The focus of my final year project is to create an art environment in the Unreal Engine based off the world of DOOM(2016). The environment will be similar but not identical to what is found in-game both aesthetically and thematically. The environment is designed to belong in a game, so it needs to be limited while still maintaining visual consistency, but as I am looking to create an art piece I will not be trying to create working game mechanics. The environment will be a small portion of a level, more specifically a “combat zone” as such l will only be building on one space.
This project included industry practises that I had wanted and planned to use with little personal experience which included aspects of modular workflow such as trim sheets, engine material creation and general environment work flow within Unreal Engine 4, I put time aside to practise and understand these initiatives. Results of this practise is still in the project but will soon be removed and replaced with an enhanced knowledge of how they work.
I put effort into researching modular environment creation and workflow as well as looking into how id created DOOM. A lot of the studio’s workflow is designed around large scale environment creation with the use of mega-textures; a workflow which would be unavailable to me in the unreal engine and overall would be inefficient to use and produce for a project of my scale. I looked closely at the environment in one mission of the game: Resource Ops. This classic Sci-Fi style serves as my visual basis for Hell On Mars, and my overall quality bar.
Part of the point of the project was to create my environment from concept art to final product. The layout of the map had changed drastically from project start to now, but this is still used for colour scheming, and these two rooms specifically still exist in the project but changed. The Layout was created as a result of increasing the scope. A middle ground has since been reached between my first level to the way it stands currently.
Between Iteration 1 and 4 I had made significant improvement to the overall blockout. I have included a walking loop within the level for the player as well as extended the areas out a little bit. As it currently stands I should not have to tune down the scope but there is room to do so should I find I need to.
This week I put my focus into secondary material creation and creating a master material for my project.
To start, i created a material gym level as a means to showcase my materials for the project. Any changes I make to my materials can be viewed here as I work on it which makes it easy to see changes made to the materials in engine so I have a better idea of how the materials will look ahead of time.
My first iteration of the master material went far too overboard into overall functionality of the material. As a primer it was perfect as I had not created a material in engine with any more complexity than plugging in a couple of textures and calling it a day. This was a good learning experience as to how you can create an added level of control and overall get more out of my materials.
The level of control I had was ridiculous, but not intense in a complex manner. Controls included being able to intermittently turn on and off colours based off a colour ID mask from a trim sheet and alter the colour and intensity at will, as well as tiling the UVs , normal strength independently for trim normals, micro normals and material normals.
The new method is a lot more cleaner and simple with a few different principles. A Layered material system is a master material which blends individual materials together with the key difference that the individual materials are now located as material functions rather than master materials. Overlaying these together to create multiple master materials rather than one grants a more specific and precise level of overall control, as you only factor in what your material will need.
I created a series of overlaying utility textures and masks which can be used in conjunction with my materials in order to overlay additional details and increase the quality of the textures.
I had also updated and created a couple more materials to work with this system including a painted steel layer a dirt and grime layer and material specific masks for each.
This week was mostly dedicated to preparing for the first art pass to come. This included creating my first trim sheet, a small selection of base materials and finalising version 3 of my blockout. This is all for preparation of the coming week in which I hope to have completed my first art pass which would include finishing trim sheets to create my master material shader as well as the primary level geometry.
After concerns about the size of my blockout were raised I had attempted to make it bigger. When I realised that the sheer size of the scope I decided to tone it down and used the new ideas I had created for the bigger blockout to reinforce what I already had for my previous version. So while It may have seemed like a waste of time, the quality of my blockout had improved and the idea I had in mind had strengthened as a result.
I had refined the layout of the main atrium and finally gave the upstairs more of a purpose. While I had planned for them to be there initially, the steel beams and the bigger ceiling light are now incorporated as part of the level you can explore. The new design of the stairs means that the secret room I had in the back corner was removed and will be relocated to the top of the room.
The entrance to the airlock was remained mostly untouched but made bigger, and the airlock control room at the back was opened up as a new room to be explored as part of the ground floor loop.
The new room that was added was the security corridor located behind the back wall of the main atrium and creates a consistent loop between the ground floor rooms.
Over the week I had created a few base materials that a lot of the assets would be made from which I could swap and interchange to avoid too much becoming too noticeable once the player looks closely enough.
Base Metal 1
Base Metal 2
I need to create more dirty metals which i can create either in engine or in substance designer which will be used for a vertex painter for material edge wear and tear.
This is a trim sheet I am using as part of my environment which is an Ambient Occlusion, Colour ID Map, and Normal Map. Trim are a way to share normal mapping and material information between several assets which saves time when texturing an asset for re-using UV space and provides a consistent look in the environment, and more importantly treated as an industry standard practice.
Between this week and last week, I started drawing thumbnail layouts and designs for a small portion of a single-player level. Having a batter idea of the playable space, I created concept art at the same time as a very rudimentary block-out for the level. I decided to tackle both at the same rather than separately so I can gauge the amount of room the player would have when playing the level.
The first block-out based from initial design was more of an experiment of space and movement. The main room was the main focus as I considered aspects such as enemy spawn-points, and map flow.
Once I had a better idea of space, I started on some concept art based off what I had at the time. I focused more on aesthetics and the purpose of the facility itself and designated a role to the different rooms. I also included some concept art for a hero asset.
A gore nest is an interactive object in DOOM which when destroyed will spawn a large number of enemy demons. The gore nest here is of similar aesthetics but a design of my own.
To help me progress with my level design and block-out I needed the game to play similar to DOOM to get an appreciation for scale and movement. I went into the settings of the First Person Character and changed the movement speed, friction, field of View, player gravity, jump height, added double jump, granted full aerial control and moved the gun to the centre of the screen in an attempt to try and emulate the movement and physics of DOOM .
I started a second block-out level which closer resembled the scale and aesthetics of the concept art I created.
The goal of the upcoming week is to finish my block-out and start creating environment assets and materials for the scene.
I decided to dedicate this week to researching the methods I would be using to create this environment as well as taking the time to learn some of the functionality of the unreal engine.
The idea of trim sheets is completely new to me and a very vital aspect of modular building for games. I decided to research into this and create my own set as well as a few modular assets to create a corridor with the hopes that if I were to make a critical mistake I would find out what I did wrong early in production.
The rest of the week was dedicated to engine research. While I feel relatively comfortable using the unreal engine, I felt like I needed to touch up on my overall knowledge of the art pipeline in engine in order to improve my overall capabilities. This included looking further into lighting, lightmaps, skyboxes, HDRI, material nodes and intermediate material creation and UV mapping channels. The material editor is a powerful tool, and the project would benefit properly from being able to utilise it to its potential.
The first week of the project began with planning work and finalising my idea for the project. I came in the start of the week with a fairly strong idea of what I wanted to do: An environment made in the unreal engine based off DOOM(2016). I decided on this idea as it is a project I would be interested in working on and it would be technically challenging.
Among those technical challenges are practices which are commonly used in industry which I had not yet had the chance to work with, that being Trim Sheets. A method of reusing textures for the environment without compromising resolution. I spent a fair deal of time researching how to create trim sheets, how to apply them and how the effectively use them. I concluded that this would mean that I would first require practice, so I started creating a trim sheet for a far smaller scale environment than the one I am intending to produce.