You can get Voxel Farm now. For more information click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Worm Day

I was testing a new version of the Alien Biome made by Bohan, one of our in-house artists. The biome was looking good. I was making sure the new material rendering in UE4 worked as expected. (In case you have not seen it, here is a video showing just that.)

While I roamed around this terrain, I wondered how easily a non-artist like me could extend the scenery. I decided to test what I could achieve in just one day.

I figured out it would be nice to have some massive point of interest. Some sort of giant worm maybe. I loved the Dune treatment by Jodorowsky and Giger. They collaborated mostly about the house Harkonnen. No worms there, but the scale and weight of the concepts was striking. It would be fun to explore a really large formation like the ones they had.

I did not want to create any new textures, materials or props for this. I would be using whatever was already there in this biome. For this reason, I chose to make the giant worm look more like a fossil. Minerals in this planet had taken over every cell of the worm, leaving something that up close looks pretty much like terrain.

The first step was to create a simple model for the worm. I did this using traditional modeling in 3ds max:

This is just a series of primitives arranged in a worm-like fashion, with some worm-tusks sticking out.

The next step was to paint "meta-materials" on top of this. To make it simpler to identify where each meta-material would go, I picked distinct colors to represent each one of them:

In a normal production project, you would have a greater variety of meta-materials. In this case, however, I was really pushing for the minimum amount of work necessary.

Once I had the textured worm, I imported it as meta-mesh in Voxel Studio. I made sure it was huge (3km long) and that it fit nicely the already existing terrain:

I also had to set up some connections between the existing materials and the meta-materials I had painted on top of the model. I chose to use only two meta-materials: one for the tusks and another one for everything else. In this procedural component, each meta-material is subdivided into final materials using artist-created maps. I hoped just two meta-materials was enough to make it interesting.

This part of the setup was quite simple:

After Voxel Studio processed the new mesh and meta-materials, I got to see the worm for the first time:

I was then able to export into Unreal Engine 4 and see how this looked in the final environment. 

I captured this short video so you can have a better idea of the results so far:

While the model and material assignment could use more detail, the sense of scale and weight was already close to what I was looking for. 

I clearly do not have Giger's talent (or Jodorowsky's hallucinogenics supply) so I was curious about how far I could go by myself, and how much the procedural systems we have built could help me. I think it turned out to be OK, considering I only spent around five hours in total creating this feature.

As usual, I look forward to your opinions and comments.


  1. With a worm grammar we could have a whole planet full of giant worms of different shapes and sizes. I wonder what function describes that torus squashed from 3 sides... the transformation must be something like sin(3*angle)

  2. I tried some of that already, as you can see in this old video:

    Unfortunately I lost the code for this grammar. I cannot remember how I did the worm segments.

  3. Super nice materials there! That really makes it look much more uptodate on close distance!!
    Things that bugged me tho:
    * Sometimes it looked super dark and missing some ambient light.
    * Of course the glowing elements did not light the environment. Especially because of the brightness it seemed a little off.. :/

    1. They bug me too. This is the vanilla lighting from Unreal Engine 4. It is worst at the end of the video, going into the tunnel it breaks badly because the fog shader does not realize it is underground.

      We are working again on our voxel-based global illumination.

  4. Is it uploaded to Demo's?

    1. No, we have not updated the demos yet. If you have downloaded the demos previously you will get a notification by email when it happens.