Game Environment Collection

Game Environment Collection

Ozan ├ľnen
by ozannnonen on 24 May 2020 for Rookie Awards 2020

My name is Ozan and I'm a self-taught 3D Environment & Prop artist from Istanbul, Turkey. I've graduated from Uni with an Economics degree; but decided to dive into 3D. I've been learning 3D since. I'd like to share some of my favourite environment projects, with the exception of a character re-texture project.

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Before I start I want to give you some additional information about myself and my entry. I've been self-learning 3D for about 2-3 years now and I've been working in the industry for about 4-5 months now. So I might be the definition of what a "Rookie" is. :) 

All of the projects in my entry have specific purpose and meaning to me. They're all my personal projects and each of them required me to work on skills and areas I'm not comfortable with, on purpose. I've tried to dive deep with them. Tried to give details, talk about challanges, what I did and how I approached those challanges. 

It's a rather long entry because I added 5 projects and tried to give as much detail as I could. I hope I could express what I had in mind with each project.

The Forgotten Sanctuary

There's a lot to say about this project. Everything started with a wonderfull concept art made by Graham Kelly, which you can find at the end of this entry. I really liked that concept and decided to create a scene using the concept as a baseline. 

It was a very good chance to work on lighting, composition, theme; the things that make up "look & feel" of a scene. So, I decided to make it an educational project too.

I was not confident with lighting outdoor scenes at all. That's why I wanted to force myself to work on a scene in which I most definitely would have to improve my outdoor lighting skills. 

As part of my study, I also wanted to focus a bit on storytelling aspects of a scene. I thought about what kind of a feel, emotion I'd like people to have when they see this scene. I decided on "Solitude", "Lifelessness", "Serenity". "This was a place; but it's not anymore. This stood still; but the time took its toll." This is what I want people to feel, roughly. Hope I could achieve this feel :)

I always liked scenes with contrast. It's not just PostProcess-kinda contrast. For instance, this scene has areas that the sun directly hits which creates a bright and saturated feel; and it also has dark and shadowy areas right next to the bright areas which create a contrast using light.

Having this contrast forced me to blend outdoor lighting with interior lighting. I had to use every bit of knowledge I had about the two lighting disciplines because the scene had almost equal amount of interior and exterior places.

I used free UE Marketplace assets and the Megascans Library for the entire project. That was a challange in itself because I didn't have the flexibility to create custom made assets to suit my desires.

My thinking process was: "Assume you're working in a company and you're not in the asset creation team. Your sole responsibilty is scene setup, lighting and creating the atmosphere. If that was the case, you wouldn't have the chance to create your own models and textures. You'd have to make do with what you got." So I confined myself to the available assets alone. I chosed free assets that anyone can download and use.

This was my initial concept, made by Graham Kelly. I used this concept as a baseline and build my scene on top.

Concept Art:

Modular Sci-Fi Environment

This is literally the very first asset pack that I've created for Unreal Engine Marketplace. My focus was to learn about modular assets by actually creating a package good enough for the Marketplace.

I didn't know where to start. I collected tons of reference shots and watched A LOT of tutorials. The project got bigger and bigger because I always wanted to add things. This project was the first real reality-check as I slowly, but surely, understood that I need to stop expanding at some point. 

At the end I produced something that I'm proud to showcase.

Here's the Marketplace link:

A major problem right at the beginning was scaling. I was going blind and wasn't using a real-life scale or a human reference. (Remember, first time doing this...) I hadn't test the scale in UE either until I was at the middle of the project. As you can imagine, the scaling was disastrous. Let's say the words "Greyboxing" and "Blockout" never ever got undermined from that day to this day still... 

This was also one of my first projects to use ZBrush extensively for baking.

At some point, I wanted introduce new colors to breakdown the repeated use of dark grey and blue. I added some yellows. I also changed the pipes and ceilling supports. The corroded metal doesn't actually suit the overall shiny and somewhat reflective materials; however the change in color was fresh enough for me that I let it slide for this time.

While I was working on this, I saw a couple of tutorials about something called "Spline Tool" which would let you create modular roads, pipes, lines, and also CABLES. I really, really wanted to have something like that for my cables as well. After watching some tutorials I created a spline tool for myself too. I used that tool to create the cables in the scene and added the tool to my pack.

First time ever to record a tutorial video :)

Scrap Lab - Gears of War Fan Art

This was my very first attempt at creating a full-fledged game ready environment. The idea got to me while I was playing Gears of War. I was looking at the concept arts (You can acces them via the main menu) and liked this particular concept a lot, which you can find at the bottom of this entry. Decided to re-create it in Unreal Engine.

I solely focused on the concept and nothing more. That was quite a challange because:

1) I had never tried this before and didn't know what to expect.

2) I couldn't see the whole scene in the concept. So, I had to improvise and fill in the rest of the scene in a way that would complement the feel of the original concept.

Remember what I said about having contrasts in a scene? Here it is again with the lights. The scene starts with a bright light from the right side (Compared to the dim lighting of this scene). Than a relatively darker area where the work station is located. And than a bright area again right next to the darker center. And the scene ends with a darker corridor. 

So the scene goes like this: Bright > Dark > Bright > Dark. I hadn't put too much thought in it back than. But, now when I look back I can clearly see my tendencies :)

Please ignore the footsteps. I know they're not good; but I was curios about how to implement footsteps and wanted to give it a go. Because, why the hell not... :D That was my first and only time with footsteps.

This was also my first time to dive into shaders and custom materials inside UE 4. The very first project that actually taught me about materials and material instances.

Holograms on the table (Not the screens) are from Marketplace assets that I bought back than. I didn't know how to create them and I didn't want to dwell in it.

Rocks and stones are from free Marketplace assets as well.

Spider webs and the hanging light ball was quite a challange because I didn't have any experience with anything remotely familiar to them. It's not the case today, but back than it was a hassle. Though I have to admit, it was a lot of fun learning about them.

This was the reference. I couldn't find it online; so I had to take picture of my TV screen while the game was running. 

The name of the concept art: "Adam Fenix's Lab"

The Forsaken - Character Showcase

One thing from the get-go: I'm NOT a character artist. The reason I'm adding this project is because I'm very happy with the results of this piece despite the fact that I'm not a character artist.

This is the character I've created for my very first, ongoing, short movie project "The Forsaken". I needed a character for it. But, It was tricky because of the fact that I don't know how to model a character. So I had to improvise. 

It is an Unreal Engine project and I'm interacting with the default UE mannequin a lot. That's when I get the idea: I exported the default UE 4 mannequin and re-textured it in Substance Painter. Since it has ready to use UVs, I only needed to import the texture maps to UE and change the default material of the mannequin. And I'll have a character suitable for animation out of the box. If I want another variation of a character, I only need to change the textures a bit in Painter. Once I re-import the new texture maps I'll have another character. Again ready for animation without an extra step.

A minor issue is the UVs are mirrored on top of each other for, I presume, increased texel density. Well, it also made my job a lot easier as I only needed to focus on one side of the model because whatever I paint on one side is projected to the other side as well.

It becomes a problem when you want text on your model. Because the text also gets mirrored as well. A workaround I came up with is placing my cameras to the right side of the model which the text is correctly aligned. If no one sees the mirrored text than there's no mirrored text :) 

This is the baseline textures. I plan to place this character in a Mars-like environment, meaning there'll be a lot of dust and sand-like particles on the character which is absent in these shots. I decided to add them later on once my environment is completed fully and that I'll be able to understand exactly what kind of places this character will be. This'll make it a lot easier to add accurate dust.

Modular Alleyway (Street)

This is my second UE Marketplace project and it has a rather spontaneous beginning. I was experimenting with Substance Alchemist and was using the apartment complex I'm living as a reference. I took a lot of pictures with my phone to turn them into PBR materials using Alchemist. 

I thought that while I was experimenting, I might as well turn one of the streets near my home into a full blown scene. I later decided to make the scene into a full-fledged Marketplace project which would require me to up the quality a lot in order for it to succeed.

There're a lot of new ideas I've tried with this project and this also turned out to be a project that I'm proud of.

Here's the Marketplace link:

After my first Marketplace project and several personal projects, I knew that I wanted to go with master materials and material instances. I also wanted to use world space projected materials and add displacement for the first time ever. 

A major problem was I used a couple of different workflows for materials. I normally use Substance Painter's Unreal Engine preset when it comes to texture maps (1 Base Color, 1 Normal, 1 Channel Packed map). This is what I used with scene props.

For ground and wall materials I wanted create a more generic material as this would provide people to use their own custom texture maps. So, I used default planes and cubes because they have a uniform UV layout by default. This would make it possible to use any texture map as needed, unlike the props which have very specific UV layouts and texture maps corresponding to those specific UVs. 

At the end, I had 6 master materials for different workflows and purposes. I'm not going in detail here because you can check all of them from my tutorial video which you can find at the end of this entry.

One of the ideas that I got immediately after importing the assets to UE was showcasing the assets in 2 different lighting scenerios. One for day time and one for night time. I always like to see assets I'd like to buy in different lighting setups. I wanted to provide the same.

Of course with different lighting setups come different parameters to adjust. Night time scene could use a lot with exponential height fog. So I tweaked it a lot to get the feel I wanted. I also had to use different light types for various assets. I had to blend them well to show the potential of my assets.

Another tool I created is a spline tool. This time, I created a more general tool and did my scene setup mostly with it. The walls, fences, side walks, the drainage all of them were created with the same spline tool. You can check the tool from my tutorial video. I don't want to dive into it with text as it would take too much space :(

I wanted to have a modular decal material too with this pack. So I created a master decal material and added some tweakable parameters with the option to add custom alpha masks to give people a way to add variation in their scenes. Everything about this decal material is also available within the tutorial video.

There are so many things I'd like to tell about this project but I don't want to bore people with text. But, every technical detail is available in the tutorial video in detail. 

PS: The foliage is not my work. I used free Marketplace assets. I wanted to showcase how my assets would look with foliage.

Modular Alleyway Materials

I also want to include the materials I created with Substance Alchemist; because this whole project started with them.

Each of these materials are created using real-life photos taken with my iPhone 7 Plus as bitmaps, thanks to Substance Alchemist.

This was one my most educational projects ever. 

Creating master materials and making them work together was a HUGE challange. Displacement was a thing all by itself. The things I learned about materials while working on this were immeasurable and I still use the workflows I developed during this project.

Creating customizable decals turned out to be way better than I expected. I add this functionality to almost all of my projects later on. 

Creating a more advanced spline tool was a challange because I don't know about coding; but blueprint system was a huge help and I learned the fundamentals of blueprint system even more.

About 60-70% of the things I did and tools I created were new concepts that I had never tried before. I learned A LOT with this project and am glad to showcase it here.

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