We’ve been working on a top-down adventure game with my buddy for several months now, and I’ve got some feedback related to Landscape tool. I’ve been using it quite a lot lately and I think there are some usability issues in it. I’ll try to be as coherent as possible, but this will probably just end up being a list of things I think should be different in it
Landscape static meshes
I really like the way foliage placement work in Landscape, it’s a great system and really nice to use. There are however a couple of short comings with it, first one being how cumbersome the static mesh displaying becomes when you have 10+ static meshes added. There should be some nice tickbox or editor setting for changing the mesh list to “thumbnails” like you have in the content browser. It would allow displaying huge amount of static meshes instead of the few you can fit in (even if the tool window is scaled big vertically, you can only see couple of meshes there).
Related to that, when in thumbnail mode, you could display selected static mesh settings in Details -tab? While you are working with landscape tools, it feels like the Detail window is pretty useless anyways. That would put some use to it
Even with the current static mesh system it absolutely should remember what static meshes you have minimized and what you haven’t. I’m not sure what the function is there, but it feels like it almost randomly forgets what you have minimized and what not.
Landscape static mesh randomization
One thing I’d love to see with the basic foliage painting is ability to make “sets” of the static meshes instead of having each static mesh individually there. I’d prefer having “Palm tree” foliage object that would have multiple static meshes under it. The foliage tool would randomly pick meshes from the list of said object type, maybe you could even influence the pick preference in the tool. Similarly to the static mesh display, the selection of active sets is a bit annoying to use. The thumbnail list system might fix this, but grouped meshes might still be beneficial for quicker landscape painting.
Switching between Landscape tools
The various tools (sculpting tool, splat painting tool, foliage painting tool) shouldn’t reference to same brush settings. E.g. 1.0 strength for sculpt tool is great, but for splat painting the 1.0 strength doesn’t feel strong enough and when you switch between tools (e.g. want to make a quick flattening here and there and then continue painting dirt paths) you manually have to change the basic brush settings and it’s quite unintuitive in the long run. Some of the tool values could be grouped together, but the basic tools shouldn’t as it results in extra fiddling around. Another example, you might be working on macro detail on landscape shape, but micro detail on splat map.
Splat / Height maps
The height map and splat maps should support 8 bit rgb editing too. 16 bit greyscale (was it 16 bit?) is slightly limiting because photoshop has pretty bad performance on big textures with that depth. At least few versions back (I haven’t used height map for a while now) the 8 bit rgb maps with just greyscale pixels resulted in a lot of wonky glitches on landscape. I haven’t personally seen benefit from 16 bit heightmaps, but perhaps I’ve missed where it’s good and where it isn’t, it just feels like the best photoshop can do with colors is 8 bit anyways.
Splat map blending is very hard to do properly outside of Unreal, I wish Unreal allowed “solid” maps instead of maps where you have to remove other splat layers before importing it in. Maybe there is some workflow to this I don’t understand, but I feel like Unreal should have some automation there by automatically smart combining the maps together. e.g. You have grass layer, you set it to 100% white. You make a road layer, have only the road shape there. Unreal should blend it so that the grass layer is the lowest layer, and the road (based on layer order) is drawn on top of it based on it’s mask. What Unreal currently does is decide that 1.0 grass mask pixel and 1.0 road mask pixel means that user wants so that road is half transparent. I don’t think normalization of values based on masks is very effective way of doing this, especially not when you have 5-10 layers of textures you need to manage.
Basically what I’m suggesting or saying is that the splat map importing should respect the logic behind photoshop masking where top layer overrides layer below based on the masking of pixels.
Landscape tools in general
I feel the dropdown menus for tool/brush/falloff selections are unnecessarily slow to use. I wish there was a tool palette similarly to what photoshop has, so you could just quickly click and switch between sculpt and flatten for example. It would at least greatly improve my workflow and I think there are many that would prefer simple clickable tool bars
On foliage painting mode I’d like to request ability to set “global scale” of meshes in the brush tool. Current options for the brush tool itself are Brush Size, Paint Density, and Erase Density. A global scale would be a multiplier you want to apply without having to adjust it manually on all meshes. An example case is based on our game, we have two terrains in the game, one is world map (small objects), other is combat map (big objects). Every time I want to switch between the maps, I manually need to change all meshes I want to use there. This is probably a less critical feature, but it’s on my wishlist none the less. Other practical use would be for user to easily test if bigger foliage would work better than small one. Basically the paint density is already a similar feature where it “adjusts” the mesh setting itself?
Bonus wish: Landscape density brush?
A semi dynamic landscape mesh density brush would be a great feature. You would have two options, reduce landscape mesh tessellation, or add mesh tessellation. Basically with the idea that you could reduce amount of mesh detail on flat areas and if you had complex river side for example, you could paint more mesh detail there. Sculptris (http://pixologic.com/sculptris/) has this kind of system in it’s sculpting tools and it’s really nice to use as you don’t have to have a massively tessellated mesh to be able to paint in details. Saves a huge amount of triangles!
All in all. I am absolutely impressed with the landscape tools and I really enjoy using them