The Character Aesthetics Tech Demo running in real time of Unreal Engine 4.
Epic’s Jordan Walker and Zak Parrish discuss how artists crafted the look of characters in the Unreal Engine 4 “Infiltrator” real-time demonstration. This includes a brief walk through of the UE4 art pipeline and layered materials.
Unreal Engine 4 Layered Materials
Unreal Engine 4 New materials pipeline helps artists leverage the power of physically-based shading in a visually friendly way. Materials are easier to implement than ever before, with support for numerous content creation methods that provide equally stunning results in-engine.
UE4 materials take advantage of node-based visual scripting, and the engine is designed so that desired changes can be propagated throughout the game world in real time. Whether a surface is constructed with one material or built via the layered method, materials in UE4 are kind to game performance, look fantastic, and give artists total control over aesthetics.
This evolution in materials is especially significant because layers can now be painted on at the pixel level, as opposed to the traditional method of applying changes to individual polygons. This can save loads of man hours, especially because UE4 assets can be edited, saved, and shared on the fly. Take a look at how Epic’s artists utilized the new pipeline to customize the look of characters and maintain a consistent art style in the Infiltrator demo.
Since materials can now be mapped per-pixel, artists have the ability to change that mapping at runtime. This technique yields materials that are inherently simpler because they can be created faster and are easier to edit down the pipeline, if necessary.
Lastly, the mask that defines each material layer’s placement can itself be modified and animated during gameplay. The potential applications that take advantage of this perk are limitless: Consider torn fabric exposing the skin beneath, or streaming liquid across a character’s flesh. Artists can even simulate character morphing by switching to a completely new type of material, such as shifting skin to steel or chrome – all changing at runtime, and all while maintaining fast and efficient editability for artists.
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