Mike Gomez did a breakdown of his atmospheric aircraft hangar made with UE4 and Substance Tools.
Hello, my name is Mike Gomez, I’m a 23 years old Belgian environment artist and I currently live in Montreal trying to get a job in the video game industry.
I finished school a year ago, in June 2017. I studied at HEAJ (La Haute Ecole Albert Jacquard), a European university. I studied for 4 years, 3 years for my bachelor degree as a video game artist and the 4th year was a specialization in video games. During this 4th year, I created a studio with 2 friends and we made a game. I was an entrepreneur student and thanks to that we were able to go the Gamescom to show our game. Later on, however, our life paths separated.
After my school graduation, I worked for a year in Belgium waiting to go to Canada. I worked in 3 different studios, and you can take a look at my portfolio to see what I’ve done: some VR games, VR experiences, video mapping, etc.
Aircraft Hangar: Start of the Project
The project started to emerge the day I looked at my portfolio and realized there weren’t enough realistic pieces in it. I took a look at my «want to do list» (it’s pretty big because I have quite many ideas for environments) and the journey started.
I’m a big fan of Ace Combat games, and Ace Combat: The Belkan War is the best for me. I wanted to pay homage to this fabulous game which influenced me when I was young. Once I decided to create this environment, I prepared a little library of pictures coming from aircraft games or any other games with hangars in it and from the real world.
The biggest challenge here was the realistic aspect (I’ve almost never done realistic projects) and the lighting. First, I did a blocking of my meshes, only cubes, and planes. Then I exported the blockout to Unreal Engine to see if the scale was correct. When I modified it a bit to fit the right scale I made the first iteration of the lighting in the preview mode to create the atmosphere I wanted.
I wanted to achieve a look of the hangar similar to the Ace Combat 7 ones, it had to be pretty clean and clear, not full of assets. My blocking was modular, and there actually aren’t many different assets. In my scene, I had: 2 different walls, a pillar, a door, a roof joist, a platform, 2 types of roofs.
Then I made the props, some were modular as well (like the traffic cones, the workbench, lockers or crates) and some are almost unique (like the tank full of petroleum, the pallet truck or the ladder).
I used several ways to texture my assets. For the props, I made an atlas with my UVs and textured them in Substance Painter.
For the foundation assets, I used tileable textures I created in Substance Designer or picked up from CG textures. For some parts, I used the trim technique I learned not a long time ago.
I tried to get more variations on the floor to make it more real. Again, I used my own textures and a few from CG textures. For all of my projects, I use my own super master material I made in UE4: it’s a huge complex material which allows me to make almost everything. For example, I can:
- Make vertex paint on RGBA channels or paint my object with vertex paint to color it, which is very practical
- Make parallax occlusion culling
- Add more details to the albedo and the normal map
- Make displacement
- And so on…
More about the vertex paint: on RGBA channels I can paint with another texture set (Albedo, mixmap (metallic, roughness, height map) and normal map) and on A channel I can paint puddles. Of course, everything is done with heightmap so that my textures get a better integration.
For this project, I wanted to make two different times with two different lightings: the current time when the hangar is used for what it is supposed to and another ‘future’ time when the hangar is shut down and abandoned.
Knowing that I will create two different atmospheres, after finishing the foundation of the level I duplicated my scene in UE4 to make the abandoned version. The atmospheres are completely different. The first one is more blue thanks to the neon tube, there’s less sun, and the light comes from the lamps. The abandoned version has no lamps turned on, and the scorching sun produces a lot of light that bounces so it can illuminate the inside.
For the decals, I used a pack I bought on the Artstation store. I put a lot of them because the hangar has been abandoned for many years and people love to tag abandoned places.
In my master material for decals, I added the possibility to make them disappear by playing with the alpha to give the impression of graffiti erased over time. I applied this effect to all my decals, the yellow lines and the tire mark on the ground.
I didn’t want to put too much destruction, so I only added a few cracks and slabs of the metal on the ground. I also added vertex paint to make hollows, imperfections, and more puddles of water. To push the idea of an abandoned hangar further, I put some foliage: plants, herbs, and leaves on the ground.
It was a heavy model because it wasn’t modeled for games so I had to reduce the polycount for my scene. Then I exported his textures in TGA and integrated everything in UE4.
The textures I got from Michael Oberhofer weren’t in PBR so I had to modify them a little bit, and then I used them in my master material to fit the scene. For the glass cockpit, I made another material which includes refraction, fresnel for the opacity and the color where we can choose the color on the side of the glass.
The plane is dynamic and I activated the distance field to fake the baked shadows because they aren’t really baked. This way I could choose either to make the plane visible or not.
This project was very interesting and instructive in different ways because I learned new things about the software solutions I didn’t use that much. It was also a chance to learn from my mistakes which I made. For example, at the beginning, my hangar was way smaller, so when I integrated the plane I realized that there wasn’t enough space. At first, I didn’t want to resize everything because it’s not just a simple scale, but some close people encouraged me to do it. So I had to modify my Maya file, make the UV again, the lighting, replace everything and so on. At least, it looks better like that and I’m very satisfied with the result!
Thanks to Oscar Gonzalez for all the feedback and advice on this project. He is a very talented artist and fabulous mentor who worked on the last Spider-Man game at Insomniac Games! And a big thanks to 80lv to give me an opportunity to make this article and thanks to all people who’ve read it!
If you found this article interesting, below we are listing a couple of related Unity Store Assets that may be useful for you.