[WIP] [UE4] Modular Vehicle Vol. 2

Currently, I’m working on the next volume of Modular Vehicle project. In this thread, I will post my progress on it.

Following vehicles were used as references in order to make modules for this pack:

  • Bereg A-222 130mm coastal mobile artillery system
  • АА-60-160-01 Airport Crash Tender Vehicle
  • MAZ 543 cargo truck
  • Fighting vehicle for support combat duty missile system
  • 9K58 “Smerch”

Main features:

  • 5 vehicle presets with a lot of module combinations between them
  • Advanced customization system
  • Dynamic vehicle creation at runtime
  • Add your own modules/module types to extend existing capabilities
  • N-wheeled vehicle support
  • HUD support
  • Camouflage support
  • Different anti-stuck measures (savepoints, automatic and manual respawn, wheel jumpers)
  • 2 types of camera for the vehicle with zoom support
  • Vehicle AI: can find a path to waypoint, can follow to the target
  • Enemy AI examples
  • Health/Damage system(with environment support)
  • Various weapon and projectile blueprints
  • Showcase level with advanced landscape material setup and procedural grass and trees placement
  • More will be added soon

Customization System features:

  • Change Materials
  • Edit selected module material
  • Edit all materials at once
  • Material layers support
  • Texture masks support
  • Custom skins support
  • Support for changing custom scalar, vector and texture parameters
  • Change Modules
  • Save/Load vehicle data
  • Pre-defined vehicle configurations
  • Weapons support via custom sockets
  • Module compatibility checks
  • Change environments
  • Customization level
  • Test all module actions
  • More will be added soon

Vehicle weapons:

  • Artillery turret
  • Rocket launcher turret
  • Rocket pod
  • Gatling gun
  • Rotateable machine gun
  • Automatic AA turret
  • More will be added soon

Module types:

  • Chassis
  • Main Module
  • Cabin
  • Side Bags
  • Back Stand
  • Stopper
  • Middle Section
  • Weapons
  • Accessories
  • Boosters
  • Engine
  • Brakes

Latest update:

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Reference images:

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Day 3

I didn’t take any images of the first couple of days, because I wasn’t sure if it worth to show them.
Currently, I’m working on a high poly model. Lots of things need to be done, but at least I modeled main shapes and started to add more details to them.

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Day 4.

Completed detalization of the turret and started to work on the middle section.

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Day 5.
Completed middle section. Next is a driver’s cabin.

Have an idea to make the whole vehicle modular, because on this chassis (MAZ-543) created a lot of vehicles, so it would be nice to swap artillery to rockets or change driver’s cabin (or maybe add some crazy sci-fi modifications). Collections in Blender 2.8 makes this possible because now each huge component (like the whole turret) now exists in separate collections and I can easily export them, duplicate to make a high poly/game ready version or hide them.

Today I opened a new little trick for myself. Usually, I’m adding bevel modifier before subdiv modifier to save mesh form instead of putting a lot of edge loops (hello, Maya LT). But there is another way to achieve the same result plus add additional polishing effect. All you need to do is to add creases on all required edges, add subdiv modifier and then bevel modifier. Sounds like just swapping two modifiers, but it will help to save a lot of time, required to migrate asset to ZBrush, dynamesh and polish it when you can’t achieve the same effect in a reasonable time with poly modeling in Blender (especially with complex booleans and curved surfaces). This method, however, not works every time and depends on the mesh topology after subdiv with creases and you need to tune the amount of bevels/subdivs to achieve the required result.

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Day 6.

That was a tough day. Around 16 hours of modeling, but I finally finished the driver’s cabin and chassis.

Next goal is to polish all pieces and split model into two variants: high poly with Subdivs and game ready model. Then make UV, explode all parts and bake normal/curvature/ao/etc maps.

It probably will take a couple of days and after that, I can start doing texturing.

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Wow! 5 days. No reply. Such less views.

The truck looks really good. Is it inspired from Spintires?

That’s a nice looking vehicle. I will try to play around with your method of using creases, sub-divided surfaces and bevel modifiers. I’ve never thought of softening edges that way.

Thanks. No, I just wanted to make military vehicle from a real world, then used Pinterest to collect a bunch of vehicle pictures, then selected this vehicle for further development, collected more reference images and started to modeling.

Here’s the little comparison.
On the picture: original mesh, described method, bevel -> subdiv

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Day 9

Polishing - done. Simple cabin interior - done. High poly - done. Game ready with UV - done. Almost completed baking. Probably need another one day.
Really boring days with a monotonous work of processing hundreds of meshes.
Some renders of high poly version: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/OyPKRk

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Quick work for a complex vehicle. You work much more quickly than I do.

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A little remark about collections in Blender 2.8, which I used heavily during modeling this vehicle. I found that you really can’t hide them or to be more specific, unload temporarily from the project. What I mean is that if your collection costs you 3-4 Gb of RAM and you make a duplicate, your project will cost twice more memory and hiding collection means only visual hiding and you won’t save any memory. Because of that, for baking purposes, I have to make a separate .blend file, where I explode meshes properly. Also, if you duplicated collection for making high poly and it still has an animation keyframes, then low poly object animation playback will be extremely slow too, like if hidden collection moves too (and it probably really moves).

well done! ) btw, how do you bake normals, via blender internal cycles? or something like marmoset?
blender cages and additional hi-subdivs in case of skewing is something i’m afraid of))

Day 10.
Bake is done.

First of all, I manually exploded game ready and high poly meshes in Blender to prevent any baking artifacts. I exported 8 vehicle parts (each part exists in a separate collection, like cabin or turret).
Then I used Marmoset Toolbag 3 to bake Normal/Curvature/AO/World space/Position/Thickness maps, which I will use later in Substance Painter. I like to use MT3 because it allows you to interactively draw skew/offset masks to fix a lot of baking artifacts and it really bakes everything fast. I also baked Bent Normals/Height maps, which maybe I will use later in a game engine (height for Parallax Occlusion, for example). All maps are baked in 4K resolution to achieve the best possible quality and later can be adjusted in Substance Painter/Game Engine if needed. Normal Maps baked in a 16-bit format to prevent any banding/reflection artifacts (but in the game engine I will import 8 bit until I see those reflection artifacts for certain meshes).

Exploded model in Marmoset Toolbag 3

Game ready model with applied baked maps in Substance Painter viewport

Some stats:

High Poly has 10kk polygons.

LOD0 has 200k polygons at this moment. I made a little research and found that cars in current AAA racing games may contain 200-300k polygons, so I think for a hero asset with such amount of details it’s fine. LOD1 probably will be around 80k polygons, other LODs will contain even less amount of polygons by removing lots of pieces, which aren’t visible from a distant view.

I used Marmoset Toolbag for baking purposes. I didn’t make any cages, just draw a skew/offset masks. I wrote more details in the latest post.

Day 11
Mostly a technical day.

The goal was to set the UE4 project and get a simple driveable vehicle. I used my previous project - Modular Vehicle - as a base for this project to speed up things.

I’m planning to use layered materials and use Substance Painter mostly for drawing masks to save a reasonable amount of memory. So basically I will use UE4 viewport to look at the end result of texturing instead of Substance Painter viewport. This was one of the reasons to make UE4 project before doing any texturing. Maybe I will try to use SP Livelink plugin, but not sure if it works with custom materials - I need to do some research. I also don’t know yet whether I will use relatively new UE4 layered material feature or will use my own custom layered material, which I used to make another one vehicle almost 2 years ago.

I used a slightly modified lighting setup from Paragon Assets for material calibration purposes. I didn’t use any textures in UE4 yet (not even normal maps).

What else? I made rigs for each vehicle part, which will be animatable. The vehicle can be driven already - one of the hardest parts of work in UE4 - single mistake or wrong bone rotation and your vehicle will fly to the sky when the game will start.

Some useful tips:

If you have mirror modifier - make sure that Bisect is not selected - otherwise, you may encounter problems after mesh rotation/scaling

Apply array modifier before applying rotation or your mesh position will be shifted

Apply solidify modifier before making UV

For armature set rotation X to -90 and scale to 0.01 for UE4

A vehicle for UE4 should be placed in X forward axis

If you found that your vehicle is not looking at X forward axis, then parent it to an empty object, located in 0.0.0 and rotate the empty object in a way so the vehicle will look at the correct axis, then unparent vehicle from empty.

Tomorrow will start working on materials/texturing.

Just a render for fun in ZBrush

Day 14
Texturing workflow established.

After some research, I finally decided to use the same workflow as Epic Games used for Paragon. I tried to use layered material system (spent one day for that), but then saw that currently this system is discontinued (things may change this year or may not), so I didn’t risk to use it right now and rewrite everything with default material functions/materials. Of course, things may be much faster with layered materials feature (really much faster), but I found that currently it’s not stable and materials may not update automatically after tweaks, which may cause a lot of troubles.

I also tried to use Substance live-link plugin for UE4 but didn’t found how to use custom export presets, so it is currently useless for this workflow.

In Substance Painter, I did three custom export presets. One is for a single Base Material and contains Grim/Scratch/Custom/AO map. Second is for a Base Material + 3 Additional Materials + Grim/Scratch/Custom/AO. And the last one is for Base Material + 6 Additional Materials + Grim/Scratch/Height/AO (currently not in use).

Current custom channels:

U0 - Rubber

U1 - Steel

U2 - Black Metal

U3 - Grime

U4 - Scratch

U5 - Dust

What should be done next?

  • Better grime/scratch/dust masks

  • Better tiling materials for metals and rubber

  • Support of camouflages

  • Maybe add support for snow/wetness.

  • Paint additional normal details

There is also a chance that I will temporarily stop working on materials and start doing modules because it’s almost half a month, but guns still not firing :smiley:

Many things will happen now in UE4 (and the forum is all about Blender, so I’m sorry about it), but I will return to Blender when I start doing more modules and environment for Showcase level.

Day 16.

I didn’t work on this project for one week due to various reasons and resumed work only yesterday, so it’s a 16 day of work on it.

These two days I worked on various modules, so yes, the vehicle now operatable, but still not impressive. Lot’s of work ahead.

Turret test #1:

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