# [Technical Talk] - FAQ: Environment Modeling & Resources

polycounter lvl 14
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polycounter lvl 14
Environment Modeling FAQ & Resources MEGATHREAD

I've been collecting some of the links and stuff people have been posting recently for all those aspiring environment artist junkies out there:

Polycount Environment Wiki: (most of this information and some new stuff.)
http://wiki.polycount.net/CategoryEnvironment

Peris:
fast method to create hipoly stone structures:
http://www.brameulaers.com/tutorials..._tutorial.html

small tutorial about keeping hipoly stuff optimised and manageable:
http://www.brameulaers.com/tutorials..._tutorial.html

Adam's Sketchbook Environments (Explanation of some of his workflow for this particular project)

Adam's post on Maintaining Suspension of Disbelief by adding a imperfection pass

Kevin Johnstone on his Environment workflow:

Chris Holden's Tutorials & Sketchbook
Modular Design:
http://www.chrisholden.net/tutor/modular.htm
http://chrisholden.net/tutor/
http://www.game-artist.net/forums/tutorials/182-step-step-techniques-tiling-textures-3ds-max.html

Workflow & Modularity and Unreal Tech:
http://udn.epicgames.com/Two/WorkflowAndModularity.html

Hourences - Making of the Spire (Gears of War)
http://book.hourences.com/tutorialsspire.htm

Modular Design and Texturing in 3DSMax
http://www.game-artist.net/forums/tutorials/182-step-step-techniques-tiling-textures-3ds-max.html

Tips from Vig:
- Trim everything.
- Trim is easy to make, Select an edge and covert to shape, turn that new spline into a rectangle, generate mapping coordinates and you have instant trim. You can do the same to create drain pipes, wires vent shafts, cross beams bla bla bla...
- Walk-Thu mode is great. It turns 3dsMax viewport into fly-by mode, just like any FPS. W = Forward, S = Back, A = Strafe Left, D = Strafe Right, Mouse = Look, [] control speed. I have Shift+C set to turn it on and right click exits. Its the icon down in the lower right that looks like two foot prints.
% of Environment Artists vs. Character Artists (Good info)

Level Designer Vs Environment Artist (differences, and there are some)

Environmental Art and Inspiration:

Ref and Inspiration:
Warhammer Reference Art: http://www.warhammeronline.com/conceptart/index.php
http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/index.php
http://www.ontarioarchitecture.com/Terms.html
http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/frames.htm
http://www.angelfire.com/ny3/sunshyn...oned/main.html
http://www.xs4all.nl/~kazil/
http://www.kto-to.de/en/gal.php?lang=en&pd=6
http://www.containershipping.nl/casualties.html
http://www.shieldsaroundtheworld.com/gallery.html
http://www.opacity.us
http://www.forbidden-places.net
http://www.modern-ruins.com
http://www.ohiotrespassers.com/locations.html
http://www.undergroundkent.co.uk/maunsell_towers.htm
http://www.ghosttownexplorers.org
http://www.disassociate.com/lost.html

3DTotal's Tut on urban creation:
http://www.3dtotal.com/team/Tutorials_2/making%20of_urban-environment/urban_01.asp

1/30 - More stuff from Stefan Morrell on a modular environment he is making plus a little on his zbrush workflow for pillars.

Stefan-Morrell on how he creates his environments:

Stefan-Morrell's way of modeling/texturing as of Dec 2007 (Used with Permission)
I have a couple of questions though if thats okay

When you build these buildings in modules how do you manage them to fit eachother?i mean do you build one wall at the time and try to gt them to fit?

I am trying to build a house of 1 mesh and i find it very difficult to keep everything apart,Especially when working with the interior of the buildings.Im doing this for Call of duty 4 or parhapps a UT2007 map which is the editor im used to work with

I have try to make modules but its a hell getting everting to fit eachother,Do you have any tip or a good tutorial explaining the workflow?
I guess the most obvious tip for working in modules is to work(at least when getting the basic shape down) with snaps on

I try to make whole buildings then break them apart into manageable assets..or some buildings,like the one below I'll leave as whole objects,where everything is a single assest except the bottom floor..so I can stack the floors up & make it taller if needed.

cheers
Stefan
what do you do with the parts that have been extruded in/out, from a planar map they get stretched uv's? do you ever use decals on your buildings? Like snow textures or mold?
Stefan wrote:
use an automatic flatten for those selected uv's..then place them where they need to go on the texture & (if possible)stitch the uv's back together

Decals,all the time..very handy for all sorts of things

The building in Crysis

## Replies

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great post, thanks!
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polycounter lvl 13
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polycounter lvl 13
Here's links to my own tutorial page and sketchbook which has some new stuff I have not yet organized for the tutorial page.
http://chrisholden.net/tutor/
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polycounter lvl 14
I had you in there for the 3dsmax tut, I can't believe I forgot you and Adam
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polycounter lvl 14
Thanks a lot! Appreciate the effort.

Here's another tutorial by Stefan-Morrell on Texturing:

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polycounter lvl 16
I'd like to add Vincent Proce's portfolio to the mix. His environments are awesome for anyone looking for some ideas.

http://vincentproce.com/index.htm
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polycounter lvl 16
Dekard wrote: »
I had you in there for the 3dsmax tut, I can't believe I forgot you and Adam

I think you mean Chris :P
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Awesome! You should put this in the polycount wiki.

Here, I started a page.
http://wiki.polycount.net/CategoryEnvironment
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This is great, I just started doing the same thing but your list is much more extensive nice work.
Thanks for this
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polycounter lvl 14
Awesome.
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polycounter lvl 16
Really nice of you, Dekard. Thanks for gathering the resources.
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polycounter lvl 16
Awesome! You should put this in the polycount wiki.

Here, I started a page.
http://wiki.polycount.net/CategoryEnvironment

I would, if it wasn't completely borked. I don't see a "create profile" button. Entering a user name, pass and email gives me squat. Boo
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polycounter lvl 11
Thanks for gathering these resources.

How would Stefan-Morrell texture the parts of the building that aren't facing outwards. I'm assuming he would just map these parts from the other areas of thebuilding facade texture/picture he was using? Is this a correct assumption?
(ie texturing the red parts)

My other semi followup question for mapping, is it just standard practice to use the UVWMap modifier on a specific selection and just move and scale the map face until the part of the texture you want shows up however you want/need it?
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polycounter lvl 16
He'd probably just unwrap them (planar, box unwrap, etc) and align the uv's to the texture.

Assuming you're speaking on 3ds max, I tend to mix UWVMap and Unwrap UVW so that I can edit my UV layout directly and scale individual planes.
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Vassago wrote: »
I would, if it wasn't completely borked. I don't see a "create profile" button. Entering a user name, pass and email gives me squat. Boo

I know, sorry. Until the admins have more time to devote to fine-tuning the wiki, you could send a PM to Vito and ask him to set you up with an account. That's how I did it.
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polycounter lvl 14
Nice, great job compiling Dekard!
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polycounter lvl 14
stefan wrote:
hi carl..the sides of columns/window insets etc are mapped seperate to the main facade,then stitched into place.or manualy placed to take best advantage of the texture

I do the texture before the uv's so rather than painting on a template I'm matching uv's(& the model itself) to a premade texture.

I think that maybe the same thing that Adam was saying too.
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polycounter lvl 16
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polycounter lvl 14

Done and Done.
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polycounter lvl 16
I copied all of the data onto the Wiki. If more gets added I'll try to keep it updated.

http://wiki.polycount.net/CategoryEnvironment
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Nice job!
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mod

Every enviro artist should know the basics of lighting. This type of knowledge crosses just about every platform and 3D app and its surprising how many people don't even bother.

http://www.cgarchitect.com/resources/tutorials/smoke3d/tutorial10.asp

Quick Railings from splines
http://www.cgarchitect.com/resources/tutorials/smoke3d/tutorial18.asp
There is actually a faster way but this way is more through.

Advanced painter script, for paint scattering rocks, trees, bushes, garbage and for painting wire splines.

Not so Quick Tips:
- Observe, record and recreate:
I can't stress this enough. Thousands of enviro art ideas wiz past your peepers every day and its easy to let them pass without giving them a second look. Take time to look at the world around you, go to a part of town you've never been. Go exploring, just because you're 20-30-40ish doesn't mean you've seen it all or that google/flicker has it all recorded. There is always something new, go find it.

You're in the business of recreating the world around you, how can you afford not to use some of the easiest reference available? Get a camera keep it on you, use the one on your cell, start snapping pics of interesting things. You'll be amazed at how much stuff you find just around your everyday life.

- Have camera will travel:
Don't just take it on ref hunting expeditions but keep it on you. Practice with it, know its settings and be ready to have it on before it leaves your pocket there are times you won't have long to snap a shot. And nothing screams come pummel my ass and take my expensive camera then some jackass standing there in an alley who can't figure out how to work it. Snap, and move on. You have little to fear from security guards and the like, be polite but don't ever give anything up, know your rights. Getting out of your personal rut and finding new things will get you jazzed up and get those creative wheels rolling again. If you feel like a goof get over it, if people stare at you staring at something then turn around and snap pics of them, thank them for standing still and move on.

- "You're (scene is) not a beautiful and unique snow flake, You're (scene is) made of the same decaying matter as everything else"
When you build a scene consider what is outside of the viewable area. If the sun is behind the camera what shadows are going to be cast into your scene? Hinting at a bigger world outside of your area is something we need to be really good at. Once you have your props in the scene its a good idea to go back in and add a similar dirty pass or gradients to your textures so they start to take on a similar feel. You might want to arrange the props in the same order you find them in game and texture them together. There are few things that break the suspension of disbelief like new props in a dirty world. And yes thats a quote from Fight Club.

- Know the scope and story of the game and look for ways to exploit that in your levels:
You're building a space that people work and live, its important to not only accurately create a tool box but to place it in a way that it will be used AND shows it has been used in the past. When you place that tool box consider its impact on the surrounding environment and other props, does this create a high traffic area? Is this a personal tool box that people keep stealing from? How do you show this? Create back story for your scene and work that out visually, you're telling a story but you don't have to pause the action of the game and force the player to listen to some NPC drivel on for 20min.

- Ask yourself questions while you're working:
Where does this pipe go, what does it carry? Be that annoying toddler inside your own head that constantly asks questions.

- Fill rooms with appropriate objects:
This shouldn't even need to be said anymore but do not fill levels with objects you've already created just because its easy. Even Halo3 players know crates and barrels are cliche so why in the hell do we still keep forcing them on people. When you make an object for a room lets say a generator, think of where it supplies power to, how it gets its fuel, and all the sub systems it takes to maintain it. No instead of filling the room up with crates you've filled it up with interesting things.

I'm going to sound like a crazy old bat but I give my props names, create factions for objects and try to work out a life of their own as if they where alive. The point the player happens into the scene is the point they all freeze and pretend to be inanimate.

- Give yourself a life:
How can you be creative if you're constantly running on an empty tank of coffee fumes and toaster oven shakins? Take care of yourself, get exercise and don't work yourself too hard. There are few things in this world you will get back, time is not one of them.

Good luck, I wish someone had told all of this to me, but instead I had to bang my head on the keyboard for a few months/weeks/years. I can't say it was a waste because it taught me to keep looking and improving so hopefully reading all this doesn't give you a false sense that you've got it all figured out because I'm still learning and evolving. Its going to suck when that stops, but hopefully I can look back with little regrets and say "I consistently did better and never stopped learning"
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Great resource for understanding lighting:

http://www.itchy-animation.co.uk/tutorials/light01.htm
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polycounter lvl 13
every aspiring environment artist should check out Philip Klevestav's portfolio, an incredible environment texture artist.

www.philipk.net
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polycounter lvl 16
Artists who worked on gears. Some really good environments in there:
[FONT=&quot]Danny Rodriguez - http://www.cgchannel.com/news/viewfeature.jsp?newsid=6969&pageid=0[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Jay Hawkins - http://www.hawkprey.com/[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Mikey Spano - http://www.mikeyspano.com/[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Chris Bartlett - http://www.tk409.com/bartlettindustries/portfolio/[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Kevin Lanning - http://features.cgsociety.org/story_custom.php?story_id=4040[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Chris Perna - http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=133961172[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Josh Jay - http://www.myspace.com/joshjaydeveloper[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]John Wallin Liberto - http://www.johnwallin.net/site/main.html[/FONT]
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polycounter lvl 14
added this i found today. http://www.disassociate.com/lost.html
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polycounter lvl 14
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polycounter lvl 10
large database of mountain and canyon photography

http://www.summitpost.org/image/
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polycounter lvl 12
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polycounter lvl 10
http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Color_theory_%28level_design%29

Good stuff here for color theory

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polycounter lvl 14
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polycounter lvl 14
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polycounter lvl 12
found these tutorials for getting to speed with mudbox 2009
http://www.dashdotslash.net/tutorials.php

some of them are for environment modeling and texturing using Mudbox
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polycounter lvl 9
What's the best way to go about modelling/texturing low-poly foliage like trees and bushes for games? Any tuts?
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What's the best way to go about modelling/texturing low-poly foliage like trees and bushes for games? Any tuts?

I haven't modeled plants and stuff yet but I would start here unless someone says otherwise.

http://www.3dtotal.com/team/Tutorials_3/Creating_low_poly_foliage/low_poly_foliage_01.asp
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polycounter lvl 14
Some more goodness from Stefan.
here's something else I'm working on..trying to make a complete city block that's contained in one texture map,with a focus on storefronts..these are still very early wips.the texture has a few blank spots I've yet to add stuff to.
working texture is 2k,for a background asset 1024x works well..tricount is around 7500..

A little on how he is using zbrush for pillar objects, etc.
I've added some tighter loops along those edges to get a better smoothing angle..

here's the low-res & the mesh I sent to zbrush,the zbrush one gets heavily tessellated so it's all very evenly spaced quads..trying very hard to avoid any of that stretching you get with non square polys

the zbrush work took only a few minutes,mainly using the inflate option in deformation,overlaid another concrete texture for the cracks & it was done
I do all the displacement in zbrush though,along with normal map & cavity map generation.also instead of using turbo smooth I manually create the extra edges(ring or loop select>connect),just using turbo smooth would create too many rectangular faces which doesnt look good once divided in zbrush.
the cuts & cracks in zbrush were also done with a mask,with very little actual sculpting.

..another trick to keeping that 'accurate unwrap' once in zbrush:next to the divide button is one called 'smt'..that's always on by default & will smooth the hell out of your hard edged models,so I always uncheck that for the first couple divisions,then turn it back on for the final one or two,this also keeps those uv edges nice & tight

If any of you other enviro artists feel like sharing feel free..
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polycounter lvl 10
Wow I love those pillars, thanks for that Dekard, I dont understand though exactly how the inflate deformation was used. Some how he used that height map along with the UV's to inflate deform?

Im searching this out now, but if anyone knows how Im dying to find out.
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polycounter lvl 14
In zbrush he masked them using the grey alpha mask and used the inflate brush to raise those portions only in zbrush. The uv's were layed out in Max prior to exporting them to zbrush, you can see his base mesh it's the dense one and the uv's he's showing are his low poly cage IIRC.

I also updated the post I had forgotten to upload the highpoly/lowpoly mesh image.
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polycounter lvl 12
so lemme get this straight. you unwrap your low poly model, create a height map of your details using the unwrap, and you use that as a mask in zbrush? and it will know where to put the details since it's unwrapped? what is this called in Zbrush? I really want to give that a try
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polycounter lvl 12
Reference images for buildings, structures, destroyed environments, etc

Opacity.us - http://www.opacity.us/
Location works - http://www.locationworks.com/library/index.html
Underground Ozarks - http://www.undergroundozarks.com/
Sleep City - http://sleepycity.net/gallery
Urban Exploration - http://www.uer.ca/
Zahkunst - http://www.zahkunst.net/mainpage.htm
Urban Atrophy - http://www.urbanatrophy.com/
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polycounter lvl 14
he probably just transferred his uv's, via his modeling app. In zbrush you use the mask tool and just move the image around until it fits where you want it, and then use inflate. When you export the texture it will be on the uv's you've previously laid out in the modeling program. AFAIK.
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polycounter lvl 10
If he is using that height map shown below in that way, just moving it around to fit over the pillar like a stencil, thats dissapointing. I get how the four sides are straight up and down so its plausible that he lined them up, but for the embossed bits of the pillar, textured along the right of the height map, it looks like the rest of the map would get in the way as he rotated it around ect. I guess its possible. I thought the UV's transfered over and then you could restrict the alpha mask, binding it to the UV's, after that simply hit inflate deform. It makes sense to me that this might be an option.

I have been searching for a few hours on this subject, I read the original post (thanks alexk), but the specific process is still missing, im going to try it soon myself. Thanks though for this information, very interesting to me.
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polycounter lvl 14
I have used this same technique since ZB2. Its just masking by intensity then inflate deformation. You want to inflate about 5 then smooth then repeat until you get the results you want. Then you can also use the stencil to add cracks and what not or an alpha and the drag rectangle. Its pretty fast I can knock a quick sketch up in about 10 min and then I can use it to bake out my AO and normal in my modeling app.

The key to environment modeling in Zbrush is the alpha quality for creating stuff.
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polycounter lvl 10
what came first, the map or the house? did you use UV's from an external source to place your alpha?
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polycounter lvl 12
popeye9, how did you get the alpha to follow the UV's of your model in Zbrush? I'm stuck on that step. I made a simple box, uv'd it, made a simple heightmap, imported both the box and the alpha in Zbrush. I select my alpha, then clicked "mask by alpha" but it doesn't apply it using my UV's
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polycounter lvl 14
The texture was created first in max and applied in zbrush so you would uv your model place make textures for each area you want ie: you make the multi object material for your model so for the house. I have one black and white tile for roof one for walls and one for the corners. when I have all the maps I render to texture then the model goes to zbrush. Subdivide then import texture and mask by intensity. At this point its the inflate and smooth then done. For the windows I either have those as subtools or they are masked before inflate so as not to change them. With this whole process you can use color textures but you may not get the same results for the masking. There is no alpha involved at all for the masking its a black and white of the diffuse texture.
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What about dem sky boxes, maybe some guidance on how to make them.
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polycounter lvl 9
What's the best way of going from exterior to interior? We are making a city with 3DS Max as our main tool (We are using it to design the city blocks and laying out the world) and most of the buildings are not enterable. But as one of the texture artists/prop artists I want to give the player a little more freedom (Think jumping rooftops). If any of you have played/worked on GTA IV, you will notice at some point there are a lot of stairwells going to rooftops and small interiors. That's what I'm after and need a decent system of doing it.

Thanks to any replies.
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polycounter lvl 12
i found out that I needed to flip my height map vertically in photoshop before importing to Zbrush in order to line up properly. So it's working great now, thanks popeye!
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polycounter
poppey, isnt something you can do in 5 mins in crazybump ? im no enviro artist, my question is , what are the advantages to use a sculpting program to sculpt a tiled texture in a model, i mean you barely alter the shape, just project the texture using alphas right ? to me it seems a tad time waster, at least in an asset like that , but again im no enviro artist, so i bet you have a good reason to that