Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Sculpting a landscape in the Unreal Engine - Part 1

I begin by creating a blank environment that has absolutely nothing in it. The first thing I do is choose the landscape button, which is the little mountain range symbol in the top left of the window.

From here, I am shown a set of options and values that determine how big I want to make my initial landscape. Each of the green squares in the picture above is called a quad. A quad represents a single area of land that can be edited or deleted.. I have set my landscape quads at 8 x 8.

Once this step is confirmed we are ready to begin sculpting. The landscape that was initially green turns grey and becomes rather like a large sheet of cloth that we can manipulate. We do this by using a range of brushes that pull peaks up, lower them, flatten them off or fill holes. We can alter the size and effectiveness of our brush to pick out small details or affect large areas. We can gently and subtly alter landscape features or create bold new ones.

For the zombie game I am making, I want the player to be confined within the bounds of the landscape. In the picture above I have started to create impassable mountains around the edges of the area. This should keep the player 'inside' the play area. The small canyon like area above is the starting area for the player. 

I continue to work my way around the edges of the quads, creating cliffs and mountains....

using different sized brushes to get different landscape effects.

If I hold shift and click the left mouse button with the brush tool, I can lower the landscape level rather than raise it. This is good for creating deep crevasses and valleys. 

I can use a particular brush setting to 'pinch' at the peaks I have modeled , which creates a sharp mountain range.

I do a quick test and run the level with my avatar character. This will tell me if there are any gaps that I can slip through and fall off the edge of the level. If there are, I need to alter this by raising the land level and keeping the player confined.

Whilst testing, I find a point where the land level is so steep I can't climb out if I jump down there.

To remedy this, I use the clay tool which fills holes with a virtual liquid.

This fills the hole and creates land layers that I can gradually build to make a more managable slope for my character.

After a little effort with the clay brush, I have a good slope and a potentially interesting gameplay feature.

The land looks a bit flat, so I gently pass over it with low strength brush to create bumps and ridges.

I really want to have more areas to explore than just the main play area, so I set about making slopes and hills to explore around the edges of the game.

I wanted at least one area that could not be seen from the large main play area. To do this I made a slope in the hillside and a large wall of mountains to hide it from view. 

Above is my finished model. Next, I want to begin texturing it.

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