Modular Target Practice Hangar
We are Polysquid Studios, a 3D art studio that specializes in game-ready real-time asset and environment development for clients and 3D market sites.
Recently, we have been concentrating our efforts on creating game-ready environments for Unreal Marketplace and Unity Asset Store. We think this is the way to go, in comparison to individual props, the costumer can get a full package of the game-ready props to fill his own scene of a similar theme, and this probably saves a lot of time in most cases. Most of our products are customizable and modular, meaning that it's easy to create a new, unique looking building.
The Idea Behind the Project
The idea for this environment came from playing some recent tactical shooters and, seeing their popularity, it was logical to assume that some developers would want to create similar games. So we created a target training course (perhaps for a tutorial mission) that can be fully modified for different purposes, all of the interior walls and props are fully modular, so it's possible to quickly create a different course or a team-based shooter map.
Using VR in Unreal Engine
For us, using VR is a great tool for developing our content. When modeling, one of the most important things is the scale of the assets, and you can’t always grab a ruler and measure whatever you are making, but when working in VR you can instantly tell if something looks “off”. There's a built-in dedicated VR mode in Unreal Engine, so it's as simple as popping on the headset (in our case, Oculus Rift with touch controllers) and testing the scene, it's even possible to build the level in VR, but we found this feature to be a bit awkward and difficult to work with precision, however, it could be improved in the future and open some new possibilities.
Asset Development for VR
There are some minor differences in workflow creating 3D content for VR, for example, normal maps don't work as well as when viewed from a flat-screen. To avoid weird-looking stretched artifacts, it's best to use them for enhancing smaller details rather than baking in large geometry details. Another thing to keep in mind is that the current generation of VR headsets has a limited resolution, so anything that the player would want to see and touch should be placed in the appropriate height and if it’s text - it should be sized so that it would be visible from the desired distance.
The Shooting Range level has two versions of it - one with fully dynamic lighting and all of the bells and whistles turned on, (realtime ray-traced lights, screen-space reflections, ambient occlusion, etc.) and one with baked, static lighting. Baked lighting basically means that the game engine pre-calculates all lights in the scene and creates a texture that replicates light, shadows, and global illumination. The real-time version gives an opportunity to build the level much faster because you don't have to wait for the light to calculate if you want to move things around and have a new iteration of the design. The real-time lighting is suitable for the performance heavily for the VR usage, (especially, in this scenario, with a lot of lights in the scene.) so is more optimized - baked lighting makes sense here.
Reduced level of detail models, or LOD’s, also helps with the performance, and Unreal Engine has a built-in feature that can generate these models, and if it set up correctly, it works fine for the most things, the triangle count is significantly reduced, and the larger details and silhouette are kept intact. Transparent materials and heavier shaders were avoided to help with performance. Most of the models are using Color texture, Normal map, and ORM texture (Ambient Occlusion, Roughness, and Metallic textures are combined into RGB channels into a single file). Further optimization is possible by simplifying the material setup, for Reduced LOD models, for example, using only Color texture.
Modular target Practice hangar is now available on Unreal Marketplace.
Using VR for creating game environments works great as a tool for testing and quickly getting a more in-depth feel for whatever you're making, not only for VR-dedicated content. We would definitely appreciate if there were more features for VR in modeling and texturing software that would enable this workflow. The future seems bright though, hopefully, more people and companies will jump on the trend and the whole industry will become more mainstream.