Unreal Engine 3: Adding foliage and rocks
Rob Redman adds foliage and rocks in part three of our video tutorial series for creating a playable level in Unreal Engine, using free assets and ones provided...
In this part of the series we will look at how to start populating a level with assets, from rocks and boulders to swathes of plants, trees and more. We will use existing assets for this, moving on to creating our own for game use at a later date. I've created a small level for this, just to make it easier for the tutorial, but go ahead and continue working in your own level, if you've been following along.
Gather and load your assets
From the Unreal loader, grab any assets you'd like to use from the marketplace and then you will find them in the library section. From here it's a simple matter of clicking Add To Project and choosing the correct one from the drop-down.
Load up your level in the UE4 editor and you should see the assets, in their ordered hierarchies, in the content browser.
Simple mesh placement
Let's start by adding a few large rocks. Navigate through the object browser and find a rock you wish to place. I've gone for the ground reveal from the kite demo content here but you can use any, or a mix.
What's important here is that you place the object so that it intersects with the ground properly. You'll notice a yellow border around the rock (if selected). Move around the rock and make sure that the yellow line is dotted where it meets the landscape object, or another mesh if you are stacking them. This will ensure you don't get any odd lighting artefacts, as well as physics problems later on.
Setting up the first foliage brush
If you followed earlier parts of this, the foliage brush will feel familiar, as the controls are similar to the landscape brushes.
First up, move to the foliage brush and in the field that says '+Add Foliage Types' drag in your chosen plants from the object browser. You can load many, but I'm going to start with some simple grassy patches with a few flowers in to start.
Now you can set your brush size and paint density, which controls the amount of foliage actually added with each stroke. Instances wont overlap, so don't be too worried about overdoing the density.
The key to natural scenes like this is planned variation. If you were to just add all your foliage assets to one brush and paint across the level it wouldn't look right, so try to add specific plants to certain areas. I wanted to guide the player through the lowest part of the level, so I used a selection of ferns to create a soft, organic feeling either side, as a visual cue. With the grass and flowers on the 'path' things are starting to come together.
It's often good to add a small number of more recognizable scenery elements to a level, be it trees, buildings or some other structure. This helps the player locate themselves and gain a better understanding of the environment they are playing in. For such a small level there isn't much needed or possible, but a couple of large trees works well.
It's at this point where you can go to town, really adding some personality to your level. We will work with our own assets we build later on, but for now there are many options to choose from the marketplace. I'm aiming for a fantasy role-play type feel, so bones half-buried and stonework are in order. The key to this working is to try and tell a story. Is there an evil warlord or a benevolent king? That sort of thing. Keep your theme in mind as next time we will be working on some lighting and visual effects to sell our story to its fullest.
Top tip: Asset types
When using the content browser you can quickly identify types of asset, such as, texture, material or mesh, by the coloured bar at the bottom of its icon. This makes hunting through large directories much faster and easier.