Great work Gabe!
Incredible job, love the breakdown and can't wait to see what you make next!
The developers of Landscape Auto Material have presented a new version of the software designed specifically for Unity game engine. In this interview, they talked a bit about the new product and showed some of the biggest changes in this newest version of the powerful landscape modification tool. You can purchase this software from the official website or from Unity Asset Store.
After releasing LAM UE4 we’d got lots of feedback, and many people wanted us to make a Unity version. We’d had Unity experience before, but mostly with smaller, mobile games. Making a Unity version of LAM proved to be an ambitious undertaking. LAM In Unreal engine consists mostly of a couple of really advacend shaders, but this approach does not work in Unity. Unity’s built-in terrain functionality is far behind that of Unreal, and we had to improve it to support all LAM features. The most noticeable of these improvements is our LAMBatchedFoliage system: we basically had to implement our own foliage system from scratch. In addition to it, we had to devise a new interface for setting terrain material properties (that a lot of our users absolutely loved), a system for background updates, and an advanced “MultiFoliage Brush” tool to make painting foliage a breeze. All in all, LAM Unity turned out a lot more complex than in UE4 – and a lot harder to explain to the user, by the way. We’re busy making more and more tutorial videos to show all the possibilities our tool has.
LAM is designed to make landscape work easy and fast. It automates texture painting and foliage placement, so a designer does not have to meticulously place every little rock by hand. At the same time, LAM always respects designer’s creative vision: we have tons of options to fine-tune auto painting, and one can always override LAM and paint on top of auto-generated features. And in addition to helping the design process, LAM also has very nice shaders for both terrain itself and foliage such as grass and trees. LAM Unity specifically offers a whole new foliage system to support custom shaders – something that built-in foliage simply cannot do.
Everything you can see in our demo video is included with LAM: terrain textures, trees, bushes, grass, rocks etc. LAM is set up in such a way that you can paint the forest terrain, like in the demo, right out of the box; yet you can also set it up to use any other assets – models, textures, and even foliage shaders.
The built-in terrain engine in Unity is lackluster out of the box. Terrain shaders, and especially foliage shaders, don’t have many features that we expect from a modern engine, and the editing tools themselves are barebones. It’s no wonder that Asset Store “Terrain” section is so popular! LAM improves functionality across the board: we offer better tools, better shaders, and automatic aids all in one package. Of course, all the niceties in the picture don’t come for free in terms of performance. But LAM includes a quality settings script that can be used to scale picture quality and achieve acceptable speed even on slow systems.
LAM is not designed to create the whole landscape programmatically. Instead, we aim to supplement the level designer’s vision by auto-generating the boring and repeating parts, and freeing the designer to do more creative work. That said, our foliage placement tool makes use of mask textures, that define patterns for the foliage. With them, LAM is able to place foliage according to general principles of composition: bigger bushes clump together, supplemented by smaller ones around, and gradually giving way to generic small grass. And combining a couple of interesting masks with shifting scales will ensure that you don’t see a specific pattern repeating for a long time!
You simply add or change the terrain textures, foliage models etc – there are no specific requirements. The only limitation right now is that you can’t change the terrain shader without losing auto-texturing capability. Otherwise, just plug in your content as you wish – realistic, physical-based or cartoonish, anything goes.
We received tons of feedback for LAM Unity already and are doing our best to take it all into consideration. Right now we’re finalizing first update to LAM that mostly features bugfixes and small editor improvements. After that, we plan to add another texture painting process that does not depend on our shader. That would simultaneously improve performance, and make LAM compatible with other third-party shaders on the Asset Store – which was by far the most-requested feature!