Environmental Prototypes (Unreal 3.5)
Towards the end of Unreal 3.5's lifespan, I engaged in an R&D period, studying environment elements and shader creation. My aim: to produce robust pipelines which could easily be balanced at any time. This mostly comprised of building Master Shaders which could be instantiated, and within which key functions could be enabled or disabled as needed-- for example, rain could be called via code to ensure water run-off appeared on all appropriate objects. I also looked into using the Procedural Building system to generate city geometry swiftly.
Here we see a variety of shaders in action: from Landscape shaders, where all textures tile seamlessly at a distance and can be balanced in realtime; to sky shaders which can alter in relation to time of day; to mesh paint shaders which can be used to make large duplicated objects seem unique and interesting. In all, these allow for swift world creation. Incidentally landscapes were generated using World Machine. The first of these videos gives you some impression of what this might feel like in a first-person-shooter.
Here we can see the ProcBuilding system in action. Simple mesh elements are tiled using rule sets and these can be expanded to create buildings on the fly. Again, I used instantiated materials here to enable me to alter any detail, from the colour of the brickwork to the mortar between them. I also experimented on creating believable shaders for windows that would randomise their internal details and appear to have depth, as well as randomising their colours slightly, based on world position. Again, in the last video you can see it all starting to come together.