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Very impressive article Jake! You are very talented.
nice article! i love seeing the breakdowns.
A couple of weeks ago we’ve published a little article about the upcoming Landscape Auto Material for Unreal Engine 4. It’s a great way to paint your environments with the tiniest details: trees, stones, grass and other stuff. Developers from VEA Games talked about the functions of this plugin and the way it can help you build huge open game environments much faster.
VEA Games Introduction
VEA Games is a new brand created by our little team from Moscow. We are really passionate about game development and art production. Our members took part in the making of Triple-A Russian MMORPG titles and mobile games such as Allods Online, Skyforge and Allods Adventure. Currently we’re working on an unannounced project made in UE4.
What is Landscape Auto Material (LAM)?
Briefly speaking, LAM is a pack consisting of a multipurpose terrain material, realistic grass and water, and also high-quality forest assets. LAM is a flexible auto-painting material for the Landscape component. When you are drawing the topology of your landscape, proper material layers are drawn automatically.
The main two advantages of the material are simplicity and functionality. You just need to set up your textures and meshes to start creating your high quality outdoor locations.
The main features of this material are:
– Landscape auto-mapping based on the corner of the slope
– Grass auto-generation and smart distribution based on the natural rules of composition
– Tri-planar mapping, eliminating the texture stretching at vertical sides
– An opportunity to set up your materials and models easily
– Handling of the painting process for different layers using a weight system
– Height-mask blending
Our package will be useful for those, who are planning to work or already working with the landscape system in UE4. The project’s goal is to speed up the production of outdoor levels. The material offers a wide range of functionality for detailed setup, but at the same time it doesn’t confuse the user on the basic material control. The shader gives an opportunity to make high quality detailed scenes in the real-time and includes instruments for the performance optimization.
The Landscape Auto Material is supposed to be released in two or three weeks.
Assets and Materials
Well, we have an RGB mask, which distributes the generation of different sets of objects based on the natural rules of composition. There are three basic sets of formations: big, medium and small formations. A formation is a set of meshes in GrassType with similar sizes and types.
For example, the big formations of stones enhanced by the medium formations of small stones and big bushes, that are reinforced by small bushes, stones and flowers. Therefore, we are creating an artificial diffusion from big objects to small ones via formation distribution based on masks. That’s how auto-grass meshes are generated. You can also remove your auto-generated geometry by using the “foliage eraser” layer or replace it by another layer with an auto-grass distribution.
The main reference for us is the nature itself. It is so marvelous, amazing and beautiful. We can explore it through compositional and artistic harmony and at the same time we can try to formalize it somehow.
Tools like LAM give you an opportunity to decrease the production time and costs while focusing on an artistic landscape creation process.
It’s important to note that you can use your own assets and materials with LAM. Add them and paint!
Open World in Unreal Engine 4
A couple years ago, when UE4 was released, the lack of tools for outdoor nature creation has been very disappointing. But after some time Epic has made some really cool updates and announced features like landscape grass output, 2-sided foliage shading, distance field ambient occlusion, etc. And those were really good news for us. I believe that in the near future we will be seeing lots of cool games with some great outdoors made in UE4.
Unreal for Indies
Why Unreal? I have a lot of work done in UE1 (personal projects), UE2 (Unreal Tournament 2 Conversion mod for UT2004), UE3 (educational projects for my students in Scream School) and I love them all. UE4 has a great render base and provides the user with one of my favorite tools: Node material editor and beautiful Blueprint constructor.
Unity is also a great engine. The usability and simplicity of the tool creation process has won my heart. When I first tried it, I thought it would be great to make more of the Unity features into UE3. But UE4 does more. In my opinion it is easier and quicker to make a triple-A visual using UE4 base.