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!
We’ve talked with Joe Garth from Crytek about different tweaks and adjustments you can do with Megascans in Cryengine. This interview is complimentary to the free video tutorial.
There is a lot of Photoshop work at the moment. It can be tedious especially with asset libraries with pre-calibrated textures. In an ideal world this process would be fully automatic, and thats a major goal for me in the future.
Photoshop does give you full control over the textures and values though, which can be very useful if you want to exaggerate something specific.
With Megascans textures I wont do a lot of tweaking, most of them look great out of the box. If something is slightly off, I’m more likely to make a slight tweak or eyeball a particular color in the material editor than in Photoshop. That’s why my goal is to remove the necessity to go through CryTIF in the future.
The mesh import and assigning LODs is now very simple in CRYENGINE. You simply add all mesh lods overlapping in the same FBX file. The inbuilt FBX Mesh Importer allows you to import the fbx and assign LOD #’s to each separate LOD mesh. Its great because unlike before this process doesn’t require any specific object naming in 3ds Max or Maya.
When it comes to materials, the best setup is usually Diffuse (255), Spec (255) and Gloss (255). This means texture maps utilize the full range of color/brightness. All value variations are contained in the maps themselves, different parts of the object get different physically based values. Of course, in some cases I find it easier to eyeball material colors directly in the engine, and end up changing the diffuse there on the fly. Usually for a finished game asset you’d go back to Photoshop and try to recreate your tint there. I’ll be working to try to find a solution to that problem as well, a way to add filters to textures without compromising quality or requiring the artist to go back to photoshop.
The soft blending isnt that performance intensive at all. Under the hood it duplicates a part of a mesh and the overdraw from that does cost a bit of perf, but its usually not hugely significant.
When it comes to vegetation its a bit of a balancing act between usual albedo/gloss/spec shading and the translucency. In CRYENGINE you can tweak translucency amount, as well as the color. In my mind, most of the realistic color should come from albedo/gloss/spec, the translucency should be a slight addition to the overall brightness, but not so much that the vegetation doesn’t blend in with the ground colouring. In CRYENGINE the subsurface shows up when you put the camera between a leaf and the sun. A translucency map is essential for making this effect look realistic.
One of the best ways to ensure correct scale is to jump into game mode and run around the scene as a player. The in-game character is about 1.8m so you can use that to gauge the scale around you. Another way would be to add a default 1m^2 cube to the scene. The Megascans’ website provides nice and easy-to-read scale diagrams for each asset. You can use those to figure out the size of a rock, or if that rock is actually a cliff!
The terrain system in Cryengine is often overlooked and i’d say its underrated, you can achieve spectacular game-ready results with the system. For texturing i use the detail texture and extend the range into the distance. That costs a bit of performance, but it gives a lot of detail and artistic control. It means you can alter texture scale per material, and other parameters such as normal bump, parallax mapping. You can get so many different looks out of the same texture maps just by tweaking the material parameters.
Other vegetation pieces can be imported by the same methods. Trees are usually separated into solid branches and leaves. The leaves need to have the extra vegetation maps (opacity, translucency), while the branches/trunk can be treated like any other object.
I’d love to create a night scene at some point. Night scenes are interesting because you have to make a choice between the typical Hollywood night scene (where everything has blue tones) or a more realistic night (where things are greyish and very dark). The moon in CRYENGINE has nearly as many parameters as the sun. You wouldn’t need to add too many extra lights. Maybe a few for artificial moon beams or lightshafts for inside buildings. We have some complex night scenes in Hunt: Showdown which are shaping up really nicely.
Megascans of course looks amazing. The library is getting being added to and improved week by week. Even now there are enough assets to create an endless number of different scenes. I think the only real hurdle teams face at the moment is the import process. The plan is to automate that in the future so things will be so much easier. It should also be possible to automate LOD import so everything comes in game-ready and looking good. In the future I can see this being like the ultimate environment lego set. Right now the tutorial takes 90 minutes to explain, it’s also very technical and long winded. I want to come back to this topic in a few months and be able do the same thing in 30 minutes or less. The CRYENGINE has made many significant improvements in just the last few months alone, it’s really just a matter of time.