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[WIP][UE4 Environment] Village in the desert

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Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
Hello there  =)

Here some boring information:
   My name is Egor Izotenkov and this is my first post here. I started this project some time ago while studying 3D graphics courses in Kyiv. Many thanks to the guys from ArtCraft, I learned a lot of new and interesting things from them. Unfortunately, for some reason, I was not able to finish the project then. And now, almost a year later, I am still slowly working on it and trying to learn as much as I can.

   I like the polycount community, you can always find a lot of great advice here, and I hope that I myself can show something to those who are still studying like me. I've already learned a lot on this project, so if anyone is still thinking, start doing :3  In the community of creators, we are all inspired by each other.

 Well for all this I mostly used such programs as blender (personally like this little dude) for modelling,  ZBrush for sculpting, RizomUV for UV of course, Photoshop, Substance Designer and Painter for texturing part and Unreal Engine I used it to put all together and render. I was also glad to try SpeedTree in vegetation part, cool stuff.

   The theme of the project was chosen at random and it sounds like "Aladdin", so this is a Middle Eastern Arabic theme in which I decided to add a little from fantasy and from the famous cartoon of course.  Further in the topic, I will share with you piece by piece what has already been done, perhaps some plans and certainly various breakdowns. When the project is finished, I think I'll post most of the models and materials for free as a kit. So I hope for some feedback about this or that.

   Let's start with the first blocking I did. Whith this I wanted to represent a small town with a piece of street filled with poor houses on it, a temple and such a local mini-palace but inaccessible inside + natural landscapes around. 
3d model can be rotated here on my Sketchfab


   But it seems to me that this variant lacks interesting areas. So I tried to make a new, simpler, but more lively version. This one is a small village on ancient ruins. Here we have the remnants of past buildings, a drying oasis, different areas of the village: market, stone ledge, well, part of the village falling into an oasis, and farm part.


Some close looks from Unreal 4:

What do you think, which variant is better and why?

Replies

  • simonBreumier
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    simonBreumier polygon
    Hi, nice blockout ! I really like the idea of the hidden buildings under the rocks in the second variant, it creates an iteresting focus point that makes us curious about the village history.
  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter
    I kind of like them both. I like the variety of building designs from the fist one, but I prefer the layout of the second one better. Perhaps they could be combined together in some way? Like adding the archway entrance and the towers to the second version.
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
    Hi, nice blockout ! I really like the idea of the hidden buildings under the rocks in the second variant, it creates an iteresting focus point that makes us curious about the village history.
    I kind of like them both. I like the variety of building designs from the fist one, but I prefer the layout of the second one better. Perhaps they could be combined together in some way? Like adding the archway entrance and the towers to the second version.
    Thanks for ur opinion guys! I also stick more to the second option. To keep in touch, here's a quick look at some of the props I've already made (some maybe will be fixed). I plan to try different techniques on creating models, many parts will be modular. So later I will show them better, also soon I will make a post on arstation about ready vegetation and post some breakdowns here.  ;)


    By the way, one of the desert house models can be downloaded from my sketchfab page.
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
       Hey, I want to share with u a breakdown of acacia bark material that I made for this project. In the first part we will make a height, normal, ao maps, and soon in the second part will be creation of color and roughness maps. You can change the nodes for ur needs and get different results. Creating a diverse bark is done on the same principle. Notify me if something is not clear, or if u notice a mistake. I would like to post similar stuff in the future.


    Substance Designer Acacia Bark - Part 1

    Overall graph view





     

     

     

     


       
    P.S. Attached mesh that I made specifically for the normal display of non-square textures in the Substance Designer
  • Mazzletov
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    Mazzletov triangle
    This looks great! I am going to try the bark in SD later on. Could you also advise me on how you made the foliage? Was this done using high poly and SP/SD or what was your workflow? Thanks!
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
    Mazzletov said:
    This looks great! I am going to try the bark in SD later on. Could you also advise me on how you made the foliage? Was this done using high poly and SP/SD or what was your workflow? Thanks!
       Hey, u can find some of my notes underneath images on artstation. But in general, for acacia branches: sculpting and painting leaves in ZBrush, here you can get the main textures directly from the viewport (although I baked them on the plane in Marmoset, just my habit), then result modified in SDesigner, generated rest of the maps. Branches I modeled in Blender, put my bark material on them (choose modeling software to ur taste) and assembled it together with a low-poly version of leaves (which I cut out from the texture map) and baked it on plane again in Marmoset, then made a translucency map in Photoshop based on the opacity map and masks.
       Senna (bushes with yellow flowers) created in a similar way, but the flowers were modeled in Blender and after painted with rough UV in SPainter. Texture for stems I craeted in SDesigner.
       For the left plant, the texture is made only in SDesigner. The rest is just modeled, put some materials with custome textures on them, baked, finished in Photoshop. Here are some pics of texture parts I used to illustrate some for u.


  • Mazzletov
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    Mazzletov triangle
    So as I can understand correctly. You project the bushes and branches onto a plane? The large branch is actual geometry and the smaller branches/bushes are planes with opacity?
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
    Mazzletov said:
    So as I can understand correctly. You project the bushes and branches onto a plane? The large branch is actual geometry and the smaller branches/bushes are planes with opacity?
       That's right. And if we're talking about tree, we need to bake our high-poly model of branches with leaves onto a plane. Next, cut out meshes from these textures, which we will later place on tree. Tree itself is actual geometry of trunk and big branches.
       Here nice tutorial from Tim Simpson 
  • Markiian_Mocherad
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    Markiian_Mocherad polycounter lvl 3
    Man this is so cool!
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
       Hello everyone, this is a continuation of the first part of creating the acacia bark. Here we will add color and roughness to our material. One note, two custom nodes will be used in the color section: Get slope and Height slice, you can download them from the Substance Share website here and here . Also don't forget to experiment with nodes to get ur own interesting results. Be well  :)

    Substance Designer Acacia Bark - Part 2 

     U can pick color directly from the image

     
    Our final overall graph view
  • pixelpatron
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    pixelpatron interpolator
    Great stuff, if you enjoy this type of work, keep going with it. You'll get snatched up quick.
  • Ashervisalis
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    Ashervisalis veteran polycounter
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
       Have a nice day everyone. =)  During my free time, I had the opportunity to work on my scene a little, in particular on rocks and landscape materials. I don't really like the current  cliffs part of  town environment, so I decided to update it a bit and instead of a mountain, make a valley covered by cliffs.
       So here u can see final variant from  my several blocking variants. (Always make blockout of ur scene so you make fewer mistakes and spend less time fixing them!). Also, for a better view, I have placed still WIP date palms.
       And here is a look on current state of scene. I placed the rock assets around the scene, created in SDesigner some basic texture materials nedeed for my project and also created landscape shader. Then I started applying materials here and there just to see how they looked in the environment and how they fit together. And in the end, they didn't really match, so I had to work hard on them to improve the situation. And hey, I also add this arch and I so excited about how it all will look finished. Tell me how you feel about the current placement in the scene, maybe somewaht looking not well?

    Some views under the spoiler:
     
     

       Landscape materials. I use normal map from this rock material for additional fine detail on top of the unique materials of rock assets. Recently I made a post on an artstation about these materials, basically everything is visible here (but there is a spinning animation). Anyway I will be glad if you go and check it here :) Desert rock assets. Wall, several slabs, boulders and small stones. All are made in zbrush and painted in SPainter (So I created a base smart material of desert rock and used it as a base for a quick texturing this assets. Also, since I am lazy and heard about this interesting method of procedural rock creation, I decided to try to do something like this in a blender. The result was far from perfect, but it works great as a base for zbrush. Maybe later I will show you how it can be used if someone is interested.  ;)   And finally, a couple of images of how materials are combined now. 

    Thank you all, leave your thoughts and do not get sick, because this bad.  :3

  • Mazzletov
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    Mazzletov triangle
    Looks really great! You created all these rock materials in Substance Designer. Did you use vertex painting or Substance Painter to mix all the materials? 
  • Fjordreig
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    Fjordreig polycounter lvl 2
       Hello everyone. Today I want to share my recent progress on scene. After the rocks, I decided to go back to the vegetation again and finish the roughly made palms.

       Before we get down to the bunch of text, just a couple pictures of progress and question for u. I am still experimenting with lighting and recently added  Distance Field Ambient Occlusion , which made the picture more realistic, but possibly too dark or too contrasting. If someone has experience in this, please tell me waht u think, I will be grateful.

     

       So, initially I made an atlas with many different leaf blades in Substance Designer and after made several variations of palm fronds out of them. However, despite the many variants for blades, I ended up with not very visible differences between fronds, and also with large amount of polygons. Therefore, I decided that baked fronds baked into the atlas would be the best solution (cheaper and with a visible difference).

       I found a great article at 80.lv ( link ) where Ducrocq Hugo shows different tricks from his project. In it I was interested in the leaf generator. Following his example, I built my own generator, which I later used to create fronds. I also made a simple decal of fallen leaves based on it.



       To create fronds, I used SpeedTree, where I assembled three different variants for my needs. And here I baked all texture maps: Color, Normal, Roughness, Translucency, Opacity (I want to note one nice thing about SpeedTree. To my surprise, while baking opacity map it respects opacity maps that is already on the meshes, not ignoring them like almost every other software).


       Then, of course, I needed bark textures, which I also decided to make in Substance Designer. The date palm has an interesting trunk, and as a newbie to SD, I didn't know where to start right away. Well, since I don't want to use a unique texture for the palm trunk, my choice fell on the 1:2 format. And also I made a simple material for frond's stem, as well as chunks of bark scattered along the trunk.

     

       Also at the very end, I decided that it might be good thing to add actual dates on date palm:). I didn't want to spand a lot of polygons for this, since the bunches hang high and the player won't be able to see them very much, so I decided to make them from a simple sphere and planes based on one tile material. In order to make everything look uniform without sharp shading, between sphere and planes I used custom normals method.



       And as a result, I gathered all the textures except for main bark into an atlas in Substance Designer. This will be my first Unreal material and tiling bark - the second one. Palm tree assets were made in SpeedTree. I put all together  into one version from which later, with some tweaks, I got 6 more variants + some of them with date bunches.

      

    Thank all, I hope that u find something interesting for yourself in my notes.

  • JamesBrisnehan
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    JamesBrisnehan polycounter
    Yah, it is a little darker, you could probably turn up the intensity on your lights a bit, but refer to your lighting ref. first though. Or you might be able to just turn up the exposure on the camera a bit.
    It's looking really good over all!
  • Joopson
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    Joopson Polycount Sponsor
    I love the feel of all of this. Really cool stuff!
  • pixelpatron
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    pixelpatron interpolator
    looks good, but needs dead grass or dirt pebbles to ground it to the sand, feel like pieces placed on a surface; needs cohesive/convincing edge treatment with ground.
  • valentin_baguirov
    So everything looks amazing to me especially the vegetation and the way its presented, the weak point that I see here is the houses, specifically their color and value, they just mix with the sandy background too much. You can take a look at BF1 sinai desert and how they have brighter houses or Battlefront 2
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