Having ended up a little behind schedule last week, I spent some of this week frantically trying to catch up and get back on schedule. This namely involved finishing the windows that I had made a start on so that most of the room itself was complete, bar the roof tiles and the tear-away area below the floor.
I feel that I have rushed quite a few of the assets and textures so far, but have every intention of coming back round and improving/tidying/fixing these things in the future. This may be at the end of the current 5 week period if I have time, or during the polish time I have allocated to myself after all the dioramas are done. In the screenshot above, you can see at the bottom that there is now a ‘To Polish’ section. Here I am listing everything that I feel could use a little TLC down the line.
Once again I feel that I have bitten off more than I can chew with this project. I have too many assets to create in the given time, and I am finding that I’m rushing things a little despite my intention from the outset to not rush things; quality over quantity. This is mostly down to my choice of texturing style. I am Zbrushing most of my assets, in addition to creating roughness, metalness, albedo, etc. maps. Because I am not hugely strong in this method of creating assets, I’m finding that things aren’t looking how I want. The wall texture is a good example of this. Part of me wishes I’d chosen to just hand-paint things. However, I’m still really enjoying the challenge and learning new things, and I still feel that this style better suits the atmosphere I’m trying to create.
Going back to the windows in my scene, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the glass and lead turned out. Like I did with foliage, I used The Witcher 3 as a big source of inspiration for my creation of the windows. Several times, I’ve stopped to marvel at how well done the glass shader is in particular. It really drew me into the game, and I wanted to try and create something at least remotely similar.
I sculpted the lead in Zbrush to create the effect of strips that have been melted together, and then created a basic shader in UE4 for the glass using various documents and tutorials online. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Since UE4 has updated to 10.2 transparent materials have become much easier to create thankfully. There is a secondary plane in front of the glass material which I have added a dirty mask to, which gives the glass another dimension of realness. That’s still a placeholder though and needs updating.
Factored into my schedule this week was also various drapery assets. I made these using the cloth modifier in 3dsMax, which I am very comfortable with using. I’ve found that it doesn’t suit certain things that I’m trying to create (or, more likely I don’t understand it fully). For instance a blanket on the window seat looks very odd when made using the cloth modifier, and so I’ll be coming back to that after some consideration.
The curtains were relatively easy to make, and they also blow gently in the wind thanks to the APEX plugin for 3dsMax which is supported inside UE4. It doesn’t fully do what I want, as the wind is not gusty but just a very slightly fluctuating strength, but I think I may be able to improve this with some Blueprint work later down the line. The curtain movement is the first step in creating the dynamic diorama I am aiming for, and I really want it to look how I imagine.
Though the actual creation of the drapes and rugs went smoothly, the texture creation was something that stopped the progress of my project for a while. In Robin Hobb’s description of the room, the curtains are described as being ‘woven in geometric patterns that somehow suggested fields of flowers beneath a blue sky’. I tried to stay true to this by researching weaving patterns and such, so I could create a texture that actually mimics real life weaving techniques. This quickly became difficult when I got down to actually trying to make the texture though, as it looked very messy and unpleasant, particularly with a normal map applied. I feel that even in more realistic games, fabric has to be stylised to an extent or it begins to look messy and fake.
Next, I tried to create a more stylised geometrical texture;
This just looked like something from IKEA though, and looked really silly in the scene. I was very unhappy with how it looked. After some consideration, I decided to create something much more abstract. Though it wasn’t true to the book, it was easier on the eye and sat better in the scene. The same went for the other fabric designs around the scene. Since I want the whole diorama to be very soft, having strong geometrical patterns and stand-out designs on assets would detract from this feeling. I guess it’s just one of many artistic compromises I’ll have to make to keep my scenes successful.
Overall I’m pretty happy with where my diorama is going, however I can still see every little rushed thing and it’s all blaringly obvious to me. I’m also not 100% sure if everything is sitting together right yet, so if anyone has any comments or critique I’d be very appreciative. I’m happiest with the atmosphere so far, which was the main intent of this project so I can’t complain too much. I’m just hoping I’ll be able to put my finger on what doesn’t feel right eventually, and then I can look into fixing it as soon as possible.