Sunday, 14 February 2016

Unreal Engine 4 environment creation

Landscape and terrain


Unreal Engine 4 environment creation playlist -

Landscape painting

Creating Landscape Materials -

RATSGAME UE4 Landscape Materials playlist -

Terrain creation (advanced version of landscape)

Rather than using Unreal Engine's landscape system it is possible to create a terrain which can be thought of as a large geometry mesh which can have materials applied almost like any other mesh. This mesh can be divided up to allow using of techniques such as LOD. World Machine ( is a great tool for creating/generating terrain that can be imported into UE4.

Weight maps can be used to control how materials are applied to the terrain. They are quite low resolution, but in combination of using height maps the materials can be blended together more naturally.

GDC 2015: Creating the Open World Kite Real-Time Demo in Unreal Engine 4 -

Lighting and Shadows (WIP)

Lightmass Global Illumination

Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows

Distance Field Ambient Occlusion

Unreal Engine 4 Twitch Broadcast - Soft Shadows & Subsurface Scattering -

Places to look for important settings/features

Lightmass Settings in World Settings
Static Lighting Level Scale - lower value = more contrast/deeper shading

  • Light and Distance Field Ambient Occlusion tabs
  • sky distance threshold to 1
  • uncheck the low hemisphere is black (to get some fake "bounce light" from the ground)

Foliage (WIP)


When creating foliage it needs to be thought of and split into 2 sets:
  1. Foliage - normally larger objects like tress and rocks that have collision which are manual or procedural placed
  2. Grass/Vegetation - smaller objects like grass, flowers and pebbles that have no collision and placed through material placement
Setup and Creation

My recommend tool is Speedtree for UE4 ( allows semi-automatic generation of foliage such as tress and bushes, but manual creation for grass by simply applying textures to polygon planes.

Creating Models For UE4 (SpeedTree) -

Unreal Engine 4 foliage creation playlist -

Advanced features

To get the best results on foliage I enable Distance Field Ambient Occlusion and update the following settings on the mesh's Build Settings (hidden drop down under each LOD in the asset viewer):
  • Enable Generate Distance Field as if Two Sided
  • Increase Distance Field Resolution Scale to improve AO quality

The slider on the left shows the difference when Generate Distance Field as if Two Sided option is toggled and the left slider shows the difference when Distance Field Resolution Scale is increased which brings back some of the depth lost when enabling the two sided option. I found that values above 5 did not really increase visual quality, but did massively increase the time taken to generate the distance fields.

NOTE: you must enable the option for instanced foliage if you want to paint foliage or use the procedural foliage spawner system. This can be found in the Modes window under the Foliage tab, after selecting a foliage type, scroll down to the Instance Settings rollout and check the option for Affect Distance Field Lighting. This does need to be done for each foliage type which will use DFAO.


UE4 - Forest -

UE4 SpeedTree Forest -

UE4 - SpeedTree - DFAO/GI test -

UE4 SpeedTree dynamic day cycle -

[FREE] Foliage Starter Kit -

Creating roads, paths, fences etc

Landscape Splines -

DokipenTechTutorials Unreal Engine Spline Road Tool Tutorial playlist -


Water Surface Overview in UE4 -

Gaming and Engine Tutorials Water Tutorials Unreal engine 4 playlist -

Level building

Building the Glass Walls (v4.7) -


Creating a quick Unreal Engine 4 desert scene -

Creating a quick Unreal Engine 4 Night/Lake Scene -

Creating a quick Unreal Engine 4 Valley Scene -

Other tips

Adding Atmospheric fog to enable light shafts -

Good examples of environments and levels developed in UE4

Breaking Bad Cabin Environment [UE4] -

Unreal Engine 4 - Ghosts'N Goblins -

UE4 - Trailed - Walkthrough - StudentProject - NAD -

P.T. recreated on Unreal Engine 4 -

UE4 - Snow 2 by koooolalala -

UE4 - Forest by koooolalala -

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