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(WIP) Procedural Arctic Forest Environment [UE4]

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ilari polycounter lvl 3
Check out the 80 Level article here: https://80.lv/articles/procedural-artcit-forest-environment-production/

This is a summer project I started a few weeks ago, the goal was to find out if tessellating foliage would kill performance on a modern midrange PC.

Most of the R&D is done at this point and with just rudimentary optimisations a GTX 970 paired with an ancient Sandy Bridge processor framerates are in the 20s. With the tech sorted out I'm just having fun with this scene populating it with assets, I'll be posting updates as I go along.

Current progress:



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  • FreneticPonies
  • PixelGoat
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    PixelGoat polycounter lvl 12
    the snow looks awesome!
  • tac0m
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    tac0m polycounter lvl 6
    SO GOOOOOOOD! Keep it up, can't wait to see moar results
  • Ali_Youssef
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    Ali_Youssef polycounter lvl 3
    Lovely scene !
    Would love to see what it would look like with some snowfall 
  • Rekmar
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    Rekmar polycounter lvl 14

    looking nice!


    ilari said:
    the goal was to find out if tessellating foliage would kill performance on a modern midrange PC.

    sadly if you mix Tessellation + Foliage + LODs a long standing and largely ignored bug bug will ruin your performance, up to the point of even crashing your GPU (which Windows/nvidia is nice enough to recover from).

    if you pursue this and encounter this issue don't hesitate to add your voice to the bug report :)

  • Sharur
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    Sharur polycounter lvl 2
  • ilari
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    ilari polycounter lvl 3
    Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

    The spruces are now a lot more varied (8 growth stages from young to old) but performance took a nosedive! The trees are currently sitting at 5k polys for the small ones up to 10k for the large ones, the internal structure that's not very visible from the outside is getting culled in the next pass (I liked the idea of framing shots with some really close up branches without losing the illusion of volume). No billboards yet though, I guess the fact it even runs is a positive sign.

    Rekmar said:

    sadly if you mix Tessellation + Foliage + LODs a long standing and largely ignored bug bug will ruin your performance, up to the point of even crashing your GPU (which Windows/nvidia is nice enough to recover from).


    I haven't run in to this issue yet, but thanks for the heads up! Running version 4.15.

    Current progress:




    Experimenting with wavy snow projected along sloped surfaces.





  • RustySpannerz
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    RustySpannerz polycounter lvl 9
    I honestly can't believe how good those trees look, wonderful job so far! 
  • ilari
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    ilari polycounter lvl 3
    I honestly can't believe how good those trees look, wonderful job so far! 
    Thanks! I think they hold up pretty well at a moderate distance but I noticed up close you can see some branches have been upscaled way too much and stick out like a sore thumb.
  • AlanSMitchell
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    AlanSMitchell polycounter lvl 10
    this is looking great. Nice work
  • Sebvhe
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    Sebvhe greentooth
    I have always been disappointed by how snow looks on trees, especially pines. But you sir surely have nailed it.
    As for the snow patches created by using displacement, I really like the way they look, but they are somehow not realistic. I don't know if you should change it though, it does look very good.

    Not the best feedback, but I really felt like commenting that scene :smiley:
  • bigodon
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    bigodon polycounter lvl 4
    the snow on first photo looks so soft, i want to throw myself there and roll :#
    wonderful work mate.
  • lotet
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    lotet quad damage
    the trees look amazing, as does the snow in general, really great work.
  • wonkza
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    wonkza polycounter lvl 3
    wow amazing, good job. I wish I did that ehehe
  • LostHorizon
    @ilari
    Do you have any portfolio? How can I contact you?
  • nekromantikko
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    nekromantikko polycounter lvl 2
    This is excellent, the vertex painting stuff is really clever.
  • Tetranome
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    Tetranome polycounter lvl 5
    Beautiful work. I love the forms of the snowy ice!
  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis polycount lvl 666
    Beautiful! Can you give a short breakdown of your tree creation process?
  • undin
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    undin polycounter lvl 2
    I would also love to see a breakdown. This level looks like it would be beautiful in a game :smile:
  • ilari
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    ilari polycounter lvl 3
    Thanks a bunch @wonkza @jpr @Tetranome @Ashervisalis @undin !

    Playing with lighting and the FOV:




    Here's the tree modeling process explained, I'm doing a more comprehensive writeup for 80.lv which will be out soon!


    I started by building a branch in Maya with Paint Effects, then bringing it over to Zbrush and adding needles with fibermesh. I broke up the branch so I had 2 main branches (the ones with snow covering the middle) and some smaller ones. The snow was done by dynameshing the branches in Zbrush, deleting the bottom half of the dynameshed model and then applying surface noise as a mask and deleting unneeded polys. Thickness was added with Zmodeler, after that the snow was dynameshed again and I used the Inflate brush to enlarge or hide clumps to get a more natural looking snow distribution.

    There are 3 branch texture variations: heavy snow, light snow and dead.





    In Maya I built branches of different types, in total there are more but I can't reasonably fit them all here. The big branch you see on the right is 146 tris and they get leaner from there. Most branches were blocked out with the 2 major branch cards I mentioned earlier with smaller ones added for flavor. The small thin frond cards were used to build the tree tops which have a very particular shape. There are also some more crooked branches that are bare of needles.



    I laid the branches out vertically and started thinking of the silhouette of the tree while maintaining a constant scale. This "slice" of branches was then duplicated radially around the trunk mesh and given some random rotations and transforms on the y-axis. Final touches were made by grabbing the tip vertex of some branches with soft select and moving/rotating them around.
    Things progressed pretty quickly after the first tree was done as I could just duplicate the meshes, randomly transform/rotate them again and just check that a branch hadn't flipped upside down for instance.

  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis polycount lvl 666
    Nice, thanks so much for that! Could you post the 80.lv article on here when it's out?
  • ilari
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    ilari polycounter lvl 3
    Yes, I'll make sure to link it here!
  • eCstatic
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    eCstatic polycounter lvl 10
  • Felixenfeu
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    Felixenfeu polycounter lvl 8
    Pretty stellar work !
  • undin
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    undin polycounter lvl 2
    thanks for posting the breakdown !
  • ilari
  • waikkil
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    waikkil polycounter lvl 3
    Ilari this is some next level stuff. So amazing! Yritän kaapia leukaani tuolta lattiasta tässä ohessa. Absolutely loved the 80lvl article, one of the best things I've read there in a long while. Nicely long and descriptive. I've also been studying both Unreal and World Machine recently but nothing on this level this is beyond inspirational man. Can't wait to see what you come up with next. 
  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis polycount lvl 666
    Thanks Ilari, I'll check out the article when I get home today!
  • nekromantikko
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    nekromantikko polycounter lvl 2
    All the stuff you did in zbrush is pretty genius as well :D Who'd have though there'd be a use for messy dynamesh geometry??
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