One thing that I’m really loving about Unreal Engine is there’s a product out there, for just about any project you might need to work on. My biggest fear when learning 3D animation was that I would have to spend all my time learning to build and model anything and everything I needed. That’s not the case with the Unreal Marketplace, and the thousands of users out there designing products for just about any situation you might find yourself in. One thing that has always fascinated me is Space, you know, the final frontier. Creating space scenes can be tricky as they really require a few important elements that you’ll need, or need to create. First, you’ll need the “universe” itself created via skyboxes (basically a sphere that you sit inside and project the 360 degree image onto), you’ll need some planets (rocky, gas, earth-like), you’ll need a sun, and then you’ll need some extras like asteroids, black holes, etc. That’s where Space Creator Pro comes in. You can create some pretty stunning space shots for your universe quickly and easily with this excellent space package.
WHAT YOU GET
Space Creator pro is a product that is a combination of two products. Space Creator, the original version, and the upgrade path for it, which is the Space Creator Pro Integration pack. What’s important to keep in mind is that the Space Creator Pro Integration pack is only required if you’re looking to upgrade from the standard version to the Pro version. If you’ve purchased (or are going to purchase) the Pro version, you have everything you need. Speaking of that, Here’s what comes in the full Space Creator Pro product pack.
From Space Creator Standard:
What’s important to also keep in mind is that all of these assets can be purchased as a-la-carte options (which you don’t need, as you have everything), but it does bring up an interesting point that I want to focus on.
With almost all of the Unreal Engine items I’ve used, there are varying levels of training that come along with them, and Space Creator Pro is no different, but there is a huge benefit of having the items sold a-la-care when it comes to training, that is exceptionally beneficial. Normally, when a pack like this is released, you would get a training video that covers the “entire” product, which there definitely is, but what ends up getting lost in the shuffle is all the little elements and nuances that make the product really stand out. By having each one of the above packs included in Space Creator Pro (Planet Creator, Black Hole Creator, etc.), there is (for the most part) a separate training video done for each of the products, this way when when you’re ready to have them integrated into one of your projects, you’re ready to quickly jump in and see how they work. Black Hole Creator is a perfect example of this. When you drop the Black Hole blueprint into your space scene, it looks like this:
My initial thought was, “What the hell is this?”. With the five minute training video I had the Black Hole looking like this which is much more, well, spectacular.
HOW IT WORKS
Space Creator Pro has taught me a lot about how to think of my projects when working in 3D environments. Up until this point when working on my projects, I’ve used my friend the Mannequin to gauge how big elements in my scene should be. But in space things are a bit different, as we don’t really have a real world reference…..or do we? When working with Space Creator Pro, the Sun became my new real world reference. For the most part, whenever I’ve seen a space scene in a movie or TV show, the sun is normally the most dominant element in the scene, meaning the biggest, so that’s always a very easy place to start. But let’s back things up before we get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about our environment first.
Our Skybox Libraries are what we’re going to use to create the universe that our planets (and any other element we decide to use) will live in. First thing we need is a new, empty level.
Once that’s open, make sure that your are displaying all of the Engine content:
Then with Engine selected, search for SM_Skysphere. The easiest way to think about this element is that you would use it in a scene where you’ve already created your landscape, and you want to create a Sky, that wraps around the entirety of your scene, that you can map some clouds, night sky, sunrise or other phenomenon onto. In our case, we’re going to use it to create our universe.
Now, this is where I started to think about things differently, when creating my space scenes (as opposed to my other scenes). We’re all familiar with drag and drop. Have the element you want, drag and drop it into your scene where you want it to go. Pretty simple. However, in our case when creating our space scene, 0 is what we want to focus on. We want to have our SkySphere, and main element (i.e. – Sun, main planet, etc.) at 0, and everything else working its way out from there. So, with that said, I’m going to center up my SkySphere, and increase it’s scale to 10,000. What’s also important to keep in mind is that the size of the SkySphere has no impact on the quality of what is mapped to it. Only how far it reaches out into your scene. Once that’s done, I can pick any of the skybox elements, and simply drag and drop it onto my SkySphere.
Once the skybox element is placed, it’s now 360° around your scene, and ready to be populated with planets, and here’s where things got really interesting, and we’re going to start with the sun element. Again, it’s a simple drag and drop into your scene, and it’s found in the StarCreator_Update_1 folder, simply called BP_Star (BP for Blueprint). I’ll be honest. When I dropped the Star into my scene, I was underwhelmed, as this is what I was presented with.
This is where you 100% have to watch the tutorial video so you understand what is happening. It’s also where I got a different look at the universe, so to speak. What’s important to keep in mind is that, since my scene really has no boundaries to it, the location the sun has been placed at is WAY off in the distance, so the first thing I have to do is to center it at the scene’s origin, 0,0,0. Once you do that, things look exponentially better.
There are a couple of things that I want to mention about the Sun, before we move on. First, it’s 100% animated. Yes, you can adjust parameters of what it looks like to make it a Red Dwarf or an OB (Blue) Supergiant, AND, much like what would happen if we had a camera in space shooting the sun in our scene, the farther away from the camera the sun gets, it eventually switches over to being just a lens flare (which yes, can be modified if you want), that will turn back into a Sun, the closer you get to it. Very, very cool!
Alright, back to our scene. What’s important, for the next step, is to drop a camera in to get a lens-eye perspective of what’s really happening in my scene. Again, always put everything right at the scene’s origin of 0,0,0 and go from there, even with the camera’s initial placement. With that said, however, you’ll notice that we have a bit of a problem.
Our camera is about the size of our Sun, which is a bit problematic, when trying to get the planets at the correct perspective. Normally, what I do with my sun is put it at a scale of about 10 across X, Y and Z, when I’m dealing with a scene that will contain the sun and a couple of planets. The more planets or elements that will appear in front of the Sun will require its scale to go up, and the camera to move farther away from it, especially if you’re working with Asteroids. In a scene like this, the sun will always be your reference, and the planets will fall into place around it. Speaking of planets, let’s drop a couple into the scene.
Again, just like with the Sun, you’re going to drop your first planet in, center it at the origin, and then move it into place where you want it to go.
Okay, it’s kind of doing what I want it to do, but as you can see the planet is completely flat as far a lighting goes. The light should be wrapping around the planet(s) a little more realistically (light wrap). Well, that’s where having the ability for the planets to interact with lighting in the scene really helps out. I can simply add a directional light to the scene, and place it more or less where the Sun is, as the directional light will be mimicking the light from the sun, and once you do you can check “Use Directional Light” in the Property Editor for the specific planet (keep in mind that you have to do it for each planet in your scene), and what’s also important to keep in mind is that when you make adjustments to the directional light in your scene, you’ll have to update it in each of the planet’s Property Editor, as it’s not a dynamic parameter. But you can see the result below. Much more realistic when you look at it from the camera’s perspective (two images below)
Now, here’s where the fun begins. I’ve pretty much kept my two planets on their default settings, but if I wanted to spice up my Terran planet, to make it a little less “Earth-like”, I have a ton of different parameters in categories that include:
- City Lights
So I adjusted some of these, and have created an Earth-like planet that could be in any Galaxy in any Solar System, across our universe.
One thing that I do want to mention before I wrap up this section, is that I could probably write an entire article just on the Asteroid Library itself (and I may just do that in an upcoming article), and how you can implement it/them into your scenes, but there is something that I do want to point out about them, and that is that if you don’t need anything as complex as an entire asteroid field, there are 16 asteroid meshes that you can use on their own if, for example, you wanted to have a planet killer asteroid in your scene moving to our Terran planet, you can easily drag, drop, animate and have your own personal Armageddon happening with a few clicks of the mouse. With that said, I decided to do just that, and create and animate my own personal “Planet Killer” asteroid heading towards our Terran home world. This scene took me about 30 minutes to put together, and about 20 minutes to animate to my liking. Keep in mind that the Sun/Star element is auto animated, so I didn’t have to do anything to make it look that awesome.
As awesome as the pack is, there is one glaring omission, and that is the Moon. There is no quick and easy way to drop the moon (our moon) into your scene, which I would think would come standard with a pack like this. Also, when working with the asteroids, you can’t rotate them in your asteroid field. They are all stationary. Now, to be honest, this isn’t that big of a deal, as you can easily add extra asteroids that you can animate to have them rotate, but I would think that with the work that went into the awesome look of the Sun, there would be a way to create a smaller asteroid field, with rotating asteroids. Also, I thought it was interesting that there is a Wormhole product from the same designer, but it wasn’t included in the Pro bundle. Sadly, you have to purchase it separately, which defeats the purpose of an “All in one” product. Hopefully this will be added soon. Lastly, it would be helpful to have a link to all the tutorials and any and all documentation either on the main Marketplace page, or on a simple website that would make it easy to track down. What’s important to keep in mind is that when I say “What’s Missing”, I’m saying “What’s Missing right now”. Remember, these packs can be updated at any time, and as long as you’ve purchased Space Creator Pro, and updates and fixes are made, you can easily download and update your projects, as new features are added.
The one thing that I noticed, immediately after dropping the Sun (star) element into my scene was how super realistic it looked. Exactly the same with the Black Hole blue print. It could easily stand up to any Hollywood visual effect you see in motion pictures today. To be honest, when I first dropped it in, I just sat there for about 5 minutes staring at it, and how ultra-real it looked. There wasn’t one element in this package that couldn’t stand up to top tier visual effects that are being used in film and tv shows today. The star and planet creation tools, combined with the asteroid fields, black hole creator, lens flares and SkyBox libraries make Space Creator Pro your one stop shop for all your planetary building needs! I’ve been through just about every space element on the Marketplace, and from what I have seen, no one does space better than Space Creator Pro! For more details, you can check it out on the Unreal Marketplace!