[UE4] Environment Art for game project: Dark Silence

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LukasG polycounter lvl 2

Hello everyone, I have started working on an environment for a 3 week project me and my friend are making and I would like to share my progress through out the length of it . The scene is set at around midnight in North America at a Gas Station near a midwestern town based on a mountain road back in the early 90's.

Project description:

It’s a neo-noir psychological horror game set in the early 90’s in Mid-West America. Following jonathan as he awakes and pursues his family through the nightmares of limbo while attempting to understand where he is and what happened.

Light is the only protection you have from the darkness enveloping the world.

Here is a rough level layout we have done for the game. Brothers is a stand in name for the game at the moment. Still deciding on that.
In the demo level you'll be able to play as the big brother in the story looking for your small brother. The game is strongly influenced by Resident Evil  and Silent Hill 1&2 and will have different camera angles like in the old RE or SH games.
Now about the actual environment. I've made a quick block out and imported it in to unreal to see the scaling of the rooms and space needed.
At this point I just quickly setup the lights to get sort of the mood I was aiming for. Afterwards I drew on screenshot I took to make better shape for the front of the gas station.
Murphy's StopnGo. I'll be drawing on the top and roughing out the sillouhete of the place and concepting some more on the insides as well.

I still need to work out a lot of assets that will be coming in to the scene. Will be updating shortly.


  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey, just decided to put some stuff I've done today on updating the project. Messed around a bit with the lighting trying to find the right balance for contrast.  Made a couple of ground textures today as well using substance designer. Felt a little bit more grounded for me to work on.
    Reworked the front of the station. Here are some of the shots.
    My further plans for now are to block out more props that will be going in to the game and fill some story parts within the level as well. Once all of that is done I would start making the actual assets. More posts coming up later.

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey everyone, have been working quite a bit on the project the past week and I would like to share some of the progression I made with it thus far. We have been working out a lot of gameplay stuff on the side as well. The camera setup (which is similar to those that are found in the old re:1 or silent hill 1 and 2) and the flow/pace of the game etc. I was thinking of making a trailer as well to show off the project once done. I will see on that in the future.

    I have not mentioned this on the earlier posts but the game is being built in Unreal Engine 4. The texturing is being done in Substance Designer/Painter while the models are made with 3DS MAX/Zbrush.

    We now have a name for the game as well....
    Dark Silence.

    Anyway, the visual style of the game I chose is to try and fit in beetween silent hill and resident evil realms of having some dark, grungy, dirty and wet environments with a touch of some thick fog. While trying to make it as realistic as I can.

    The lighting had to be taken down a lot in order to emphasize on the lighter mechanic in the game. To make sure that the player can only barely see anything without having the light on.
    Still a bunch of work to be done, I'll be posting up another one this week.
    Thanks for having a look and any feedback is always appreciated.
  • Jakro
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    Jakro polycounter lvl 2
    Really loving the start of this! Lighting has the right mood but feels odd in places. For example the restroom doors are lit up by seemingly nothing. I would really think about putting in some props that provide some light sources. For example a vending machine that dimly lights a hallway. Or florescent lights hanging from the ceiling, most can be off but maybe a few blink or emit a some light. If you source all the light in this way it can open up options in the gameplay too, like what happens if the player accidentally shoots the vending machine? Will they be submerged in darkness and have to retreat/push to a different area?

    Hard to tell which version is the newest so I'll just say make sure the height of the gas station roof is high enough to allow trucks and busses to refuel. 
    Also the bathroom doors are mirrored which feels really strange. They're the same door in the same place so the handles should be fitted in the same way for each.

    Overall looking really awesome though, just needs more time and more stuff really. Ice cooler, tire pump, posters, cashier area, vending machines, wet floor signs, lights fixtures, magazines/newspapers, atm, firewood you sometimes see outside gas stations, drink dispenser, coffee machine, refrigerators ect ect!  :p  
  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    *Image Heavy!*
    Hello Hello, been a busy week :D but I have some more stuff to show!
    Been adding some more Horror related stuff :D the game is coming along great we are slowly piecing things together. Josh Bonser who's been working with me on the project has been focusing on sound and setting up the game mechanics. It's a tight schedule for sure! But there's always room for a bit of messing around...

    Anywho, I've made a playable character and then put him through mixamo to get the rig and animations to quicken up the proccess for putting him in to the game.
    The guy's name jonathan and he's 16 year's old.
    I've made him from scratch in zbrush and retopologized for game use and at the moment he's standing tall at 37k tri's. The hair is about 16k tris right now. Will have to reduce that soon. So the actual guy mesh is 21k tris or 10.5k poly's.

    Besides the chracter I've made some doors as well for the intro sequences for every room just like in the old re:1.

    More angled door shots

    Here's an example on one of the door's opening up.

    I've made some of the assets as well that I have already imported into the engine.

    To light the lighter you have to scroll on the mousewheel down.  You should'nt stay in the darkness for too long.
    Some gif's from in game right now.

    We have made some hard camera cuts and some smooth blending one's depending on the locations to add some fluidity to the camera composition in certain areas.

    I've made a block in setup for an extra area that will come in to the game. At the moment I'm just testing out the sizes and looking at different camera angles on how to better portray the scene.

    Thanks for having a look! Sorry for a lot of images! Updates will be coming soon.

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey! Decided to make another update what I've been making for the game in the past two days.
    To start off with I have updated the bathrooms. Added cubicle doors,walls, toilet, urinal (for the male bathroom ofc.), Sink, Mirror and a bin. The cubicle doors texture still needs work and some small props (like windows) to be added further on.
    I was also thinking of adding some decals on the floor and the walls for wet splatters etc. Probably a bit more breakage for the wall tile's as well and a different ceiling texture as well.
    Besides those remade an older asset that needed more work on it. model

    Added a mountain range as well and a spline tool for the road barrier.

    As well as for the road.Though it still needs major colour tweaking to blend better with the rest of the landscape.

    Blocked out the last room for the game and just took some shots from the angles that we might use inside the game.

    Probably going to do another update next week. We will see! Thanks for having a look.
  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey guys,
    It has been quite a busy week. We have done a bunch of stuff for the game. 
    We still have a lot of polishing left to do but it's coming together.
    Little gif of the beggining of the game. ^^

    I've been updating a bunch of areas for the game. Theese are still WIP's and need more work on it, but I still wanted to share my progress thus far. I'm taking all the shots from the newest build.  I know some of the shots are quite dark especially in some of the rooms. This is due to the way the game mechanics work, since we don't really want the player to see further ahead with no lighter on.
    Most of the places won't actually have the lights on till later on in the game.
    In this room I've just put a simple lightbulb in the moment to mimick how much will the player will see walking with the lighter on.

    This room is one of the last rooms in the game. It still needs a bunch of work since I've spent the least amount of time on this area.

    Ended up making quite a few tileable textures in substance designer! On the next update I'll probably include some of the substance setups as well.

    There is still a lot left to do but we are planning to release this as a free demo - Late January. Probably gonna do another update in a day or two and jump back on the project next month.
    Thanks for having a look.
  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey Guys
    I had a bit time off from the project and now I've been up and back at it again for the last couple of weeks.
    We are planning on launching the demo in march but until then there is still a lot left to do.
    I was thinking that this project would be a really nice portfolio piece for me and my teammate once we wrap the whole thing up o:)
    Okay, lets start it off with some new textures that I've been working on in substance designer.
    Screens taken in Unreal.

    I've also decided to rework the main character because how much I rushed him before hand, I don't make a lot of 3d characters so I enjoy going through the production of it and learning something new along the way when I get a chance to make one. There is a lot to learn about sculpting in zbrush and anatomy!

    One of my other goals was to make a menu scene that would take away the 'stand in' that was made beforehand. After careful consideration and idea generation this is what I came up with.

    Feedback and crit is always welcome :D
    I will be posting some more assets and textures in the upcoming couple of weeks.
    Thanks for having a look.

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey guys :D
    So I've been adding some more stuff in to the scene, polishing and optimizing performance for the game.
    Lets start with lighting today. I have decided to go with stronger blues to emphasize the mood, I've been tweaking a lot of the post proccess settings to get it to about here. I feel like it still needs adjustments. Since I want the whole game to feel quite dark, I've been trying to find the best point beetween visuals and gameplay and that the two would not interfere but enhance each other. Still more adjustments need to take place.

    Besides tweaking the lights, I have as well made some trees and rocks. The Trees were almost fully made in 3ds max. While the rock has been sculpted in Zbrush, then decimated, unwrapped and put in engine for further static mesh poly optimization (Thank you Epic!).

    I have redone the sculpts for the mountains in the back as well. I did not like the shapes that I have gotten from the first ones and I wanted to improve my texturing. I've made the textures for the mountains in substance painter using mainly smart masks.

    Thanks for having a look, I'll post up more down the road.
  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2

    Hello, Today's update is about the end scene for the game. Location: Hospital.

    I modelled and unwrapped the scene in 3ds Max.
    Textured using substance designer and substance painter.

    It's Still in progress and there are a few more touches I want to add to it and tweak. Mostly with the grunge decals. Adding some trash to the floor as well would be on my list of things to do. Still minor tweaks with post process and lights are needed. Here is how it looks at the moment.

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Some other updates include: Shelter room has been fixed up. Now it has wooden ceiling too.

    Storage cellar: Updated the ceiling.

    Main menu update fly through in to the other rooms through a staircase.

    Instructions room - I've reused some assets that I have made earlier for the main level to make up the menu rooms.
    Options menu we decided to make into an electricity room. Makes sense. I think... :D

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Ugh..made another character :smiley: Mixamo rig and animations.

    Some screens how the character looks in engine. Rig and animation was done with mixamo. Scary stuff...

  • Zedblade
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    Zedblade polycounter lvl 7
    The character models and design are absolutely dreadful in every way. Rip them out and start over. Heck, use the default unreal guy until you really have a solid character because what you have now just makes me laugh at how bad it is.

    The environment so far is on much better footing and I'm really loving the atmosphere and lighting. Still needs a lot of dressing and texture improvement though.

     I've been wanting a new old-school Resident Evil style horror game forever. The gamplay gifs you posted look pretty promising and I hope it all comes together.  
  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey man, thanks for your feedback. I'm really happy that my characters seem to keep you entertained :) I kind of understand where you are coming from about them though. The thing is that the characters were made in a really short amount of time, because there is only two of us working on the project. I specialise in environment art so characters aren't my forte. It would be nice if you would be able to give more constructive feedback in what way they could be improved and/or what is dreadful about them to begin with.

    The environments still need some more tweaking and a few assets here and there.

    We are really excited about making this project as well because we love our old school Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. Thanks for having a look at the project.

  • Joopson
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    Joopson Polycount Sponsor
    No need to be a dick about the characters, man. Give some constructive feedback, instead of just trashing what they have. Whether they turned out good or not, you can bet a lot of work went into them. It deserves more than your flippant comment.

    Honestly the main character looks fine from behind, and is much better for the tone of the game than the default shiny unreal guy. The face is the only glaring issue with it. The proportions of the face make it feel really uncanny, from up close. But if you aren't going to be doing close ups on his face, I'd say keep it for now. 

    I think the little girl looks fine too, and really creepy. The arm shape is a little too tapered or something, but that's my only real complaint about her, all things considered.
  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    @Joopson Hey man, thanks for the reply. You are definetly right about the uncanny feeling of the character. I was thinking right at the end of the project to have another go at fixing him up. Yeah there are some up close shots, so it's not really avoidable...

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey Guys,
    It's been of time had to take a few days off but now back on the project. So... We are getting close to the release of the demo! Yay! Hopefully we will be letting it fly out of it's cage this month.
    Until then still a few pieces that need to come together. For now I can share you some stuff I've done in the past couple of days.
    So I wanted to improve Jonathan's face so he would look better and lose the uncanny feel.

    I've redone one of the terrain materials for the ground since the first one was a stand in that I had left for there way too long.

    I have been tweaking the storage room textures and a couple of assets as well.

    Been adding some props and reworking the inside shop of the station as well. Still a few bits and pieces left in this room as well.

    Added a skybox to the level and redone the trees.

    I'll be putting up some more stuff soon. Thanks for having a look. Any feedback always welcome.
    I've been meaning to make a teaser trailer as well.

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hey guys, here is the trailer I cooked up for the project. Have a look ;)

  • LukasG
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    LukasG polycounter lvl 2
    Hello Everyone :)
    Warning: This post contains a lot of images.
    I haven't posted in a while but we've still been working on the project.
    We had a few set backs along the way with the build not being very friendly to us :neutral:
    Nevertheless it's coming along quite nicely now. I do have to say that we postponed the date to get everything as good as we can.
    We have been tweaking gameplay elements/camera angles and working quite a lot on the lighting of the scene. It was quite tricky to get good lighting when some areas are really dark until you turn on the power. Balancing beetween having really dark and then well lit for the same room took a bit of time. :lol:
    Anywho, I've done a bunch of other tweaks as well. Most of them were texture work. Here is some of the shots from the most recent build.
    I'm running the game from 60-90 fps 1920x1080 resolution without having the volumetric fog on... With volumetric fog it's running beetween 30-40fps.  I'm running it on Nvidia Geforce GTX 970. (I'll guess we will set up a volumetric fog option for power house pc's).
    Inside Screenshots:

    I've had to rework the way the lighting was set up so I can achieve almost pitch black (So the player can navigate using the lighter) when the lights are off and have a nice and lit space when the lights turn on.

    For the outside I have utlized Volumetric Fog that has been added in to one of the latest versions of UE4. By making a volumetric material and using particle emitters to place it in the world. I get a lot of control over the fog...for the steep price on performance.

    Outside Screenshots:

    I have redone the lighting for the main menu scene as well:
    From editor viewport:

    Inside the game: once hovered with a mouse over a door
    Here are some screenshots from in game I snipped away:

    This is an example how the lights look right now when the power is off in the building and then with the power on later on in the game.
    The inventory menu has changed quite a bit as well. Every pickupable Item has Jonathan thought's on it and the player can rotate the items once the player chooses to inspect them. The layout of the text needs a bit of moving around still.
    Besides that there are a few more things I want to change. Some textures that need a bit of tweaking. Some minor light changes for some of the rooms as well and a couple of assets need to be redone. But overall we're getting to the final stages of the project. I have learnt so much stuff while working on Dark Silence and can't be more excited to use that knowledge in future projects. There's always more to be learned though.. Hopefully, by the end of next week we will actually release it. If you have any feedback on how some of the stuff can be improved I would love to hear it. Thanks for having a look.
    Sorry for a massive wave of images. I tried keeping the sizes down :)
  • Maxilator
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    Maxilator polycounter lvl 3
    Looks pretty nice, but even tho it might add to the atmosphere, the grain seems to be cranked a bit too high for my liking.
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