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It is not that difficult to create an atmospheric scene using multiple details – foliage, different assets, buildings, etc. But it might get difficult and at the same time interesting when you decide to use only rocks. That was the plan of Stefan Wacker, Head of 3D at Daedalic Entertainment GmbH, for his landscape in Unreal Engine 4. In this blogpost the artist talked about building the right atmosphere with the help of modern tools and Epic Games’ tech.
My name is Stefan Wacker and I am Head of 3D at one of Germany’s most rewarded game companies Daedalic Entertainment GmbH. I’ve working in the game industry for over six years now, recently as lead artist on Daedalic’s ‘State Of Mind’.
Visiting my first Siggraph in Anaheim, CA, this year, I was inspired by some shortfilms shown at the electric theatre. There I saw those impressive landscapes and was wondering if this quality could be achieved in realtime as well.
So I started to research which so ware could be used for creating terrains. I did not want to mask anything behind foliage, so I decided to exclusively use rocks for the set dressing.
Creating the landscape
After a few hours of playing around with world machine, I knew this was the way to go. I did not use any plugins here, just the advanced perlin, the layout generator and some erosions.
In Unreal I applied the heightmap to the landscape and created a landscape layer blend material for the paintcoat.
Talking about the landscape materials, I wanted to stay as flexible as possible, so I created three procedural materials in Substance Designer:
A base rock texture
At first I made three rocks in Zbrush. Each one got its own purpose: A large, cubic one for blocking in the rough shapes. A midsize, irregular one to give variety. A small, flat one to fill gaps.
Later I decided to make a fourth, low-poly rock to be used with Unreal’s foliage brush.
For texturing, I imported one of these rocks in Substance Painter and created a triplanar, multi-layer material. Saving this material as a smart material allowed me to simply drag and drop it onto the other rocks.
Setting up the scene in Unreal Engine
After setting up the landscape, I started to place some big rocks and brought in a directional light to get a feeling for the scene as quickly as possible.
Then I placed some smaller rocks and started to paint in tiny debris (the low-poly rock version) with the foliage brush.