It’s been quite a while since I posted my “final shots”. I’ve been very busy with post GDC fun including but not limited to art tests, emails, and Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 3 is so good, I’ll probably post my thoughts about both that game and the series as a whole later on. Today is dedicated to a Post Mortem for my Cabin in the Woods. A few more shots can be found at my portfolio site.
Initially, this project was suppose to be completed in a month and I think parts of that show. The layout isn’t something that I spent weeks thinking and planning out, my trees are not fantastic (pointed out during GDC) and there is no real superior prop in the scene. Texture re-use might be apparent if you’re looking for it. At the same time, a lot of these choices were intentional for trying to get this done in a fast time frame.
On the flip side, since the Digital Armada project I worked on pushed this back, I was given an extra 2 or 3 weeks to polish up some textures and props. I think the cabin and the area around the cabin and waterfall received the most attention in that time frame. With out that extra time, I can’t say I would have managed to get the level of polish in those areas that I did.
One of the parts I’m happiest with in this scene is the lighting. I’m not a lighting artist yet (like my Lead at Bend, Francois) but taking some cues from how lightning was done on Golden Abyss, I decided to do this all 100% dynamically. During the day this would require one shadow casting Dominant Directional and then some point lights for bounce lights. Night caused some fun little problems. I still used the Dominant Directional for the main shadows from them moon. I used a Sky Light as a basic fill light to brighten the scene some. From there, I lit based on where the lights from the lanterns were. I guess I could get more in depth with my lighting, but suffice to say that I used quite a few bounce lights, some shadow casting point lights, and a lot of lighting channels to light only props. For example, in the shot above take a look at the cabin. I have two spot lights from the top highlighting the silhouette of the cabin. I have two spots shining on the front of the cabin to brighten it up from the distance. These lights are casting only on the cabin via UDK’s lighting channels. Very useful, very powerful stuff.
One of the many new tricks I used in this scene was fog volumes. I used them around the lights as a sort of atmospheric effect. It also helped fake bloom more since I was unable to crank it very high in this scene. After some feedback from GDC, I used it around the butterflies as well. To make up for adding the fog bloom, I toned down the emissive power in the shader for the wings.
And of course, the waterfall. I’m still immensely proud that I animated that through the use of masks. I made my own water shader!! BOOYA!!
Overall, I’m very proud of this scene. There are some things I would like to change if I get the chance, but for now it’s time to move on. I think this scene proves a few things about my skills. I can model and texture, and I know how to reuse textures and create tiling textures well. I am very proficient using what Unreal has to offer and just love the engine. I also know how to create a great sense of atmosphere. That was one of the comments I received at GDC often, that this scene is very atmospheric. I am proud of the work I did.