I've started working on a new environment portfolio piece where I want to put into practice more things I have learnt in regards to sculpting and modular organic assets. My idea is to have this dark, twisted, ancient Oak tree as the focal point of the scene, supported by ancient church ruins in the background and the rest of the scene being framed with larger rock formations and the end-tail of a birch forest emerging from the rocks.
These are my references at the moment. I want my quality benchmark to aim for God of War, especially in regards to using geometry-based snow clumps for the majority of the environment.
This is where I'm at with Blockout! To begin with, I want to start getting the main focal point looking good for a first pass, then move on to the other composition assets. Perhaps something more tribal to contrast the church-feeling in the background could be used on this main tree. Aside from that I'm also setting up some basic lighting to make sure I'm leading the eye towards those assets too.
Thanks for reading and Feedback is welcomed :)
I've continued to work a bit on this environment, changing up the composition and shape block out a bit to experiment with what I have. I also made a first pass of a church ruin arch.
So far I'm liking the idea of having some large blocky stone/rock monolith things that direct towards the big tree. I feel like it would add a nice slightly hard surface contrast to the currently quite organic scene.
Since my last post I've been trying more to figure out what I really want to include in this environment. I eventually settled on focusing entirely on organic assets, keeping those more natural forms and silouhettes rather than trying to mix in some hard surface that wouldn't look as naturally fitting,
Since the idea is that the focal point is this massive, dark, mysterious twisted tree found at the opening of an iced-over valley, I want that opening to be as visible as possible giving way to an easier to read composition than what I had before.
Right now I'm working on the rocks and still changing things around in terms of composition. It feels like the main tree is less visible than the foreground, so I'm thinking of ways to get it working better than its current state.
Above are the assets I've made so far. Want to finish off making a few more rocks and perhaps some more ruins to frame and bring attention to the main tree. Also gotta work on more trees and dead foliage :)
I'm working on defining the trunk more, giving an overgrown ancient feeling with a few twisted vines
Feedback and criticism is welcomed, thank you for reading!
Been able to work a little more on this environment over the last weeks.
I prioritized getting a more modular rock workflow going since I thought the rocks currently didn't give me enough versatility. For that reason, I setup an RGB smart material mask in Substance Painter, baking out both the mask and Normal/AO from the rocks High poly. Used this workflow professionally before but this is my first time trying out something similar in Unreal, definitely got a lot to learn about different ways to do modular rocks inside the material editor! The idea with this one is that lighter edge wear on the granite rocks are masked out in the Green channel whilst the rougher, larger shapes are the main focus in the Blue channel. Hopefully I can get some extra detail in Red later on.
The lighting of the scene was bothering me a lot with the visibility of that hero tree, so I adjusted it a little. Likely will change alot over the course of the project
Thanks for reading, feedback is welcomed as usual!
I've made a small set of birch trees I can use to dot around the scene and add a bit to the variation, giving a sparse sub-arctic atmosphere. The main trunk meshes were made in Treeit and I put together a branch atlas using Megascans twigs and photoshop for baking.
For these I decided to use a simple B/W vertex paint for the trunk since I felt they looked a little too smooth with just the 1 tiler running up the whole trunk. I quite like when birch trees have bits of the bark chipped away on the surface, revealing this more dirty, rugged layer underneath so i emulated that a little with a height lerp using data from the base birch material's heightmap. If I have time later on, I want to add some 'peeling' using floating geo, but it's not such a prio since the trees aren't that prevalent in the scene.
So that's where I am at the moment! Taking it quite slowly due to the usual life business but quite excited to move forward with this one. Next up will hopefully be more Ruins and my hero tree :)
I've worked a little more on the hero tree and spent some time figuring out how exactly I want to do this tree. Currently, I've settled on using an RGB mask to get different bark tiles into the trunk, similarly to the rocks. I'll likely revisit it later on, I just want to get the full asset looking like something in the scene :)
These are the assets I have so far. I have some more ruins on my asset list as I think it would be cool to spread out the presence of these old brick ruins around the space and break up some of the snow.
Changed up the camera angle and brought the hero tree a little closer since I want to bring as much attention as possible to that tree.
Thanks for reading, feedback is welcomed!
If you want the tree to be the first thing the viewer pays attention to, then it will need to either be the brightest thing in the scene (see the backlighting sun in some of your reference examples) or it will need a color that's different from the rest of the scene (orange lighting from a nearby fire for example).
Right now, my eye goes to the bright snowy rocks at middle left. They're the brightest but also they have high-frequency contrasting details of white snow and dark stone.
Some good reads and examples to learn from here: http://wiki.polycount.com/wiki/Concept_Fundamentals#Composition
This looks like it's going to be a really cool scene. That tree is gnarly!
In addition to what Eric is saying, I feel like you could open up the pass, inviting the player to walk into the area with the tree and the ruins. The blockage is making me feel like there will be a focal point in the carved out area in the foreground, and everything else is meant to be secondary.
I've been pushing the scene composition a bit more over the last weeks and replacing the left over whiteboxes I had layed out.
I settled on flatter lighting in favour of something harsher that takes away from the weight of the main tree and tried to achieve a slightly colder feel with a bit less contrast overall (especially since the granite rocks can have quite harsh contrast).
The hero tree was my main concern in terms of asset polishing, I polished up the branches, gave them branch atlas cards for those finer details and played around more with the materials. Since there's not that much of the bark surface actually visible because of the fog and lighting, I thought it could be cool to boost the amount of snow on the tree, making it look really cemented into that icy environment.
Right now I'm concerned the overall scene looks far too monotone, since the colours are quite desaturated and there's nothing in the way of complimentary colours. I played around with some runes coming off the tree, giving a real magical feeling but currently deciding against it as it takes importance away from the tree, which is what I don't want.
Anyway, will be mulling over this in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading! As usual, feedback is very welcomed :)
Since last week I've been looking at fleshing out the runey-ropey things, trying to develop assets a bit more and get out of greybox. I started to like the idea of the runes being a source of specular highlights around the surrounding rocks, rope and tree. So I pushed the emissive and ambient lighting a bit more, getting a slightly more mystical feeling around the tree.
The giant ropes are left over from the giants who once roamed in ages long past. Thus the giant nails too...
Right now I'm polishing up some of the assets, namely the fallen tree that I want to have some interesting details on and stump assets. I really like God of War's snow/ice foliage they have around midgard, so I tried dotting some of those to boost z depth and blend between harsher contrasting areas.
Thanks for reading, as usual feedback is welcomed!
Hi! Cool project!
I think with more elements in your last update the scene starts to read less clear. I would ask myself who put the ropes there, with what goal? To restrain the tree? If you continue in this direction, I think the rope fixture should be believable. Pinning the rope to the ground using nails doesn't seem plausible to me. Maybe instead have large anchors driven into the ground with the ropes tied to. Currently the ropes could also be confused with twisted roots.
If you would take a step back, maybe you can achieve readability and narrative with less additional assets, using mainly lighting. Here is an overpaint with a bonfire lit at the trees bottom:
Keep it up 💪
Thanks for the usual amazing paintover @Fabi_G !
My goal with the ropes was indeed to have it seem like someone is restraining the tree. I really like your idea of using a path through the snow to create some leading lines, will have a look more into the readability of this piece :)
Worked more on the composition and leading lines for this next step. Added a path in the snow and made some rope assets used to assist the main larger ropes connected to the tree. Gameplay-wise it also gives the player a more obvious hint that they can get to the tree through the broken piece of rope on the left.
These are all the assets I've used for the project aswell :)