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Today we present a detailed breakdown of the Nazaralan scene from a small indie team Warp Games. They are building their own games and at the same time experiment with awesome scenes in Unreal Engine 4. Their projects show incredible dedication, great talent and skill. We’ve discussed the production of one of the environments and the developers shared some of their tips and tricks.
Peter Gubin: Warp Games is a team of two people – Peter Gubin and Andrew Gubin. We worked in few game development teams and it is our personal project. We are developing game called Circulation – a sidescrolling metroidvania platformer about solving puzzles and exploring. You can find more info on Twitter, YouTube channel and developer blog. We are also looking for passionate and talanted people who want to make games with us. Feel free to contact us.
Peter: We have always been fans of Prince Of Persia game series and its art style. I admire arabic aesthetic and wanted to keep that feeling in this environment. I use many arabic patterns for building, trims and floors and green magic torches to add mystic vibe to the scene.
Peter: I like this workflow because it makes abstract idea quickly become actual geometry. You can quickly make huge shapes and go for desired composition and forms without worrying about in-engine object placement, asset management stuff and asset details – just pure form and composition. Andrew made landscape in World Machine and I imported it in Modo before blockout.
Peter: Main blocks are building and towers which are repeated many times. I also used tiling floor, trim and wall pieces.When I reuse assets like this I make heavy use of vertex colors. For this scene I make sand blending with original material via vertex painting. This blending breaks obvious repetition and makes scene more believable.
I also used columns for the rhythm. Architectural objects often use this method as it gives authority and sense of scale. When prototyping I always bring human-scale figure and copy it all over the place. This gives perfect scale and proportions understanding.
Building Textures in 3D-Coat
Peter: I like 3D-Coat because it provides you with same tools you use in Photoshop – layers, brushes, blending. Actually, you can open your texture map in Photoshop in one action – just press Ctrl+P, just make sure you use don’t use effects as layers. If you do, merge them.
It doesn’t really matter which 3D painting program you choose – Substance Painter, DDO or Mari. Just practise with chosen tool and get better with it.
Andrew: My workflow is actually pretty simple. When the scene geometry is ready I remove all the working lights and set the skylight (Color, intensity etc). Then I add Directional light (sun) and spend a lot of time tweaking the angle, color, intensity and everything else. On prototype stage all my lights are dynamic. After tweaking Directional light and sky light (pretty important stage for open scenes by the way) I place all the secondary lights (point lights and spot lights for torches, bit spot light on the distant city for better mystical effect, lights in the houses and some thin streets), tweak it and set all the lights that needs to be static (in this particular case it’s all the lights) to static.
Then I use number hotkeys to switch between various positions on the scene to see what Ii got and check for artefacts. After that I change lightmap resolution for entire scene (at this point I just throw in number that makes sense from the mesh importance/distance and scale), usually its 128 for distant objects, 256 or 512 for everything else and 1024 in rare cases or very important piece of geometry. Then I build the scene and check it again for artefacts, tweak some light intensity, position,scale, color etc, and tweak lightmap resolutions.
After that I build lights again and this cycle can be repeated 1-2 or many times, it depends on the results. Of course for gameplay scenes all the numbers and some little things can be different as well as indoor locations (like for distant objects I can set 32 or 64 lightmap resolution and in some areas I actually can use only optimized dynamic lights for saving RAM but that is optimization stages and we didn’t bother with it much in this particular scene).
So when I am happy with the results, the lighting stage is finished and I usually start to tweak post-process volumes. Peter is helping me with some advices about this and that and overall feel at all stages because my eyes can lose focus over time when you do the same thing over and over in the scene. Of course, this workflow might change a bit from time to time and you never get perfect sequence (you might tweak lights after for example 3 light build) but generally I do lighting this way.
Peter: Fire and smoke is made using Unreal Cascade (Particle Editor inside Unreal Engine). It’s very powerful tool, it allows you to create many cool effects such as snow, rain, explosions and so on. For torch emitter we used 6 particle groups, 4 for fire and 2 for smoke. There’s nothing special about it – you can explore starter content in Unreal Marketplace and see how it’s done by Epic. You can find many different particles there.
Using Unreal Engine 4
Peter: UE4 is amazing engine. It allows reuse of materials and objects via material instances, vertex painting and material ID masking. Material functions is also very cool way of incapsulating individual materials such as sand, metal or rock and blend a few of them in material.
Andrew: I worked with UDK (UE3) since first beta and after long time spent with it most awesome thing about UE4 is that you don’t need to learn it from scratch. Of course it has some cool new features and much more user-friendly shipping but the main thing for me is that I can use my techniques and tricks I’m already familiar with.
Building the Environment
Peter: I think the main thing to remember is to keep it manageable. Don’t make too huge environments if you don’t have strong understanding of how you can pull it off. Instead, you can make small-scale but pretty scene, finish it in reasonable amount of time.
Remember the importance of lighting and post processes in the scene. They really set up a mood for environment and sell the setting.
Andrew: I think most important thing is the integrity of environment and the idea. Of course, models and materials, particle and light is also very important but if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, environment most likely won’t be as impressive as it could be. Try to collect and learn from references and concepts as well as look at other environments and break down to elements that you can recreate. You won’t make a great environment first time and even second time most likely. Dont give up and practice. Take hints and tricks from people more experienced than you.
And good luck with your creations!