Join Craig Barr for an in-depth discussion in this video Landscape tool modes, part of Unreal Essential Training.
- The landscape tools in Unreal Engine 4 contain a panel of different tools or modes for the creation and editing of landscape environments. Let's take a look at what each mode is and how they work. So the first thing we're going to do is we're going to create a base, simple, new level. So I'm just going to go up to the file menu. I'm going to click "new level". And we're going to start with just simply this default level here. So as you can see we have our default floor plane, and our default player start. Now, we want to start with a clean, fresh level here because we're just going to go over the landscape modes and why they're important in the overall context of the environment with Unreal Engine 4.
Now the first thing that we're going to do is take a look at how this operates within Unreal Engine. Landscape, or the creation of landscape within the context of a game engine, is actually very important, because it's more than just creating a static piece of geometry with a static set of textures or a simple material applied. There's actually quite a robust system behind the scenes going on here. The reason why it's important to understand and utilize the power of the landscape mode within Unreal Engine 4 is because of what it can provide for your game.
Now, what I mean by that is that it is going to actually give you, behind the scenes, the automatic hook-up of things like level of detail, culling of data that you don't need to see, and working with complex materials and textures. This is where you can actually stack layers and textures and materials, as we'll see in a moment here. So, it's important to get familiar with the idea of working with landscape tools in the context of your game in Unreal Engine 4 for many reasons, primarily we have the technical reason, as I discussed there, but also being able to build a landscape in context to your game.
For example, defining a path as to where a character or different actors, vehicles perhaps, may be traveling, or to be able to define a landscape in context to specific models or assets that you might want to bring into your scene. So let's take a look at these landscape tools. Now, in the top left corner here of our user interface, we have the modes panel. I'm going to go up to this little mountain icon and click that. Right away you're going to see something happens. Here in the viewport, is showing us a preview for creating a brand-new landscape.
If I hop out of that to any of these other modes, you'll see that that's gone. So that's just showing you that it's a preview of a creation of a brand-new landscape. You haven't committed to anything there, it's giving you just a simple preview of this. So just to point out what's happening, we get a preview of the landscape geometry before we begin. And you can see how large the base section is here. So if I hold down my S key and my right mouse button, we'll zoom right outside of this, and you'll see the size of this in context to the default floor.
Now the default floor actually represents a very small space in the grand scheme of scale. It's actually a very tiny area. So in building landscapes, we typically want to build something bigger than a small area. You certainly could use it to build a smaller area, but for the overall power of using the landscape modes, you'll typically want something that's going to represent or comprise a large environment, so that you get the full power of things like level of detail and working with different resolutions of geometry on the fly. We can see here underneath manage in this manage mode, that we have different components that have to do with the creation of this base landscape grid.
Now, before we dive into those components, we mention "manage", and you'll see that greyed-out are two other modes there, and we're going to get to those in a moment once we commit to the creation of the landscape. The three basic modes are manage, sculpt, and paint. And while we're in manage, the manage mode enables you to create new landscapes and to modify landscape components. What we mean by that are all of these different pieces of this grid that represents the overall geometry for your landscape scene.
So manage mode is also where you work with landscape gizmos. A landscape gizmo is essentially a volume, like a box, that you can utilize to copy and paste pieces of landscape, and this is really powerful, especially if you create something, you spend the time to sculpt and build up a mountain peak or a mountain range, you can actually grab that entire sculpted area and replicate that across your landscape. So, it's something very useful in a couple of different ways. Number one, the reuse of your sculpt data, and number two, to preserve the overall look of the art theme, or the overall art style for the direction you're going in for your project.
So let's create a basic landscape here just to be able to get into what the other modes are. I'm just going to hit create on this, and it's created a simple, basic landscape with just a simple grid structure that we've been able to build here. Now that opens up into the different modes. So you can see automatically we've jumped over to the sculpt tool here. Now sculpt, if we go into this sculpt mode, we're going to see that we have an editor here, and this gives us options to grab different tool sets.
So if I click on the sculpt tool, right now you'll see that we're working with sculpt, and sculpt is essentially going to give you the ability to pull or to form the landscape. The smooth, flatten, and ramp are components that are actually going to affect that sculpting directly, as to how you work. Now, things like erosion, hydro-erosion, and noise are going to affect the overall detail on the surface. So this where you can get into providing things that give a little more fine detail to the scene, rather than something that's just kind of globally smooth, or just kind of globally roughed-in and sculpted.
This is going to give you some nice, fine detail on the overall surface. If you've sculpted something quite complex, retopple will actually provide or re-sample the overall mesh for you. And then we can get into our different shapes here of our brushes, so this is where we can work with a default circle. By default the shape of the brush for sculpting and editing there is going to be a circle, but you can bring in alphas, and if you're familiar with things like ZBrush or Mudbox, this is the same idea, where you can bring in the shape, a simple alpha to define the shape of your sculpting.
You can work with patterns, and this is kind of like using stencils or stamps to define how you're going to sculpt or affect the overall landscape as you work with it. Same idea if you're familiar with things like ZBrush, Mudbox, Photoshop. This is going to provide how your sculpting toolset is going to fall off as you go. We have by default the smooth fall off. There's a linear, which is going to provide a sharp edge to a sharp top, depending on how you define that, and then an overall spherical one which is going to provide kind of a bulge-type effect.
And then tip, which will provide something that actually gives more along the lines of linear, but if you take the linear tool set and then you replace that curve from the top peak to the bottom where it hits the geometry with something like a Bezier curve, you're going to get that nice clean fall off in between the top peak and the bottom where it attaches to the ground. So you can define that as something more like a chisel type of set for working with. Now the last landscape mode is this paint tool set. And again, this is approaching the same idea as the sculpt tool set.
A little bit smaller in options here, though, but if I click the paint tool, you can see that we have a paint mode. And of course just like we had in the sculpting area there, we have smooth, where you can smooth or blend paint in with other paint, and flatten to give a solid flatten paint approach so you've got an overall flatten, uniform color placed across. And then being able to use noise to break up your texture paint. Same thing here with the ability to use alphas or stencils and the fall off range that exist for the sculpt tools.
Some things of note: Unreal Engine 4 brings with it a very robust ability to work with things like an 8K texture map. So you can actually work with 8K texture resolutions while you're painting in here, which is quite amazing for being able to liven the engine paint up and build your overall landscape. So that's just a quick overview of landscape mode within the modes panel here in Unreal Engine 4, and the three primary components as to how they work. This is important to understand before we jump in here and begin to create our base landscape for our scene.
So we've taken a look at the manage, the sculpt, and the paint tool as they apply to landscape modes within Unreal Engine 4.
- Customizing the Unreal UI
- Creating a new project
- Creating landscapes
- Blocking out levels
- Assembling a scene
- Working with materials and lights
- Adding post-processing effects
- Defining bodies of water
- Adding atmospherics, foliage, and wind
- Working with the Blueprint editor
- Creating cinematics
- Monitoring performance
- Packaging a game for distribution