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(FINISHED) California Gas Station Environment (UE4) (NEW AND FINAL UPDATE: 03/03/22)

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(SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR FINAL UPDATE!! PROJECT IS FINISHED!  =) (3/3/22)


Hello Polycount! I am new to this site and working on my first environment. I have really been trying to stay consistent on this project. I am still in the blocking out phase of my scene. I'm currently trying to nail down the composition and most basic lighting before I move onto actually modeling each asset for real and texturing/polishing it. These are all currently placeholders. I am heavily inspired by the look of GTA V, and the GDC talk Rockstar did on spatial cinematography in their environments. I already have some layout changes I want to make to the storefront and parking lot space, but I wanted to get feedback on how I can improve my overall composition to do a final pass on my layout and move onto the next stage! I'm really excited to hear back and looking forward to your critiques! (BTW, I'm planning on putting most of my effort into the storefront, pumps, and parking lot. The hill and tree will be somewhat important but I am trying to prioritize what gets the most detail. I'm really trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn/develop a bunch of new skills. I've never done vegetation before so it'll definitely be a fun challenge to do the different trees (also this is my first UE4 project. I played with Unity for a while but I am pretty new to Unreal. Really liking it so far!) (The vehicles are from the UE Marketplace as I wanted to quickly test if they'd scale well with my scene (not a vehicle artist). Also the grass isn't mine either, but the final piece will only have vegetation that I successfully learn how to make and well.) (I will keep updating this post over time)

(12/13/21) Looking back, I was pretty naive and overly ambitious thinking that I could do mostly everything by myself like that. I had to use paid foliage because I have no experience with making it let alone making it look good which is super tricky and I am supposed to focus on the gas station, not the foliage. I wanna learn foliage one day but on another project. I will definitely take some online courses on making foliage in the future.)



I'm thinking of lowering that ATM on the wall as it's a little too high up right now. Also maybe adding some stuff on this side to make it less empty feeling.

(Human Scale Reference Shots)




























































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  • Elivenger
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    Here are the current mood boards I have made. Will make more in the future as I move further with the project.



  • Elivenger
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    (3/30/21) Hello again Polycount! I have been working on many changes and small improvements to my scene today. I modeled a placeholder electrical box and placed it in an island in the corner of my parking lot. I UV Unwrapped my storefront, did Color ID, and added some early materials. I made small tweaks to my sky and lighting. I sculpted a little more subtle detail into my hill (new to terrain sculpting and looking to improve). I also removed all the asset pack grass since I will eventually learn to do my own down the line as well as weeds poking out of the distressed cracks in the ground, especially behind the storefront. One of my goals with this project is to get better at substance designer and procedural materials in general. I am still new to the software but very excited by how flexible and powerful it is! I haven't UV Unwrapped my parking lot yet so I put my asphalt on a default plane to test to see how it looks so far. Anyways feel free to give critiques! :)


    (I lowered the ATM on my wall to better fit the player scale height, as well as duplicated the sign in front to have another advertisement.)


    I am using the TexTools plugin for Blender 2.9 to do color ID on my building, but for some reason UE4 doesn't accept all my different colors when I export it into the engine. I have many different pieces to this building so I have a lot of different colors overall. Down the line I am planning to make use of trim sheets for both the storefront and the ceiling top/pillars above the gas pumps, as I recently learned how to make them!

    (Substance Designer Materials) (WIP)

    (This Material will be for the ceiling of the top above the gas pumps)

    (Made a quick glass material for the storefront windows. Will keep tweaking it down the line.)

    (Learned how to make my cement material from Daniel JR Game Art's awesome video tutorial Dry Cement in Substance Designer. Made more changes to mine like adding more dirt spots and made the overall color a light beige)


    (Quixel Mixer Materials) (WIP)

    (Distressed Parking Lot Asphalt)

    (Worn Down Concrete Sidewalk)



















  • Elivenger
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    Elivenger triangle

    I definitely was inspired to do my greybox from this awesome video by Polygon Academy since I am still a beginner who is trying to get organized and disciplined enough to produce a finished polished environment. Gonna keep working at this.
     
  • Elivenger
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    Also here is the Substance Designer Cement Tutorial by Daniel JR Game Art for anyone interested.



  • Elivenger
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    (4/1/21) Just a quick update. Since I am still very much in the blockout phase and want to really get a strong foundation before I go and start making assets for real, I decided to go back to the drawing board and redesign my storefront. The original one was modeled after the gas station storefronts in the urban areas of GTA V's Los Santos, and it was really just a test to see if I could do it or not because I am still very much a beginner to intermediate 3D modeler who is gradually building up my confidence and skills with 3D modeling. I decided that I need to double down even harder on getting more reference so I went on google street view and found this gas station that I am gonna base my new design off of. I think it has a more interesting shape to it than the more blocky look of the old storefront. And as a bonus, there is some seriously great texture reference for how gritty and worn down I want my station to look! I feel like I need to go back and redo the front windows as the width of my model is less wide than what the real world width is. I feel like in the final production asset I could make modular pieces to achieve the look and layout of this. Of course with my own fake brand instead of AM PM. The thing is that I still really want to keep that composition I established with the hill and the tree in the center distance and the station top and storefront act as guiding lines guiding the viewer's eye towards the tree. I have to be careful not to undermine that composition with layout changes too much. Anyways feel free to tell me what you think of this layout change idea so far! :)






  • Elivenger
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    Elivenger triangle
    (4/7/21) Hello again Polycount! Just an update on the project so far. Work on the project has slowed down since I recently started a new term of college and have been focusing on my classes, but I am still trying to also put some time aside to keep working on my environment here and there. It can be difficult for me to balance all of these things and still keep consistently working on my scene. However, I have done some new work recently. I have created my second major iteration of the storefront model. Currently the topology is kind of a mess, but later on through iterations I will gradually clean the mesh up more and more. I feel like the proportions of the diagonal front are a lot more accurate in this second iteration. I also added a storefront sign, a very simple air conditioner unit on the roof, and modeled some security cameras for the front. They probably have too much detail at the moment for an iterative blockout, but it was fun to do nonetheless. I of course grabbed some good reference off Google Images first. Speaking of reference gathering, I have been organizing my reference folder with subfolders for different reference categories. Just a small thing, but it's been making the process a lot easier now that I can find what reference image I want quicker, because the amount of images I have in my reference library so far has skyrocketed, and will probably only get larger as the project evolves. Another cool thing I did was test what my terrain could look like with textures. I got the Automatic Landscape Material by RezTech Studios off the Unreal Marketplace and tested the Auto Material with tessellation on my landscape. The final will have my own materials of course but it was just fun to test. I also decided I am going to forgo baked lighting at the moment, as I don't know enough about lightmapping right now and just want to focus on getting my scene blocked out first. Baked lighting has caused me a lot of issues so far and I feel like it'll benefit me more to just keep it all dynamic at this point in time. Anyways, feel free to give any feedback you feel I could use! :)



    One thing that this new iteration has changed is the amount of space in the back of the storefront. It has reduced how much room is back there, but I honestly don't mind. I think it looks fine for what I am doing, and while I will definitely try to make it look detailed back here, my main priorities are the front of the store and the pumps since that's where most of my final camera shots will be setup.

    (Just seeing how the landscape starts to look with tessellated auto materials on it gets me kind of excited for what the final product could look like!)



    (You can see the scale of the front door is still very much a Work In Progress. However it will be improved on in the next iteration)

























  • Elivenger
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    (4/14/21) I just have to update this really quick. No new progress shots unfortunately because my computer had a corrupt error and doesn't work at the moment. I've been attempting to figure out how to fix it with help from someone else but so far not much luck. I was working on more iterations of my building and was excited to show it, but it's gonna be a while till my computer is fixed. Luckily I most likely didn't lose any of my work and it's safe for now. Fingers crossed though. 
  • Elivenger
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    Update: (4/27/21). My PC has been fixed and finally works again! I'm so happy it was recoverable! Also project files are safe, although I gotta redownload a lot of software now. I have a lot of ground to cover to get my PC back to how I used to have it. Definitely gonna back up my hard drive now to prevent me from losing anything down the road! Should be able to soon start working on this project again! 
  • Elivenger
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    Apologies for the late update. My PC had another major issue and is currently in the shop getting fixed. I don't know when it will be fixed, but once it is I will continue on my project. (6/20/21) 
  • Elivenger
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    Update: (8/5/21). Hello again Polycount! I am back for real this time with a new update on my environment! But first a quick good update on my computer. My PC's motherboard died so I had to replace it and get a new hard drive as well (SSD), but it works fine now and almost feels like a new computer! Also upgraded my CPU to a better one so that'll definitely help.

    I have decided to leave the blockmesh phase of my environment and start producing actual assets for my scene. So far I have made 3 of them. I will come back and polish them even more at a later date, but for now I am satisfied and am moving on to other assets to make. So far I have made the icebox, the fuel station concrete island, and a wooden pallet. So far, the assets were textured in Quixel Mixer. I have these props currently sitting in my scene as well! I also made improvements to the sky and color of my clouds. They just look more saturated and colorful now, and I am starting to get excited about how they'll look in the final end result! I also have added more basic models to my scene such as a satellite dish on the roof, a propane cage, extra security cameras and advertisement poster slots, and many more little things! I copied and pasted bits from the previous store model I made like the backdoor, wall AC units, lights, the ATM, etc... I figured out how to stitch them into this new model! I am excited about working on this project again, but also starting to realize that the scope and scale of this environment is kind of biting off more than one can chew, at least for me. So I definitely gotta heavily prioritize what gets the most detail and care if I wanna finish this project at some point. Any valuable feedback would be very much appreciated! I'm just happy to be back working on this again, even if I did lose a few months of time.th





























  • Elivenger
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    (8/28/21) Big Update! I am out of the blockmesh phase and into the early asset production and material creation stages of my environment! The last major layout change I did was scale the parking lot down quite a bit and moving the pumps and top over closer to the storefront. I felt the parking lot looked too spacious for only having two pumps. Since those changes I have created numerous props for my scene although I still have many more to create, as well as a lot more polishing passes to do on each asset I currently have built. The storefront and top are still far from done, I am planning trim sheets for the storefront, tops, and parking lot as that is definitely an important skill for me to improve my knowledge on (I've only made one trim sheet ever so far).

    I feel that at the moment, the back area behind the store has received the most effort from me. It has been an interesting challenge to create all these props because it's my first time creating many of them. I have recently discovered the magic of deferred decals in UE4 and have begun making loads of them and of course going over my texture memory budget! Fun! Of course I am optimizing them and figuring out you can make most of them pretty low resolution and get away with it in your scene while it still looks good.

    Security Camera props are nowhere to be seen in this scene at the moment. (They will be back with a final prop eventually)





    (Player Character Scale Reference)





    Props I've done so far... Many of them are still in their first or second pass. (Stickers and Signage on these props is often handled later with deferred decals in engine. These are all done in Mixer so far, as it's the 3D painting tool I'm the most comfortable with right now)


    (Concrete Sidewalk Material in Substance Designer) (Early Stages) (I learned a lot about making good concrete materials from the Material Creation for AAA Games course by Emiel Sleegers on FlippedNormals and copied some of what I learned into my current concrete material to make divots in the surface as well and little subtle warping and streak patterns in the concrete.)
    (2nd Dirt and Grime Pass in Quixel Mixer)

    Feel free to give feedback and critiques! I definitely wanna hear how to improve, or what I should really prioritize on, or a bit of technical knowledge I might not be aware of for how to approach something! I now have a soft deadline of sometime in December 2021 that I wanna hit with this project. Hopefully I can pull it off! We will see.























  • Elivenger
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    Elivenger triangle
    Hi Polycount. I'm back and I have another update. Sorry, it's been a long time since I last updated my post. The project has gotten really difficult, and while I am not giving up at it, I did kind of burn out. I realized that If I want to ever finish this project and upload it to Artstation, I have to scale back and focus even more on a select few areas. A lot of stuff I originally wanted to add needs to either be cut or not as important. For instance, I originally set out to do all the trees and foliage from scratch, however I am not a foliage artist and have little experience with making good looking foliage. So I settled on buying pre-made foliage by other artists who I will give their full credit of course. I also have hit a bit of a roadblock with how much my current GPU can handle so I have been making the effort to upgrade my hardware to get this scene done, but it didn't work out quite as smoothly as I thought it would. I had to aggressively optimize all of the assets in my scene by setting up LODs and other optimizations. I did double my RAM though! Anyways, here's what has changed. Some parts may temporarily look even worse now as I had to take decals out because I quickly went waaaay over my texture memory limit on my RX 580 4GB. I am planning on figuring out a more efficient smarter way of using decals to still get good results. Lighting has changed quite a bit too, as I am now going for a more morning look with my scene. I think I am in over my head on this project. I did not anticipate just how hard it would be to finish a project like this. Maybe it's that classic student over-ambition vs the true reality of what I can realistically get done and at what quality level I can hit, but I know what I want it to look like but don't quite have the technical skills to get there yet. I just learned how to bake from a high poly to a low poly a few weeks ago and it's very new to me. However, the plan is to only really bake the main gas pump asset to a low poly because it'll bet the most important part of my scene to nail down. Some assets you see in here are from Megascans like the cones, trash bags, taped cardboard boxes stacked on each other, and grass in the dirt next to the parking lot too. Overall though, I just feel frustrated and like it's not quite coming together how I wanted it to. I guess I gotta finish it regardless.

    In the meantime I have uploaded some smaller stuff on my Artstation page if you wanna check it out!









    I have created a basic asset plan for my Gas Pump asset which I consider the hero asset of my scene. I will keep redoing this asset until I get it right because I think it's crucial for the success of my environment.



    List of third party assets used:


    1. Set of California palm Trees (Washingtonia filifera) (2 Trees) by Moonik Office (Artstation Marketplace)

    2. Ultimate Low Poly Helicopter Pack by Chris Burns (Artstation Marketplace)

    3. Ford Crown Victoria 1970 (LowPoly) - Extended Commercial License (Artstation Marketplace)

    4. Car Asset Compact SUV by huiz (Unreal Marketplace)

    5. Car Asset Sedan by huiz (Unreal Marketplace)

    6. Vending Machines + Food & Drinks by 3D DC (Unreal Marketplace)

    7. Garbage Game Engine Ready Asset Pack by Tyler Smith (Artstation Marketplace)

    8. Wind Turbine by Iyoshko (Unreal Marketplace)

    9. Pickup Truck - Rigged/BP Controllable by Deckogon Studios (Unreal Marketplace)

    10. Planes In The Sky by Iyoshko (Unreal Marketplace)

    11. Palms Tree Selection and Plants/Flowers by StudioDevis3D (Unreal Marketplace)

    12. Megascans: Grass by Quixel Megascans (Unreal Marketplace)

    13. Desert Mountain Distance Meshes by Brushify (Unreal Marketplace)

    14. Automatic Landscape Material by RezTech Studios (Unreal Marketplace)



     


















































  • Elivenger
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    Elivenger triangle
    Hello Polycount. I am back with another update. After recovering from burning out, I have been hard at work again but think I might have to delay this for another month to actually finish it. I just want to get it done and move on to greener pastures at this point. Feels like I've been working on this forever. I have made a lot more progress in the polishing stages but have not finished my gas pump at all. I'll be honest, I think I am probably putting it off by doing smaller easier stuff because I am scared of doing it since it's the hero asset. I have to completely redo the gas pump because I didn't model it very well for setting up baking a high poly to a low poly (still learning that workflow). I have made lots of little level art polishing improvements such as adding lots of little decals back in (especially dirt anchoring to better ground my buildings into the environment, as well as tweaks and optimizations to my lighting (my light complexity still needs some more work, but it's a lot better than earlier when it was completely over-lit. Some stuff was cut too like the propane cage. Here are some photos of my current progress. (Still needs a TON of work to become a finished product in my eyes. Of course I can't work on it forever too. I gotta eventually say it's good enough and post on Artstation.)

    (I am not gonna give up on it, but it definitely didn't turn out as good as I thought it would, but I guess the important part is that I have stuck with it this long and will continue to, and I have learned a lot of stuff too that will help me on future projects.)

    (Feel free to critique)

    (UPDATED LIST OF PAID ASSETS NOT MADE BY ME USED IN THIS SCENE CAN BE FOUND ALL THE WAY UNDERNEATH THESE IMAGES)

    I think incorporating the dog into my scene in key shots will add more liveliness into my environment as well as add a bit of storytelling overall. I could make up a story that he is a stray dog and the employees feed him snacks and try to find him a home or something.




    1. Set of California palm Trees (Washingtonia filifera) (2 Trees) by Moonik Office (Artstation Marketplace)

    2. Ultimate Low Poly Helicopter Pack by Chris Burns (Artstation Marketplace)

    3. Ford Crown Victoria 1970 (LowPoly) - Extended Commercial License (Artstation Marketplace)

    4. Car Asset Compact SUV by huiz (Unreal Marketplace)

    5. Car Asset Sedan by huiz (Unreal Marketplace)

    6. Vending Machines + Food & Drinks by 3D DC (Unreal Marketplace)

    7. Garbage Game Engine Ready Asset Pack by Tyler Smith (Artstation Marketplace)

    8. Wind Turbine by Iyoshko (Unreal Marketplace)

    9. Pickup Truck - Rigged/BP Controllable by Deckogon Studios (Unreal Marketplace)

    10. Planes In The Sky by Iyoshko (Unreal Marketplace)

    11. Palms Tree Selection and Plants/Flowers by StudioDevis3D (Unreal Marketplace)

    12. Megascans: Grass by Quixel Megascans (Unreal Marketplace)

    13. Desert Mountain Distance Meshes by Brushify (Unreal Marketplace)

    14. Automatic Landscape Material by RezTech Studios (Unreal Marketplace)

    15. Cactus Plants: Desert Garden by Aevoke Studios (Unreal Marketplace)

    16. Car Tires by Alex3D (Unreal Marketplace)

    17. 3D Grass Pack 03: Weeds And Wheats by iwo pilc (Artstation Marketplace)

    18. California Black Oak Tree (Quercus Kelloggii by Moonik Office (Artstation Marketplace) (I removed the leaves from it in my scene because It looked cooler as well as was less intensive on performance)

    19. Grass And Greens Pack by Idants Studio (Unreal Marketplace)

    20. (Additional tall weeds assets from Megascans Library.
    Sowthistle, Cheeseweed, and Crownbeard) 

    21. Animalia - German Shepard by GIM (Unreal Marketplace)

    22. Custom Lens Flare VFX by Artyom Cheremisin (Unreal Marketplace)




























  • Elivenger
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    (2/28/22) Hello Polycount! I have really good news! After a long time of struggling I have finally been able to finish and publish my scene! This is my first full environment that I have ever attempted at making so it feels amazing and kind of scary to post it to the world, but I finally did it! Here are a few of the total screenshots from the final post on my Artstation page! It really has been an INSANE amount of work getting to this point for me. I was really naive at the beginning thinking that someone of my skill level could make all these assets by myself when I did not have the skills to do that at all. I had to gain the skills to even make the assets I did in my scene and it was a bumpy road filled with uncertainty and many very low points. But I made it and I am super glad I persevered! I am hoping my next projects will be easier and I will try to make them less ambitious in scope to focus on quality and taking less time to get made. Gonna take a nice break after working on this because man am I tired. I learned an insane amount of new stuff though that I will be able to apply to future projects!


    Here is the link to the final piece!!

    https://www.artstation.com/artwork/eJDRdX




  • Elivenger
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    This is the real final update this time! I went back and used the amazing Ultra Dynamic Sky plugin and completely redid my lighting to get the original look I was targeting in my mood board! Here are the results!! I am actually happy with my lighting now! Before, I couldn't figure out how to pull this look off due to inexperience with Unreal Engine, but with the help of that amazing plugin, I finally pulled it off!


    The shots are now up on my Artstation as well!


    https://www.artstation.com/artwork/wJm3a5


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