Discussion RE: Marketplace Landscape Developers

This is an open question to all those who develop (or are looking to develop) landscape assets for the UE4 Marketplace. I’m creating a large(ish) competitive game (think Battlefront scale) which means I want large realistic looking worlds. I therefore also need control over the shape and layout of those worlds, and currently there is nothing on Marketplace that allows me to do that.

A lot of the Landscape content on MP looks really good - but for the most part, they’re useless. Sure they give you a great looking landscape, but no developer wants their landscape to be identical to every other game - and it stands to reason that developers will want to customize the content they buy. By only providing the final assets, I’m not getting that.

How would MP developers feel about including their ‘source’ (i.e, World Machine files etc) for Landscapes? IMO this isn’t much different to how you release a Plugin with Source code, or how you release art assets that can be exported from the content browser and opened in a 3D Package. I feel like Landscape devs’ should be doing this, but so far nobody seems to be doing it. Devs always seem to be reluctant to release source content a lot of the time, but by not doing so I feel like you’re shutting the door to a big portion of the potential market.

Open discussion, I want to hear feedback on this…

Go to Unity and use Gaia then make your open world map there with all the ideas or whatever ways you want. After done making it, import it to Unreal Engine. Easy peasy. Or just you can just use Unity with Gaia to build it there. Oh wait…

It often seems like landscapes are a second class citizen of the engine to Epic devs etc.
Has anything changed since UDK? Bloated UE4 projects and no instancing in level files!
Here’s hoping that community wip Landscape-Architect / Cashgen are a game changer!

I agree, both of those things are very good looking indeed! Landscape is a great tool, I really like it and it beats the heck out of the old UDK Terrain system - I wouldn’t say it’s second class for Epic given all the effort they put into it for things like Kite Demo etc.

My main concern right now is the way Marketplace Content for them is released. I can totally understand that developers are reluctant to give out their World Machine files, it’s like releasing your source code for a Plugin - but that’s the way Marketplace should be. Plugins release source code, Blueprints have all their code exposed, 3D assets can be exported to .fbx files and edited etc. EVERY bit of content on the Marketplace can be customized and modified by the end-purchaser, except Landscapes.

If I wanted a hand-crafted bespoke Landscape, I’d outsource it instead. It’d cost me about the same and I’d end up with exactly what I need. It’s not very practical to do that of course. It’s irritating, because honestly the Landscape content on Marketplace is stunning and some of them would fit my game perfectly - but it’s utterly useless unless I can control the shape itself.

I honestly think it’s time this needs to change - but I think it would require a push from Epic to do so. I recieved a PM about this thread from someone claiming they asked for exactly this from a Marketplace developer, but when asked they no longer recieved any support emails or anything. That’s BS, frankly.

Who is the UE4 Marketplace team these days? Be interesting to get them in this thread to hear thoughts.

Agree, lack of source for any Marketplace pack is a real turn off.
But I also get too that this might feel like a yard sale to sellers.
So why not offer diff pricing models, one with source other w/o?

You want some answer? This whole Reddit thread can give you the reasons why this won’t exist:

Good luck.

This and your other post don’t answer my question and aren’t even on topic. The purpose of this post isn’t to direct me towards learning how to use World Machine or any other tool to the same ability as someone who has used it for months / years, it’s about making sure I can modify content I buy from Marketplace.

I want to buy content from Marketplace to save me time - but I still need to be able to customize that content.

Epic’s intention from adding “Landscape Sculpt tools” was to give you control on the landscape shapes. Of course they’re not really able to produce anything unique, the debate should be for Epic to improve those tools. I.e Frostbite has a very powerful built in landscape sculpting tool, basically something like Mudbox, not as complex but as convenient, and they sculpt the landscapes in-engine and then use World Machine only to apply erosion and generate masks.

The problem with that is… not everyone, but some people can make a few changes to the source files, randomize a few settings and voila, they have a package to submit to marketplace, which in turn burns the original creator. That’s the bitter truth.

Another reason for example could be that along with the source files you’d also want a step by step documentation on how to work with the source files, make changes and bring it into UE4. You wouldn’t purchase any landscapes from the market if you already knew the 0 to 100 of it. And once the package goes on pirate sites (and it does), everyone become your competitors. So the sellers tend not to give away free tutorials on what they are actually selling. There are many other ways it can have a negative impact on the original creator if they release their source files.

As far as surface customization goes, I’ve tried to make them as flexible as possible by exposing EVERYTHING to material instances with very thorough naming and grouping i.e you can take the lava landscape and turn it into arid landscape or snowy landscape or even grassy one.

It only needs better sculpt tools, some bug fixes and a few new features in regards to the texturing side. If Epic ever decide to give it some love, it’s really a good landscape system.

Nobody is giving out the baked maps for any of the art assets you see on the marketplace to let you re-texture them as you want.
Or how can you customize the foliage packages?
How do you customize the characters?
How do you customize the musics?
You can only make dirty modifications, at best you can change parameters in material instances (if they have provided this option for you), which is the same case with landscapes.

Hmmm to my knowledge, the content on the market cost a fraction of the money it would cost you to outsource one. For high quality work you’d be looking to pay at least a couple grand or something like that.

Like I said, Epic has to update their sculpt tools instead of anything else. Even if you have the source WM files you’re not really gonna be able to make game-play related changes to the landscapes since WM is pretty limited when it comes to manual work and making small scale changes.

Let people know who is the seller that’s not responding any support emails so less people fall for it. But keep in mind “Give me source files” isn’t asking for support. It’s asking for something that’s not advertised or included in the product description.

You can sculpt Landscapes for sure, but then what about all the masks that come out of World Machine for use in Materials? I can go into World Machine for example and paint in the rough area for my world, then re-export all the masks etc. with the same settings that the original creator used. Otherwise, I have to learn World Machine and set all that stuff up again - at which point I may as well just buy World Machine and learn how to use it to the same level.

You’re right - but that’s no different to any other kind of content pack. People can modify and sell Blueprints etc, except they can’t because Epic have ways to find out about that and creators can submit complaints to remove content if they believe they’ve been copied.

Baked maps is fine though, there’s no really much you can do with those anyway since they are baked.

Characters, Foliage and any art asset can be exported into 3DS Max, modified and have it’s shape changed etc. An artist can then regenerate their maps and textures and essentially create their own character - but the important part is that they have that option in the first place. Blueprints have all of their code exposed to you can modify the product to suit your needs. Code Plugins provide source code so that you can upgrade them manually or add your own functionality if you require it. You can modify or create new sound effects by exporting and resampling, layering etc.

You’re right on that to be honest, but imagine my glee when I wouldn’t need to outsource and can customize an asset I bought on Marketplace instead :wink:

You can still do things like painting in flat areas, move mountains if you so desire. I would like Epic to improve the tools too, but would that ever give me the level of customization I want or need, probably not…

Right now, my only real option is to spend time in World Machine or some other Terrain Generator and learn how to use it better - until I’m happy with the results. I’m fine with learning new tools and usually I would rather put the time in and do that anyway - but in this case I want to build on a good basis. I can see how the way Landscapes are sold on Marketplace right now are viable for some people, those who are just experimenting, making asset-flippers or a developer who isn’t fussed about the layout of their world.

I can’t however, see how they’re useful for anyone who needs good control over their layout while also getting that high visual quality and realism that you get from World Machine and other terrain generators.

Generating a splat map isn’t really anything other than exporting the maps it generates for you. There are really no settings involved with it.

Epic can’t really do anything about it if they have moved the stuff around and made a few changes to it to look different. It will be considered their own property.

For art assets the common workflow is to create a high poly model, then create a low poly out of it, bake the high poly on the low poly, this generates maps such as Normal, AO, Cavity, Curvature, Thickness etc. which then are imported into the texturing package for texturing. These maps are very necessary for texturing, and are not included with the marketplace packages. Same with the models i.e character, you can export the low poly out of UE4 and make changes to it, but you don’t have the High Poly model anymore to bake it and generate those maps again. It’s same as exporting the landscape heightmap from UE4 and then making changes on top of it.

In UE4 you have those sculpt tools that really are basics only and aren’t very useful, in WM you don’t even have that amount of control as you do with those brushes of UE4 either. In WM it’s more like making large scale changes. Even large scale changes take a lot of work in WM when game-play is involved. Best scenario is for Epic to update the tools, people use the those tools to sculpt the heightmap, export the heightmap to WM or similar software to generate natural effects such as erosion and generate a splat map.

@TheJamsh I’m not sure if inclusion of all source materials is a liberal enough requirement but I do see a good opportunity for an asset pack in this idea. As long as Epic allows to include external assets into submission. Basically it won’t be even just an asset anymore but a full piece of workflow. I would really like this for other assets too. They could be more expensive, which is fine as you are paying for something that has more value. Like I don’t buy/commission any texture packs unless source is included (substance or what ever was used). Would be a good option to have this for landscape, characters and other models.

That is not completely true, some of the workflows that I’ve seen had pretty elaborate tree for rendering of masks.

Agree with this. We could be missing some parts of pipeline that Epic is using for their games when it comes to landscape. They mentioned that for Kite demo, landscape was sketched in UE4 and post-processed in WM. Maybe I just suck in using these tools but I couldn’t really sketch landscape in a way I want it to be. Like having pretty specific slopes or flat areas that don’t have just a random height but very specific inclination and placement. So far it looks like a better bet is to sketch landscape in Houdini or Max with non destructive workflow and then use WP for erosion and masks. But then you are working in isolation from UE4.

@BoredEngineer I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the first paragraph.
But for Kite Demo they downloaded a heightmap (DEM) and applied erosion in WM. For their game(s) i.e Paragon, they don’t really make good use of landscapes, which could be a reason why landscape related issues are all backlogged.

What I mean is that WM doesn’t decide for you automatically on what goes into channels of your splat map, saying that you just export what it generates is misleading.

Well you place 3 output nodes, connect Flow map, Deposition map, Wear map, or anything you want to the output nodes, build and export. Point being that’s relatively easy thing to do.

You can filter those maps by height or change “contrast” or use a macro which adjusts output based on the relative height difference. It’s not about how easy it is to do but in context what @TheJamsh was saying - if you want to make landscape with the same look and feel and the same materials from MP asset, but with a bit different shape here and there you need to know how exactly those output maps where setup.

I know people can go crazy with those masks, but in my case I make no changes to them and export them as they are. The changes to contrast, brightness etc. are all done with material instance. That’s how Affordable Landscapes 2 is done.

I am with TheJamsh in this. But I think Landscapes developers can take this and add value to their products.
Why no give a WM template for example.
With all the configs needed already set up, scale, resolution outputs, nodes needed etc.

I am right now trying to modify a landscape adquired from the marketplace, but is no sooooo trivial to do.
First the exported file in WM doesnt look like the Landscape of UE4. There is a lot of scale and size parameters to tune. And the exported file from UE doesnt give any info, aside the resolution of course.

If create a template is so much work, maybe just some simple steps to import correctly the exported heightmap into WM and get a good output result.
As I said, this could be taken as an opportunity to give value to your products and customers, and attract more potential buyers.