when I was figuring out a good normal intensity for the rock distance normal (more on that below). In this instance, it made the terrain look way too rough for what I had in mind:
The landscape material in UE4 is fairly simple. As you can see in the world machine graph, I exported a bunch of splat maps. I imported those into UE4 landscape layers, and then used uniform colors for each layer, combined with a few detail normal and AO maps that fade over distance.
Here's what it looks like:
There's only two sort of interesting bits. One is that I used grouped material attributes for each layer, to avoid having to create a layer blend node for each material output channel. You can enable this by ticking "Use Material Attributes" in the material properties, and then using the Set/Get/Make/Break Material Attributes nodes. Saves a lot of complexity in graphs that use layers!
The other bit is a fairly standard fade out or fade between detail maps over distance.
Here the material fades out the normal map the further away from the camera the rendered fragment is located. You could just replace the (0,0,1) vector for normals and the constant 1.0 for AO with other, large scale normal/AO maps just as easily, but for this specific layer it made more sense to completely fade out the detail.
So far this comes out to 113 shader instructions, but it's still a work in progress with placeholder textures, so that's probably not the final count.
Here's the bit I'm working on currently. I want the player to pilot a cool spider mech with lots of swappable weapons. My workflow for this is a bit disorganized, mostly due to lack of practice, but I'd say so far it makes a decent blockout/concept model.
Modeled in Modo, using MeshFusion for the main body mass and plain old boxes and cylinders for the rest.
I set up a preliminary rig for this yesterday, and tried my best to figure out how to use IK in Modo. Next step is making a simple walk cycle, so I can focus on ingame fun stuff for a bit without it looking all floaty :-)