Environment - WIP Forever

Hello, guys.

I’ve started to create this sort of residential environment as a background for some of my archviz projects. Then I started to use it as a sandbox to study the engine, improve lighting, foliage techniques, performance optimization, landscape and materials, etc… I’m always trying to improve the realism somehow, so I consider it a “forever WIP” project :p.

Anyway, I think this project packs a lot of stuff I’ve done so far with UE4 so I decided to create this thread for and keep it updated with screenshots and info of the last improvements and experiments. C&C, questions and curiosities are most welcome.

I created a new tree model recently and used the environment project to test it on, try some lights and tweak the materials. I ended up creating some scenes and playing more with the environment than the tree itself :p. In the screenshots bellow I tried to recreate an abandoned place.

The screenshots are from two areas. In the last of them I’ve tried to recreate an abandon place just to play around with decals and materials (plus I like that mood :D).
The map has an area of 5 square kilometers with satellite textures used as base. The actual usable area with details resides in the center and has about 1 square km.

Red circle indicates the house that appears in the first screenshot.

This is a thread about the little tree:
And this is about an archviz that made me start to build this environment:

Really beautiful work… as always! So what kind of fps are you getting with your pitangueira trees? Is the LOD 0 tree still at 400k tris?

Thanks, man.

Final (by now :p) version of that tree has 320k tris (LOD0). 72k for LOD1 and 6k for LOD0. The leaves have 3 LODs. The first one has 40tris, and it’s used only for the most external leaves on tree LOD0. They have a nice curvature and meant for close up. 12 and 2 tris LODs are also used on leaves that are not too exposed (tree LOD1 has only those). For tree LOD2 I’m replacing all the individual leaves by planes with branch textures. There is also a tree LOD3 with billboards for the whole tree.

5 trees on the same screen all on LOD0 take me about 7fps. All on LOD1 costs 3fps. 90% of the trees you are seeing in those screenshots above are on LOD1. I’m using it as default and manually activating LOD0 just for closeup trees.

That entire scene runs at 40~60fps, 1080p and 15~30fps 4k (gtx980ti). Dynamic light for all the vegetation. Shadows on grass are by far the most expensive feature there… I like to use shadows on the first grass LOD only to improve performance.

Three new screens of a little update… I’m working a bit more on that high grass trying to reduce a visual pattern on the blades that was bugging me on the first version. Now I’m mixing the grass I’ve created from scratch with a tweaked version of the kite demo grass.

Now I want to make a short video with wind effects and start working on a rainy weather for that.

I’ve been working on different weather and time of the day. Some screens:

I’m also trying to recreate rainy conditions and here is a little test I’ve made:

I was admiring your work on Instagram, glad I found it here!

How did you overcome the problem of grass meshes using the same indirect lighting cache sample? In other words, how did you make the grass receive indirect shadows from the architecture? Are you using DFAO? If so, how’d you get it to be compatible with lightmass? Sorry for the torrent of questions, just really love your work.

I made a thread about the problem here: link

Love your trees by the way! I bet I’m not the only one who’d like to see them on the marketplace. Or perhaps a tutorial.

Yeah, landscape grass won’t receive indirect shadows from lighting cache, but AO works on them and you can explore that. Plug a scalar parameter on Ambient Occlusion of the grass material and you can manually tweak AO intensity on the grass. 0 means pitch black and 1 means no AO. With that technique you can make grass under shadows to look darker. It’s not a perfect solution, but I can live with that by now…

Updates with tweaks on the grass and foliage material.

I’ve added a third type of grass, a very short and dry one to fill the holes on the ground and hide the unrealistic contact of tall grass planes with the landscape mesh. There is three kind of grass mesh combined, but only the tallest is not culled after a couple of meters from the viewer (so there is not too much impact on framerate).

I’m also working a lot on the variation map to keep make the mix between dry and green grass more realistic. I’m using some reference photos and I’m not totally happy yet, but I think I’m getting there…

Update: I’ve added a new Ficus tree I’ve made in speedtree

Excellent work!

The lighting looks so realistic.

What did you use for the sky please?

Thanks :slight_smile:

It’s a huge static mesh sphere with HDRI sky textures (from this link:

Beautiful work, keep it up! =)

Some screens of a new lawn I’m creating for archviz and using this project to test it. It’s a Speedtree asset created from scratch.

Loving the simplicity and realism of the environment. Thought about lighting the scene for night time?

Beautiful work, mate. Can I ask how long it took to bake the GI with lightmass? :slight_smile:

Thanks! Yes, night time is on my list :smiley:

Thanks, man. One hour on Production setting with quality 5. It’s actually pretty fast because all the vegetation is dyncamic. The only tree with static light is that one inside the abandoned place near the wall because I needed contact shadows there to add it some depth.

Is this actually usable for a game? I mean it looks really really great and almost photorealistic. Very nice work. But would it run on good fps? :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, I get 50~70fps at 1080p on a gtx 980ti so it’s definitely not a lightweight scene… I didn’t worry too much about optimization because I just need it to run at 30fps minimum on my system only, so there is room for optimization if I need it… I think it would be pretty possible to achieve something like that for an actual game nowadays, but it would be like the “ultra” settings, requiring a high end PC to run it properly.


Pretty awesome work!
The lawn grass is looking great, some clovers spots and you get it perfect :slight_smile:
In the last one, the sky resolution is letting you down a little. Did you experiment with the UE sky?

I have a technical question, in roughly how many parts did you cut the house? Did you use the “few parts, high def lightmaps” approach or the “plenty of parts, lowdef maps” one?