SIMON BARLE, UE4 ENVIRONMENT DEVELOPMENT
We spoke to the talented 3D artist Simon Barle and his workflow for his Hunter’s Dream Bloodborne inspired environment. See his full interview below!
My name is Simon Barle and I’m an environment artist at Motive in Montreal. I’m originally from Sweden and have worked for about 4 years at EA DICE prior to moving to Montreal.
I’ve been interested in games for as long as I can remember, and started my first adventures in 3D when I was 13 years old. Back then I was mostly just doodling around with a copy of Maya 4.5 that my dad brought home from his office.
I later studied at a school called “Playgroundsquad” in a small town called Falun in Sweden. This led me to an intern position at a small EA studio called Easy, which later led me to work at DICE.
What was it about the Hunter’s Dream Environment from Bloodborne that appealed to you?
I knew I wanted to do an homage to Bloodborne since I really enjoyed it and I started to run around in the game to find an area I felt I could build.
Since The hunters dream has a lot of vegetation in it I felt it suited me well since I’ve been working as an vegetation artist during my time at DICE, so I went ahead and started to block the scene out in Unreal while having the dream up and running on my TV.
It was also a great opportunity to fully learn Substance Painter.
The Hunter’s Dream is an extensive environment, tell me about the initial stages and greyblocking for this piece.
I started just finding a good spot to place my bloodborne character in the Hunter’s dream and started to roughly block in all the shapes that build up the core of the environment. This process was fairly fast, and only took about 2 evenings of work.
After this I started working on materials for the scene using Substance Designer.
What was your general workflow for modelling to texturing to game engine integration? What was the most challenging part?
The main challenge was to learn, what was to me, a new software. Since usually when you get pumped up about something you just want to make progress. but after a weekend using Substance Painter I got comfortable enough with it to create a nice pipeline for the project.
I created the tiling materials for the terrain, the roofing and some rock surfaces inside Substance Designer. All the assets went through blockout/Basemesh phase, then sculpted in Zbrush and then baked and textured inside Substance Painter.
The foliage was high poly modeled in Maya and then baked to planes that I shaped and used for branches on my modeled stem meshes.
How modular is this environment? Could you provide some examples?
It is fairly modular but mostly in the way I built it up inside Maya. I felt I have more precision inside of Maya to make the building and be able to deform it if I needed to.
The rocks are just the same rock use several times, the 3 different trees started out from the same base mesh and textures.
The gravestones are all made from the same basemesh then reshaped and sculpted to look unique.
The piece is set at night. Tell me a bit about the lighting of this piece, and the creation of light maps.
For this piece I didn’t use any lightmaps, I took advantage of fully dynamic lighting since I didn’t want to spend time on creating lightmaps and baking several times during the project. I wanted to instantly see my results and be able to tweak everything in real time.
The lighting is fairly simple; there is a directional light coming from the moon and I used some point lights here and there to help things “pop” and create some nice specular highlight and pools of light.
It must have been pretty rewarding to see your version of the Hunter’s Dream come to life. What was your favourite part of this project?
My favourite part was to see it transform into the hunter’s dream, I always had the game running besides my when I worked and it was very rewarding when things started to come into place. It was just a great feeling overall to work on something from a game you enjoyed so much!
Did you incorporate any post-processing into this piece?
Yes, there is a bit of color grading to make the slight blueish tone come out, I also made use of the light propagation volume which enables real time global illumination.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the video game industry?
My advice would be to find a niche, something you enjoy doing and learn all you can about it, and analyse how other successful people are working in that area.
Chances are bigger if you have a specific skill you know a lot about and can do well. It can be a fairly narrow subject, foliage for example, I really enjoy making foliage for games, so that was what I focused on. I knew there weren’t a lot of people who wanted to work with that so that helped me out when I was trying to break into the industry.
And of course, give it your all! If you have to chance to go to a school that focuses on video game development, then use that time to the fullest, learn all you can in school and even your free time, maybe seek out others in the class that have the same mindset and help each other become better.
School is generally a pretty short period of time in your life when looking at the bigger picture, all that work will pay off in the end and you get to work with what you love.