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The Ancient Light
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The Ancient Light

Stylized Alien Environment done in Unreal. Long ago there was a civilization collecting energy from the enormous creatures in this land, but nowdays barren fields and ruins is all that theres left.

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Update - 13 May 2021

Here it is! I've managed to finish the entry!

Here you have the final renders of my environment and also a video of camera panning and gameplay. This was quite a journey, I learned so much through the process got to know new people and participate in the comunity. I am so happy to have been able to get here and I can't thank you enough for all the support and help.

I've always wanted to learn how to do stilyzed environment in UE4, as it's something I really enjoy seeing others do and this has given me the opportunity to finally try it.

Thank you so much, hope you'll enjoy it!

Full process view:

And that's all, hope to see you in my next step of the journey.

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Update - 9 May 2021

Update #5:

Last update before the final renders! I can't believe it's almost finished!

 Until the date arrives I will keep tweaking things and getting as much feedback as posible. After that I'll do the final renders, some post processing and editing a video flying around the stage.

I have been working on finishing everything I needed these weeks. Thanks for everyone who helped me and gave feedback over the ExperiencePoints and StylizedStation Discord severs.

I wanted to have a more alien look and add variation to the scenery so I started sculpting and texturing trees. I especially like one of them, where I added large translucent leaves that seem to emit heat.

I wanted the crevice to be full of plant life taking shelter in its shadows. I created several coral plants that could be repeated so that they would appear to have grown from the same stone. I also added a blue floating particle effect that looked like glowing spores to add movement to the scene.

I also painted textures to make plants and foliage in the form of planes so that I could place them around and break up the uniformity of the grass.

One thing I wanted to get from the beginning was a tube from the large structure on the surface to the strange door hidden in the chasm. I wanted this to guide the player to explore and spark their curiosity, and it seemed like a good idea to have a line of energy running through it.

Special thanks to ThatGuyMike over StylizedStation Discord, who helped me archieve this and guide me through the process, as I've never tried using blueprints and he shared how he did something similar.

The tube is made using a mesh being repeated through a spline. I made this following this tutorial:

Finally, I have created a tileable sand texture to be placed in the areas where creatures would have passed through, creating a clear path for the player. I made it using Substance Designer. I really like how it looks and how it smoothly blends in with the different colours of the terrain.

Update - 20 Apr 2021

Update #4:

I have been working in detailing my environment for the past few weeks. Sculpting and texturing the main assets.

Here are some screenshots of the progress so far:

First I focused on creating the alien structures. trying to keep the scale after making the withebox. I sculpted each model from a low poly mesh created in Maya. Everything was done in Zbrush and then I did the retopology and UVs. The baking and texturing was done in Substance Painter, trying to get a stylized result.

I wanted these structures to be a break from the red tones of the scenery, making the player's eye focus on them. The blue glow of this technology is very different from the rest of the scenery creating a very appealing effect

Then I tried to give more life to the scenery with some animated particles. Watching Dean Ashford's tutorial I created some stylised wind lines inside Unreal, as you can see in the video. 

I also created different types of foliage, some sculpted and textured, like the plants and corals (of which I will create more to finish the environment) and others were made with planes and textures with opacity, like this bush, made following this article. It is also animated so that it has the effect of being moved by the wind.

At the end I sculpted and textured the rocks that will fill the cliff that breaks the environment. I wanted to do something with a desertic style that matched the colours of everything else.

Update - 9 Apr 2021

Update #3:

I have been working a lot on the environment lately, dedicating full time to it. I kept working on the colours and composition looking for the best way to show the work.

I did the blocking of a cable that goes from the large geometric structures on the surface to the door deep in the crevice. I would like to get the effect of energy running through it.

The big breakthrough of these days has been the work on the grass and the colours of the terrain. Using Runtime Virtual Texturing I got the grass that I created following this article to take the colour that I assigned to the terrain underneath, making it have colour variation and a much smoother effect.

 I achieved this by researching Jasmin Habezai-Fekri's work and thanks to this video by PrismaticaDev . It was a bit strange to understand at first but after a bit of trial and error I managed to make it work.

The grass consists of an alpha map for the shape, a few planes done in Maya, and a procedural map for panning the wind waves. I've achieved all of this by following the tutorials mentioned above.

The terrain consists of different coloured layers that I can paint to colour the grass on top of it, achieved by using RVT.

For the inside of the rift I quickly sculpted a couple of large rocks that I could put on the walls to get an idea of what the final result would look like. These models are just a decimated placeholder with flat colours, but they helped me to understand better the composition and how the final result would look like. Later on I want to fill the cracks with plant life, some of them animated to give more life to the environment.

Next I will work on modelling the highpoly of the alien structures, texturing them in substance painter to get closer to a final result. I'll also work on a few strange plants to start populating the environment.

Update - 6 Apr 2021

Update #2:

I had I really hard time deciding what to do with the concepts  I have chosen. I started blocking in some shapes and terrain in Unreal, based of this concept:

In the end I wasn't satisfied with the way it was turned out, it wasn't alien enough and it was too quiet.I decided to try new compositions and stranger colours, based on concepts from No Man's Sky, with the floor in warm colours.

In the end I wasn't satisfied with the way it was turned out, it wasn't alien enough and it was too quiet. I decided to try new compositions and stranger colours, based on concepts from No Man's Sky, with the floor in warm colours.

Based on the following concept and mixing it with others, I managed to find the path I wanted to take. Now I've decided what I'm going to do and I can't wait to see what it will look like.

I comed up with this: 

I want to create an alien planet, with technology and structures long ago forgotten, but with energy still flowing on them. I will create an open field, filled with plant life, and it will be shattered, with rifts and chasm breaking the plains. Inside this chasm there will be a lot of vegetation, bioluminiscent, and forgotten ruins of the anciet civilization that once resided here.

I did some rough blocking of the main cameras for the renders, and created some withebox meshes for nailing the composition.

See you next time!

Update - 6 Apr 2021

About me:

I´m Alejandro Díaz, a recently graduated 3D artist from Spain, with a special interest in stylized characters and environment. You can see my past projects in my Artstation and Instagram.

In this challenge my objective is to create a little stylized environment in Unreal Engine, focusing in composition and colors. Being the first time I use Unreal for environments I want to learn the process from start to finish.

These are my main references, I want to recreate an alien planet with some kind of technologic structure in the center of the composition, and have some vibrant colors. I'm lookin for a mix between nature and vegetation and strange alien technology.

I'm not limiting myself to one concept, I will experiment and iterate them as I continue further, probably doing a mixing of them to create something new.

These are some references for each pice of the environment. I want to have weird plants, but mixing them with a grass field where you can see de wind blowing to give that extra life to the piece.

I'm maybe a little bit crazy but I would love to add some kind of gargantuan creature, a fliying serpent or space whale, than would be roaming the skies of the planet, casting shadows to the ground.