You probably can tell: I am a big fan of the “Lord of The Rings” and “Game Of Thrones” universes, their rich environments and unique stories. The perpetual battle between good and evil inspired me to create materials.
I’ve had the idea in the back of my mind for quite some time, so when the Substance team let me chose the theme I liked, I knew what I wanted to do — and how. These materials had to tell the story of how and why those surfaces were formed. For instance, I chose monotone colors, as you won’t see much joy in a battle — whether you end up victorious or defeated.
For each material, I gathered very specific references and tried to stay as close to them as possible.
It wasn’t my first time following references, of course, but it was definitely a challenge. First, I had to focus on bigger silhouettes while minding the small details, to make sure I got both the feel and the large scale of fantasy worlds right.
Besides, I had to work with the Substance team’s very specific technical requirements. Going from ideas to references, through a limited budget, to production-ready materials for Source has been a very mind-broadening journey.
Chapter 1: The Light
Because this is all about a journey, every material has its own short story. “Fortress Walls” was the first material that I saw in a large scale, and it helped me take the fullest advantage of the materials in this category.
Of course there were a lot of iterations, and I needed to create the first pass on every surface in order to give myself the full picture too. I can honestly say that it was super fun to test out renders of the materials and see the result on just simple meshes and mostly relying on heightmaps.Elves are a large part of the forces for good, and their armors tend to have very special designs.
Tolkien fans know that the metal used for these super strong protections is called mithril:“the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien)
As the forces of the light are meant to meet with the forces of darkness on the battlefield, I wanted to make the materials feel reinforced with a strong emphasis on defence and protection.
On top of that, I wanted to be able to create modular assets from the materials and kit-bash them together to create an actual environment. I wanted to see how far the heightmaps can be pushed.
Chapter 2: The Darkness
“There is no light without dark, no good without evil.”
Once I had a clear mind of what I wanted to achieve with the Light Side, I knew how to approach the Darkness. I wanted the materials to create an eerie atmosphere that would be mixed with a sense of impending doom. The Lord of the Rings universe was here again a great source for references. Since I had already done an actual environment and research on “Minas Morgul”, I tried to take elements from that, mixed with “The Black Gate”. The “Fortress Gate” material was born.
Using only a few gradients and Tile generators, I managed to create a material that I once modeled out for my personal environment work. That was a really awesome feeling to see that I could’ve replaced modeling with heightmap and displacement.
On that point, having a proper heightmap translates into having a nice looking material.
And this project relied heavily on the heightmap. I only used mid-grey for the color and roughness until the very end. Once I was happy with how the height of the surface looked, I went forward with every other map.
If you start building your materials by relying on colors and reflections from the get-go, you will be distracted from the most important step — which is a clean and readable height map. And the reason I know this… Is because I made that mistake when I first started out.
On top of that, I wanted to expand my knowledge on metallic surfaces as well. I researched densities of different metals and from there created value differences based on their real life attributes.
Doing that kind of research is one of the most interesting parts in material creation for me. You get to know so much about how surfaces are formed and how they react to environmental conditions.
A good example of that is how iron oxidises over time, due to water and air reacting to the surface of the material, which results in the formation of rust.
Even while it’s very difficult to see details that I usually tend to put into my materials, I always want to add micro details which can only be observed very close up. In the end, these are what make you feel as if you could touch or smell the surface.
Chapter 3: Battlefield
And finally to bring both sides together and create the link between everything, I created a battlefield between the two factions.
Here, I focused heavily on the ground to have variance from basic dirt and pebbles to a bloody mud, which has to look as if the battle just took place and nothing can bring back what just happened. I wanted the materials to preserve the imagination of what had happened and feel like they have their own story to tell.
I did need a reason for why the battle even took place. Therefore one of the most iconic materials in this collection would be the “Gold Ore”.
The core idea for the battle would be the fight for land of having precious metal at their disposal. Even though these descriptions were only for me, then they helped a lot to build the final materials and build the renders for them.
I also took the idea of dragon-glass from “Game Of Thrones” where it reminded me of Obsidian a lot and therefore has the same backstory.
Enrico will be live this Tuesday, and will explain how he created these materials – don’t miss it!
Meet Enrico Tammekänd
Enrico Tammekänd is a self-taught Material and Environment Artist from Estonia, Pärnu.
He has been learning game art on his own for about 10 years now, and really enjoys sharing some of the knowledge he’s acquired over time. Enrico has founded his own game development studio Enthelity and has previously worked with multiple indie studios and companies like Ubisoft and CGTextures. Currently he is at Counterplay Games as an Environment Artist working on the upcoming PS5 game called “Godfall”.
“Having the opportunity to work on the Signature Series has been just amazing to say the least. While the scope of the project was quite big, I enjoyed every moment of it and can’t even describe how thankful I am for this.
I want to say a big thank you to the Substance team for making this project come to life and who helped me a lot during the process. Coming from no educational background in game art and being able to work with one of the leading software developers in our area is heavily thanks to everyone who has supported my art on Artstation. I wouldn’t be here without you guys, thank you for everything!”