How to start on an environment?

I am creating a small open-world type RPG game and I finally have everything planned out including my game document.

The problem is, how should I approach to start on my environment?

  1. Create an environment using the sculpting/painting tool in Unreal Engine 4.

  2. Create the map in a 3D software like Maya/Cinema 4D, then import into Unreal and paint on it?

I noticed that when I’m creating a mountain in Unreal using the sculpting tool, it can sometimes be hard on your memory and make it hard to undo mistakes.

Any tips or suggestions? I’m starting 1 area at a time.

Small and open world RPG is a contradiction.

IMO the #1 would be the way to go, for several reasons:

  1. changes on the landscape can be made inside UE4 instead of jumping between two Programms
  2. you don’t have to worry about collision
  3. multi resolution landscape out of the box, instead of hand crafted LoDs imported from the 3d app
  4. Special enviroments like caves and rocks still can be made with models and inserted into the landscape
  5. it’s also not easy for a 3d app to handle the required ammount of polygonal landscape chunks

When I say open world, I mean the ability to roam through the small map freely. :confused:

I agree with the list you provided. It’s easier to clear my mind listening to someone else telling me the best route. I only have 2 questions atm.

  1. Is it possible to paint different materials to your landscape? (Rather than textures)
  2. I see that you can create more than 1 landscape. Is this useful if you want to expand your map and add more to it?
  3. How can I improve the performance of Unreal Engine while sculpting my landscapes? (I have a pretty powerful PC.)

Quick preview:

You might want to look into something similar to world machine (I believe there are a few free alternatives, though I can’t remember them off the top of my head.) What I did for my open world was use world composer (there are great tutorials for this) with world machines ability to export a “tiled map” then I took the tiled sections and imported directly into ue4 using world composer. After playing around with a few world aligned materials, I wasn’t liking the feel so I decided to layer paint it all. There is currently a restriction of I believe 4 texture samples for the component so keep that in mind when you’re making your landscape material. Doing the workflow this way, it gives a natural environment that doesn’t “feel” hand drawn, but you can still go back and push hills down and raise areas up as you need to when you start importing assets.

Here’s an example of a large world that doesn’t require a lot of memory to run yet (still a work in progress so bare with it, most of the meshes are placeholder.) The landscape I did in world machine in ~30 mins, imported that to ue4, setup the landscape mat and started painting away.

Hope this helps some.

Might want to post a picture that is a tad bit bigger.

Sorry, I didn’t double check the link to see if it was clickable e.e
pic host

That’s the first one, and this one is moreso showing my personal process of fleshing out a very small portion of the map at a time. I prefer to do it this way simply because I get a better “feel” for the environment and level if I’m working from scratch without reference or aim. This picture I think better explains my earlier point in that any route you go, getting a level setup will require a bit of work. I could have done a landscape mat, but I chose against it because I didn’t like the results of the world aligned textures, so I’m choosing the good old fashioned route here :slight_smile:
upload pics

Awesome picture BMC! Look like something good in progress. What you said about taking your time in small area while working throughout the project is exactly how I am. I am working on a mountain tonight and will find a way to make it where I have a small village/city up on it with roads going from it. It’s hard to figure out where to begin on sculpting my mountain and looking at tons of reference pictures.

Reference pictures are ALWAYS a great start! I personally prefer to have something at least somewhat generated though because I’m comfortable enough now in WM to turn out some decent landscapes, but they almost always need modification to “suit” the atmosphere or direction you end up going with the level, wich is also fine, I just find that it saves me a MASSIVE amount of time (especially when doing tiled landscapes this big.) Also I like to go slow in small sections because I tend to not have any assets to start and I make them as I need them, then down the road you can just reuse them :slight_smile: So the first while takes a long time to setup but as your level starts to develop, it just gets quicker and quicker :slight_smile:

Thanks as well, just finished rendering out an update vid to play around with the matinee, the particals look amazing at 60fps >.<

in terms of roads though, check out splines, you can insert your basic road mesh then adjust the landscape TO the spline. Kinda nifty feature when you’re building trails up a mountain :wink: Hope that helps some.

World Machine is so confusing to me. It look very cheap because of the graphic in it. :confused: I want to learn it but it’s just strange. And as of the road, that’s exactly what I was going to do, but I didn’t know about the spline. Sound useful! Can’t wait to see more previews of your world!

Also, tiled landscapes?

Sorry about the delay, been busy with 3d printing some :slight_smile: and yes if you build a landscape in WM for instance, and you make it a really high resolution like 8k x 8k (you can do this with smaller as well, this is just kind of what I did with this one) WM has the option built in to export a single map in tiles. So whatever landscape you made in there, be it a mountain, rocky canyon or whatever, itll build it I believe in 16 tiles (unsure of this but I think you can change that setting as well to get better tile resolution.) My outputs for this map were x0_y0, X0_y1, x0_y2 . . . X3_y2, x3_y3. You can then open up world composer and import a “tiled landscape” and itll situate them so that they seamlessly blend to make the overal landscape you made. It’s a bit complicated at first, but there is plenty of video guides to walk you through it. The reason world composer is great is because it neatly organizes things like this and lets say you want to be gutsy and not just stop at (for me) an island, but you want to make 2 continents on either side of it, well now you just go back to WM and repeat and in world composer you can bring them in :slight_smile: It’s a complicated process, and I don’t feel I’ve explained it too well, but hopefully I got the gist across, I’d recommend looking up some videos and documentation on it because it is an awesome tool that is really hard to replicate in other engines.

As for splines, they can be finniky until you get the hang of them, again I’d look up some guides to help you start out using them, just a general search on youtube usually does the trick! :slight_smile: There’s so much to this engine it can get overwhelming, I know, but just pace yourself :slight_smile:

As for an update to this world, sure! feel free to follow me on my youtube channel, I plan to do update vids over there as I learn new processes and techniques :slight_smile: This level is just my learning level for UE4 so it’s not too too special, I am planning an IOS and tablet game though sometime in the future when this ones done :slight_smile: Here’s the link:


I have 2 videos up for it currently :slight_smile:

I quite like to use Mudbox to hand-edit the output of a world machine based tiled terrain. Use WM to block in the major landscape, then go into mudbox and detail the heights and diffuse base colours by hand. Mudbox with Z align turned on is basically a heightfield editor, you could of course use ZBrush as well, or 3DCoat if you’re on a budget. Those sculpting tools are all much better than Unreal Engine’s sculpt tools. Then go in and refine and finish with UE4.

Terrain is a tricky one though, because requirements are quite diverse in terms of scale and performance and the like.

Here’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. OK its for UDK, but the workflow is pretty much the same. Makes nice looking stuff :slight_smile:

Hey guys im currently looking for level designers to hire, we currently are an indie team but due to being green lit on our idea for steam we need more people to pull it off. were pretty much accepting anyone who knows what there doing to a certain degree. if any one is interested contact us on skype (spartantron1124) , Email is or just send me a message at 440 - 478 - 8379 thx