Play by Play


by benmaher on 5 Oct 2020

A process blog of the creation of my cyberpunk themed environment

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Update - 17 Feb 2021

My last 4 updates have disappeared from the blog and i am unsure why...  I have unfortunatley lost a significant amount of work but will try to rewrite it all. They will be compiled here with my latest updates

Early december i was working on creating a worn cloth material using a hybrid substance/photoshop work flow. I then combined this with some high-low poly bakes of cloth simulations in blender to create a set of curtains for the interior apartment.

After this i began creating a window piece for the interior apartment, I achieved the cylinderical effect through the use of booleans in max. In terms of texturing i used a hand painted technique to create a metal panel/tiled effect.

After this i refocused my efforts to the exterior to ensure i wasnt spending too long in one area and become tunnel visioned. I decided to create the neon sign for the main hub area of my environment, i utilised the edgeware generator inside substrance painter to create a glowing effect.

I also started developing my lighting and volumetrics in my scene.  This helps me get more of a feel of the atmosphere of the final piece. More specifically i have added volumetric clouds to the skybox and volumetric fog to create god rays.

After this i began planning some development of the exterior area, focusing on my theme i thought adding a non playable "upper class" section above the run down area would help emphasise the late stage captalist themes that is a staple of the genre.

I then began creation on my first digital screen for advertising, again focusing on my theme i plan to litter my environment with forms of advertising. I decided on a curved screen as this presents a technical challenge to put a video on in engine but also looks very high tech. for now the screen is solid orange/red but later in development it will be replaced with a video.

After this i began creation of a new chainlink material in photoshop in order to create a surface to hang neon signs on. I then created another sign to help guide players through the scene.

Below are two new moodboards for some props to fill out the scene, and some general scifi apartment spaces. I feel that collating a load of reference images for areas you want to develop really helps with direction and idea generation!

After this i began experimenting with particle systems in unreal, My aim being to create a "sewage" waterfall for the run down area. I ended up using 3 different sprites as particles to create the final effect. I found this task to be very useful with getting to grips with particle systems as a whole for the resting my project.

I took a step back from the modelling side of things to figure out what my environment was missing and combined a series of moodboards together to guide my focus.

After this i refocused my attention to developing the apartment interior, at this point i am very unhappy with the state of the apartment; that being my reasoning for the refocus. This can be seen below

I then spent the next several days developing the apartment area, using cloth simulations to make the sheets and floor rug, as well as using blenders realtime render engine to experiment with lighting whilst in development. I planned for the main lighting sources in the scene to be from the computer screens and a left open fridge, i found this to be quite atmospheric and helped guide the player through the space.

Although i was extremely happy with how this development had turned out, i had realised what an extensive process the apartment area would be to actually finalise; It could be its own "FMP" in itself, so with a heavy heart i decided to abandon this section of my project and scale down to just the exterior as this already presented a huge undertaking!

Going back to my exterior now i had the realisation that i planned to have a lot of neon signs, and that to do these any justice i should change my environment to a night scene. This instantly looked a lot better for the atmosphere i was trying to achieve, although will require a complete overhaul on the lighting in the scene.

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Update - 25 Nov 2020

Since my last update i have finalised my blockout for the first level, added in some finalised models and put it all in engine to start testing composition and lighting. Unreal has a plethora of choices for lighting, volumetrics etc. so experimenting early on and getting to grips with what works best is key.

I have also continued working on props, for starters i have created a sci-fi style barrel fitting with the omega corp theme.

i have also modelled and textured several other props for the first area which are pictured below. These are all designed to be duplicated around the scene and are fairly non specific.

i have also continued creation of my tilable material library to help speed up the texturing process, some of them have been used in the props above. These were all created using a combination workflow of photoshop and substance alchemist.

some materials have also been updated as i did not feel they accurately emulated the quality i am aiming for, an example for my concrete wall panels can be seen below.

Update - 3 Nov 2020

I started off this week by re-working my modular pipes; a couple needed retopologising after boolean operations, this was done manually in 3dsmax. After this i began the unwrap process. As these pipes are modular and are all likely to be used at once i thought it would be a good idea to combine all 7 unwraps into one 4096x4096 texture atlas. This will help optimisation of my environment due to a decrease in the number of draw calls and also allow me to texture them all together to maintain consistancy in design.

Above are two renders of my modular pipe kit, i started off with a basic metallic texture but felt this was too clean and wouldnt be believable in the environment so decided to create a more rusted toned down paint job and add my custom moss material for additional wear  as can be seen in the second render.

Next i began working on two bin bag variations, these were created using a sphere as a base and then sculpted in blender using crease brushes etc. I then used substance alchemist to create a bin bag material which was then applied in substance painter and customised to fit the assets. These can now be scaled and rotated to add further variety to be duplicated around the scene.

After i modelled a basic single door for the apartment block facades. this was modelled in two pieces to make animation easier although they still share the same texture sheet. 

Finally for this week i began developing my first scene using my blockout as reference but instead now using my modular assets. The modular asset workflow definitely makes it easier to build out a level.

Update - 20 Oct 2020

This week i started by developing a set of concrete posts and walls for the apartment area of my first scene. These assets have unique sides so can be rotated to add variation.

I have also begun creation of a set of modular pipes to help fill out the level. These are going to be scaled to 3 different size types and will have multiple colour variations. I am experimenting with boolean operations in order to create T and cross joints and have created a pipe cap that will be duplicated across all pipes to save time modelling/UVing.

 Finally for this week i finalized my plant pot prop, creating custom materials in substance alchemist and photoshop

Update - 13 Oct 2020

This week i have started off by blocking out the first portion of my environment in 3DSMax, i did this to gain a greater understanding of the scope of the project i have proposed. I felt as if this section is fairly large already and i did want to produce 2 scenes with different atomospheres (light/dark). In order to facilitate this without spreading myself too thin i decided to rework the map. I have taken out the second half of scene 1 and instead replaced it with an elevator leading to scene 2, which also has a map now. i have also started placing reference images around the map to communicate how i see the area developing.

Next i began exploring the UE4 pipeline with some assets i had already created for this project over the summer. This involved importing meshes and textures and ensuring they looked correct in the scene and that my workflow is acceptable for the project. 

After that i began creating a rough asset list of everything that i could imagine would be in the scene and then ranked them based on importance as seen below. This will allow me to manage the order in which i will create assets in and also helps give me an even greater understanding of project scope; what can be duplicated into scene 2 etc..

Finally for this week i created one variant of a low concrete wall asset. a modular asset that will be used throughout scene 1. (the graffiti is a decal and can be removed)

Update - 5 Oct 2020

Welcome to the start of my Final Major Project. I am setting out to create an immersive Cyber-punk themed environment.

The player will be thrown into the center of one of the many "blocks" that cover the world, these "blocks" are interconnected megastructures thousands of feet tall, housing an overpopulated society brewing with discourse for their corporate overlords. (imagine Deus-ex meets Blade Runner meets Star Wars)

This cyberpunk world will follow many sci-fi tropes such as incomprehensible scale of structures and its populations, feeling extremely dense and over run, complete with droids and other advanced technologies.

The first section of the environment will feature a residential zone packed with apartment blocks, rooftops, and back alley shops.I Have sketched out a very basic map for the environment so i can begin to block it out and gain a better understanding of scale for the project.

I have also created some concept art to visualise my ideas; colours, atomosphere etc.

I have also been collecting references for the project.mainly from instagram as i find the algorithim presents me with a nice variety of concept art, photography, and ingame assets. This allows me to generate ideas from a balanced set of stimuli, meaning i can draw from the grand imagery of concept artists, whilst also looking at  more specific environments from photography; ensuring that i look at the big picture but also pay attention to the specific details that make a world feel lived in.