Breakdown: UE4 VPM Master Material

Breakdown: UE4 VPM Master Material

Sergio Acevedo Ruiz talked about the structure and features of his new UE4 Master Material.

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Read our previous interview with Sergio


My name is Sergio Acevedo Ruiz. I've been in the video game industry for some time already, and maybe you've seen me before on 80 Level! I've been working as a freelancer ever since my first article. Currently, I am very excited about a project that I've been involved in for two years and I've invested a lot of time and effort in it like the rest of the team. We're very close to publishing the product and I can't wait to share more details about it! Personally, this work experience has been the most gratifying I've had.

About Master Materials

Master Materials are often used in production in order to keep consistency through the project and establish a workflow for everyone. You invest a little more time creating them but later you should be able to use them in a wide variety of situations with just a few tweaks in each of their instances. Creating a Master Material can also save a lot of production time since making a small change in the master will affect all the instances if you desire so. This can help to avoid headaches in your team!

UE4 VPM Master Material: Goals

This master material was done with one goal in mind: Environment Art. Tilable, modular, unique, or shared textures, it doesn't matter. But its main intention is to be used for environment art.

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I started by creating the basic RGB layers for vertex painting, as usual. In this case, my base materials have a basic setup following Epic's own way of organizing them, with only a couple additions like world projection or more contrast settings for roughness. The only difference from the usual things I do is adding some further control to albedo.

The interesting part comes in the blendings. First of all, we have the VPM Blend which I will talk about a little bit later. I'm also using a clamped range type of blend between conventional height lerps for the rest of the layer blends.

I tried to keep the layers as clear and intuitive as possible, my idea was that you create an instance, choose how many layers you need and that's it – put your maps and work with it as soon as possible.

The juicy part comes with the VPM, the idea of this system is using your UV map (if you're doing a tileable asset you can use your lightmap UVs which every asset in Unreal has!) as a vertex-paint director. So this works best for big assets, for example. If you want to make a very big wall or a giant robot, this system is best used for it.

Complexity and Performance

Performance can get heavy if you select all the possible options, but it can also go to a production-usable level if you make some sacrifices.

I'm going to be honest and admit that most of the time you will want to use the VPM + the bleed blend for the first layer and at least one or two of the Vertex Paint maps. The complexity of the material for those cases will look like this:

But if you want to activate all the layers (the three vertex colors, the VPM, and the bleed blend) together, with the directional and AO, it will go up to a more complex shader:
On the contrary, if you want to have a simple VPM and two layers blended together with the bleed blend it will be lighter (and you will still have 3 channels which is nice).

Second Master Material in Development

I am finishing a second master material which removes the traditional vertex painting and just uses all the layers with VPM Blend as well as setting up a scene in Painter to quickly interact with it. I will be publishing it on Gumroad since a lot of people have been asking me about it and I am very happy that it looks attractive. So if you're interested, just stay keep an eye on my profile page on Artstation. I will soon share a link with proper tutorials and videos on how to implement and set up this in your projects.

Sergio Acevedo Ruiz, Freelance Game Developer

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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