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We’ve talked with Wiktor Öhman about the little things and details, which help him to create outstanding 3d environments in UE4.
For those of you, who haven’t been able to see some of Wiktor’s work before, do check out his Artstation page. He constantly uploads some art, including famous 3d interpretations of Simon Stålenhag’s art.
Also, this cyberpunk scene e we’ve been talking about was heavily featured in a tutorial on Megascans Bridge. Check it out.
What I mainly do is promotional and learning material at Quixel, so I’ve been busy creating art and tutorials, pretty much. In my spare time, I try and make as much art as possible as well. My recent pieces are mainly environments using Megascans materials. You can find my Artstation gallery.
The key goals of this environment were to use the new urban Megascans materials to create something other than a run of the mill urban environment by taking it a step further. I also used some materials from the Imperfections and Metal categories along with several urban 3D assets. It was mainly created as a showcase but it started as a tutorial. I was making a road for a tutorial and I started adding some neon lights, made it darker and wet and it just escalated from there, really!
I went about creating the buildings using modules such as trims, pieces with and without windows, pillars etc. I also built a kit of “high tech” modules I could dress the facades with. They’re all textured using brick and stone materials straight from Megascans – I didn’t do anything with them at all, actually.
The way I created these was mainly by using Text to Geo in Maya, and for some of the more unique ones I made them using CV Curves and extruding a tube along the curve. As for the shader, it’s really nothing special. All I did was create an emissive material with a fresnel, making the edges of the tubes darker. For some signs, I added a sine node making them flicker subtly.
Faking Complex Architecture
The buildings in the back are extremely simple – they’re really just basic shapes with some bevels and a tiling texture. I used a tiling checker pattern overlay in UE4 on them to make the windows different intensity.
I think the material I worked the most on is the asphalt material, which isn’t really complex per-se, but it took a little bit of tweaking to get just right. It has Parallax Occlusion Mapping, procedural ripples from the rain, vertex painting, detail normals a bunch more features. I think going over the entire setup would be a bit of an overkill, but I’ll see if I can create a breakdown video of it in the near future!
Most of the materials are honestly really basic and have very little in them other than the texture nodes and some value adjustment parameters. The facades have a world aligned water droplet effect running down the sides to help make the scene look more dynamic and add some visual fidelity. How I did that was adding a world aligned normal and roughness texture and a panner node.
The pillars are actually textured using DDO from the Quixel Suite using the Megascans materials bundled with it. As for the zebra, or pedestrian crossing, they are indeed available in the library. They are decals and can be used in the engine with minimal setup – it’s pretty much just a matter of dragging them into your scene and place them where you want them. The puddles are blended with the asphalt using vertex painting.
Lighting and Performance
The lighting and fog was the part I spent the most time on, besides the general composition. I had actually not worked with Light Propagation Volumes (LPV), but it was key to getting the lighting to work as well as it does in the scene. You can read more about LPVs here. It was a little bit of a setup and learning process, but it’s super fun to work with! I definitely recommend looking into it.
As for the smoke, it’s actually a particle effect from one of Epic’s free example scenes. I believe it’s from the Infiltrator demo! You can download it over at Unreal Marketplace.
The scene actually runs at around 45 fps on my machine at highest quality in a 2K resolution, so with a little bit of optimization, it could absolutely be game-ready! But it’s not constructed for use in-game, really. A lot of optimization could be done by simply using lower resolution textures from Megacans and lower LODs from the Megascans 3D assets. I’d also have to reduce the number of dynamic lights and dynamic shadow casters. I’d probably have to optimize the rain and splash particles as well. It’s a lot of work, but you can get comparable levels of visual fidelity.