Metro Station in UE4: Modular Approach

Metro Station in UE4: Modular Approach

Yurie Kawana did a breakdown on her recent project, Shinjyuku Station, discussed the structure of the scene, shared her approach to lighting and gave some piece of advice for other artists.

Introduction

Hi everyone, my name is Yurie Kawana. I am a 3D artist based in Canada, originally from Japan. My focus is on creating inspiring environments for games and VR. I started my professional career with a VR project at a startup, and I’m currently self-employed at Art Exponent and make our own video game called Curzon Line. I will soon be working full-time at a game development studio in Montreal as well.

Gathering the Reference

So, the idea started at CGMA, where I learned environment art and modularity in UE4 with Clinton Clumper. Ultimately, I expanded to a more versatile scene to showcase/improve my overall skills of modeling, level art, optimization, lighting, composition, and visual storytelling. I picked Shinjyuku station because I used to use it on a daily basis when I was living in Tokyo. Another reason is that I thought this station has a lot of cool materials/elements to work with. I chose a mix of urban style and nature (natural disasters) as main themes. I went to Japan to take some reference photos of the station. Also, I am a heavy user of PureRef, I highly recommend using this free software whenever you work with references.

The Blockout

As you can see in the GIF, I first created my modular assets and a blockout with them in Maya. Later on, I’ve switched to Blender as a main 3D modeling tool.

Assembling the Scene

There are 5 platforms in total in this scene. The idea is simple - start with bigger scale assets and create a base structure of the scene. Since each platform consists of the same assets, I just copied them and polished the composition after. Then, go on with smaller-scale assets and repeat the same process. To give you a better sense of scale, I made a fly-through video from end to end.

For each platform, I made sure the composition looks good in the final shot. For example, one of the rules I followed was to give it a sense of depth, by having a clear foreground, midground and background lines.

Texturing

For texturing, I used Substance Painter and Photoshop as main tools, and I baked normals in Marmoset Toolbag.

For modular assets, I used tileable trim sheet textures to optimize memory space. 

In the case of the stairs shown below, in order not to be too repetitive with trim sheets, the A part is offset step by step, so I only need the minimum amount of texture while keeping it look unique.

Also, if you’re making a scene out of actual city or place, you may be better off taking pictures of things like signs and making a texture using them, rather than creating them from scratch, if possible. 

For the asphalt floor, I used vertex paint to have more control over the look.

Lighting

For lighting, there were 3 major steps. 

  1. I start with bigger scale assets with no light. In the case of this station, I placed floors, ceilings, pillars, stairs, and fluorescent light assets with Unlit mode on.
  2. Then, I started adding temporary lights and post-process and middle scale assets.
  3. Lastly, I added fog and all the necessary lights and adjusted post-process while placing small scale assets such as decals.

Since this scene consists of the same structure platform, I was concerned that it’d look all repetitive and similar.  So I decided to give a different theme color to each platform to make it unique, but not too different, so one color stands out too much. The balance was important. 

The Main Challenges and Some Tips

I’d say my main challenge was to use my time strategically. To do so, I need to know what I wanted to do. I know, you may be fed up with those cheesy lines that you hear a lot, but really, this is what it matters to make better predictions, better decisions. 

For example, I was supposed to create all the assets at CGMA, and I could have made all of them. However, I like Level Art the most, so I decided to buy some marketplace assets and use them in order to put more time on Level Art. So, if you are an animator, give it the absolute highest priority and think of how you can add even more time to it. Because 3D generalist doesn’t really exist in my opinion, it is only justified if you’re T-shaped. 

Lastly, it may sound weird to say it at the end, but do not take every advice too seriously.  I meant what I said, but it will only be useful to some of you. It is important to listen to a lot of people, but take it with a grain of salt. 

You just need to be able to remember it when you need it.

If you want to see more projects from me or have some questions, feel free to follow or message me on Artstation.

Yurie Kawana, 3D artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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