Adrián Scolari did a breakdown of his UE4 scene Goodbye, Soldier made within CGMA course UE4 Modular Environments led by Clinton Crumpler.
My name is Adrián Scolari, I’m from Argentina and I moved to Spain 18 years ago with one goal in mind: to work as a 3D artist for games. Over the years, I have worked on several projects for PC and mobile games like Asphalt 8, Asphalt Xtreme, War Leaders, and many others.
Goodbye, Soldier: Start of the Project
The scene Goodbye, Soldier is inspired by a short comic story called War III written by Ricardo Barreiro and Juan Giménez‘s art. When I first read, I was 11 years old. The story tells us about a group of 6 soldiers patrolling the streets of ruined Paris after the blast of several neutron bombs. The city should be empty but suddenly they are under attack of a sniper who never fails.
Since then I wanted to make a short film with it but, to be honest, it’s too much work for one guy. So I decided to create only a part of it in UE4 to practise and improve my skills in lighting, composition inside the engine and texturing with Substance Designer.
My main goal was the reproduction of the entire floor like in the comic but using the same pipeline and limitations used in any AAA game. I started working on the big assets I knew I would need, like the gun turret, generator, audio recorder, ammo boxes, garbage, debris, etc. The list was very long and took me several months of work to finish them all. In between, I started Clinton Crumpler‘s UE4 Modular Environments course where I had to choose an environment to do. I thought this project would fit perfectly for this so I continued working on it during the ten weeks of the course and a couple of months after that.
References & Blocking
I collected thousands of pictures of ruined and abandoned building interiors, peeled walls, wooden painted doors, frames, and so on.
I started setting up 3ds Max grid to match with the grid in UE4 (10cm grid spacing). Based on my measurement research in the real world I created modules for the walls, floors, and ceilings. Blocking out in Max helped me to correct the measures for each module pretty fast before start working in UE4.
I decided to create the wall for the hallway with both sides, one facing the hallway and the other facing the room interior. Both sides would be different and would have different IDs to allow me to use more than one material later in UE4. The other wall’s assets are just boxes with 2 UV IDs.
Sniper Turret & Other Props
The most challenging prop I made was the gun. In the beginning, I tried to keep the original design from the comic but the shapes looked too simple and the 4 legs were too big. I started modeling several mechanical pieces using references. The first prototype kept the original idea but looked too sci-fi to me. Due to the size of the main gun and the distance to the window, the legs had to be huge occupying too much space. Reducing the leg size couldn’t work because it would look weak at the bottom compared with the upper part.
So I started from scratch using the Browning M2 50-Cal and the remote sniper gun used in The Jackal movie as references. Once the high poly model was ready I started the retopology process in 3ds Max. The final polycount for this asset was 72K triangles including the ammo belt. I used UVLayout for the mapping process and it took me a few days of work due to the number of pieces. I created 3 textures sets baked and painted with Substance Painter, 2 for the turret and another small one atlas with the tileable stuff like the ammo belt, cables, and connectors. With NDO I added a lot of extra details like the patterns on the scope cylinder, screws, etc.
Materials & Textures
I’m not an expert in Substance Designer and this project gave me the opportunity to improve my skills. Most of the tileable textures were done with it.
In SD, I couldn’t get what I wanted for the peeling wallpaper texture, so I decided to use another method. First I created 2 different wallpaper patterns, clean with no damage or dirt on it. Then I used Photoshop to paint 2 different masks with the damaged areas. Using NDO, I created the normal, AO and roughness maps for each mask.
Once in UE4, I created a Master material using the mask to show the concrete or painted wall under the wallpaper. Converting specific nodes to parameters allowed me to change all I wanted in the instance materials.
Debris & Damage Decals
Using ZBrush and Photoshop I created sets of alpha-blended decals to add damage variation on the walls, pillars and concrete borders with one tileable texture.
The main room was the key location in the scene so first I wanted to set up the direction and angle for the source light facing the windows. To get the horizontal blind light pattern shadows on the wall I added one spotlight for each window outside with the same angle as the source light (I had to increase the lightmap size for those walls to make them visible). Inside the room, I added another two spotlights very close to the windows with a wide open cone angle to fake the light amount inside but with the cast shadows option deactivated. Then I added several point lights around to fake the bounces and get some light in darker areas. Along the hallway, I added more point lights at a very low intensity that cast no shadows.
To improve the lighting and the mood I added some planes following the angle of the source light with an animated material. It simulated the light passing through the gaps of the broken blinds.
Cinematic & Cameras
Since the beginning, my idea was to create a walkthrough video animation to show the entire scene. I started placing several Cine Camera Actors. The good thing about this type of cameras is that you can change the post process parameters for each one if you want to. I added eight cameras (4 animated, 4 still). Animating cameras is a very simple process using Sequencer in UE4. This tool is a multi-track editor where you can create animations for your cameras and add sound, transitions and some other things.
I got a problem outputting the animations as a sequence of jpg frames. The whole movie looked choppy. I tried many things and the only solution I found was to outputting the animations as uncompressed video files. I think the hard disk space or writing speed has something to do with this issue. Anyway, once I had all the rendered video sequences I used Adobe Premiere to cut, add transitions and music. My first video was blocked by YouTube due to the song copyrights. So I created the second one using a masterpiece by my favorite composer.
The biggest challenge in this project was to get the mood and lightning I wanted. I must say the entire process was hard and I learned a lot. I had a lot of fun, too. I can’t say exactly how long it took me to finish it but no less than 8 months.
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