Editor’s note: In order to awaken people’s remembrance and attention to the culture and history of ethnic minorities that have gone away, Inner Mongolian youth Guo Le just completed his personal UE4 engine game scene work “Lost Civilization” during his study abroad last year and caused foreign The attention of many media. Not long ago, he was invited to publish the production experience of this work in the internationally renowned game CG Art Forum 80.LV, hereby translated into native language Chinese and published on Youzhi online, hoping to open to the aspirations to promote national culture and produce original large-scale Some inspiration and help from Chinese gamers in world game scenes.
Original English address:
Q & A
Hello everyone! My name is Guo Le, Mongolian, and my name means “he” in Mongolian, so I also like to let my foreign friends call me “River”. Since I was a freshman, I have been in the CG circle under the stage name “Fantasyasmuscle”. It’s almost 10 years now.
Where do you come from, who are you, what is your current job?
I am from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. In 2019, he just completed a three-year postgraduate advanced study program for the interaction and game design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the United States and successfully graduated. He is currently officially working in Hangzhou Netease Thunderfire Studio as a senior 3D game scene Architect (Senior World Building Artist). Before I went abroad to study, I had nearly 5 years of experience in the concept design of game animation film original paintings in China, and I participated in the scene design of the final fantasy genuine IP end game and the production of sky ball matte painting at Beijing Perfect World Game Company. . I was born to learn the original paintings of characters. After work, I gradually changed into the original paintings of the scene. After going abroad, due to the major of games and the maximum use of school resources, I had to switch again to learn more about the Unreal 4 game engine. The “Unreal Engine 4 Game Development Introductory Classic” by Aram Cookson, the head of our school’s gaming department, is believed to be one of the must-read books for every Unreal Engine 4 learner in the world.
How did you enter the field of game production? What made you so interested in it?
I have been in love with video games since I was a kid. When I was in junior high school, I officially started to contact console games. My career in gaming is a matter of course. After working in a domestic first-tier game manufacturer for a few years, I chose to study abroad in the field of interaction and game design in order to gain a deeper understanding of the game development process and help Chinese games to produce their own 3A masterpieces. This game scene was completed as a graduate design for my graduate school. It lasted for almost half a year and was produced from scratch. During this period, I experienced a pushover and countless iterations. I really like the process of turning my imagination into reality. Even being able to briefly play the role of God in the virtual world can make me feel very excited. In the past, I was a professional 2D concept artist, and I had many wonderful ideas. But in my previous work, the long-awaited imagination that awaited me through the long production process was so tormenting in the game that it was sometimes unrecognizable. So why don’t I learn to do it myself to realize this great process myself. Although sometimes this idea sounds so naive, because there are too many things to learn. But I always remind myself that fantasy makes me stronger. He gives me enough power to face any challenges and meet new things. That’s why I like to call myself “fantasy like muscle”.
Let’s talk about the environment you have built. What are your main goals here? Main references? How did you decide to start this project? What do you want to create here?
For personal works, this is undoubtedly a huge project. During the extremely limited period of more than one semester (more than 4 months in total), it was filled with self-doubt many times, and it was helpless to overthrow the comeback and the explosion of thinking Until the last struggle. My goal is to awaken people’s thoughts and attention to those lost civilizations by showing a magnificent game scene. We Mongolians have a long and great history and civilization, but for some reason, I think our culture is gradually disappearing in this era. What a sad thing this is.
At the beginning, I tried to find some clues of my ancestral culture. I even chose a very difficult course in medieval architecture history in American universities to find that distant history. I found that the remains of the ancient Mongolian empire are now There is very little left, very few documents can adequately document them, and many people do not even know that Beijing was established only because of Yuan Dadu. In addition, I visited many American libraries and online information platforms, and it seems difficult to find traces of Mongolian-related literature. On the contrary, I found that Americans seem to be particularly interested in the history and culture of African indigenous people. I can often see the entire row of bookshelves filled with books that introduce the original customs and culture of a tribe in Africa. Americans still miss the culture of their predecessors. Sometimes even if I can find some limited information, there are still many errors on it. And now some emerging video games (such as “The Soul of Horse Island”) may give players around the world the stereotype that our Mongolians are very cruel and cunning people. But in fact, we Mongolians are a peace-loving and human-friendly people. We grew up with countless moving songs that love my grassland and my mother. Those songs are very beautiful and beautiful, if you have a chance, you should really try it.
I hope that through my work, I can reproduce the glorious history of my ancestors, and at the same time raise people’s awareness of protecting those historical civilizations that are gradually going away. I think many epic 3A game masterpieces have achieved this goal. For example, “God of War” and “Dawn of Zero” have successfully demonstrated those distant Nordic Viking culture and Indian culture, which will also be the goal of my life.
My reference materials mainly come from some memories of my hometown when I was a teenager, and many photos taken in places of interest and museums when I traveled home. I tried to find inspiration from some iconic elements of the Mongolian people. For example, I found a lot of very beautiful graphics on traditional clothing. By refining the elements, they can become some decorative elements on my building. The elements of horse, trident, yurt, aobao, and grassland are all transformed and displayed in my works.
How did you design the natural landscape? What is the technology behind these mountains?
Regarding natural landscapes, I collected a large number of natural pictures, which broadened my horizons and inspired my enthusiasm for creating an open world. At the same time, it is also important for me to refer to the picture styles of some successful games. Learning and feeling them The expression method can clarify the direction of my production and imagine how it will look when it is finally completed. I also drew a lot of simple sketches and conceptual designs. I wanted to make the scene have its own characteristics and originality, rather than a simple multi-element mix and match or directly copy other people’s things. Finally, I also look for some good composition and color inspiration from some classical oil paintings.
Like many other artists, the construction process of my game scene is full of various adjustments and changes or even a reinvention. In the early stage of project establishment, the mentors in the school strongly disagreed with my idea of creating a huge game scene and almost denied all my ideas, which made me feel very helpless. Should we follow the advice of Americans to make a bland village corner or let go of our hands and feet? In the end, I chose to follow my heart, so that my creative passion that had been suppressed for many years could fully explode. In the middle stage, I overthrew many of my original ideas and almost rebuilt most of the scenes. This was a very difficult time for me, and I began to wonder if I could achieve my original goal. But the wood has become a boat, calm down, I found that I spent too much energy and the world on the design of those buildings, I even made the internal layout of the castle and the maze. I am lost in those endless details. When I recovered from my hard work, I found that I could not complete all my ideas in a limited time. So, I simplified the terrain, submerged the grassland with the ocean, and made the shape of my building simpler and clearer. I refocused my creative focus on shaping the foreground and the middle scene. I also repainted the surface and increased the height difference. I boldly tried many lights and changed the style of the picture.
For the modeling of the terrain, I used a sculpting tool with a texture channel to create the relief of the ground. I use click to draw instead of traditional drag and drop drawing. When I need to draw a hard surface like a stone, I chose a shape channel with sharper edges to draw, and vice versa.
I use Zbrush to carve mountains, and those medium and small rocks. This production process often drives me crazy. Maybe you can hardly believe that I spent almost a week carving these stones every day. After the sculpture, I found that they still have a lot of problems, such as different styles, not from the same and the same scene. But now, I think Houdini’s programmatic generation of stone materials can significantly help me greatly improve my work efficiency.
How do you work on the production of land and roads? What grid do you need to build for this part of the project?
In the construction of the landscape and the placement of objects, I have followed some basic principles of composition and visual guidance. In fact, you should always keep in mind the relationship between the most important part of the picture and the second and third important elements ( PST). The direction and position of all elements should take into account visual guidance, that is, the author hopes that the player’s sight can stay first, and then walks in the secondary important part in turn, and finally the player’s sight should walk in the orderly in the picture Unconsciously taking care of each element in the scene, instead of jumping back and forth, the key information may eventually be missed. For example, I used those roadside torches to guide the player’s eyes first to follow this invisible guide line to the most important place in the picture. This method can also be applied to the design of characters, the reason is common.
Of course, there are many other ways to make your work look better. For example, I used rich scene blocks interspersed horizontally to enhance the layering of the entire picture, and vertical trees interspersed to break the monotony of the picture, linking the various layers in the picture. The golden ratio is also an important rule in the composition of the picture. I deliberately placed some key elements on the golden section, which played a good role in cutting the picture and maintaining the balance of the picture.
As a professional 3D game scene artist, I think it is also very useful to learn some game special effects. I use the Unreal 4 particle emitter system to make the torch, and I also use dynamic materials and parallax mapping to complete the effects of that portal. They played a very prominent role in the visual guidance of the scene, and these special effects also enriched the elements and story of my scene. At the same time, some suspended dust and particles in the scene can also increase the dynamic of the entire scene. Therefore, I think that as an excellent 3D scene editor, understanding the basic knowledge of certain game special effects and being able to use inspiration can also effectively improve the final effect of your work.
How did you complete those great 3D building models of the scene. Can you talk about the way you have been working?
Everything started from the portal. At first, I just made a relic area in Marmoset as a class assignment, and then I imported them into the Unreal 4 engine, and made dramatic changes to it. Style and tone, redesigned the pattern on the top of the gate and the surrounding environment, and strengthened the height difference of the scene. I also added the concept of portals to make the environment more storytelling.
For the huge palace in the perspective, I originally designed many versions. I hope they can combine some of the magnificent contemporary architecture I have seen in the United States with some traditional Mongolian architectural elements. In the end I had to simplify them to ensure that I could complete my work in a limited time.
For the texture editing of scene buildings, I was lucky that I learned how to write and use the node material system in Unreal 4 engine on CGMA. I created an automatic vertex shading material, which can automatically identify the orientation of the model, and always add a layer of moss or dust directly above the model. I also made a vertex shading material, he can manually draw and blend 4 different textures, adding cracks or dirt to enrich the scene details. These can make the whole game scene more vivid and worth playing.
What is the process of creating these complex patterns on the gate? How did you make those beautiful materials and complex models?
There are many ways to make materials. Regarding those two-sided continuous materials, I chose a relatively traditional method. First, I made the high model in Maya 2018, then baked the normal, AO and ID map textures in Marmoset, then added the initial color and roughness details in Substance Designer, and finally added the metal in Substance Painter through ID map Part and more details. At the same time, I made two different types of materials for each tile to increase the reuse rate of the materials. I also made some complicated shapes or patterns in Substance Designer. Using the SVG node can help me easily create those complicated shapes.
I first tried to use some scanning techniques to create those complex statues in the scene. Reality capture can definitely save me a lot of time and energy. It can quickly and easily create almost any object I can find in real life in the game world. This process is so fun and enjoyable that I can hardly stop to scan all my hands and models into the game world.
I also used Zbrush to create the sculpture of the Centaur Warrior. I made some sketches of the concept of horsemen and warriors. I think our Mongolians are a nation on horseback. The concept of people and horses is very close to the world view I want to create. So I use it as an important symbolic element in the scene to improve the story of the game. It is difficult for me to spend too much time to carve a very delicate and realistic statue of a samurai warrior, because they are just weather-scarred sculptures. So I don’t need to pay too much attention to details, as long as I focus on the shaping of the outer contours, to ensure the correct proportions, the silhouettes of the characters are handsome, and finally add a layer of stone broken texture and cutting to complete their production.
How did you deal with the different vegetation in this space? It would be great if you could share some important lessons learned here and give us some suggestions on how to build these beautiful red flowers, how to work on trees and other things like ivy . How does it work in the game space?
There are many ways to make plants. I use Zbrush to sculpt the high model of those plants and draw the color, then bake it into a color, normal and transparent map, and import it into Substance Designer for the final synthesis to generate roughness And AO stickers. Of course, I also use SpeedTree to make all kinds of trees and shrubs.
Due to the large number of plants in this project, in order to quickly complete the production of plant materials, I chose to use scanning materials in Quixel Mixer to help me quickly create them. The software used to have to pay for points to download materials, but now it is completely open and free for all UE4 users, which is great news for each of our UE4 game developers.
I spent a lot of money in the massive material library of Quixel Mixer at that time to carefully select some of the plant materials I needed, and in Maya 2018, they cut the UV and modeled the models, and arranged them in groups. These plants. Then go in and modify the vertex normal to change the normal direction and vertex color, which can ensure that they have the correct display in UE4 and make dynamic swing effect.
Open Display-Polygon-Custom Polygon Display, adjust the parameters, and then select the open vertex normal of the plant in the display-polygon, so that you can see the normal direction of the plant. Next, we need to point their normals outward. Then create a sphere that also shows its normal direction.
Next, you need to shift the normal direction through. First make the normals that need to pass overlap, then select the sphere, then select the plant, click mesh-transfer attributes, select according to the graphics, and then start passing the vertex normals. After success, the normal direction of the plants will turn yellow, and then they will point out like the overlapping directions of the spheres.
Then you can change the vertex color of the plant. Make the model from the top to the bottom of the vertex color from green to black to form a gradient. In this way, it can be combined with the node material of Unreal 4 to make the plants swing with the wind. In the process of making rattan, I used the EP curve tool to draw the curve, and then made a 9-sided shape. I selected this curve, then selected 9 edges, and then used the extrusion tool to extrude the shape of the rattan along the curve.
When making various tree roots and rattan models, you can bind them with bones and brush some weights, which can greatly facilitate the later adjustment of shape and resource reuse. The placement of plants requires a certain sense of beauty and a lot of time, which is a test of the artist’s patience.
Finally, in UE4, I made the material Shader of the plant to realize the 3S translucent effect of the plant and the dynamic effect of swinging with the wind.
Obviously, for games, it is very important to have everything optimized and working properly. Can you talk about how you built the grid and figured out different technical limitations to optimize the environment?
Regarding scene optimization, in fact, my scene is not very complicated. I can ensure that this scene is basically guaranteed to be between 30 and 45 frames when running on my computer. When you can see the effect of a large area of water, the number of frames may fall to about 20 frames, so there is still a lot of room for optimization of sea surface materials. In addition, I did not use the now popular ray tracing technology in this scene, because I feel that this scene does not have too many high reflectivity things. Turning on ray tracing can get more accurate light and shadow, but the cost performance is too low. The effect is not very obvious.
How do you make floor materials? They look very interesting, with fallen leaves, dirt and rocks. How did you paint the entire space? I would love to hear your thoughts.
For the ground material, I used the Unreal 4 node material to make the surface material shader. Unlike ordinary vertex color materials, only 4 textures can be fused. The surface material shader can combine many different surface textures, it gives me more freedom to draw rich terrain. These materials are all from Quixel Mixer’s scanning material library.
In addition, according to my friend’s suggestion, I use the jitter node to make the rocks and the ground merge more naturally. This node is very simple, but very useful.
How did you design the lighting of these spaces? You have several lighting settings to show. Can you give us some tips on how you decide to approach lighting in this environment?
In terms of lighting, I started to study the lighting of Unreal 4 systematically in the late stage of making this scene, so at the beginning I also tried many different lighting effects to make this scene look more beautiful. Sometimes I even accidentally tuned the day to night, but unexpectedly got good results. Lighting is a science, and only through continuous experimentation and study to study the lighting settings in a large number of excellent games can the ideal effect be achieved. When setting the lights, it made me feel as if I had returned to the days of painting. With light, there is color, and color is actually building a heating and cooling system. In this regard, they have a lot in common.
At the same time I found many game screenshots and natural landscape photos as a reference for lighting. They gave me a direction and feeling. Of course, with the color lookup table in the later stage, it can also help me quickly achieve the desired effect.
For each type of light, I have adjusted and rendered more than 6 times just to achieve the result I want. Sometimes when you wake up and look at the previous rendering, you will find that there is something that is not satisfactory. So I will re-modify and render again, and then compare with the previous rendering to find room for improvement. I just want to say that you can always make your work better and better by changing it over and over again. This person who has work experience should understand. Good works are all changed.
In the end, I am very happy that Youzi.com gave me this opportunity to share my production experience and inspire. Nothing in this world is more exciting than a dream come true. I love my career very much, and hope to have more opportunities to participate in more powerful projects in the future to share my work and learning gains and experiences with you. Thanks to my family, friends, and hot money. I will continue to work hard!