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White Noise Team is a small team of dedicated game developers from Russia, who are currently working on an interesting survival horror game Twin Soul. It’s a very peculiar take on co-op surviving, where you have to battle strange creatures and explore a small soviet apartment. Users have to learn monster`s behavior and find ways to trick it.
White Noise is no stranger to game development. Back in the day they created a nice mod Alchemilla for Half-Life 2, which sort of had the same kind of Silent Hill vibe. But actually, Twin Soul caught our attention thanks to the amazing 3d environments created for it. Part of it is actually available at Unreal Engine Marketplace for purchase. The artists added a huge bunch of details and recreated the tiniest peculiarities of the Russian private housing.
We’ve talked with Alexander Goryachev from White Noise Team and discussed some of the ways they’ve created the scenes for their game and built the animation.
Our team once consisted of two members, but we asked for help with some minor things to finish our first project. We’ve created total modification, almost a standalone game, using Source – Silent Hill: Alchemilla. We’ve spent more than 6 years on developing it. Our team was growing and as of this moment we have 4 members plus concept artist and sound designer. We’ve created our cinematic scene to present a teaser of our future game, get a hand of complex lighting and different types of animation and to test the performance and how we could optimize our game.
What you see now is the final scene we’ve had in mind from the beginning. Daylight Kitchen scene was created to test our assets. Bright-lit environments are much easier to work with, that’s why most of archviz works are created with so many points of light.
Most of the animation and camera stuff was assembled in 3ds Max. We’ve started with Matinee, but due to some discomfort decided to assemble everything in other 3D software and then export to UE4. New version of UE4 has Sequencer, which is like Matinee, but with a better interface, more functions, preview options and advanced cinematic cameras.
UE4 has everything you need to create high-quality cinematic cutscenes. We’ve used several types of animation: skeleton, vertex (as texture), morph (with blueprint). What is more, we had to develop some plugins for 3ds Max to export cameras, animation and to convert tons of small animation pieces into one animated object.
Most of the beautiful scenes found on the web are made with baked lightmaps. Major part of UE4’s visual power goes to Lightmass. You can read tons of articles on setting up your lightmaps, but we had to step away from the technology as all points of light in our scene are dynamic.
We’ve used lightmaps only for indirect light. In order to get great shadows from dynamic points of light, we had to dive into settings and change some .ini files (you have to be extra careful when working on super-detailed and beautiful shadows or you can lose performance and gain additional artifacts).
PBR materials are created with the help of Albedo, Metalness, Roughness, Normal maps in Substance Painter and Designer. Then we export these to the engine, set up shading (the newest version of Unreal Engine has more options, but we mostly use Default Lit and Subsurface). Subsurface makes your light go through surfaces and can be used for the realistic skin of your characters.
We’ve spent a year on the project, but it’s worth mentioning that we’ve had other stuff to do: our jobs, daily things and stuff like that. It’s hard to say how much time we’ve spent on creating our teaser. Maybe 3 or 4 months.
The biggest challenge was our lack of experience. It is not only our first UE4 cutscene, it’s also our first cutscene ever, so we had to learn a lot of things. We’ve also had troubles with some bugs. For example, we’ve tried using Distance Field Shadows, Distance Field AO and Light Propagation Volumes to boost performance, but these tools are still raw and they make things complicated when it comes to setting up Distance Field meshes. What is more, we had to get rid of cascaded shadows as when your source of shadow is close to a point of light, cascaded shadows appear incorrectly and change depending on a point of view.