One of the most faced problems we indie devs face is to place good looking trees in our levels.
Not that the game industry is not offering any of them (i.e. the SpeedTree suite) but normally we can’t afford the big money for this kind of professional assets just like many studios do. So we go towards the cheap way and place hand made trees (at least those fortunate enough to have some blender modeler in their team) or go procedurally.
Not to say that, since I’m a one man army, that I had to learn at least a bit of blender (really not enough to make some good looking tree) but needed to have some good looking asset to play with really fast (consider also that selling products on Epic Marketplace implies you have the right to publish content, thus putting a big no on demo assets.
Then I stumbled upon a true masterpiece. A procedural tree generator, just like SpeedTree is, but it is not cheap. It’s completely free! Yes!
The app is called TreeIt (and I suppose many of you know this name). Born, I suppose, for Dark Basic users it creates stunning trees in a matter of seconds.
The problem, then, was to import the meshes that it produces in Unreal and placing on them a convincing wind animation. But, since the Unreal materials are probably the second greates discovery after the wheel and the fire I managed to have some very convincing trees in a couple of days.
Not so difficult. Two materials at least (one for the bark and one for the leaves) ad some pretty and nifty nodes for trunk sway and leaves flutter and… Voilà, my trees are almost SpeedTree like. Just free!
On the left a pine tree graciously given free from SpeedTree creators to the Unreal folks, center is mine and right a mobile version of a SpeedTree conifer. Spot the differences…