Cold Furnace’s first game under development, Atrocity: Field of Hands (AFoH), is a first-person shooter based on a real historical conflict that will feature a wide range of settings – from lush natural environments and rural landscapes to gritty urban areas in the midst of war.
Veteran operated Cold Furnace Studios has assembled a team of in-house Canadian and US military advisors with first-hand combat experience in a number of international conflicts. This lends an authenticity to game development – from settings to weapons and strategies of warfare – as artists, programmers and others liaise directly with these advisors (serving and retired) who continually evaluate AFoH for a realistic experience.
Here we present a first glimpse into our game universe – a peaceful setting that will stand in stark contrast to other depictions of violent conflict within AFoH.
Our objective with the featured showcase map was to create an environment surrounding a riverbank, one of the many natural settings in AFoH, using the Quixel Megascans Library, Speedtree, and Unreal Engine.
“We are dedicated to creating the highest standards in realism, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with Quixel and gaining access to their awesome library of high-quality content and photorealistic images,” said Lori Shepherd, Cold Furnace Chief Creative Officer.
In building a scene such as our showcase feature, it’s useful to begin with images of real places that mimic your world’s particular setting (see image below). Nigel Willis, an environment artist at Cold Furnace, compared and ultimately chose similar assets and textures of ground materials, plants, bark and rock surfaces within the Megascans Library.
Quixel Bridge was used to download and export ground materials into Unreal Engine 4. An additional five customized materials were created using Quixel Mixer to build more natural looking transitional materials that suited the scene, such as grass-to-rocks and rocks-to-cliff (see below).
We evaluated SpeedTree V8 using the modeler and Megascans assets to create grasses, small and medium bushes, ferns, trees, flowers and other small plants. Upon completion, all assets were run through SpeedTree tools AO Calculation and Wind Wizard prior to export to UE4. SpeedTree provided both ease of use and reduced asset creation times, as well as an ability to generate multiple variations of assets quickly, using the randomize function.
Nigel worked further in UE4 by creating a customized shader to brighten up some of the foliage. Techniques such as fuzzy shading (seen in the material graph below) were added to achieve a more natural look. The image on the bottom-left is an asset imported from Megascans/Speedtree using default materials. The image on the bottom right utilizes the custom shader.
Grass and other vegetation not requiring collision were set up using grass output node (UE4 built-in tool). Next, Nigel used a combination of Unreal Engine’s procedural foliage spawning system, foliage tool and masking to populate the map with vegetation. Initially, the procedural foliage spawning tool was used to place a large amount of trees on the map. Additional trees, bushes, rocks and other assets were placed both by masking and using the foliage painting tool with custom settings for height, angle from normal, and various other parameters.
The terrain was sculpted using UE4 terrain sculpt tools with custom alpha texture brushes. The following is a bird’s-eye view of the overall scene.
Our artist also created some erosional features to aid in the process of making the landscape look as natural as possible. Flow lines shown below were tinted red to be easily recognizable while placing/removing assets manually.
The final result is a scene that is rich and vivid, as well as loaded with detail and a true-to-life, realistic feel.