Magical Dust

One of the first effects on my list of things I want to make is a sort of magical dust effect. It is fairly simple but can do a lot to add atmosphere to a level. It adds an ethereal feel and is a quick way to show that an area is magical.



This can be seen in Proteus, Wind Waker, Skyrim and Dota 2. It is intereting to note that the more realistic the game, the smaller and less noticeable the particles. The effect works particularly well in the Forest Haven in Wind Waker, as the player is immediately aware that they are in a magical and mysterious area. A game I played at EGX, A Light in Chorus is basically this as a whole game, but I do not want to cover it on my blog yet as I have emailed the creators to see if I can get an interview about their inspiration and ideas first.



I used an eat 3D tutorial to get the basic particle set up, but the material was not included in this, so I looked at the dust material in one of the unreal content examples and used this along with my own knowledge to create a material. I started with a masked out circle shape that had a rotating, panning cloud texture over it. This looked far too smokey at this point.


The example material used a subUV texture that had various tones and a sort of swirl motif in it. I decided to create something similar in photoshop to use as part of my material.



I rotated and panned the smoke texture, and then multiplied this with the swirl. I then multiplied this with the colour taken from the particle, and a constant to allow the emissive power to be changed, making the material slightly more reusable.


When I first stated making the particle effect, I had an issue when I switched to the material I had made. No matter what, it refused to show up. Turns out, I had left it on defualt lighting. Unless working with lit particles specifically, it is important to use unlit materials for particle effects. Once I had this working, I added some more particles by ramping up the spawn rate and then made them a lot smaller.


After that I slowed the velocity right down so that they would gently fall though the scene.


I then added a location module that would spawn the particles in a large area rather than emitting from a single point, to let them appear to drift across the environment.


After that, I dropped the effect into an environment and made some small tweaks to the emissive level, lighting, particle size and bloom to get magical feel.

5 7

I think this would look great with some god rays spilling though, possibly having the particles only show up when lit by it. There is an example of this in the Blueprint Office example so I am going to check that out and then see if I can add it!


Proteus. 2013. [Digital Download]. PC. Ed Key and David Kanaga.

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. 2002. [Mini-Disc]. Nintendo Gamecube. Ninendo EAD.

Dota 2. 2013. [Digital Download]. PC. Valve Corporation

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. 2011. [DVD]. PC. Bethesda Game Studios

Eat3D. 2009. Creating Dust Particles [online]. Available from:
[Accessed 2 October 2014].


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