Unreal Shader v0.9 for MODO

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to develop a good asset authoring workflow for UnrealEngine 4. I looked at several possible solutions but none of them seemed good enough for my purpose: prohibitive cost and multiple asset transfer steps were the most common problems.

At the end I decided to make it as simple as possible using software I already own: Model and texture everything in MODO and export to UE4 while doing the purely 2D image editing in PhotoLine*.

The trouble was that MODO’s standard surface material is not physically based so baking it’s properties won’t yield textures usable in Unreal. So I took a big breath, fired up the C++ SDK and made a custom material: it allows me to texture a model in a physically based manner with the preview viewport providing near realtime feedback. The look in MODO is quite close to the result in Unreal:

High detail mesh in MODO

Low detail mesh in MODO

Low detail mesh in UE4

Most of the differences can be attributed to the different ways they handle the environment. (Extra highlights due to unclamped HDRI and less color contribution in MODO.)

The custom material is available for download on the UnrealShader for MODO page. It’s not feature complete and will see some more tweaking but should be already useful for creating opaque objects.


* Photoline is a great piece of software, I recommend it to anyone not happy with Photoshop.

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Status report

Drone Alone is progressing steadily: I finished several subsystems including enemies, navigation for aerial units, missions and weapons. Unfortunately I’ve encountered two showstopper engine bugs which hindered development in the past couple of weeks, so I moved on to the asset authoring phase for the time being.

The first step there was creating the layout of the apartment based on references and gameplay experience from the test level. Here is the top down view of the blocked out map, rendered in modo:

Originally I wanted multiple floors but they caused path finding issues after the navigation system was massaged to support flying pawns, not to mention the challenge of ground units dealing with stairs.

Although you can’t tell from that image but I finally settled on the art style for the project: Formica Punk, a retro future based on late 70’s, early 80’s technology. The idea came from Bouletcorp’s excellent comic strip.

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Drone Alone v0.11

In v0.11 the Thruster engine is tweaked to be less floaty and a first person camera was added to make it easier to fly around with said engine.

The project now has it’s own page where you’ll find installation instructions, changelog, etc.

Finally here is a video of v0.11:

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Drone Alone v0.1

The first public build is available:

Drone Alone v0.1 (Windows, 74 MB)

Installation

Extract the archive to an empty folder then start the game with the executable:
DroneAlone_v0.1 \ DroneAlone \ Binaries \ Win64 \ DroneAlone.exe

This version is for testing drone engines and controls: a series of balloons are placed on the map and they pop if the drone touches them. Try to finish the course as fast as you can.
The J/K/L keys switch between propeller/thruster/pulse engines. The I key inverts vertical looking. Escape closes the game.
There are no real weapons yet, only a nudger trace is produced on left click.

Ideas, opinions and suggestions are welcome in the official forum thread.

http://www.zspline.net/blog/wp-content/gallery/dronealone/DroneAlone09.png

Read more: Overview / Controls and engines / Environment / Technical details

EDIT: Fixed download link.

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Bugs, delay

For the last week I’ve been battling with two show-stopper bugs in the Unreal Engine: one in v4.1.1 and another in v4.2. The second one is my bigger concern right now so I’m trying to find some kind of a workaround but it’s a tough nut to crack.

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Drone Alone: Technical details

Since I’m still learning the tricks and best practices of the engine there have been and probably will be extensive changes in the implementation but here is how things are set up at the moment.

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Drone Alone: The environment

The game currently has a single, blocked out test map where I’m experimenting with different kind of spaces to see what works. For example a room too densely packed with furniture might be difficult to navigate without bumping into stuff. Too big and open areas could look empty and provide little cover.

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Drone Alone: Engines and controls

The hero of the game is a general purpose home security drone with different engine modules. Each engine has the following properties:

  • Size
    Self explanatory. With a big engine the drone is easier to hit by enemy fire and might not fit through tight openings.
  • Speed
    How fast it moves on the three axes.
  • Inertia
    How much it drifts before stopping.
  • Stability
    How stable the drone is while standing still. Low stability means small random movements while floating, making aiming more difficult.
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