[WIP] [UE4] Snow Siege

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JonJo interpolator
Hey Polycount, I'm looking to get some crit on a new game environment project i've been working on the past few weeks. The goal for the project was to learn more foliage techniques and to create a realistic, large scale, exterior environment with some interesting story telling and world building. 

So far, I've been working on a master material for all my assets, so snow builds up on the meshes where they merge with other meshes / the terrain. There's also snow that builds up on top of the meshes depending on orientation, and some other cool features. I've slowly been building a modular kit for my castle which is situated on the hill. Plans for this include a lot of destruction, as the siege will have finished long ago, and this will be the remnants of the battle. I plan to have to give both combatants distinct styles, so Norse Vikings v.s French / German medieval knights. 

Any feedback on any elements of the project so far would be great. The siege camp is pretty sparse and is in a bit of a rut, so any suggestions to improve this area would be greatly appreciated! Cheers

**P.S  I can't take credit for the lovely rocks used to build the mountain, they're from the UE4 Boy and a Kite Demo. Rest has been made by myself **


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  • CybranM
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    CybranM greentooth
    Looks like a solid start, dont have any specific feedback but keep going in the same direction and I think it'll turn out well :smile:
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @CybranM
    thank you, I'll keep at it :)
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Some rather big changes over the past couple of days on the project. After realising I wasn't too happy with the state of the siege camp, I put in some more thought of the duration of the siege, the reasoning for the attack, etc. I concluded that I wanted the siege to have lasted a good couple of months, prompting the attacking to install some semi-permanent artillery positions, as well as some proper mountable palisade walls rather than basic wooden barricades I had before. I also created some extra space for command tents and a logistics area. I might have to clear more forest behind the camp for more tents if the camp doesn't feel populated enough. I also moved the entire camp further back as a comment I received was that the main battlefield was far too small, which I completely agreed with, so I've created extra space here. 

    I've finished my plank kit which allowed me to make some gates, floor pieces, and the palisade walls. I changed the palisade texture to be more inline with the planks, and to unify the wood a little, as the mossy green didn't support the mood I wanted for the scene. 

    I've made some progress with the Castle kit by putting together two wall pieces. One straight, one with a slope. This will hopefully help me construct the wall across the mountain range, building the large border wall I have planned. I'm not too happy with the sloped piece, so if anyone has any good reference of how these types of wall pieces are done in the real world, I'd be really interested to see it! 

    P.S. the lighting and skybox are place holder, just been playing with stuff to see how it feels. Expect it to change frequently as I experiment with different lighting scenarios!

    Any feedback would be awesome, cheers!



  • icegodofhungary
    It may just be the temp lighting but your trees seem to be blending together. I'm not familiar with foliage in Unreal but maybe you could implement some kind of procedural color variation. Push the greens and browns a bit more. The snow, rocks, and props look fantastic.
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @icegodofhungary
    It's just the UE4 default material on the trees leaves at the moment, but you make a very good point about bringing out the browns in the trees, I can probably boost the values and achieve some variation with the speedtree colour node. Cheers!
  • Nuclear Angel
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    Nuclear Angel interpolator
    I personally think the siege camp looks a bit to small, I would recommend to check out the siege camp from the start of the witcher 2 to get a comparison of the size I am thinking of. Right now your camp looks like it would house perhaps 200 to top 300 people. But you got a great start that looks great asset wise. 
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @Nuclear Angel
    I think you're 100 percent right, I need to clear a lot more space for the camp. I've been using both Witcher titles for reference, probably best to reinstall the 2nd game to get a proper feel for the scale of the camp. Thank you, it's the push I need to get it done!
  • Nuclear Angel
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    Nuclear Angel interpolator
    I think if you went out of your way to map out the entire castle and how it is besieged from every angle you can start to envision better how this one section of the siege is laid out. You do not need to model all of it just the section you have now. But I think that could help you to envision what this particular area of the siege camp is used for and its scale and so forth. 
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @Nuclear Angel
    I'll spend the next couple of days working that all out, I think that's an excellent idea. I love the idea of implying that it's just one element of a larger seige, would help make the scene feel much larger. Thanks again, great feedback
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Hey Polycount :) 

    After spending a healthy amount of time procrastination on Mordhau, I've come back to my project to work on some lighting changes and some fabrics.

    I've jumped into Marvelous designer for the tents, and with some help from my friend Dom Marriott , I've been able to put together a tent, and then go on to create a collapsed one. I've got a nice wind effect on the fabrics that I'll show in video format on another day. I've also been re-working the lighting for something a little more dramatic and stylised. The night time fits the more deserted themes of the scene, but I want to compliment the night with some lit fires around the scene and bring just a little life back to the abandoned camp. Lighting and materials still need a little balancing after these changes, but I think it's in a better place.

    Will start working on fixing up my pine trees as they're looking a bit shit. Also need to make some branch textures! 
    Lemme know what you think :)


  • Macebo
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    Macebo ngon master
    I'm really liking the direction you got there. The aurora in the sky is really cool.
    I know this is a wip, but i can throw at you some ideas :)

    add some rotation and placement variation between the tents. right now they look too evenly placed.

    On the tent subject, i'd go ahead and make two or even three different versions of them, with slightly different materials and/or cloth folds etc. to get more organic look and not too homogenous like it is right now. stick some arrows on them, add some holes, blood splatters, grime in the bottom (they look too clean if the battle took place for months).

    On the subject of arrows, add A LOT more scattered in the battlefield. You could make some decals with erosions in the area caused by artillery projectiles as well.

    A fire pit in the center of the camp, with some logs for sitting,  pans, some war instruments (drums etc) could add a lot to the storytelling of the scene since it tells the viewer that there are soldier living and eating in there. The fire from the pit could also lead the eye to a focal point and could add a lot of character to the scene.

    Good luck!
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @Macebo Thanks for your kind words! I hope to learn how to do some skybox stuff later in the project to push that aurora feeling further! 

    Your crit on the tents is spot on, I'll get to adding some extra variation with all the methods you've mentioned. dried blood, holes and grime will all go to help add the story telling I want. 

    The ideas about the fire pit is excellent, I'm lacking a sense of community in the camp and a firepit / bonfire with cooking equipment would help humanise the soliders. I'll start blocking in some of these assets asap! I hadn't even considered doing decals with the arrows, genius idea!

    Thanks again for the detail of your crit, has gotten me thinking a lot further. 

  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Bit of a small scene update today.

    Been super pre-occupied with wrapping up uni, so I've been focusing on some tasks I can jump in and out of pretty frequently. I've spent some time blocking out my large and medium size tents so I could continue to fill up the seige camp and create a space. So far, I've completed the outer wall and I've started playing with the elevation of the hill, mixing some interior walls to create some height variation. I'm feeling a lot better about the size of the siege camp now, even if I need to get some more tents to swell the population size. Lemme know if you think there's something off about the top down view! 

    I've also been working on tent variation. I've added a bit more grunge onto the base layer and added some masks in the material so I can enable and disable some ripped holes in the fabric or add some blood on top of the canvas. It's still a little subtle, so I'm looking into some additional methods of adding variety to these small tents. I plan on doing a tent with a door flap open and another collapsed tent for variation as well as playing with the textures a little more. 

    I've also worked on a siege tower using the pieces from palisade and plank kit. Making these kits has proved so valuable in speeding up production on these assets as well as keeping them looking flush. Hopefully I'll find some time to get onto the castle pieces next!

    Cheers for reading, and lemme know what you think! :)




  • WillPowell
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    WillPowell polygon
    Love the snow material and the overall feel of the camp area! Looking forward to what you do with the trees, could be cool to have some tree stumps within the camp to make it look like some parts of the forest were cleared, as the tree line is so close to the encampment.

    Keep up the good work :^)
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @WillPowell
    Cheers! I'll look into putting some of those in, it's a great idea :) 
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Hey polycount :)

    it's been a while since my last update, travelling around the country and interviewing has left me with little time for the seige! Over the past week I've slowly been chipping away at the walls, making some destroyed variations, blocking out some more seige props, establishing some communal areas for the troops, making some better pine trees, and putting the lighting back to my original lights. The purple just wasn't working for me and looked super messy. Going to be playing with it more at a later point but for now, this is the easiest set up to work in.





    Some of the siege equipment I've been working on includes, small crates, log seats, cooking equipment, bundled wood and weapon stands. I've still got a bunch of objects to work on, but it's starting to feel more like a place that's been lived in. 



    The broken castle walls have been a lot of fun. Making my brick kit and then sampling them for the tiling textures has proved invaluable in creating destroyed variations. The wall with the small crack is roughly 5k tris, and the wall with the large crack is about 12k tris, so they're a little costly, but I love the effect. 



    As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cheers
  • littleclaude
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    littleclaude polycounter
    Great work, could you take us through how you went about doing the broken wall.

  • jimsvanberg
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    jimsvanberg greentooth
    Great work so far!! :)
    Yes, the broken walls looks cool!
    My suggestion would be to create one or two variation materials for the bricks and blend between them with vert paint to break up the repetition.

    Keep at it!
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @jimsvanberg
    Yes you're completely right. It's looking super bland and reptitious from a distance, I'll do some reference gathering and research into what other materials or brick variants I could blend into the material with vertex painting. Thank you!
  • Cloudydays
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    Cloudydays polycounter lvl 4
    JonJo said:
    Yes you're completely right. It's looking super bland and reptitious from a distance, I'll do some reference gathering and research into what other materials or brick variants I could blend into the material with vertex painting. Thank you!
    Material variants and even decals are good place to start when thinking about how you could add variation and interest to your wall. I would also suggest considering the story you are going for. What is the large hole/crumble in the wall made from? Cannon fire? Depending on how the wall was made (how thick it is, material, indentations, etc) it can take multiple cannon fires in the same spot to break through a single hole. Consider how perhaps they may have missed the mark sometimes and maybe put some lighter damage in other parts of the wall? This could be done with just a decal (thus saving you time from having to model a bunch of new pieces for your set). Could there be fire damage? Arrows sticking out? Perhaps blood smeared from the fallen?

    Just some thoughts - hope it helps!
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @Cloudydays
    Sorry for the delay on the response, busy week :)
    fantastic ideas!! I'll add them promptly to my big document of things to do for the castle walls. Mixing some decals and smaller tertiary details in will really help build character and story telling. The overall light damage to the walls is something I really hadn't considered either, so lots of food for though. Thank you so much
  • littleclaude
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    littleclaude polycounter
    Hi

    Thanks for the answer, a lot of work but the result looks great. Rock on! 
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Hey Polycount, 

    Been ages since I've dropped an update on this, and it's for a good reason! I've finished signing the contracts, and it is official. I'm going to be starting a job at Creative Assembly next month as an environment artist :D  Now's the time to focus on personal work before employment kicks in. 

    Here's some screenshots of what I've been working on when I've found the time. I've worked on adding some banners for the castle, brick debris for the destroyed walls, some more interesting terrain for the battle grounds, and detailing the mountain a bit further with more rocks. Haven't got to the vertex painting yet, but it is coming soon :)


    way too much AO contrast here :expressionless:


    Now for the less happy part. I've been having some pretty big issues with the project however, and most of them have been festering for a while. I'm looking to cut the project down because of them. I'll list them here broadly for simplicity;

    • Siege camp is huge and I feels like a big project overscope.
    • Siege camp assets have wildly different quality and aren't meshing very well.
    • Lighting overall has been a real struggle, finding it difficult to light the scene well for both the camp and the castle.
    • Too many areas require significant attention.
    • Woodland area surrounding siege camp is very rough and needs lots of attention in itself.

    From listing these gripes I've got with the project, I'm starting to feel like it might be worth just cutting the siege camp entirely. I feel like focusing on the castle and the mountain might help get this project finished within a reasonable time frame as well as improving the quality of the area much more than if I split my attention between it and the siege camp. Image for reference.



    I'm a little lost for ideas right now on how to solve these issues beyond cutting down.

    TL;DR Any ideas on how to fix these problems or deal with the scope of the project would be super helpful.

    Cheers for reading people and my apologies for the rant, just had to get this one out there.
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Hey guys, apologies for the slight project breakdown in the last post. 
    But after a day off, and talking to some friends about the situation, as well as the lovely people on the DiNusty empire discord, I became more comfortable with cutting the siege camp completely. However, after talking to a good friend Dom Marriott about the situation, he gave me some amazing crit and set my focus back onto the important parts of the project. 

    So here's the conclusion of the crit summarised into some nice bullet points;
    • Siege camp needs to be condensed into one screenshot to let me focus on one shot and save me lots of time and energy.
    • Time since the siege took place is unclear, need to properly age the world and give it life.
    • Storytelling is lacking and I need to properly define the factions and their motives in through the scene.
    Boom, there you go. Dom gave me some super good crit and ideas for the project reigniting my passion for the scene. Check him out in the link above, he's a great dude.



    Today I've been working on vertex painting for the walls. Been getting some lichen and moss in there. Need to tweak it a bit as it's a bit fuzzy, and the lichen needs some more colour variety. Also been slapping some grunges about to break up the tiling. Also brought some yellow back into the scene with the directional light. I've also been re branding the opposing factions, will upload shots of that when they're more developed. Going to focus on getting in more damage to the castle with some more modelling soon.

    As always, lemme know what you think :)


    As mentioned, this is the camp shot that'll have my total focus from now on. much more digestible. 

    (I've removed the damaged tower for now, but it will be coming back)
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Smaller on today. Been working on the gatehouse, good to see the last big piece of the castle out of blockout. Going to work on some additional damage for the castle and try and smash some more holes into the castle from trebuchet fire.

    Lemme know what you think :)


  • CybranM
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    CybranM greentooth
    This just keeps on getting better and better :smiley:
  • 3DKlassen
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    3DKlassen polycounter lvl 2
    You're going places! Great work so far!
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @CybranM ; Thank you for the support dude!

    Hey Polycount :)

    Over the past couple of days, I've been working on the shrine area, and carving a path through the woods leading up to the large breach in the wall. I've been iterating on the statue area a bunch and I've been inspired by a piece of Dark Souls fan art for the religious icon on top of the statue. It reminds me of the orthodox symbol, but has some slight differences. I plane on propagating this to the castle banners soon. The textures are pretty rough and will possibly be re-visited if I have the time, but it'll do for now. I still need to add some benches, offerings, and candles, then I need to wreck it like the Norse invaders would have.

    I've also been clearing a chunk of forest for the invaders to march up to reach the breach in the castle wall. I'm trying to make it look like they've burned some of the trees to clear a path, and chopped some out of their way before making the approach. Hoping to make the approach look very daunting and risky for the attackers. Still need to do some set dressing and more ref gathering of burned forests and trees to bring this area alive I think.

    As always, lemme know what you think :D



  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Hey Polycount :)

    After staring at this project for a while, the question of "where are all the bodies" finally got to me. Can't explain that one away in a bloody and destructive seige. So, I took it upon myself to do some character work and design a armoured viking! This is my first proper character, and he's still very exposed beneath the waist, but the top part is mostly done, bar some texture changes.

    The character will just be used to be posed and to place in and around the snow as corpses. Going to litter some with arrows, slump some against the castle walls, that kind of thing. Hopefully it should add a bit of "life" to the scene :)

    As always, lemme know what you think!



  • Neoferd
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    Neoferd polycounter lvl 2
    Really liking the progress on this one! But the lack of depth and orientation on the viking's chainmail bothers me a lot. You should be careful on making this kind of pattern since it flows along the body instead of twisting around. Try to fix the flow and making it less shiny and bumpy!


  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @Neoferd Cheers for your feedback dude, The chainmail is supposed to be hanging from the helmet rather than underneath the helmet, but I've gone and tried to make the chainmail less bumpy. It'll get less shiny when the snows all over it too :)

    Hey Polycount :D 

    Been doing some more work on the viking dudes, given them some pants and boots to finish them off. Might go for a bit of a re-texture on some of the pieces, but they'll do for now. I ended up posing the character using the Maya Auto-rig, which for the purposes of getting some super quick poses, did great! Adding the corpses really breaths some "life" into the scene. 

    Next up, I need to properly desecrate the shrine and keep smashing up the castle. A lighting overhaul will be on the way after I get most of the key components finished for the scene, I realise it's pretty flat and flawed right now so any ideas for this would be super helpful :)

    Cheers guy, lemme know what you think


  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Yo guys,

    I've been working on some lighting and effects for the first shot at the base of the hill. This isn't concrete lighting, I've decided to go destructive and go through lots of different iterations so expect to see me do some comparisson videos and shots soon to get your feedback on them. 

    Here's my first little test :)
    And as always, let me know what you think



  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Been taking some time off the project preparing for my move up to Horsham next wee, but I've been doing some tweaks and working on additional shots. 

    I've been re-working the path up to the castle enterance to have a paved road as well as steps on the side, thickened up the castle walls a bit, adding some extra lighting contrast for inside the broken tower and added some additional damage in place.

    Could really use some lighting crit at this point!


  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    yet another lighting update! 

    Been messing around with some moodlighting over the past few days :) Still pretty stuck on how to move forward with this, so any feedback would be super. 3 was a bit rushed so is very unrefined. also ignore the freezing snow on the first shot (again) not sure why it's buggin out. would love any further feedback on this one, but lighting in particular would be great!

    Cheers guys, lemme know whatcha think

    https://youtu.be/aT9aJ7hwWt8
  • Nuclear Angel
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    Nuclear Angel interpolator
    Number 2 is in my opinion the best one. And damn good job on this environment, it is looking great already! 
  • Syrtax
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    Syrtax polycounter lvl 3
    What awesome work! 

    1 is too flat and uninteresting 
    2. has a very fantasy vibe and is visually very interesting with the reds in the sky 
    3. Feels ice-cold, desolated, like a quiet night before the storm and has a kinda sad (?) vibe to it.

    Personally, I feel that lighting number 3 fits the best to the scene! But maybe that's just me :)
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @Nuclear Angel
    Thank you dude, means a lot to hear that! 

    @Syrtax
    Thank you for your feedback big time. I think after talking to a couple of people, I'll be balancing the third one to be a little dark, feels like a fake night from what I've been hearing. I'm also going to duplicate the third set up and try blend a bit of the 2nd shot into it to see if it's possible to get a bit of both worlds. 
  • aclund3
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    aclund3 polycounter lvl 4
    The red sky sunset/silhouette thing you're getting with #2 over the castle walls is really nice.  But #2 doesn't really feel cold enough for all the snow in the scene.  #3 definitely feels cold, but your darks are a bit too crunched for me.  Probably a blend between 2 and 3 is a good call.  Keep the warmth in the light, and the environment cold :)

    One other note: the hole in the tower is just too round for me.  Destruction is never that neat... I know you're hand placing that stuff, so up to you if you want to fiddle with it. Just one opinion :)

    Great work so far, mate.  Keep pushing!
  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @aclund3 Thank you for your feedback dude. Some solid lighting advice there, I've done some work to fix the dark crunching, but I'll keep playing with it til the levels are working okay. I'll also add the hole destruction to my change list and I'll get to it if I have the time, I very much see the uniformity there and it definitely seems worth fixing. Good spot, cheers :)

    Spent the evening trying to polish up the third lighting scenario a bit. I've been working on some feedback from the great Derk Elshof to tweak my lighting and help balance the scene. To remove noise and improve readability, I've added some fog planes, increased the fog a bit, and added some more snow around and over the rocks to break up some of the detail areas. I've done some additional set dressing of corpses, and I'm experimenting with some torches, forming a path through the valley.

    The colours and lighting still need to be balanced a bit on this lighting set up, but tomorrow I'll branch off and try implement some of the warmer horizon whilst retaining the feel of the cold tower. 

    Thanks again to everyone who gave me their advice on the lighting, really appreciate it :)



  • aclund3
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    aclund3 polycounter lvl 4
    Yeah, that's a lot better on #3.  There's a lot of bouncing light with snow involved which really fills in the shadows ;)

    Oh, hey and let me know if you figure out how to get motion blur working for the snow VFX.  I couldn't nail it down on my last environment, and just comp'd it after the fact in Photoshop :/  It worked, but native solutions are always the goal.
  • Nuclear Angel
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    Nuclear Angel interpolator
    Hey I think you are on the right path on combining the two lighting schemes. What I personally liked with the second one was that it broke of the monochrome color scheme, but if you would not mind, why dont you try to get in an aurora in the sky?
    That way you can get color variation like in the second image set, but you can also get a lot more interesting colors as well. Just thinking as an alternative to a sunset in the distance. 
    Quick Paintover made in Photoshop to illustrate, did not do any reflections on the ground or change the lighting,



    One other minor thing, i am not a fan of how all the fabric on the flags are right now, there just does not seem to be enough wind to keep them so straight as you got them now, plus they all are the exact same everywhere and it is looking very game arty. 


  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    @aclund3 ; Ahh I'm glad it's an improvement! Honestly I have no idea how I'm going to manage to give the snow motion blur in screenshots but if I find anything out, I'll let you know!

    @Nuclear Angel Thank you big time for the paint over! I recently did some research into how to create the Aurora effect in 3D so a good excuse for me to jump in and try it. I think you're right, it definitley balances the colours of the scene. amazing idea! I will also try fix those flags by forcing them to gust a bit more in the wind like the trees, good spot :)

    Thanks again guys!

  • JonJo
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    JonJo interpolator
    Hey Polycount, 

    Did a bit of a lighting overhaul and effect overhaul yesterday and today after @Nuclear Angel gave me a solid idea to try work in an aurora borealis effect to try and even out the lighting, creating some nice colour contrast to balance out the scene a bit. I've worked this effect in, it needs some tweaking but the core is there. Still need to set it up properly for all the shots, but you get the idea from the 2 main shots here. 
    I've worked on some more dispersed clouds moving the larger more volumetric ones to the horizon to form a stormy looking atmosphere. 

    I've also noticed that the reason this project has been so difficult to get proper values on has been Sony Vegas. As you can see in the video, it seems to really crunch and saturate everything, causing me to pull them back in engine. However, it makes my screenshots much less interesting. Not sure how to tackle this one, might grab a copy of premier and see if that is a little less destructive to my render. Atleast I know now! Removed the snow effects from the screenshots this time for a clearer read.

    As always, lemme know what you think :) I've provided screenshots AND a video this time too :)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugWKqoztSZU


  • Kyetja
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    Kyetja polycounter lvl 2
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 9
    I'm at work so I had to skip ahead a bit. I think the aura in the sky needs to be toned way down. It's such a different color than the rest of the scene that my eye went right to it immediately, and it's not the focus of yoru work.. It actually takes focus away from the other awesome work you have that I will dig more into shortly. 
  • aclund3
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    aclund3 polycounter lvl 4
    Really nice work moving forward with this :)

    I agree with @Rurouni Strife about the auroras. Cool idea for sure, but its a bit overpowered at the moment. It seems to work best for me in the 2nd to last image, where its a little more intermittent and not so much in your face.  Just a little dash of flavor :)  To me the aurora is a nice little compliment to the scene, but its far from the most interesting part... So, yeah.  Not sure how you built it, but possibly further distance from the camera, smaller/broken meshes, increased blurriness, etc. could help to balance it out.

    Super cool so far, dude :)  Snow is looking cold, torches are working well, post-processing is doing the right stuff :)  SO close!

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