‘The Bar’ – FanArt from TLOU – Evgeny Vegera
OK, first let me introduce myself. My name is Evgeny Vegera and I am an Environment Artist and Art Director at Anvio VR.
In addition to my main job, I am also creating environments in my spare time. Every time I do new work every so often, to set myself the goal to become better, every time I learn something new I always want to try it in a new environment.
I am very grateful to the Naughty Dog team for the inspiration they are giving to many artists and I am no exception. When streaming on my youtube channel I always suggest taking a smaller environment so that you have enough energy to complete it. The Bar exactly fitted the criteria. If you overestimate the size of the location there is a great chance to simply burn out or engage in meaningless stuffing only to fill the empty space.
Every object in the scene must be thought out and justified because it’s the company’s time and money or your personal time in case of individual work.
Thanks to Youtube and people with lots of time for games that do Let’s Plays, the main base of references was taken from there, from art books and concept art and also thanks to my obsessed friend Vitaly Zhdanov for taking pictures of the entire ‘The Last of Us’ game.
I used PureRef for my previous locations but now I’ve switched to Miro because this service allows you to store the entire reference database in the cloud and easily apply it across projects, and it is also free for one user.
The base of references is always getting replenished throughout the project depending on how detailed I want to work on the element. But before you start modeling something you must have a clear understanding of the location scale, large, medium and small forms that you will use in the location. Better to spend a bit more time planning in the very beginning.
There is a peculiarity and a slight difference between personal projects and the levels you make at work. Levels are often planned in strict accordance with specific gameplay priorities and scenario. A level of the game displayed in the artstation portfolio might seem strange because it has the task of maintaining the gameplay and story within the game, it might look like it’s taken out of context. On the contrary, the level you create for the portfolio might look overloaded for a game because you want to feature as many details as possible and get closer to realism.
In this work I wanted to focus on the assets that compile the level, moreover I was asked to show the workflow on my streams. Therefore I tended to show as much as possible and even slightly exaggerated in certain areas using Zbrush to get a high poly model but tried to show the workflow including Hard Surface objects, chippings, folds and tissue holes.
The pipeline is quite standard i.e. Tiles are applied to the architectural elements and Trims are used for unique high poly / low poly assets, bake and painting in substance painter. There is one special thing – when you make assets add storytelling not only at the stage of texturing but also try to incorporate it in modeling, make even flat surfaces with a bit of flaws. This will bring naturalism and artistry to your models.
I used the original scans from Megascan for the tiles thanks to Epic games. I streamed the workflow with Alchemist and Quixel mixer and just combined the materials the way I needed. In my opinion, material artists will have to retrain in the future because materials-based tasks will be perfectly solved by neural networks which will be simple enough not to support a separate profession. But there are still a couple of years 🙂
I used the standard vertex paint technique to blend multiple textures. There is a huge amount of materials on all kinds of shaders on youtube and Artstation, easy to find and can meet your every need. You can use free shaders created by other artists if you want. Similar to these:
No matter how advanced modern rendering technologies are you still sometimes have to use fake methods to achieve the desired artistic effect.
This is how I used geometry for Godrays although Unreal Engine has its own excellent Light Shafts system. Therefore we should not think that Unreal Engine 5 will solve all our problems but it will reduce the quantity.
You can be endlessly polishing a location but sooner or later you will have to finish modeling and prettifying and start assembling the whole picture, adultly. Ideally, you should set yourself tough deadlines for the work or at least for the stages at the beginning.
I experimented with lighting in this location for a while and every time I had to bake the light to see authentic results and this is the worst thing in UE4 which is why I am so looking forward to UE5 and Lumen. That was triggering for me to try GPU Lightmass. There’s an excellent forum thread on this with all the installation guides and the most common problems sorted out.
As a result, instead of launching production quality rendering for the night (about 8-10 hours) on my weak computer, I did the same calculations in about 40 minutes and it took about 4 minutes for test calculations and this is fantastic. Make sure to check the correspondence of the engine version and the GPU lightmass patch itself when installing on your engine.
At the very beginning of the lighting setup turn off the entire post-process, fix the gamma at the value you need and turn off auto exposure, so nothing will hinder you from getting a clean and steady skylight.
Then add your main light source. I had directional light. Then I brought additional light sources to flash on the darkest areas, to create additional reflections and imitate additional light bounce (GI). Sometimes they had to be brought apart through different channels so that they only affect the desired geometry.
It’s essential to form the frame correctly for a still frame or video in addition to standard aerial perspective, DOF, grain and vignette. Always try to keep the center of the composition, guidelines and mind the grounds so you get more depth in your shot.
As last advice, when preparing work on Artstation always put the juiciest shots at the beginning and after 2-3 screenshots add small video inserts of the location. This will hold the audience’s attention a little longer and will not let get bored.
Be bold, don’t be afraid to start and be ready to finish what you’ve got into. Don’t worry to ask for advice from more experienced artists, someday they will have spare time and answer you, so ask several at once 🙂
You can watch the whole workflow of my location on my channel, although it’s for the Russian-speaking audience but I swear that all program interfaces are in English 🙂 Good luck and thank you for reading this article. Special thanks to the guys from GamesArtist for the platform provided!