Orloth - Final Major Project

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polycounter lvl 5
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JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
Greetings Polycount!

@almighty_gir @TudorMorris and myself have started our final project for our Hertfordshire uni MA.
We are also being assisted by the almighty @Kashaar who has made some kick ass blueprints for me to aid in the quick construction of the city using my modular assets.

We're just in the RnD stage right now but I thought I'd get a thread going, we'll be working on this actively until the end of August.

almighty_gir got me and Tudor on board for this project months ago.

I've been putting together a block out, trim sheets, base textures, and the foundations for the asset pack in the last few weeks. Everything is currently just base textures and a lot of placeholder stuff, but I've put some time in to a small part of the playable area just to test our materials so far, building tests and lighting.
Gir has put together our materials and he's now working on the start of the dragon.
Tudor is roughing out concepts for the whole project.

I'll let the others post their work here, but here's mine so far.
We've got a story about this place, but I'll let @almighty_gir fill you in because this is his baby ;)

Any advice or critique moving forward will be hugely appreciated, and of course if anyone has any questions please feel free to ask.

I can safely say...wish us luck.










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  • Kashaar
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    Kashaar Polycount Sponsor
  • SergeyA
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    SergeyA vertex
    It looks very sharp.
    May be consider adding bevels on the edges, especially on the stone walls, where close up shots are likely. Also consider using displacement textures, it would add some chaos on the edges.
    Great job otherwise, the project looks huge, I wish you luck.
  • Elithenia
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    SergeyA said:
    It looks very sharp.
    May be consider adding bevels on the edges, especially on the stone walls, where close up shots are likely. Also consider using displacement textures, it would add some chaos on the edges.
    Great job otherwise, the project looks huge, I wish you luck.
    Agreed. I will be developing these mesh's further. For the purposes of testing modularity I wanted to get some basic mesh's in to test some stuff out. Due to the scale of the project I'll have to be quite picky about what I bevel and what I use trim sheets for, but certainly the base of the buildings can be afforded some more geo. 
    I was hoping to also get some paralax in the shader, but @almighty_gir says it's too expensive.

    Trying to implement Insomniac's ultimate trim sheet stuff so I don't have to bevel the whole scene. http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022324/The-Ultimate-Trim-Texturing-Techniques
    Here's my tests so far. Also using height based vertex blending.






  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Here's how I'm approaching the buildings and hopefully making them all a little bit unique.
    @Kashaar  put together a blueprint for me that takes my mesh's of 3 varying sizes, 4x4, 2x4 and 1x4 meters plus a corner mesh, and in the roof's case a cap mesh. I can drag the blueprint into the scene and grab the Extents handle and make the it as big or small as I want. I can then check the length and width and put those numbers in to each other floor to quickly get the same size.
    I have full control over which pieces are used on each floor. I can duplicate them to make them appear more often, and in some cases I've asked @Kashaar if he can make it so the blueprint uses the 4x4 pieces more often to cut down on it using lots of the smaller sized pieces.

    I'm also putting together a collection of prefabs I can snap on to these buildings to break them up as much as I can, but also have a few props planned to help break them up further.



    The master material (created by @almighty_gir) has lots going on, but it lets me paint wetness and/or snow on to anything.
    We have the base texture plus 3 layers of textures we can blend with, plus the alpha channel for wetness. If i max out the wetness then it overrides the normals beneath so I can paint puddles in.

  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir interpolator
    Hey all.

    So i managed to rope poor @JLHGameArt and @TudorMorris into helping me with an overly ambitious project for our final major. I wanted to do something grand and epic, and largely a showcase of all of our skillsets. A kind of interactive portfolio.

    With that in mind i had the idea of an elf that the player can control, a dragon they can fly, and a cool castle environment for them to explore.

    I've spent the majority of my time so far working on the material systems, and trying to get them all up and running. Taking advantage of UE4's layered system as much as possible. My role has mainly fallen into tech-art at the moment. But i've been pushing on the art side of things too.

    @TudorMorris has been doing some badass concept stuff for me to work from. So i've been able to make a good start on the dragon, getting all the major forms in, and getting the head shape looking nice. I'll be detailing and moving to low poly over the next couple of weeks.




    Here's the head with scale reference:


    I've also got the head for the elf pretty much done in high-poly. Again, @TudorMorris has done some great concept work for the body and armour so i'll be pushing on to those soon.


  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Testing some fog and post process settings. Going for a cold wet feel.

    We have to produce a pre-production document, so I'm trying to push a small area to show the look I want to go for.
  • Elithenia
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    Elithenia greentooth
    Congrats on the frontpage!

  • Michael Knubben
    I'd say you've nailed the cold/wet look, but I'd add some extra ground-clinging fog. Nice horizontal banks of fog as particles would really enhance the feeling, I think.
  • Mant1k0re
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    Mant1k0re polycounter lvl 3
    Looking nice already!

    Even though the city walls appear to be in semi-blockout state at the moment, I was wondering if you could explain how you approached modeling the crenelation/battlement on curved sections whilst making it consistent with straight sections? I've been working on something similar for a while and I'm bumping my head into a wall (pun intended) trying to figure how to solve this simple (?) issue. Obviously bending or deforming the piece is not an option, symmetry gives ugly results, etc.
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    I'd say you've nailed the cold/wet look, but I'd add some extra ground-clinging fog. Nice horizontal banks of fog as particles would really enhance the feeling, I think.
    @Michael Knubben
    Totally agree. We've been discussing the best way to do this based on the size of environment. Maybe we can have particles that are only active when the player is at a certain distance to them so they don't slow the scene down when they don't need to be on, and for the areas the player can't access we can use planes to get that look but a fair bit cheaper than using particles.

    @Mant1k0re
    @Kashaar came to the rescue on this one. He has made a blueprint that allows me to use a spline to place my walls where ever I want. It still needs some work but here's how it works. I'll let Kashaar go into the details of the blueprint itself if he wants to and everything it can do.

    Originally I ran into the same problem you are having, how to achieve the curved walls we want without having to deform or have loads of slightly curved wall sections which wouldn't have looked great anyway. For the purposes of blockout I'm just using a bunch of modular pieces combined into one mesh, but the blueprint is supposed to support using multiple mesh's.
    Here is the mesh I'm plugging into the blueprint


    I then drop the spline blueprint into the scene, and place the mesh into the blueprint.



    Then I can grab the spline points, and drag them out, the blueprint will deform the mesh a certain amount until it needs a new mesh to fill the gap. You can add more mesh's to go into the spline, but we're going to work that out a little down the road. 

    All I did here was pull it along the x axis and it filled it out.
    Here's some examples of how what you can do with it.

    Although not its intended use, i'm also using it in combination with landscape to bend static ground planes around the curve of the ground so that the textured stones also follow the curve of the walls.


    For the technical stuff about this you'll have to ask lord @Kashaar, but this is how I'm doing this at the moment.
    Hope that's of some help! 
  • Kashaar
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    Aye, any questions about that, send them my way! I had a whole page of explanations about this on my portfolio website, but unfortunately that got lost when my Wordpress site got hacked last year :-/
  • Mant1k0re
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    Mant1k0re polycounter lvl 3
    @JLHGameArt
    @Kashaar

    Why, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer. I have to say that my curiosity has been aroused furiously by mention of this blueprint black magic :pensive:

    I understand the basic principle but it's still a mystery to me how the blueprint is preventing visible stretching or deformation of the mesh O.O. I zoom on the screens you have shared and I can't make out anything.  It's a shame the information is lost, I think a more detailed breakdown of the trickery behind this blueprint would be valuable to a lot of people. On the other hand, it's probably not the proper venue for something like this...?
  • Kashaar
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    Kashaar Polycount Sponsor
    Well, there's a lot of trickery and math going on in the blueprint... just to give you an idea of the complexity:



    Linear stretching is prevented through a function that calculates the number of mesh instances required to fill the length of a spline with the least distortions, i.e. it adds and removes mesh instances in order to fit the length of the spline, independent of the spline points.

    It's something I'm still planning to finish up and sell someday, but there are a few decent alternatives to it out there on forums and the UE4 marketplace you might find worth your time :-)
  • TudorMorris
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    TudorMorris keyframe
    Some character concept art
  • almighty_gir
  • Shanana
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    Shanana Polycount Sponsor
    Waauw @almighty_gir reading through this has made me realize the real scope of what you guys are doing here.
    The environments are really coming along great and I definitely want to see more of those characters. I guess you will rig the dragon, huh :tongue:

    Kudos and good luck!
  • Tectonic
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    Tectonic polycounter lvl 4
    this is pretty incredible stuff. I think the weakest thing I can see right now is the character's face, what reference are you using for her? I think you might have pushed the upturned eyes a bit too far. maybe tone it back down and then fake some of that look with makeup
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir interpolator
    Thanks man! i'll be taking another pass at her after i've done the lowpoly for the dragon, i'll take a look then.

    @Shanana, i've bullied some students into rigging/animating for me :smiley:
  • littleclaude
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    littleclaude polycounter lvl 8
    Looks fabulous, looking forward to seeing the world populated with assets to make it look more lived in.
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Been working on some rocks. Will delve more into the materials down the road, but I'm not very good at rocks right now so I needed to try my hand at making some.




  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Testing out some atmosphere and material stuff. Not that happy with the rocks right now, but i'll work on it.






  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    After some more thought on the rock positions, i think I prefer this. Lines are better, all goes towards the tower at the top.


  • hmm_rock
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    hmm_rock polycounter lvl 4
    Nice correction to the rocks, looking much better. It might be worth taking a look at rock stratification, it seems unlikely that they would converge to one point, rather a "cliff shelf" with all the rocks unified in one direction would look more natural, here's an extreme example. 
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    hmm_rock said:
    Nice correction to the rocks, looking much better. It might be worth taking a look at rock stratification, it seems unlikely that they would converge to one point, rather a "cliff shelf" with all the rocks unified in one direction would look more natural, here's an extreme example. 
    Yeah you're right. I'll do some more rotating  :# Thanks!
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    @hmm_rock ;
    Yeah I see what you mean.




  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Working on some props and speedtree stuff currently as concepts for more buildings are finalised.







  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Working on some modular wall pieces. 
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Lee's Dragon low poly with character for scale


    Still working on layout and design of some pieces, so spending some time making final modular pieces.
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Next piece, double sided 4x4 wall module, for ground floor of buildings. double sided. using the same substance file from the previous piece to maintain consistency


  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 6
    The sheer scale of what you all are doing is incredibly impressive.
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Sculpting the door way today, and some steps if I get to it. 

  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    MrHobo said:
    The sheer scale of what you all are doing is incredibly impressive.
    Haha, in other words, we should know better
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir interpolator
    MrHobo said:
    The sheer scale of what you all are doing is incredibly impressive.
    Is that your way of saying: "Wtf did Lee talk you assholes into?!"

    Also, progress on the drogin.

  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5

    Door module progress
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Testing out in engine



  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir interpolator


    Still texturing and stuff, but also needed to get him posed ready for the Rookies deadline tomorrow.
  • MrHobo
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    MrHobo polycounter lvl 6
    Little of column A, little of column B :smile:
    MrHobo said:
    The sheer scale of what you all are doing is incredibly impressive.
    Haha, in other words, we should know better
    MrHobo said:
    The sheer scale of what you all are doing is incredibly impressive.
    Is that your way of saying: "Wtf did Lee talk you assholes into?!"
    Seriously though Im looking forward to seeing this finished, and The Dragons looking great but maybe dial back the chromatic aberration just a teensy bit.
  • almighty_gir
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    ....I made some steps...go me

    Marmoset viewer link - https://www.artstation.com/artwork/02ZEw

  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Trying to keep the modular pieces consistent.
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Putting all the pieces together in Marmoset

  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Marmoset viewer at the bottom of the page for anyone interested.
    https://www.artstation.com/artwork/nlZ69

  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Wanted to play around with Lee's Dragon :) because dragons.


  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5

    Bend deformed my modular walls to make modular stone towers. Oh and everything from now on is going to include this dragon just because :)
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    Baked lighting test on the new modules.



    Will be using global noise in the material to add in some colour variation to the stone, and use props like flags and banners to break it up further.
  • Mant1k0re
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    Mant1k0re polycounter lvl 3
    @JLHGameArt

    Nice progress! So about those stone modules you've made - the stones are all geometry and no texture, right? It looks too 3D for POM even. I'd be curious to see wireframes of those wall pieces, and if I'm right, is this ok to go with this approach for all your walls? I know you're going with a modular approach but if you're going to have so many on screens, it'll end up being a bit costly. Or have you planned for LODs?

    Generally very interested in how you're going to go about this.
  • Lord Fryingpan
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    Lord Fryingpan polycounter lvl 7
    May I suggest that the dragon should fold its wings as it raises them in similar fashion to this : http://i.imgur.com/vz9iVip.gif

    Otherwise great stuff.

  • JLHGameArt
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    JLHGameArt polycounter lvl 5
    @LordFryingpan Not my area of expertise, but from what I understand, the animator is using the bat in this gif as the reference.

    @Mant1k0re Yeah so the modules are pretty dense. My decision to sculpt these pieces mostly came from my portfolio missing good examples of my sculpting and baking knowledge. I've not done anything close to this scale before so i'm trying to learn as I go. @almighty_gir and @Kashaar are helping me with the technical side.

     Currently the setup has some pretty heavy hitting LODs, bringing most pieces down to about 300 tris at LOD 3 depending on the size of them. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do this optimally. In tests having lots of pieces is just too many draw calls and is slowing the scene down dramatically. I tried using the merge actor tool in UE4 to merge buildings together, and that made the fps go up to 100+, showing the cause of the current performance issues. Right now the thinking is that I'm going to construct a building in UE4, then export it and combine it all in Maya, and sort out the material ID's. Or I'll just do it all in Maya. I'm also experimenting with the HLOD system, but so far I haven't seen any improvement in performance from it. I was thinking that this might cause a lightmap resolution issue as well, so maybe i'll combine floors instead of whole buildings. Once I've completed all the pieces i'll be able to test which is better. Here's the LOD's for one of the wall pieces, sorry it's not that easy to see, straight from UE4.

    Base - 3k tris

    LOD1 - 1.2k tris

    LOD2 - 700 tris

    LOD3 - 311 tris

    Looking at them, I could probably bring the base down to more like 1500 tris, and probably will try to decimate much lower if I have to.

     Right now the main issue is just the scale of the environment (although I keep being told by tech people that this is very possible to get running smoothly). If we didn't want to fly around it I could just focus all my detail in the playable area and the rest would be background, so if it looks like we aren't going to manage it in the time frame then i'll just have to insist that the flying is not controlled by the player, and they gain control when they land, so I have a clearer idea of where to focus the detail. Right now after the player lands I'm going to limit the amount you can explore so that I can have some nice built up areas. Currently at a large distance from the island, fps is sitting around 30, but I've done zero optimisation yet. I combined a building and filled up the city to test it out.



     Everything above the first floor i'm trying to keep as basic as possible in terms of geometry, and get the detail out of the material, mainly because you never get close enough to it. Using a trim sheet for all of the wood, and then a different MI for the main wall area. Here are some wireframes of the 2nd floor pieces.

    I'm smoothing out the hard edges with a trim sheet, seems to be working so far.

     The material setup is getting complicated, but I'm using 1 material instance for 3 stone wall pieces, and I have a different texture set in each channel. So a base layer, then R and G. So 1 material instance for 3 stone wall pieces, then I just vertex paint the piece to the correct channel. We're using the Alpha channel for wetness and the Blue channel for snow. I don't know if this is the best way to do it, but that's the setup right now with the master material that @almighty_gir made.

     Honestly it's a lot of experimentation while I'm building the pieces. One I've finished building all the architecture I'll start combining buildings together and finalising my layout, then probably spend a lot of time optimising so that we can at least run this for the purposes of submitting it, and hey if we crash and burn then at least I'll have some nice pieces to make a small scene with :)

    If anyone has any suggestions on how to better approach this, or to tell me we're going about this completely the wrong way, then please let me know :)
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