Dead by Daylight - Substance Brings Your Worst Nightmares to Life!
Hello guys, thanks for taking your time for this interview. Before we begin, could you please introduce yourselves to the community?
Phil: Hey! My name is Filip Ivanovic, I am the Art Director on Dead by Daylight and I’ve been on the project for approximately two years.
Damien: Hi guys, my name is Damien Devaux, and I’m Lead Character Artist on Dead by Daylight. I’ve been on the project for about three years.
Could you tell us more about Dead by Daylight? The game was released two years ago but is still very popular. How does this affect the type of content you’re still producing for it?
Phil: Dead by Daylight is an asymmetrical action and survival horror multiplayer game in which one crazed, unstoppable killer hunts four survivors through a terrifying nightmarish world in a deadly game of cat and mouse. It was first released on Steam in June 2016 and then on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One home consoles in June 2017.
Last June, we released the in-game store, which affected the type of content we create. We now produce way more outfits for the characters. Our players want new content, and we work hard to give them what they want. We’re constantly working on new ideas to keep the players engaged.
How about the art direction of Dead by Daylight? Where do you get your references and your inspiration?
Phil: When I first joined the team, the style focused mainly on hand-painted textures. I really wanted to push things further and use more of the latest shaders and tech available.
I really wanted to go darker and have more of a story-driven world (including the characters). In terms of inspiration, I’m a big horror movie and dark author fan, from the old horror movies of the ’80s to the twisted world of H.P. Lovecraft. I always question myself when I brainstorm for a new killer. Could we do a movie about them? Is it something that would look awesome as cosplay? And most importantly, is it new and fresh for our game?
Damien: The art direction was quite different at the beginning; it was more about sharp edges and stylized hand-painted textures. The art direction eventually evolved towards a more realistic approach as you can see today.
Here’s a first pass on Dwight, before we changed the art direction.
How did you discover Substance? Why did you decide to use it in production?
Phil: I discovered Substance Painter and Substance Designer on my previous project, Star Citizen. I was amazed by how fast we could generate amazing materials in a short time.
Damien: A couple of years ago, I was looking for inspiration to create a new project for my portfolio and I discovered amazing works that had remarkable realism. The rendering of metal materials was very good. So I investigated PBR and I discovered Substance Painter. The workflow of this software is very efficient.
At first, all the texturing was done in Photoshop. The art direction focused on hand-painted textures, but when it changed, we decided to go more realistic and it was then we updated the production pipeline.
On what aspects of the game do you use the Substance tools?
Phil: We use both products for environments, Substance Painter mainly for props and buildings and Substance Designer for grounds. We use Substance B2M more and more to generate seamless tiling materials.
Damien: On the character side, all the backing and texturing processes are carried out with Substance Painter.
Could you describe your texturing pipeline?
Phil: The texturing pipeline on the environment side is straightforward, especially for the props, thanks to the Substance tools.
For the ground, we often reuse a basic formula in Substance Designer (for forest ground, interior concrete ground, etc.) that we can start from for every new map. From there, we adjust our basic material to suit our needs. The most enjoyable part is adding and removing elements as we test them in the engine. Having a solid base material helps us a lot since we’re a live game and the schedules are tight.
Damien: We start from the existing default materials within Substance Painter and modify them to fit the concept art. We use an ID map to assign different materials to different parts. On that note, I cannot wait to have the next update to use the drag and drop to ID. Since the beginning of the project, we’ve created a library of materials such as denim, leather jackets, patterns, and so on.
After that, we do a dirt pass using generators with smart masks. Ground dirt, MG Dirt and Fiber Glass edge wear are the masks we use the most.
The process is mostly the same for all characters. Texturing takes about 2 days per character.
Could you give a step-by-step breakdown of a Dead by Daylight character?
Damien: Here’s the process for the Metal Trapper, which was a new outfit that came out in September. I start with the concept art from our amazing concept artist Christophe Young which is done following Phil’s art direction.
We have a base model for each character in Dead by Daylight. Because we do a lot of different outfits, that model is crucial.
I bring a decimate version into Marvelous Designer to create base clothing. I don’t go too far with this process; all I want are some interesting folds.
Then, I add all the details in ZBrush. Some of the parts are done in Maya and then reintegrated into ZBrush to add details. I don’t bother adding patterns and fabrics into ZBrush, however. It’s easier and faster to keep that part within Substance Painter where you can see the scale of the fabrics, change the direction, and change the type of fabrics easily, in real time. I also don’t want to go back to ZBrush and rebake everything.
When my high def model is done, I start thinking about what will be merged into one low def, and assign a color on each part. That will be the color ID I’ll use during the texture phase.
First, I do a ‘Merge Visible’ to a few pieces that will end up being the same mesh. After that, I ‘dynamesh’ them so they don't have thickness issues when I retopology in Maya. Finally, I decimate to be able to load that model into Maya without performance issues since the model can be really heavy.
Once in Maya, I use Quadraw to create the low def model based on the different high def models that I decimated earlier with ZBrush.
Here’s how Quadraw works:
Here’s the final low poly. This one is around 45,000 triangles:
We also take time to create LODs.
You can see here how I set up the low definition models and the high definition model from ZBrush. I really like the Match By Mesh Name feature in Substance Painter. You can see how I named each material and the node attached to it. I select all the low definition meshes and export an .obj.
For more details about exporting from ZBrush, the Allegorithmic documentation is really informative, and accessible here: https://support.allegorithmic.com/documentation/display/SPDOC/Matching+by+name
Once in Substance Painter, all the textures are given the same name as the node in Maya.
We mostly use materials/smart materials that are already in Substance Painter and tweak them to fit the art direction. I use different generators to add realistic behavior to the clothing such as ground dirt, which adds a gradient dirt or color variation to the fabric. For example, I like to brighten the top of the shirt because it’s the part most exposed to the sun, altering the cloth. It mimics the weathering effect.
I also like the MG Fiber Glass edge wear, I use it to make the edge of used denim pop.
Then, to export the textures, I use a preset in Substance Painter that I created for the material we use in Unreal Engine.
In the Export Panel, you can create your own preset. Here’s the setup:
You can see that the output Maps are written as: $textureSet_ORM. It takes the name of the texture set we already named correctly in Maya which corresponds to the node name. It exports to: T_TRHead007_ORM.png, T_TRHead007_BDE.png, T_TRHead007_N.png, and so on.
Finally, here’s an in-game render once everything is integrated into Unreal Engine:
What are your favorite features?
Phil: I love the Smart Materials. This speeds up the process so much. I also love using the Smart Masks and Generators as they give us a really interesting look within seconds.
Damien: Match by Mesh Name is probably my favorite feature. It enables us to name and match the high and low definition models without baking issues, and increase the process of character creation as well as the quality. It’s a long process in the beginning as you need to think how things are going to be baked together in advance, but once it’s done and you get used to it, it’s really powerful and fast.
Do you have any tips and tricks with Substance for the community?
- In Dead by Daylight, we have different environments with different lighting. Every lighting makes the textures look different. So, because we need a neutral lighting color, we set the environment map to white.
- Use the fill layer as much as possible instead of general layers, and create a mask and paint on it. You’ll be able to change the color, height, roughness, and so on. Everything is non-destructive with this workflow.
How do you see your use of Substance developing in the future?
Phil: I see ourselves expanding to a bigger library of materials and creating more complex materials in Substance Designer. I want to put the emphasis on this!
I’m also really looking forward to Substance Alchemist. It will be fun to see how we can speed up our process even more.
Damien: We’re going to expand our library of fabrics/materials, and be more efficient when creating new outfits for Dead by Daylight. We’re pushing hard to add more and more details with the dedicated time we have per character. That’s why I’m always looking for new features that can speed up our process, and I know that all the new features that Allegorithmic are adding to Substance Painter will help a lot with that.
All images courtesy of Behaviour Interactive