I’ve been making the main trees in my diorama this week, something I’ve been looking forward to for a while.
I was heavily inspired by trees in The Witcher 3, and did some research to find that the trees I wanted to base mine around are called Scots Pines. They’re very cool, twisty and gnarly trees with extremely textured bark. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some really remind me of trees you would expect to see in an African bush kind of environment.
I really wanted to get the trees right because in the past I’ve always been disappointed with how my trees have looked, particularly with regards to how I texture the trunk and branches. Slapping a tilable on there looks awful, but trying to texture the whole thing as a unique is time consuming and ends up looking worse because I just rush. To reach a compromise, I decided to create a set of textures, both tilables and uniques, to quickly give the appearance of the tree being uniquely textured across the board. I’m so, so pleased with how it turned out. Like, I wanna wave these trees in people’s faces because I’m so proud of them.
I’m going to add some additional secondary and tertiary roots to the foreground tree, as the root systems for these trees are quite extensive. I’m also hoping to simplify the canopy texture so that it renders better at a distance. As you can see, the pine needles become very blobby from even a slight distance.
You may have noticed that I’ve pretty much completely rejigged the lighting of the scene. Initially, I wanted to make the lighting evening so that it was very warm and golden, however I find that evening lighting is very difficult to get right in UE4. It looked a little weird I realised, and was making the scene quite difficult to read. I’ve made the shadows more blue/purple, and changed the lighting over to a more midday-esque feel. This brings out the intended colours in the textures more, particularly the dragon which was losing the blueness I had wanted it to have. I’m much happier with it and will probably keep it this way.
As a result of changing the lighting, I’ve started playing about with the background colour again. It’s a tough one. The golden rule of pretty much anything visual is to not put things on a black background, however I actually quite like how this looks on black. For some reason, the sky colour is refusing to change according to the sun position like it should. It looks ok on an orangey background, but I’m going to fiddle with the skybox and test it on a blue sky later, as this will probably make the most sense to the viewer. I feel a blue sky will drown the blue of the dragon however.
I made a couple of changes to the water such as making the area covered by water larger, and also discovering a tickbox that makes the water actually render reflections properly, if subtly (screen space reflections).
I’ve also made the addition of more foliage! Lilies and lily pads, cattails, and ferns. The moss is starting to look a little weird now, so I want to edit that.
I have a few concerns with the dragon aspect of my diorama, and I’m not yet sure how to deal with them. I’ve had a few people look at the dragon and say thing like, ‘are you going to make the wings more real, like with sub surface scattering?’ or ‘why don’t you make the dragon breathe?’ and so on. I feel like an idiot when I explain for the fifth time that the dragon is meant to be made of stone but actually looks real, colours and all- it’s just stone to the touch. I’d totally have done all those things otherwise, I swear. But stone doesn’t breathe, doesn’t normally have SSS, and so on. I’m toying with the idea of just making it move like it’s alive, or assuming people will read the book excerpt I’ll include in the ‘game’.
Additionally, the dragon’s head is too low-resolution for my liking, and I’m not sure what to do. It looks a little out of place- literally like I’ve blown it up from a smaller size. I’m thinking maybe I could just take the head aspect of the dragon, increase the texture size and re-texture it, and then apply the head to a different material ID so the head only is much higher res. It means there is a head-sized section on the dragon texture which is being wasted and abandoned, but I don’t really see an alternative. There are a couple of further changes to make such as making the wings more detailed, and curving the horn on the dragon’s head to match the spines.
I’m starting to feel like the end is in sight, and I’m liking the scene a little more than I have in the past. I’m growing a bit concerned about the ever-growing polish list, but it’s easy for me to forget that I have roughly 4 weeks of polish for all of my dioramas. Time shouldn’t be a problem. I have a lot of gripes and frustrations about this scene… some things just don’t feel right… but I’m hoping I’ll overcome these problems by the end of my FMP. I’m feeling relatively optimistic. 🙂