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Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
Aspiring environment artist Moses Saintfleur gave a little talk about his search of the perfect 3d production workflow.
I am an environment artist from Miami, FL. I’m finishing up my final term at Digital Media Arts College in Boca Raton and will be graduating in December this year. So far I’ve had the pleasure of working remotely on Days Of War as a prop/texture artist for a few months now. I still find it hard to believe that this is really my career sometimes. It’s a dream come true.
So I started my journey into 3D thinking I wanted to be an animator. I slowly began to lean towards environments for games eventually and it’s all I’ve been doing since. The more projects I took on the more I realized I have a passion for medieval spaces. I love RPG’s and MMO’s so bringing worlds and spaces to life of that genre definitely is something I’ve found great pleasure in.
However, I realized I never had a real workflow. I sort of just went into each project guns blazing hoping this cool image I had in my head would manifest itself into reality if I believed in it enough. That kind of mentality is super toxic and it wasted huge amounts of my time. Once that cool image went away about a week or two later I was always left in the dark with an unfinished project. It always felt like the idea abandoned me instead of the other way around. Not knowing what to do after I lost that spark of inspiration was a serious problem for me. I’d be left with a few assets and no scene.
Finding Your Workflow
My most recent environment Medieval Cellar was something I decided to do because I wanted to try out multiple ways of doing things and finally get rid of that toxic approach of doing things. I wanted to see what worked for me and what didn’t. I wanted to learn more of who I am as an artist. Where do I shine and what are my limitations? Where am I fast and where am I slow? What software combinations do I use and in what order? Every time I start a project these are the kind of things I ask myself. I think about what I want to learn, what I need to know, and what kind of skills/tricks I could gain from this experience. Having smaller goals that lead to your bigger goals can really help get you to the finish line.
Developing A Scene
Usually, when I begin a new scene from concept first thing I do is analyze the concept. I look for any perspective issues that I’ll run into when trying to match the composition. The slightest error in perspective leads to another and eventually the whole composition feels off. If you catch these things before you even start you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches.
After analyzing and splitting the concept into sections I block out the space in Unreal since it’s easier for me to get a sense of scale in engine. I export a quick .FBX of the scene to Maya, breaking the enclosure down into modular pieces (walls, floors, ceilings, etc.). Then I move onto the bigger assets that take a bit more time, and finally the smaller assets.
I try and capture everything in its most basic form to see how the composition plays before moving onto sculpting and texturing. I also do a quick lighting and post process pass during this stage to get a better feel of how my lighting will work.
When it’s time for me to sculpt I try not to spend too much time on a single asset because there are many other assets that need to get done on time. This is really the part that takes up the most time. My sculpting usually consists of wearing down the edges and applying alphas I either generate from images or make in Substance Designer to get what I need. Then I bake the high poly onto a low poly mesh to send off to Substance Painter for texturing. I seriously do abuse the generators Painter offers because as long as you have a curvature, cavity, ID mask, and ambient occlusion map baked the generators will do the rest for you with just the tweaking of some parameters. That alone gets you some pretty great results when mixing textures.
When making an environment I find myself moving at a much quicker pace if when I take the time to plan in advance and layer small passes on top of each other. The more time spent planning in the beginning the easier it is to come up with solutions and answers to any questions. It’s so very easy to get caught up in the smaller details but the details come in passes. There’s bigger picture that needs to be captured.
I gather any kind of reference that I feel will aid me in that goal. I even listen to music that keeps me in that state of mind the entire time. I seriously could not tell you how many times I’ve listed to the soundtrack of Skyrim or the Witcher.
I’m always looking for better ways to speed up my workflow and enhance the quality of my work so if you would like to share any techniques with me or just speak with me feel free to email me. I also want to thank 80.lv for letting me come on here and talk about environment creation again. It’s always a pleasure!