Long life to Embark studio and its fabulous procedural artists dream team !
truly excellent and inspiring to read. Would have loved to read some on the texturing since that is top-notch.
great environment with a lovely serene sense. Thanks for the write-up!
Rodrigo Mizuno discussed the production of the beautiful rainy urban environment, he created with UE4 & Substance tools.
Since last time we talked I have dedicated a lot of my time to the game Midair, it was a great experience. I also worked on 2 other really fun unannounced projects after that, if the timeline in my head is right. I have also bought a camera and have been trying to learn photography, I am still new to it and not so good but I feel it has already impacted my work in a very positive way, not just in terms of color and compositions, but it has also been helping me to be more visually aware of all the nice things around, and what makes them interesting.
Mateus Polati first approached me with his first version of the mix and a couple of images that he had as references, mostly involving rain and night, and we thought it would be a good idea to have something that could be looped. After doing some research my inspiration board was looking like this:
I should also mention that the main image is the night/rainy one, the sunrise and early morning versions were more like a way to extend the exercise, but I think they give a nice little message when viewed together after all.
As you can see from the original “concept” I made for it, the composition changes during the process, mostly because I was finding the image somewhat uninteresting to look at with the front building covering so much of the more alive part of the city that I knew it was there. But having figure out at least the base of what I wanted on “paper” first made the process of actually building and arranging everything a lot quicker. Using Unreal Engine to render also made experimenting with new ideas for the colors and all a lot fun, because of how quick it is to see the alterations you are making and because of the great image quality that the engine helps you produce.
The background buildings are very simple and arranged in a way to make the street look like it is longer than it actually is, I debated doing a matte painting for the whole thing, but having the way it now reacts well with camera movement, and it is also easier to match the look with the foreground. But the alley is basically a bunch of simply built modular pieces, all the materials can be swapped, in case something needs another color, or is made of another material. That made easy to get the composition I wanted as I could easily assemble new building and move it around. On top of that, I added signs, lights, decals and small props.
The main buildings you can see are more complex but still simple, they are all modeled and textured as you would normally do, but they do not extend too far from what you see on the shot, as you can observe from this one, where half is even still using the Default Unreal material.
They all use tileable materials that could be easily swapped and tweaked and use vertex paint to bring extra variation into specific areas such as corners. The windows have a similar shader from my last personal project you covered here, with the fake parallax effect.
For the road, I modeled the different parts using MODO and baked in Substance Painter. Instead of bringing the high poly to ZBrush to add details like I usually do I just created a layer with negative height value inside SP and added the damage inside there, saving a lot of time for not having to deal with a extra software, adding extra subdivisions, or making sure its tiling alright inside ZBrush. That height combined with some noise and color variation gives the result you see on the image.
The walls are basically a flat color with some color and roughness variation on top, and vertex paint for some extra details. As for the tiles, they were originally built using Substance Designer, but I was having some trouble getting it to look like the way I wanted, so I ended up ZBrushing it and texturing in Substance Painter, I don’t think I could thereat it the same as the ground as I wanted larger and well-defined shapes here.
Neon lights and wet surfaces are always fun, the challenge here for me was to get that distant “dreamy” look on the alley, where shapes start to blend together. Having an almost mirror-like ground with a highly reflective surface, and a floating plane with a strong glow at the back helped a lot with that, next was just about getting the right amount of light there, using emissive objects such as lanterns and neon. A night scene also gives you the chance to use light to help you on the narrative, like blinking windows showing that there might be someone in there or using hidden light sources to give the idea the set exists beyond what you can see. As for the general workflow, it was pretty straightforward, every light source is emitting lights adjusted to the right intensity, most of the lights are static and baked using lightmap.
The morning version was more simple than that, it is basically a directional light for the sun, with baked lightmap, cranked up to about 3x trough post process and a movable sky light to fill in the dark places, with a purple-tinted ambient occlusion. And the sunrise version is a mix of both.