This project is available now to all active Unreal Engine 4 subscribers on Marketplace. The following guest blog post by Allegorithmic's Substance Specialist Jeremie NOGUER.
We have been using Unreal Engine at Allegorithmic for a very long time. Actually, the first ever Unreal Engine 3 game released - Roboblitz - was built entirely using Allegorithmic's parametric textures at the time.
The idea behind this new project was to create a full scale next gen environment very quickly by using Material generators built in Substance while getting more familiar with the new Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) workflows.
We wanted the environment to show off the new physically-based shading in UE4, and going for a mix of metallic surfaces, ancient stones and a wet look would allow us to get some great Material definition.
After an initial concept phase, most of the assets were sculpted in ZBrush first, and then ambient occlusion, curvature, normal and position maps were baked in Substance Designer.
90% of the assets were then textured using the same 3 Material generators: Metal, Stone and Moss. These custom generators use the baked inputs to drive all sorts of effects and create realistic and consistent Materials across the scene with minimal manual work.
Thanks to the free Substance plugin for UE4, we could then import the Substance files in the scene and still have access to all the parameters of the textures to keep on tweaking while seeing the final result in real-time in Unreal Editor. Having access to all these parameters allowed us to create very simple and efficient master Materials.
Download Size Reduction
A side effect of using Substances is that those are pretty much always smaller than their standard texture counterparts. On the Atlantis project, the textures are shrunk from 2GB to a bit more than 50MB once the project is packaged for shipping.
This is not compression though, and there is no quality loss compared to standard textures. The gain in size comes from the fact that Substance files are stored as a parametric description of the textures rather than the textures themselves. The Substances are generated once during the first level loading and there is no further performance hit from using them.
Lighting & Effects
Only a few lights were needed to light the scene correctly using Lightmass. A main sunlight floods the room from above and the light bounces do the rest. A few more Static and Stationary Lights allowed us to fake lighting coming from the glowing blue elements, balancing the main yellowish light with some light blue tones.
The falling water adds a dynamic touch and the physics applied on those particles do a good job at making the simulation more believable. A few additional dust and fog lit particle system also add a thicker atmosphere to the darker parts of the room.