After the madness of the Indie Development Fund has calmed down and we're in the process of picking the winners, it's time for another Community Spotlight! We want to showcase your work, CryEngineers, and this time, we have an especially beautiful and detailed creation to show you: Birch Forest by Johan Stoerksen.
Walt Whitman had it right. Truly there's nothing better than taking a walk through the woods. But who has time for that when there's games to be made? CRYENGINE user Johan Stoerkersen brings to us today an excellent sylvan scene, aptly named Birch Forest, brought spectacularly to life with the power of CRYENGINE. We sat down with Johan to learn a little more about this visual masterpiece and himself. Prepare to get back to nature in today's feature!
Tell us a little background about yourself. Where are you from?
My name is Johan and I am from Norway. I have been doing art for the past 2-3 years as a hobby with the goal of becoming a professional artist. I am an educated baker which is what I have been doing full time the past 2 years along with some freelancing. I have always been fascinated by realism in games and it is what I have been pushing towards in terms of art style and skill set. I have spent quite a bit of time getting to know photogrammetry and how to efficiently use it as well as creating hand-made assets and blending the two techniques.
What drew you to development, and to use CRYENGINE for your project?
The main purpose for this scene was as a portfolio piece to showcase various art creation methods. CRYENGINE was an easy choice for me since I first of all don't really know any other engine, but also because it is arguably the "prettiest" engine and has a solid asset pipeline that is easy to get used to.
"CRYENGINE...has a solid asset pipeline that is easy to get used to"
Did you draw upon any real life sources or references while developing Birch Forest? How did you source them?
Yes, a lot of what you see is created using photogrammetry but a lot of it isn't, the reason is not necessarily because I couldn't find the right reference but because I feel like it's important as an artist to have the ability to create assets using different techniques as studios' workflows vary a lot and being flexible gives you an edge. Things like vegetation was made with a quite common workflow I refer to as photo-modeling which is basically photo-reference combined with high poly models while the tileable textures from the house where all created from scratch using Zbrush and Photoshop. Everything is 100% by me (no Megascans, People keep suggesting this, so just making it clear).
"It's important as an artist to have the ability to create assets using different techniques"
Did you encounter any difficulties during development? How did you overcome them?
There is always going to be a lot of problems, i think my biggest was concept as I wasn't even 90% sure what I wanted, how I wanted it to look and so on. I didn't do a whitebox which ended up with me just placing assets around hoping for the best, and while it didn't turn out disastrous level art was definitely not up to par with what I wanted.
Another major issue was the terrain system in CRYENGINE as it didn't quite have all the features I expected. I was simply not able to get the detail I wanted with it. The way I solved it was by using convex planes with proxy and LOD's and overlaying them on top of the terrain. It made much better blending possible, I could rotate them and avoid much tiling repetition and i was able to use displacement mapping since I'm not bound to the terrain shader. Main downside being placing them around is quite tedious and takes time.
Any advice you'd like to share to aspiring developers?
Work hard and know what you want, there are a lot of artists out there so try to stand out whether it's art style or skill set. Look ahead and try to figure out what the future will be in terms of workflow/applications and so on and get good at it. As the years go by there will be less jobs so you better have something new to offer if you want to stay relevant.
"Work hard and know what you want"
That's all for today's feature! Make sure to check out Johan's work on his ArtStation Page!
-Tracer & Nic