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Our Alien Physics world and other environments use Unreal Engine’s native Water plugin.
In this tutorial, I will teach you how to get Unreal’s Waterbody Plugin set up with your custom environment, and how to implement the Etherion Designs assets into the waterbody.


Water Setup #

First, make sure the Water Plugin is activated.
Open your plugins directory, and search for “Water”.
Check that the Water plugin is ticked. Restart the engine if necessary.

Next, add a waterbody to your level.
You can find more information about the waterbody types from the official Unreal Engine Waterbody documentation.


Moving the Waterbody [Important] #

If you plan on using Fluid Simulation with your waterbody, please note that it will not work unless your waterbody has its Z-Height set to a value of 0. If you have already designed your level with a waterbody in it, you will have to move the location of your entire level for the purpose of getting fluid simulation working.

There are two methods of doing this. The first is to create a reference plane at 0 height, and select everything in your level excluding this reference plane. Then, you can manually move everything in your level until your waterbody roughly matches the height of this reference plane. Note that the waterbody does not have to be exactly 0, but can still be around 10 units away from it while still retaining its functionality.

The second method is more useful if you have thousands of objects in your level with varying heirarchies.
Naturally, a level this complicated would prove difficult to move manually. So this guide will explain how to do this with relative ease.

Before continuing with this method, please note that doing this will result in you transplanting all your level actors into a new level, which means your level blueprint will not be copied across with them.

First, select your waterbody and take note of the exact Z height. In this example, it is -240. We recommend pasting it somewhere such as a notepad app to store it for later.

Create an empty level.

Then use the Levels tab to add the level you want to adjust the Z height of.

Select your level, then click the Summon Level Details button

Use the Z Position box to add the correct value so that the waterbody in your level has a Z height of 0.
In this example, our previous waterbody z height was -240, so in order to get 0 we put 240 in this box.
Confirm that the height is correct by selecting the waterbody and checking its Z position.

In the Levels tab, right click your level and click
Select Actors

Right click Persistent Level and click
Move Selected Actors to Level.

Click “Yes” to any confirmation warnings.

In the Levels tab, right click your original level and click
Remove Selected

Save your level with a new name.
Afterwards, you may open up the old level and copy over anything from the Level Blueprint that you wish to keep.


Editing Wave Height #

You can adjust the wave height, by selecting the waterbody and modifying the Wave Attenuation Water Depth value.
Increase it by a large value to eliminate waves entirely (For example 100000).


Fluid Dynamics #

Fluid dynamics will work with the default Waterbody Material, and any Etherion Designs waterbody materials.
If you want to add fluid dynamics to your water, follow these steps.
First, change your content browser view options to Show Engine Content.
Also, change your content browser view options to Show Plugin Content.
This will make plugin folders visible in the content browser.

Next, we want to access the “Fluid simulation folder”.

Do this by going to the All folder, which is is one directory above the Content folder.

Open the Engine Folder, then continue following until you arrive at this directory:

All / Engine / Plugins / Water Content / Fluid Simulation / Blueprints /

Drag BP_FluidSim_01 into your level. Then, with this blueprint selected, ensure that “Follow Player” is checked.

Next, open All / Engine / Plugins / Water Content / Fluid Simulation / Blueprints / Examples
Drag BP_Dynamic_Force_Component into your Player Blueprint.

This is the blueprint that will act as a physics object that will interact with the water.
Duplicate and move this blueprint to cover the total area of your player.
Adjust the radius and strength in the details panel as needed.


Applying Water Materials #

If you want to make use of our water materials,
simply use the Content Browser to navigate to Content/ FoliagePhysics / Materials / Water

Duplicate MI_WaterBody_DemoLevel  and  MI_Etherion_UnderWater_PP_Demo

Move them to your custom folder, and apply them to your waterbody.

You may then proceed to edit these material instances to your liking, as seen below


Shoreline Glow Helper #

If you are using Grass and Landscape Trails, you’d need to disable distance fields on your landscape. As such, the water will no longer show edge glow around the shorelines of your landscape. To help fix this, please use BP_DistanceFieldSpline to manually create distance fields around your shoreline. It is located at Content / FoliagePhysics / Blueprints / Environments.

This blueprint creates cylinders along your custom spline path which cast distance field shadows without the mesh being visible.
You can adjust the spacing and scale of the cylinder in the details panel.


Fixing Blocky Water Glow Issue #

Unreal 4.27’s distance fields are very smooth. Unreal 5, however, has very blockey distance fields, which affects the look of our water’s material edge glow.
This issue is noted on the Epic Games Official Bug List, and has yet to be fixed.

We developed a fix for this issue.
Go to Content / FoliagePhysics / Blueprints / Environment and drag in BP_DistanceFieldFixer to your level.
Then play your game. This blueprint will run some console commands at the start of your game, which will smooth out distance fields and correct the issue. Please note that we have not thoroughly tested the performane impact of this on lower-end machines.

If you wish to undo this fix, simply delete BP_DistanceFieldFixer from your level and restart your project.


Grass Trails Compatibility #

If you are using water alongside the grass and landscape trails feature, you’ll have to do one extra step in order to make these features work together. This step is covered in our Trails video tutorial, seen below:


Water Material Guide #

Feeling overwhelmed by the endless list of variables for your water material? This guide is for you.
Please read below for a comprehensive explanation for each material variable and what it does.

WaterBody Material #

  • Water Roughness – The roughness value of the water surface.
  • Detail Normal Settings – This catagory of variables allows you to adjust the wave intensity, speed, size, etc..
  • Absorbsion – defines how easily light penetrates the volume of water. Pay attention to the alpha value!
  • Scattering – The amount of scattering affects how light travels through the medium, and that directly impacts the way things look when an object is within its volume. Pay attention to the alpha value!
  • Rain ON? – This allows the Weather Blueprint to fade in and out raindrops depending on whether it is raining. Disabling this for levels that do not contain rain will reduce shader complexity and improve performance slightly.
  • Water Edge Glow – ON? – Enables distance field glow for the water surface.
  • Absorbsion EdgeGlow – The amount of absorbsion to multiply for the edge of the water.
  • Absorbsion Power – Extends or shortens the edge mask for the Absorbsion EdgeGlow
  • Water Edge Glow – Glow Intensity – How bright the edge glow will be.
  • Water Edge Glow – Glow Distance – How far the edge glow will stretch out from the shore.
  • Water Edge Glow – Overlay Intensity – adjusts the intensity of a color overlay that is applied to the water edge glow.
  • Water Edge Glow – Overlay Color – Customize the color of the overlay that is applied to the water edge glow.
  • Water Edge Glow – Power 1 – Affects the contrast of the Edge Glow Mask.
  • Water Edge Glow – Power 2 – Affects the contrast of the Edge Glow Mask.
  • Water Edge Glow – Ambient Light – Distance – This distance blends between the Edgeglow that has Noise applied to it, and the edge glow that does not have noise applied to it.
  • Water Edge Glow – Ambient Light – Intensity 1– Adds an ambient light to the edge glow that is not affected by noise.
  • Water Edge Glow – Ambient Light – Power 1– Adjusts the contrast / distance of the Ambient Light Intensity 1.
  • Water Edge Glow – Ambient Light – Intensity 2– Adds an ambient light to the edge glow that is not affected by noise.
  • Water Edge Glow – Ambient Light – Power 2– Adjusts the contrast / distance of the Ambient Light Intensity 2.
  • Water Edge Glow – Add – Intensity– This value adds an overall glow to the entire waterbody.
  • Water Edge Glow – Add – Color– This color is the glow that is applied to the entire waterbody.
    It is multiplied by Water Edge Glow – Add – Intensity.
  • Ripples – Glow Intensity – The intensity of glow caused by Fluid Simulated actors (like the player).
  • Ripples – Glow Intensity Min – This is the amount of glow that is not affected by noise, caused by Fluid Simulated Actors.
  • Ripples – Glow Color – The color of the ripples caused by Fluid Simulated Actors.
  • Water Edge – Fixing White Issue – Intensity – This value adds glow to the overalpping distance fields. If set to 1, it will be white.
  • Water Edge – Fixing White Issue – Power – This affects the power of the glow applied to overlapping distance fields.

Water Postprocess Material #

  • Fog – The thickness of underwater fog.
  • Absorbsion – defines how easily light penetrates the volume of water. Pay attention to the alpha value!
  • Band Color – Changes the color of the waterline that the camera sees when passing from above water to underwater.
  • Fog Ambient Color – The Color of the Fog in unlit dark areas
  • Fog Scatter Color – The Color of the Fog when light shines through it

3rd Party Links & Related Content #

Unreal Engine Water Documentation WaterBody Video Tutorial Series by NumenBrothers

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