PROCEDURAL LAKE VILLAGE
The The lake houses are fully procedural all the way from the silhouette to the final texturing. With this project, I wanted to expand the limits of what is expected from a procedural content generation and discover whether it is possible for a “computer-made art” to look as good as human-made.
One of the most satisfying part was, when generating the final lake houses, the network would give me unexpected, but very creative results that I simply didn’t anticipate or take into account when writing the rules. And those outcomes still had all the rights to exist and, in fact, looked extremely curious. If that was a person, who built the house, I would praise him for originality! Does it mean that the systems can be creative within the constraints that we give them? I like to think of Houdini as a student, and you are a teacher, who can put any information in a student’s head and it will be perceived with 100% accuracy (for the worse or the better). And, as many teachers know, students have a tendency to really surprise you with the things they come up with.
Most people probably do not directly register it, but we are great pattern recognition machines, and to make procedural generation believable the patterns we face on daily basis should be present. When striking for a natural-looking result, the rules for a procedural network are still simple abstractions of the real world environment, and that is perfectly fine as long as the imitation accounts for the necessary level of detail.
For me, this process resembles painting: first, you make very wide and general brush strokes and only then, when you are satisfied with that stage, you start refining and adding specifics. And, of course, a “resolution for details” has to be taken into consideration as you probably don’t want to add nails to a house you will never see so close. However, analyzing what makes the house or anything else “normal” to your brain is essential as a slightest offset from the stereotype that was carefully constructed by your mind based on years and years of experience will result in a model looking artificial or “computer-made”.
The project was featured in:
SideFX GDC 2017 Presentation "Procedural Assets for UE4" (~17:50)
The 80lv article "Realistic Procedural Architecture for Games"
The Rookies blog "How to Make a Procedural Environment for Games"
3D Artist Magazine Issue #101 as a Houdini ad
3D Artist Magazine Issue #105 as a 13 steps tutorial-overview, where I discuss the techniques used to create this project
The tutorial is available on Gumroad!