Tag Archives: UE4

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In case you haven’t heard, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is a massive game.  Spanning multiple continents, the team at CD Projekt Red managed to create a world that  seethes with life and danger.  Utilizing the deepest integration of SpeedTree for Games that we’ve seen, the team managed to create 200+ (a rough estimate) varieties of plant life to match the different biomes and seasons that Geralt encounters.  The design of these forests deftly pulls the player into the game, serving the overall design aesthetic. We spoke with Michał Buczkowski, senior environment artist at CD Projekt Red about how they used SpeedTree to create this vibrant world

On the Diversity of Foliage and Landscapes:

We’ve used around 20 species of large trees and bushes, and from a handful up to over a dozen different models for each species. Apart from that we’ve used 40 grass varieties and upwards of a dozen different types of subaqueous plants. All of that is supplemented with a range of other types of vegetation, including blooming plants, creepers and vines, organic debris, and vegetables – a handful of different models for each. Lootable herbs are a separate subset, numbering around 50 varieties.

In terms of biomes, we’ve depicted low and highland temperate landscapes in their open and half-forested terrain varieties and in two different versions – winter and non-winter. There are also temperate zone forests, swampland, temperate zone mountainous landscapes, subaqueous environments, cultivated gardens and urban biomes, and last but not least, singular landscapes like deformed forests and other-worldly terrain.

So as you can see, believable variety was a goal we set for ourselves as much as it was a story requirement. I believe we succeeded in fulfilling both.

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On managing economy and art direction for their trees:

Based on what we did years ago to create the trees and other vegetation for The Witcher and The Witcher 2, I could estimate the sheer “volumes” involved, that is to say, the number of polygons required for the desired LOD and stipulated overdraw burden. The models were then executed to fulfill these requirements while providing the best possible final in-game quality. But the latter step only became possible once we gained a thorough understanding of SpeedTree, its mechanisms, (and) how it works.

On their approach to using the SpeedTree Modeler:

In our incessant search for improvements, we used the SpeedTree modeler somewhat unusually: namely, to create hi-poly models of tree limbs, and then to render textures onto them. We could then take these hi-poly models and control and adjust parameters like branch thickness or leaf density before re-rendering.

Production times to model each individual tree species varied. For medium-sized and large trees, it took 3-4 days to produce the hi-poly model and any textures it required (leaves, flowers, and the like), the texture of the trunk as a normal-map was another 2 days, then we spent an additional 2-3 days adjusting the model for export into a game asset.

The process was not without its hurdles or difficulties. In the preparation of hi-poly scenes, they included the manner in which we had to distribute elements across the rendered area, the fact that there was no way to save the camera position in the plane, non-perspectival view, and others. Needless to say it required a bit of trickery on our part, which added to the time commitment. But all’s well that ends well, right?

…we used procedural generation for small and mid-sized trees and shrubs. More often than not, we opt for hand-drawing and editing large, landmark trees like oaks and, of course, whenever a hi-poly model was required.

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On creating natural feeling worlds:

My assumption from the start was to create a world filled with vegetation that seemed real. The species we selected to accomplish that, when assembled and composed, were to generate the impression of real, believable environments.

That was the crux, that was our focus. And with that in mind, each and every randomly added element stood the chance of destroying that impression of naturalness. This is where the artists who distributed the models across the levels and locations did an absolutely masterful job. Our own in-house concept art and more general reference material (including painted works of art) provided a framework and informed our choices in terms of the type of vegetation (assets) we set out to produce. It was then up to location designers, with their skills and talent, to assemble those into the landscapes you see.

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The latest iteration of Unreal Engine includes the addition of some new powerful tools for foliage with open world games in mind.  Populating the landscape with trees requires more than just randomly dropping your assets on a map. It’s about crafting and controlling the world your players inhabit.  Placing your foliage using UE 4.8 procedural tools will allow you to create a very natural looking landscape without sacrificing control.

With games like Ark: Survival Evolved being built in a matter of months in Unreal Engine 4, we’re starting to see more large scale games coming out of the indie developer realm.

Procedural Foliage Generator

The new procedural foliage generator uses the expanded properties of foliage type assets to intelligently populate and area with multiple species of trees.  Simply create a new foliage type asset and add the foliage of your choice.  The free sample SpeedTrees work great as do any of the assets from our store or one that you’ve made yourself.  Once you’ve created the new foliage type it can be added to the procedural foliage generator.  The parameters for how the foliage is generated are located in the foliage type allowing you to adjust how multiple plants spawn in one generator.

Landscape Grass Tools

Grass can now be added to a material allowing you automatically spawn grass over certain textures.  For instance, if your material included gravel and grass textures you can set grass assets to automatically spawn on any areas painted with the grass texture.  This can allow you to quickly create large grassy areas without having to paint foliage or placing them by hand.

Landscape Grass Renderer

This new system dynamically renders grass and ground clutter meshes around the player based on the density map created using the new grass tools.  According to the release notes:

  • As the player moves through the world, new instances are added, and instances no longer in range are removed.
  • Artists author grass density through the landscape material, by outputting density to a Landscape Grass Output node. This allows the grass placement to match the terrain texturing!
  • Grass instances are procedurally generated by a background task according to the grass density map.
  • Grass is efficiently rendered using a hierarchical instancing system that implements culling while keeping draw calls to a minimum. LOD transitions are per-pixel and fairly seamless due to Temporal AA.

Check out the full 4.8 release notes

To learn more about how the new tools work check out these brief tutorials on the UE4 forums and be sure to catch the two-part breakdown of how the team at Unreal Engine made the Kite Demo, including using SpeedTree for their trees.

 

Lucy James hosts the weekly web series Reality Check on Gamespot.com and uses the series to illuminate the technology and science behind everyone’s favorite video games.  After exploring some of the techniques that make open world games like The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt possible she delved further into two of the middleware tools involved: SpeedTree and Umbra.

Middleware is not often mentioned in the development in games but with the constantly increasing scale and complexity of games these tools enable studios to focus on bringing more content and features in a shorter amount of time without skimping on design.  SpeedTree for Games has been a part of a growing list of AAA blockbuster titles and now with the inclusion of SpeedTree in Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 4 we are seeing more use in the indie realm as small studios use SpeedTree to match their ambitious goals. Umbra is an Occlusion culling tool that is used in countless titles to increase performance by intelligently removing what isn’t visible by the camera.

If you’ve been unsure about how middleware and SpeedTree in particular fits into the world of games, be sure to check out the video above for a great summary of what we do and why so many studios and artists have made SpeedTree the industry standard in vegetation modeling tools.

Keep an eye out for more great stuff from Lucy James and Gamespot: http://www.gamespot.com/shows/reality-check/

Asset store

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We’ve updated our modeler for Unreal Engine 4. This update fixes several bugs as well as bringing  improvements to how the modeler handles light mapping and an additional LOD.

If you are currently a subscriber, simply log-in to your account on our store to download the update.

New Features

1. More LODs for UE4 Modeler
You can now enable 4 LODs if you disable billboards.

2. Light mapping improvements:

  • Generating two sided meshes now works with light mapping.
  • Option to back out of light mapping on save.
  • General performance improvment.

Bug Fixes

1. Current Mesh Replacement
Generating a mesh and replacing the current one no longer causes an issue with quads.

2. Displaying Normals Correctly
Deleted nodes no longer show normals.

3. Tree Generator Locked
The tree generator cannot be deleted.

4. Light mapping fixes:

  • The Modeler does not hang when computing light maps.
  • A bug that was causing a crash during computation has been eliminated.

 (Previous changelogs can be found here)

SpeedTree has been directly integrated into Unreal Engine 4 and has enabled game developers and Arch/viz designers to take advantage of the same set of tools and technology used by AAA studios for titles like The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Far Cry 4, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.  SpeedTree is also the same tool used to by VFX studios in blockbusters like The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. 

Learn more about our SpeedTree Modeler and Drop in ready Assets available on our store.

Witcher Sale Slider

To celebrate the world that CD Projekt Red has created in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, we are putting our UE4 and Unity 5 Asset packages on sale at our Speedstore for 55% off until Tuesday May 26th.

As usual, our packages come with all the features that make SpeedTrees more than just a static mesh:

  • Tuned lightmap UVs for UE4, all LODs
  • Seasonal variations
  • Collision objects
  • Tuned LOD transitions
  • Tuned wind effects
  • Preset ambient occlusion
  • Leaf map maker SPM files
  • Branch seam blending used

Want to create limitless variations of these trees or tweak them in any way? A Modeler subscription will get the job done

Asset store

Hero Tree Package                                                       $53.55

Hero Tree Package 2                                                    $53.55

Desktop Tree Package                                                 $71.55

Desktop Tree Package 2                                              $71.55

Desktop Ground Cover Package                             $44.55

Desktop Ground Cover Package 2                         $44.55

Desktop Grass Package                                              $12.15

Mobile Tree Package                                                   $58.05

Mobile Ground Cover Package                               $44.55

Mobile Grass Package                                                $10.00

SpeedTrees for Unity                                SpeedTrees for Unreal Engine 4

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBoCRYX6Vq0

 

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When building the ultimate game engine for open world RPGs, CD Projekt Red chose SpeedTree for Games to incorporate into REDengine 3.  Their goal was to create a toolkit that would enable them to handle the challenges of building an expansive open world that allowed for a compelling narrative, balancing freedom with story line, complexity with focus. The sheer size and scope of what they accomplished is staggering and is one of the most extensive integrations of SpeedTree that we have seen.

With 52 square miles of a densely populated game world, integration of our SpeedTree for Games SDK into REDengine 3 allowed the developers to take full advantage of our tools.  We like to think of SpeedTree as a well made paintbrush. It’s a tool that both streamlines workflow while increasing artistic freedom.  In “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt” we see it being used masterfully.

The war-torn countryside utilizes different levels of foliage to create a sense of scale and depth in the world, the foliage is varied not just by species but by size. This leaves the player feeling dwarfed by enormous pine trees or lost in a field of high grass and flower.  Using custom tools to determine the placement of foliage based on factors such as water accumulation and light distribution, they’ve managed to create and incredibly natural feeling landscape. The grasses, brush, and tall grass blend together to form one landscape.  The lighting and dynamic weather accentuates the mood of the terrain with the grass rustling in the wind as a storm approaches and dying down as the clouds break and the sun returns. The result is a world that strikes a balance of feeling unstaged but compelling. Inviting you to go off course and explore while at the same time enhancing the mood of quests and creating a framework to immerse you in the story.  The era of open world games is upon us and “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt” elevates the modern open world game from a concept to an art form.

Learn more about what we offer with SpeedTree for Games and check out the screenshots from our first few hours in the world of “The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt”.

Also, be sure to check out our Witcher 3 Asset Sale!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBoCRYX6Vq0

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Asset store

As Unity and UE4 are being used for more diverse applications we’ve seen an increase in the demand for our hero model trees for arch/viz renderings as well as just highly detailed scenes.  We’ve taken nine of our most popular trees and put together a package of Hero models that include multiple seasons and age ranges.  More than just a static mesh, these trees come with all the features you’ve come to expect from SpeedTrees including Tuned wind, LOD transitions, ambient occlusion, and collision objects. To celebrate their release they are hitting the stores on sale for only $89 for one week (regular $119).

Hero Tree Package available from our store

Trees Included

  • Alaska Cedar (3 models – Full, Bare, and Juvenile)
  • American Elm (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)
  • Colorado Blue Spruce (3 models – Full, Bare, and Winter)
  • Douglas Fir (3 models – Full, Bare, and Juvenile)
  • European White Birch (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)
  • London Plane (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)
  • Red Maple (6 models – Summer, Autumn, Winter, Juvenile Summer, Juvenile Autumn, and Juvenile Winter)
  • Scots Pine (3 models – Full, Bare, and Winter)
  • White Oak (3 models – Summer, Autumn, and Winter)

1. Alaska Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

This slow-growing, false cypress is native to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. It is known by many names including Yellow-Cedar, Alaska Cypress, and Nootka Cypress. It has long, drooping branches with long flat sprays.

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2. American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Also known as the ‘White Elm’, this deciduous tree forms a spreading canopy. It is a hardy tree and can thrive in cold or harsh winter climates. For that reason they are often planted and thrive in the upper northeastern US.

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3. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

A large evergreen native to the Rocky Mountains and other parts of western North America, this spruce varies in color from gray-green to nearly bright blue, giving it its name.

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4. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

This tree that required the creation of its own genus (Pseudotsuga) is not a true fir. Douglas Firs are large, stately trees that can reach impressive heights of over 100 meters. They are endemic to the western US.

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5. European White Birch (Betula pendula)

This common European tree (also called Silver Birch) is characterized by its white bark that is spotted with black diamond-shaped marks. The bark color along with its slender and gracefully drooping branches make it a popular ornamental world-wide. The European white birch is a medium-sized deciduous tree, typically reaching heights of 49 to 82 ft (15 to 25 m) with a slender trunk usually under 16 in (40 cm) diameter.

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6. London Plane (Platanus acerifolia)

The London Plane is the European version and close relative of the American Sycamore. This large tree is stately and attractive, most notably because of its scaly jigsaw bark.

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7. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple is one of the most wide-spreading trees in the eastern US, stemming from its ability to survive under a variety of conditions. Its leaves, as its name implies, turn a brilliant red in the fall.

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8. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The Scotch or Scots Pine is native to Scotland and can grow up to 25m in height. Scots Pine is used heavily in timber products and is planted commercially for this purpose.

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9. White Oak (Quercus alba)

A large oak that often grows to have an irregular, wide spreading crown and a stocky base. White oaks are native to all regions of the eastern US.

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What Files Are Included?

  • 30 individual tree models
  • 229 unique high-resolution diffuse, normal, and specular maps
  • 31 leaf map maker SPM files (utilities for easily creating and adjusting leaf-group textures, Modeler subscription needed)

Extras

What makes SpeedTree models so special? How many features are packed into each model? Details here.

  • Seasonal variations
  • Collision objects
  • Tuned LOD transitions
  • Tuned wind effects
  • Preset ambient occlusion
  • Leaf map maker SPM files
  • Branch seam blending used

Want to create limitless variations of these trees or tweak them in any way? A Modeler subscription will get the job done.

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Often times the best use of SpeedTree in VFX is the one where you aren’t quite sure if it was used at all.  Sure there are dramatic cases like “Noah“, but you may have seen several tv shows and movies already this year and not even noticed the SpeedTrees.  That being said, when you go see “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” this weekend (which you should) keep an eye peeled.  We received word from Industrial Light and Magic that SpeedTree was used extensively in a certain scene taking place in a dense forest.

As movie fans, we’ve been fortunate to be a part of some of the biggest movies of the past few years as well as being honored with an Academy Award.  So far, this year is shaping up to be even busier for SpeedTree in theatres. As the summer blockbuster season kicks off, expect to see a lot more movies coming out that take advantage of SpeedTree to create the spectacular scenes that capture audiences imagination.

Learn more about SpeedTree for Cinema

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