A world scorched by an ancient civilization; the dominant species are monumental in their size, covered in massive amounts of vegetation, and the new inhabitants now use these colossal beings as their home.
Update - 6 May 2021
Here it is. The final images and cinematic!
What I spent the majority of my time on from my last update was tweaking colors and post processing, so I didn't want to update that much. Plus, I was moving, and couldn't work on it that much.
Not sure why Youtube does this, but make sure you're watching in 1080p or above!
Update - 27 Apr 2021
I'm on a little break for this week, but I thought I'd share my latest cinematic. I'm really proud of where this is at. Really it's just fine tuning from here on out and implementing little changes from the feedback I'm getting.
Update - 23 Apr 2021
Another day, Another tree! I wanted to replace some of the tree foliage in my scene to best fit with my main tree beside the house. I used MTree in Blender this time just to speed up the process a little bit more. I usually don't like doing it since it creates some rather high poly count models, but decreasing resolution and setting up aggressive LODs in engine help keep the FPS count up.
I'm mainly going through the scene to make sure the biome feels like a belivable place, which means making sure there aren't any types of foliage that stand out. Our eyes are really good at picking out repeating patterns, but also really good at picking out when something doesn't feel like it belongs. Foliage is always noticeable if you have any plants that don't look like they grow near each other (i.e. - tropical vs tundra vs temperate, etc.)
Always, always be optimizing. It's the worst and people don't like to do it, but if you do it incrementally throughout the process then it's really not that bad.
Messing around I found this camera angle and I liked it. Probably when it's all set in stone I'll use this to get a nice screenshot for the entry.
It's getting close! I won't be adding to this much more in the coming week as I will be moving, but I think a few more tweaks and it should be ready to go!
Update - 22 Apr 2021
I wasn't happy with the main tree that I had set up on the foreground crab, so I went into Blender and extruded out some verts and added a skin modifier to make a new tree.
I then added some transparent pine leaves PNGs to make so branches and added those as a particle system on the tree. Convert the particle system to mesh, join them all together and send to Unreal, and voila, new tree! Took less time than it would to make a meal, and when set up in Unreal, it looks better than the procedural tree pack that is free with Unreal.
The next thing I wanted to do is improve on the lighting. I think it's important to think about lighting from the very beginning, and I knew that I wanted light shafts for days to make the world seem epic. Have to watch out, though, because if you have too many light shafts then everything starts looking blown out with little dynamic range.
These are just some shots of the cinematic view, checking to see what's a good amount of light to shaft ratio.
Update - 21 Apr 2021
With the scene I have, it's interesting enough, so my challenge now is to add the details. The story is often shown through the details, so I had to make sure that the things I added actually add to the scene and the story, or else they didn't need to be there.
I started with some obelisks. I wanted them to show both a contrast between the landscape and also that they had been there a long time; relics of the past.
Started with full versions and then cell fractured them in Blender.
Then in Engine I messed with a Quixel surface that was nice and reflective, and mixed that with the UV I had separated out that I wanted to be emissive.
The material isn't too hard to set up. Takes 2 voronoi textures and their normal textures and pans them at different speeds. There's also a BeersLaw thrown into the emissive chain so that you have a "transparent" effect where the emissive comes from under the density.
I then moved onto making a hero asset that I want on the main crab in the foreground. I used a mix of assets from Quixel Bridge (modular medieval), and some custom built assets in Blender to get some irregular shapes.
I'm using reference for the houses from David Fortin on Artstation. (https://www.artstation.com/fortin)
Since I wanted my world to feel grounded an realistic (as realistic as a giant crab world can be), I figured the inhabitants would use the wood from the trees and stones from the backs of crabs or the ground to build their structures.
To save my PC from overloading and exploding, I made a separate level to build the house in and moved it to it's own streaming level so I can just add that level into the scene when I'm ready to attach it to the crab.
Using the reference and trying to add a new world aesthetic, I went for a first pass. Not complete and I'm going to keep adding to it and morphing it be a little more wonky.
Update - 19 Apr 2021
Let's take a look at where we are, shall we?
Made a crab. Made them a few animations. Set them up in the editor staggered throughout. Just trying to find a nice frame. Make a cinematic. It's rough. Iterate on what those crabs have on their back. Repeat...kinda.
I was having a super hard time figuring out a foliage system that would allow me to place large amounts of foliage as movable systems onto the backs of the crabs. Turns out, you can't paint foliage onto movable actors in Unreal, so with some help from the AnswerHub forum and ClockworkOcean, I set up a static mesh spawner. Basically I have a ton of static mesh foliage in the scene that, if I was trying to be super optimized, would be instanced over and over, but I'm hitting 60 with LODs, so for now they stay how they are.
Basically make sure your asset has collision and set up the meshes you want to spawn on said collision, and voila! I had to go a step further since each of the crabs is a skeletal mesh I had manually set up collision for them in the physics asset.
Update - 16 Apr 2021
I try to update my PureRef Board at least every other day to keep the ideas I'm having up to date. This keeps me focused on what I don't need to think about for the scene as well as what new ideas would work with what I've got going on.
Ooh boy. In between cleaning assets and making sure everything fits together in the world, I finally started to assemble the first crab. I'm not too keen on the up close visual of the castle, but from far away it's looking ok.
Got a looooong way to go.
I also wanted to do a mask so the landmass on the crab doesn't just seem like it's plopped on there. Didn't take too long to setup, and it sure looks better.
Update - 15 Apr 2021
I started the day by adding the Crab model into Substance Painter to texture it. I wanted it to look fairly realistic, with a flair of otherworldliness thrown in, so I added some bright pink eyes that can be emissive in the engine later as well as some bright purple spots flecked throughout the body.
Normally I wouldn't spend so much time on a creature asset, but since it is a major part of the landscape I feel as though I have to do it justice. Honestly, though, might be my worst UV unwrap ever, but since I was doing alot of texture painting and you'll only see one part of it up close I think it's ok.
I went through and planned out my cinematic for submission. It's always good to have a plan, and since the prompt has two travelers now stuck on this planet, I thought it would be cliche (in a good way) to have one of them emerging from an escape pod, as if they had crashed there.
I got some houses off of Turbosquid, and started cleaning them up. For the majority of the village I'm going to use Megascans to build modularly, but I needed some variety just to have some variation for the eye.
Started to layout the scene and get assets ready for placing around the area in Unreal.
Update - 14 Apr 2021
Starting with a Reference Board, I went through and tried to pick out images that evoked a feeling of wonder and excitement in me.
I then went through and started to lay out some concepts for what I wanted the scene to feature.
Trying to approach this from the mindset of both, what would make my jaw drop if I saw it in real life and if this was a game, what concepts would I be drawn to as a level designer?
The concepts shown feature a wide-range of thematic elements, but I knew that I wanted a waypoint marker in the distance to give the feeling of scale, and that everything in this world has overgrown everything manmade.
I really liked the idea of the flying monster with cities on it's back, but I opted to bring the sea life (crab in this case) to the surface and make them massive instead. As if the world has a reverse life structure wherein sea creatures might be land dwelling and vice versa.
I settled on large scale creatures covered in vegetation with inhabitants riding on their backs. The landscape they traverse is scorched, which is why the inhabitants of the world live on these giant creatures that can traverse large distances which helps the inhabitants find resources.
The story of the world in my mind is that it once was a technologically advanced society that had a world changing event in the past that both killed the inhabitants and pushed large amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the air, making everything in the world a grand scale.
Here I've started with a crab model that I downloaded off of Turbosquid, that once in engine, will have both vegetation growing on it and homes of the new inhabitants covering it's back. I've rigged it and am making a few reusable animations so that the crab can have a sort of AI when in Engine.