My Diorama; Progress!

It’s no secret that I’ve been working on a personal project. I’ve spent the last two months shouting about how I’d rather be working on it. Since last week I’ve been cracking on, so I thought I’d share how it’s going with you before I head off home tomorrow for a week. I’d also like to come out and apologise for my last two horrendously long blog posts. Everything is back to normal now. Last time I mentioned my project, I hadn’t even made the base for my tile sculpt! I’ve moved well on since then. I’ll start with where I’m at right now;

Capture I’ve done some TEXTURING. Finally! This is what it looks like in UE4 so far, though I’ve only textured the tiles. I downloaded a trial of Substance Painter, and had a go at texturing with it. It’s such an amazing piece of software, but I’m still trying to get my head around it for the most part. It’s been pretty easy to learn up to now and I’m really enjoying it. I’m so excited to start working on the shopfronts themselves, but I need to be patient and try to work out how I’m going to texture that sandstone base first! I’ll have to do a fair bit of research.

Capture When I last left off I don’t think I had even started retopologising anything yet. To do that, I went into 3D Coat, another new piece of software for me. I think in hindsight I could have used some quicker methods to retopologise the mesh, but I’ll try those next time. It also took a while because I had to break up my model into parts that would retopologise, sculpt, and texture effectively. For instance, when I was texturing in Painter, painting onto one of the falling tiles would also paint onto the floor mesh under it, whether I worked on the 3D model or on the UVs. I didn’t want that, so I had to go back into Max and use material IDs to break the mesh apart further so that I could hide bits in Painter that I didn’t want to paint. The general learning curve of all these softwares also took a long while, so it’s been slow progress.

Capture Speaking of new software taking ages to learn, the next one I had to learn was Topogun for baking my maps. I’d heard so much from multiple people about it’s baking power (cake, anyone?), that I had to try it. I avoided it at first, but when I finally did give it a go, I was astounded at it’s ease to use. And it’s so fast! An AO map that would take an hour in Max takes literally 3 minutes. Not to mention that it easily handled my 10 million poly meshes. I still spent at least a day baking maps, re-baking them, and re-baking them as I learned new things. (Helpful tip- flip the green channel when baking normals for Unreal! It took too long for me to work this out.) Then there was compositing everything in Photoshop, which was a real headache.

Capture There was then a bit of back-and-forthing between Photoshop and Painter to work out what I was doing, but overall Painter was pretty intuitive too. I love being able to paint directly onto a model, and painting with albedo, metalness, and roughness all at once is just amazing. It really helps with the creative block that can come from painting an albedo, and then trying to shape a roughness around it. The ability to paint into a normal map with a bump brush is also fantastic, because if you’re painting in the albedo, and then add something on the spur of the moment, you can easily rectify the normal map to match. I did this with the red clay showing inside the broken tiles.

Capture2 My only real grumble with Painter is that if you have two textures on a single model, such as with mine, you can’t paint over the seam where these textures meet. So I have no idea how I’m going to get around that one. It’s something that the developers say is on a to-do list of features that need adding, but I need it nooooow! Ah well, it’ll be fine. I’ll work it out. 🙂 Problem solving is fun. It also keeps me up at night. So, I need to spend some time creating the texture for the stone, and then I’ll be good to move on to the shop fronts! I don’t know whether to do one building part at a time, or to create all the stone elements at once, all the wooden ones, and so on. I’ll think about that when I’m further into my current asset. As it stands, I’m really pleased with how it’s going. At first I was panicking about what style I should do, as I shy away from PBR but do not feel that full hand-painting would fully suit a UE4 scene. I’ve settled into a handpainted mostly-realistic PBR kinda thing. Substance painter helps a lot with most of the issues I’ve had with PBR. I’m going to keep some stylisation in the colours, shapes, textures, etc. though. I’m interested to see where it will go. I’ve also been thinking a little more about my FMP and what I could do.

I’ve started playing WoW a bit (I’m not addicted yet!), and I adore the colour-zoned areas created throughout the world. Something like that would be super cool. All hand-painted and such. Or maybe something like this project’s style, but with similar super stylised colours. I know one thing for sure; it’s going to be hanging very heavily on colour, colour colour! I’m scared.

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