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The trees of Ether

When setting out to create the trees for Ether, the team had the idea of being able to change the seasons on the fly, so for example, one minute it would look like a summer day, the next it would turn to autumn. From the get go, I had this in mind and I was able to create a system that allowed for us to do that, by slightly tweaking the grass shader I made earlier on in the development process.

Apart from that, making trees that would hold up to the Ether style in a fast and efficient manner would prove to be quite hard. Modelling trees in an singular fashion, creating enough variation and making sure Uv mapping them in the traditional manner would have taken an extremely long amount of time, and since we’re a team of 2 artists, I had to figure out a system that would allow me to create trees in a fast manner, UV map them with ease, and for them to allow for an almost modular approach in their creation workflow.

The following explains how I go about making the trees for Ether and how I managed to create an efficient workflow for a small team.

The first thing I did was create a spline that would define the shape of the tree. Each branch would become a separate spline. After this is done, I made a cylinder and edited it to make it resemble a tree trunk or branch. Once this was done I UV mapped this piece. The idea behind this method is that we will now duplicate our cylinder and create an INSTANCE of the original. This will ensure that every time we need to edit our branches, we can just edit the original and not have to worry about akward rotations or positions that our branch will take.

Once we have our instanced cylinder, we apply the “Path deform” modifier and stretch the cylinder to follow the shape of the branch. After making a few of these branches, we will have the skeleton of our Tree. Now we can paint the texture for the bark. In this case, for the Oak, I made the following texture:

Now it’s time to make the textures for the leaves. One thing I must note is that when texturing the leaves, I didn’t want to create extreme colour variations. The reason behind it is that to ensure the transition between summer and Autumn doesn’t end up having unrealistic coulours like blue leaves!

Once this is done, we can create a plane that is Vertex painted (in order to work with the wind expression) and apply our leaves texture. With these planes, we can now create a clump of leaves that we can place as branches and create the canopy of our tree.

The final result in UDK is:

And to show the season changes:

Here is also a Forested area created with the trees and foliage:

Here you can find a video explaining the tree making process:

Trees of Ether (click)

Thanks for checking out our work. We’re getting more and more hits everyday so be sure to pass it around to anyone you think might be interested!

And as always, we still need that ever important Greenlight vote!! so be sure to vote!

Ether One Steam Greenlight

Next up we’ll be showing some of the particle stuff in Ether!

Posted on by Pete Bottomley

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