Substance Designer Usage in Environment Design
Events
Subscribe:  iCal  |  Google Calendar
7, Mar — 12, Jun
San Francisco US   19, May — 24, May
Krakow PL   21, May — 23, May
London GB   29, May — 1, Jun
Birmingham GB   1, Jun — 4, Jun
Latest comments

Amazing art. I'm curious how the rocks manage to be such a natural part of the terrain! It really looks like they have been there for ages.

Great job and very inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

Frankly I do not understand why we talk about the past of this CEO. As a player I do not care about what he did or not until his games are good. As an Environmental Artist instead I see a game with a shaky graphics. It is completely without personality, emotion and involvement. It can hardly be considered acceptable especially for the 2019 platforms (which I understand will be the target of this game). Well, this is probably an indie group, with no experience facing a first game in the real market. And that's fine. Do the best you can that even if you fail, you will learn and do better. From a technical point of view the method you are using is very old. It can work but not as you are doing it. I bet you're using Unity, it's easy to see that since I see assets from their asset store. Break your landscapes more, they are too monotonous and contact real 3D artists and level designers. One last thing, the last screenshot is worse than all the previous ones. The lights are wrong and everything screams disaster. Avoid similar disasters in the future.

Substance Designer Usage in Environment Design
21 January, 2016
Interview
Research
Review

Our friend game developer Matthieu Chollet has been working on a very interesting natural scene, where he uses Substance Designer and Unreal Engine. We’ve contacted Matthieu and he was kind enough to give a little breakdown of his work in progress environment. In this post he talks a lot about the production of the materials.

1_NatEnv

Introduction

My name is Matthieu Chollet. I’m from France, but right now I live in Halifax, Canada. I have been working in video game industry for 2 years. Right after getting my Bachelor Degree at Bellecour Ecole d’Art in France I was hired by Copernicus Studios. Since then I have been working as a 3D Generalist on various mobile games.

Environment Project

My previous project was a retro underground office. That environment was supposed to make you feel kind of uncomfortable and claustrophobic.

  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development

So after working on this environment, I needed to do something new. That’s why I decided to create a colorful open area with vegetation. Each personal project is an occasion to learn something new. The office environment, for example, allowed me to learn how to use Unreal Engine 4 for the first time as well as PBR workflow with scan based texturing.

This time, the big challenge was learning how to create nice vegetation and using procedural texturing with the Substance tools, in order to achieve a believable and beautiful environment.

The main steps I took to build this scene (which is not finished yet) are the following:

  • Create a terrain
  • Model manmade sculptures
  • Create tileable textures with Substance Designer
  • Create the vegetation
  • Create lighting and FX’s

3_NatEnv

Using Substance Designer

JHYibec

I was very impressed with the work of Ready at Dawn on their materials and shader system and wanted to mimic their technique in Unreal Engine 4. I decided to use Substance Designer to create my base materials and then layer up with other materials. Each substance is used as a material function, so I can then add them on top of each other. The AO and the normals of those substances are combined with a per object bitmap baked from the highpoly.

4_1Ue4Shader

4_2Ue4Shader

I layer them up using a RGB map made with Substance Painter. I use the red channel to layer the moss, the green channel for the ambient occlusion, the blue channel to give some color variation to the edges, and the alpha channel for some albedo color variation.

  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development
  • Substance Designer, gamedev, environment design, Matthieu Chollet, indiedev, 3d art, visual design, Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, material creation, material design, procedural materials, natural environment creation, 3D Generalist, game development

Also because the RGB Masks are made in Substance Painter, I can create a smart material for the first one, apply it to the other ones, and i then just have to tweak a little bit. This workflow really helped me to texture these meshes faster!

6_SubPainterSM

In this environment, each sculpted stone material is an instance of the master material I mentioned earlier. I just have to plug their unique maps in, and it’s done!

Figuring Out the Materials

First, I gather a lot of references to get a sense of which shape I want to achieve. Then, I create a reference board that I keep on my second screen while working using a program called Kuadro. This allows me to create a board with my references on my desktop and save that board, so I can reopen everything in a second. I highly recommend it, it’s a must have!

8_Moss

However, in the end I recommend focusing on replicating only one reference. Mixing several elements from different types of rocks never gave me a satisfying result.

9_leafs

I create the heightmap, which is going to help me getting a sense of what the texture looks like in 3D space. Keeping an eye on my reference, I try to get the main shape of the surface. This is, in my opinion, the most important part and the one that needs the most trial and errors. Then I can start adding details. I always try to have 3 level of detail to read in order for my substance to be as interesting from a distance or close up.

10_Heightdetails

11_RockDetails

For that part of the height creation, I love to use the blend max node and histogram range. With these, you can combine 2 heights and set which one is on the top of the other. And thanks to the tessellation in Substance Designer, I can have a sense of what it looks like in 3D space.

12_heightRange

Finally, when I find it satisfying, I can start the albedo. I have one simple rule for it : Never use a uniform color node. I like to start with two different noises colored with two different gradients that I picked on my Ref board. I then blend it with another noise to mask, and i also change the random seed for more variation.

Then I add color details from the heightmaps to give a better sense of depth to the texture. The sharpening and color correction helps me get a better control of my textures when I’m in engine.

13_1_AlbedoAndGradient

13_2_AlbedoAndGradient

Then with a combination of detailed albedo maps and data from the height, I create a roughness map according to my references.

14_sculptedStone
15_RockBase

16_Vegetation

Advantages of Procedural Materials

I started using Substance Designer 2-3 months ago now and the first thing I should say is that it’s a really fun tool to use. But in a production point of view, Substance Designer provides a very nondestructive workflow. Being able to create and expose parameters really allows me to get lots of variation on textures.

The final version of my ground substance contains the leaf substance I created for my trees. I also add the clovers I just created to help my mossy ground texture look more believable. Each substance I create is a new resource I can use to create and improve new ones. This type of iterative process is in, my opinion, what makes Substance Designer a great piece of software.

17_Multisubstance

Another good point about substances is that they are very light. And even if this is a personal project, having light textures is always great.

18_Ue4Check

Some things to keep in mind: test your substance as soon as you can in the game engine. Even if the Substance Designer’s viewer is getting better, it can sometimes differ from the real look.

Also, don’t underestimate the ‘’exposing parameters’’ step. It can take a little bit of time to make this simple and very customizable. But it is a necessary step in order to reuse them and create variations.

This step allows you to create and build a substance bank that you can use in virtually all of your projects or share with the community on Substance Share.

19_NatEnv

20_NatEnv

21_NatEnv

Hope you guys find this useful. We’re going to post a fuller version of the scene and more insights on production of nature-themed environments.

SUBMIT YOUR ARTICLE TO 80.LV!

Matthieu Chollet, Game Developer

Comments

Leave a Reply

1 Comment on "Substance Designer Usage in Environment Design"

avatar
Mickylin
Member
Mickylin

Amazing!

wpDiscuz