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Rocks make me cry :(

polycounter lvl 19
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adam polycounter lvl 19
I seriously suck @ modeling rocks/mountain faces/stones, etc.

I can understand & prefer the method of doing local high-poly information for rocks, that's a lot of fun. Being able to high poly a rock face is great.


When it comes to doing a mountain face, or a lot of rock/stone surface area I can't, for the life of me, wrap my head around the geometry needed to achieve believability.

Anyone have good advice on this? Screenshots of in-3d-appl vs. in-game rocks?

Help a brother out :(


  • Sage
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    Sage polycounter lvl 19
    Stop being a baby I love building mountains. LOL To be honest I just look at ref and try to make some shapes that appear to look like a mountain. I'll make a cube and extrude out, sort of like building a tree. Then if you need it to be functional as in have roads caves etc, then have boxes that represent how wide, tall the vehicles are going to be to keep things consistent. For the detail I just use alphas or displacement maps.

    I started to read your post several times but I'm not sure if the information provided is what you are stuck on. I'll check on IM and see if I see you.

  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 19
    "I started to read your post several times but I'm not sure if the information provided is what you are stuck on. I'll check on IM and see if I see you."

    What???? :polytwitch:
  • Joseph Silverman
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    Joseph Silverman polycounter lvl 17
    Brome, use the search function! :p


    seriously, this is an awesome thread, should be able to find something that works for you there.
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 19
    hahaha, we have a search function here?!?!!!?!? No one ever told me :(

    Anyway, cool thanks Sup.

    Also - consider this thread to be more of a rant. I don't have any examples or anything. It's just that modeling rocks, to me, seems to be one of those things that looks horrible up until the very end when all its components come together.
  • Joao Sapiro
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    Joao Sapiro sublime tool
    what i would do in two ways :

    make like 3 or 4 sets of rock formations highpoly etc as unique big rocks, then make the mountain structure out of them etc , or if we are on super texture/poly save mode, a tiling difuse, normal etc and just make te model of it etc and apply that texture, for the grass parts maybe apply a diff texture to those rocks. shit im not amkinig any sense.
  • Sage
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    Sage polycounter lvl 19
    I was referring to asking you directly on IM (instant messenger, you know chat program like MSN for example). Well you are online but away. I was going to ask you what you don't get and try to get to specifics.

  • Tumerboy
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    Tumerboy polycounter lvl 17
    [17:01] MANCHiLD: I wrote in there that I enjoy doing rocks when its like that
    [17:02] MANCHiLD: mudbox, etc
    [17:02] MANCHiLD: I think its just I have no confidence in the rock as I model out the render mesh
    [17:02] MANCHiLD: I tend to be happy w/ the results when its all textured, lit, etc.
    [17:02] MANCHiLD: It just.. seems like a box divided all 3 ways a bunch of times with verts pulled here and there
    [17:02] MANCHiLD: Guh, Im rambling
    [17:03] Tumerboy: going to the lowest Zbrush level doesn't give you what you want?
    [17:03] Tumerboy: or going to a lower level and then reducing in Max/Maya?
    [17:04] MANCHiLD: right
    [17:04] Tumerboy: " It just.. seems like a box divided all 3 ways a bunch of times with verts pulled here and there"
    [17:04] MANCHiLD: but you can't exactly z-brush an entire moountain range
    [17:04] Tumerboy: Yup that's what it is
    [17:04] Tumerboy: Why not?
    [17:04] MANCHiLD: not for this mountain i am doing
    [17:04] MANCHiLD: its too close to the player
    [17:04] Tumerboy: I mean, it depends I guess, on if you're using a terrain system
    [17:04] Tumerboy: What do you mean?
    [17:04] MANCHiLD: a normal map specific for a single mountain range would look too low res
    [17:05] MANCHiLD: unless you're thinking i should be zbrushign tiling rock textures
    [17:05] Tumerboy: OH
    [17:05] MANCHiLD: to which i say you are crazy
    [17:05] Tumerboy: but I thought you were talking about the topology of the mountain range, not the normal map
    [17:05] MANCHiLD: well
    [17:05] Tumerboy: And yes, why is it crazy to use zbrush to make tiling rock textures?
    [17:05] MANCHiLD: topology is the stage @ which i feel uncomfortable
    [17:05] MANCHiLD: but i just feel like my rocks.. dont rock
    [17:05] Tumerboy: ok
    [17:05] Tumerboy: LOL
    [17:05] Tumerboy: can you show me an example? or is this for work?
    [17:08] MANCHiLD: no/yes
    [17:08] Tumerboy: LOL
    [17:08] Tumerboy: ok
    [17:08] Tumerboy: So, is the problem with large rock faces? (cliffs mountains etc.?) or close up small round rocks/boulders?
    [17:08] MANCHiLD: mm
    [17:09] MANCHiLD: sometimes my rocks look like deformed baseballs
    [17:09] MANCHiLD: im a lot better now
    [17:09] MANCHiLD: i just... take a couple tries @ it

    [17:10] Tumerboy: hmm
    [17:10] Tumerboy: well, I don't know what to tell you without seeing them
    [17:10] Tumerboy: I certainly dont' think I have any magic rock process,
    [17:10] MANCHiLD: s'ok
    [17:10] Tumerboy: : /
    [17:11] MANCHiLD: One thing I think works really well
    [17:11] MANCHiLD: which I got from looking @ tf2 maps with their rocks
    [17:11] MANCHiLD: is modeling something really simple
    [17:11] MANCHiLD: slap on your repeating texture(s)
    [17:11] MANCHiLD: and cutting in geometry to help sell the normal map more
    [17:11] Tumerboy: ya
    [17:11] Tumerboy: I do that
    [17:11] Tumerboy: it depends on the game
    [17:12] Tumerboy: like, for us, we're an MMO, so we repeat objects like fucking crazy
    [17:12] Tumerboy: and try and use tiling textures where ever we can
    [17:12] Tumerboy: so I make a rock, throw a tiling texture on there, try to hide the seams
    [17:12] MANCHiLD: [CENSORED]
    [17:12] Tumerboy: and then throw that 1 rock all over the Fucking place, rotating to every concievable angle, to maximize it's use
    [17:12] Tumerboy: LOL
    [17:12] Tumerboy: [CENSORED]
    [17:12] Tumerboy: LOL
    [17:13] Tumerboy: But, like, God of War, they spend 3 months working on 1 environment that gets seen for maybe a minute and a half
    [17:13] Tumerboy: they hand zbrush every rock, for every corner
    [17:13] Tumerboy: there is NO reusing a rock, and rotating a different direction
    [17:13] Tumerboy: so, it totally depends on your game
    [17:14] Tumerboy: I've been doing some more, spiry rocks (kind of like TF2's)
    [17:14] MANCHiLD: http://boards.polycount.net/showthread.php?t=50160&highlight=rock
    [17:14] MANCHiLD: this is great info
    [17:14] Tumerboy: so I'll make a box roughly the size and shape I want, (maybe with some cuts for divisions between a couple rocks) and then meshsmooth it
    [17:14] Tumerboy: move points around etc.
    [17:14] Tumerboy: a lot of times, I'll then take a couple of those smaller rocks, and make groups otu of them
    [17:15] Tumerboy: ya
    [17:15] Tumerboy: I saw those rocks
    [17:15] Tumerboy: and they're amazing
    [17:15] Tumerboy: but there's little info on HOW other than "mudbox"
    [17:17] Tumerboy: the other problem is that rock topology varies greatly depending on the TYPE of rocks you're making
    [17:18] Tumerboy: do you have a specific type of rock you're working on?
    [17:18] MANCHiLD: uhm
    [17:18] MANCHiLD: yes
    [17:18] MANCHiLD: haha
    [17:18] MANCHiLD: sorry, im not a rock expert
    [17:18] MANCHiLD: and the concept i am going from is very fantasy based
    [17:18] MANCHiLD: hard to describe
    [17:20] Tumerboy: ah
    [17:20] Tumerboy: ok
    [17:20] Tumerboy: ya, that's harder
    [17:20] Tumerboy: a lot of times, I'll go through flickr or something, find a type of rock I like, and then take that into photoshop, and try and paint the topology over the picture
    [17:20] Tumerboy: to help me get a feel for how it should be laid out
    [17:21] Tumerboy: (at least at the rough stage) then from there, I'd model that up, and take that rough shape in to z-brush or mudbox to put in the minor details
    [17:21] Tumerboy: maybe you could do that with the concept art?

    That's the conversation I just had with Adam via MSN. . . Can anyone tell me what the fuck we were talking about? I really have no idea.

    I think we need to take Adam onto that show Intervention. . .
  • pYcHan
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    it is a interesting conversation..but too bad..cant get it either..LOL.. did you guys manage to talk about how to make a proper rock in the end? :poly101:
  • adam
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    adam polycounter lvl 19
    [17:12] Tumerboy: LOL
    [17:12] Tumerboy: [CENSORED]
    [17:12] Tumerboy: LOL

    True story.
  • bugo
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    bugo polycounter lvl 17
    well, i tried to do rocks for mountains too, very tough work. If it´s a tile texture I would get that texture into zbrush and paint above it to make the volume, set the normal map material above it, capture it, throw the diffuse texture into crazybump and make some volume too with nmap. Than get both maps and blend them, doesn't need to be 50% opacity, use crazybump for that, also, capture the specularity mask from crazybump as well, it can help you. Try to mess up with it until you get a nice result, and test it out. (also works even better if you can use displace for parallax)
  • IronHawk
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    IronHawk polycounter lvl 10
    hey adam this should help you ref wise. http://www.summitpost.org/image/ the advanced search will let you pick by region.
  • Jaco
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    Jaco polycounter lvl 17
    The master of rock:


    Scroll down, the answers will come to you
  • Kevin Johnstone
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    Kevin Johnstone polycounter lvl 19
    You also want to get down on it at the end with the pinch tool and you will find
    that working in a subtractive fashion rather than additive helps aid the creation of
    more natural sharp looking edges.

    Also, you can skip most of his process after you have made your first final version
    and do a Zbrush brush alpha grab of your work then run the exported 16bit alpha through crazybump to add some more realism rock noise over the top.

    Once you do that, you build up a collection of brilliant rock alphas which you can just
    stamp all over a flat plane if you wish and more quickly make rock 'anything'.

    Rock, mountains, paving, concrete are all super easy.

    Wood is much harder as your grain needs to flow with the forms ( unless you are just making

    I got my PHD in zbrush stonemasonry on Gears2, rock is super fun and easy once you
    build up a collection of a few alphas.
  • Jesse Moody
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    Jesse Moody polycounter lvl 17
    Exactly what Kevin just said. I had to do a shit ton of rocks while contracting and at first I was like I'm going to shoot myself but once i figured out a process that works for me. Much like the one Kevin just mentioned it became easier and easier.
  • Tumerboy
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    Tumerboy polycounter lvl 17
    Hey Kevin, sounds great. For us with a mere ZBrush Associates Degree, would you be kind enough to go through it in a bit more detail/possibly write up a tut with shiny pictures? Our feeble artist brains like pictures. If there can be a pony in one of them, that would be ace.
  • Kevin Johnstone
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    Kevin Johnstone polycounter lvl 19
    The Grabdoc button is under the alpha tab, thats what you use to grab an alpha of everything that is visible onscreen in the zbrush window.

    Once you have your alpha you use photoshop and crazybump to simple composite
    the alphas or photos you want to combine.

    Then set your stroke style to DragRect instead of freehand when you import the new alpha
    you have made, then you just drag the alpha ( in this case a rock shape) over your
    mesh in zbrush as many times as you like.

    No time here for tut's, crunch on gears2.
  • Neox
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    Neox godlike master sticky
    wouldn't worldmachine be a nice start when you want to do something like mountains?
  • Tumerboy
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    Tumerboy polycounter lvl 17
    LOL np thanks.
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