Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Update and Substance Designer

Substance Designer graph and 2D output windows of a rusted metal wall substance

Substance Designer

After a brief hiatus for the holidays, I have returned to work on our game in the new year with a brand new tool: Substance Designer 4. While this is a bit of a pricey detour from our general “spend no money” policy, I caught a Steam flash sale and couldn't resist the temptation to buy a commercial software license for 66% off the retail price.

If you haven’t heard of Substance Designer, it’s an extremely powerful node-based texturing tool made by Allegorithmic. You can string together nodes to make your substance (e.g., a rusted metal with chipping paint) once, and then save that substance for later use on your other models by simply dragging and dropping the pre-made substance into your new node graph (it will condense the whole pre-made graph into a single node, which saves space) and hooking up the nodes. The 3D view shows you how your model looks in real-time, so it saves time you would otherwise spend hopping back and forth from Photoshop. (I don’t mean for this to sound like an ad for the software, I’m just really excited about this purchase).

Substance Designer is directly supported by UDK, so a major advantage for me is that I don’t have to worry about issues with UV mapping and trying to get my Blender materials to display correctly in UDK. Further, you can “expose” attributes in Substance Designer to allow you to edit how your materials look inside of UDK (e.g., expose the color palette and you can edit the color of your material in UDK), which gives your level designer more power over how assets look inside the game.

The downside is that I am now obligated to learn yet another complex tool. Fortunately, Allegorithmic has released several tutorials for using Substance Designer, so that should take some of the pain out of the learning process.