To create game levels, designers like to start with blocked out shapes then layer in more detailed game art. Using procedural techniques in Houdini, you can learn how to put your whole level design logic into a single digital asset for use in UE4. Using geometry for blocking out the level, you will build an asset that creates the terrain then adds details with a series of nested assets that define the different parts of the level. Controls will be available in UE4 to tweak the results. When you are finished, you will have a high level tool that can be used in UE4 to create many level variations. You can also scale up to create even bigger levels.
These project files contain Quixel Megascan assets made available courtesy of Epic Games. By downloading these assets, you are agreeing to the terms of the UE4 EULA. These assets are intended for learning purposes only. To use Quixel Assets in your own projects, go the the Quixel website for more information such as the recent announcement that the Megascans library is completely free for use with Unreal Engine.
These lessons use the SideFX Labs
tools. Make sure the latest release (non production build) is installed when doing this lesson.
Explore the finished Level Builder asset and see how you can use it to create complete levels using a single curve. You can then peek into the tool to better understand how it works and how all of the pieces come together to create a rich game environment.
1 | Create the Base Terrain
In this video, the base terrain will be created for the project. Learn the basics of heightfields in Houdini and how they are used to make the terrain. Build a system that lets designers and artists shape their own levels quickly and efficiently.
2 | Open Terrain in UE4
With the base terrain created, it is time to bring the asset into UE4. With the Houdini Engine plugin you will load in the full terrain with layers. Custom inputs will be used to add flexibility to the tool.
3 | Create Blockout Tool for Terrain
Now that you can use custom inputs for the terrain, you will create a blockout tool. This tool generates custom shapes based on lines. This makes it easy to add specific shapes or to scatter models around. The resulting shapes will then be used to influence the shape of the terrain.
4 | Create the Path and Railway
The first detail to add to the scene will be a path and railway. This is a digital asset derived from the terrain and curves used to generate a path and railway. Learn how to integrate these models nicely into the terrain.
5 | Open the Path and Railway in UE4
Once the logic of the path and railway are set, you can bring it into UE4. Start by adding instances to the models for the path and the railway and making the curves editable. Rebuilding the asset in UE4 will display these curves and they can be used to place and control the path and railway.
6 | Model the Bridge
The next part is to create a bridge for the level. This bridge is based on cubes which can be controlled by the level designer to place and shape the bridge. You will also learn how to add detail the bridge and ivy growing along the geometry.
7 | Add the Bridge to the Terrain
Once the bridge is finished, it can be integrated into the terrain. The asset will be rebuilt and you can test the new features in UE4.
8 | Model the Building
Next you will create the procedural building. This part will start with the SideFX Labs Building Generator. You will add parts that suit your building type then the geometry will be set up for some destruction.
9 | Add Ruin and Decay to the Building
To improve the destruction of the building, a system will be created to define the ruined parts of the building then place bricks around these broken areas. These items will be set up as instances.
10 | Add Props to the Building
To finish the building you will scatter plants and ivy as well as debris. These will follow the shape of the building no matter what the shape. The terrain will be modified to integrate with the building and the whole system will be tested in UE4.
11 | Create the Cliffs
Along the side of the ravine, you will add rocky cliffs using Megascan models. This tool will place modular cliffs based on the input terrain. With the cliffs enabled, the terrain will look a lot more realistic and detailed.
12 | Add Trees and Foliage
Trees and other foliage will be added next to show enrich the look of the level. By creating a more complex mask, you will be able to scatter the trees based on occlusion, curvature, direction and noise.
BONUS | Create Hero Prop
In this video you will learn how to create a hero prop. With this tool, a wooden construction can be generated from a curve. It can be a quick way to add more decoration to the scene.
CONCLUSION | Variations and Scaling Up
The final video shows this tool being used to create multiple level variations as well as scaled up levels. The key is that once this tool lets your designer explore multiple iterations right inside UE4 while Houdini works under the hood to general the new level. After a quick gameplay test, you can go back and make tweaks to get the level you really need for your game.