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Talented 3d artist Esbjörn Nord made a nice experiment, building his vision of DOOM with Unreal Engine 4. What’s interesting here is that he managed to achieve very similar look that modern version of id Tech has. He talked in detail about the production, including composition, materials, assets, lighting and even a bit of the environment story. It’s an awesome way to celebrate the release of the upcoming game.
Hi! My name is Esbjörn Nord, I’m currently studying Game Art at The Game Assembly in Malmö, Sweden. Before that I worked as a freelance artist. I originally come from background working in 2D, with both traditional and digital painting. I enjoy doing most 3D work, both artisticly and technically, but I tend to lean more against creating environments.
When I played Doom and Quake as a boy, the brutal art style with strogs, metal and demons was all my dreams come true, and is one of my main reasons for wanting to make video games. So with the upcoming release of Doom, it was an obvious thing that I had to get out of my system. When I start to create an environtment I try to come up with a feeling that I think should define the scene, and then try to stick to it throughout the process.
With the feelinng of the Doom games already set since the 90s, my goal with this scene was simply to create my own interpretation of the classical Doom feel brought into a modern day game engine.
The thing that has always caught my attention in Doom is the flawless, meaty and overly detailed metal surfaces. Together with the firey lighting, really captures that industrial hell feeling that makes the Doom art style pop out for me.
I start with a rough concept to flesh out what I want to show in the scene, then I try to establish my main presentation angle for the shot. I usually keep the concept rough to keep the scene flexible. I don’t want to feel constrained by the concept if I find that some parts does not work so well in 3D as I imagined.
In this environment I decided that the gas turbine would be the focus point of the scene. At this point I follow three steps.
First I establish the 3D composition by blocking out the scene with placeholders. I do this to make sure the composition is solid from all angles and that the scale is correct. I try to work as if I was painting, trying different shapes, lines, and moving big pieces around without really worrying about if the geometry fits together. I tend to spend quite alot of time on this step since changes are harder to make the further you have progressed in your project.
Then I try to tell a story with the scene. This step might make you feel uncomfortable, since it involves placing assets at weird locations just to tell a story with the scene. But this assets in weird places will make the environment more interesting to look at and will make you see new things if you come back to look at it again.
The last step is detailing and cleaning up. At this point, my lighting, composition and story is pretty much set. Now it’s just a matter of stitching the scene together by closing gaps in walls, separate clipping geometry and adding more stuff where it is needed.
I made this environment in parallel with a first-person shooter project in school. I used the assets I created for both the FPS game and for my own environment. The limitations of the student made game engine decided what pipeline I was going to use to make the assets. Because of the limitations of the engine, my workflow was very straightforward with highpoly to lowpoly in Maya and with unique textures for every asset. The game engines optimization also decided my polycount for every object, which usually ranged from about 500 to 2000 triangles.
The biggest challenge was definitely making the assets fit for both Unreal Engine 4 and the student engine.
Achieving Incredible Level of Detail
For texturing I exclusively used the Quixel Suite, which sped up my workflow tremendously. I always make sure to set up my materials in Unreal Engine properly. I want to be able to make real-time changes to the materials to match any references that I’m using.
I always create the lighting during the blockout stage, that way it’s easy and fast to make big changes and make the scene come to life. To have the lighting done early also helps to see which assets needs to be more detailed. It’s a time saver to realise early which assets are only going to be used in dark corners, this way you don’t have to spend so much time on them.
I tend to use static lighting for the really big and strong light sources that should be the main focus and small, dynamic light sources for tweaking the light where it is necesarry. This is also one of the reasons I usually do my general lighting during the blockout. Static lighting takes longer to build the more geometry you have in your scene.
I honestly don’t know how much time the actual scene took since I made it at the same time as other projects. But keeping your assets simple where it’s possible and your composition solid is one of the greatest time savers for this kind of environment. And again, the Quixel workflow for Unreal Engine cuts the texturing prodution time signifigantly.