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Urban Scene (hopefully will be unreal ready)

polycounter lvl 12
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seforin polycounter lvl 12
So Im starting to dabble more into environmental artwork now I decided to work on a modular urban scene , my goal is to be efficient with both my modeling and texture use and have it in unreal ready.

Im having a bit of a annoying time recreating this particular view...and I had to find refs of these kinds of houses Via google maps

but so far day 1 of this

no lighting yet, I want to get this all into unreal before I even start playing with lighting.

(I plan on making this next gen)

anywho looky and rip

Serious crits and suggestions only

my ref image


what I got so far


the modular building im moving parts around to make them all look unique by having floater doors/windows


(is this approach ok since these are un-enterable buildings ? I know you can bake out unique light maps this way correct?)


  • jacob07777
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    jacob07777 polycounter lvl 10
    Lookin pretty good so far man, not much to critique. It's basically dead on with the picture, only thing I noticed(If you're going for it to look exactly like the image) is that the scale of the electrical post is a little off. There's appears to be slightly taller and has some sort of apparatus on top of it. Maybe you have it in there and I just can't see it, but anyways

    Here's a reference
  • Ben Apuna
    Looking like a good start.

    Just from a workflow perspective you might want to stop working on the layout of this scene in Max because as far as I know there's no way to import it that way into Unreal while still keeping those houses as instanced modular pieces. You would need to export each piece with their own pivot points in relation to the origin in order to not lose the layout. So in other words you're duplicating your work.

    It's hard to tell from the reference but it appears as if those houses are on a downhill slope rather than flat ground. This is where setting it all up in Unreal first will help save you some time placing objects, especially if you are going to use Unreal's terrain system.

    One thing that bothers me is the bulging cobblestones, again can't tell from the photo but that might just be lens distortion and those stones should be more or less flat.

    EDIT: On second thought maybe the bulge is there to help water flow off to the side rather than form puddles in the center of the road, so nevermind...

    Try get a generic scale character in there to see how things look in relation to it.

    Floater doors and windows is a good idea.

    Keep in mind in a real game those in-engine rendered lightmaps that you plan on using might not be too large due to memory constraints so getting a nice shadow between the window sills/doorways and walls might have to be accomplished using some other method.

    Out of curiosity, why do you have extra edge loops on everything?

    Just my point of view, but don't worry about recreating that photo's view 100% just use it as a starting point. I'm sure once you get all these assets done an in engine you'll have a lot more interesting camera angles to use.

    Like I said before this is a good start, keep it up :)
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    SHEPEIRO polycounter lvl 13
    yay a "ginel"

    having lived in the north of england for 7 odd years, id say you had a few things wrong

    - its too wide and short bring it in to get that cramped feeling, the ginnel (i have no idea how its spelt) is usually a half a foot- a foot lower than the back yards ground level aswell so that will help sell it

    - i dont think the house is particularlly accurate at all sorry, and i would think this will impact upon the feeling, if i were you i would have a look at old terraces in leeds or manchester which is where im pressuming that image is from. in my personal experience that house you have made looks more like a modern 70s house than a victorian terrace house. i suggest a layout more like this:


    victorian houseing was all about getting loads of houses in a small space, so tall and thin is better
  • Orgoth02
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    Orgoth02 polycounter lvl 9
    Ben Apuna wrote: »
    Looking like a good start.

    Just from a workflow perspective you might want to stop working on the layout of this scene in Max because as far as I know there's no way to import it that way into Unreal while still keeping those houses as instanced modular pieces. You would need to export each piece with their own pivot points in relation to the origin in order to not lose the layout. So in other words you're duplicating your work.

    If he is working on a grid and all the objects share the same pivot point they will all snap together in the editor when they are imported
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    SHEPEIRO: Thanks for that little sketch. Huh odd though..I did searches like I said before google maps and I came up with these photos which I was basing alot of the modeling off



    jacob07777 : you link is dead but thank you

    Ben: Good advice, I dont really care so much of performance since I just plan on making a few screen caps in game for this (probably 2-3 angels at most)

    Im using extra edge loops out reason to make shape (the street for example where it intersects needed a extra edge loop or 2. Its still made in a way that it will be a tileable mesh, and then I can play with points of the verts raise and lower them to add more nice effects to it.

    At the moment im getting everything in the scene pieced together in reality I have probably 2 building types in there just varations of the 2 all around that will snap on the pivots, I plan on texturing the 2 and then the varations with different windows, etc will be used to bake out AO/light maps for them.

    more or less any extra geo I will probably cut out once I start texturing if it really helps the particular piece or not..

    I wanted to get all the modeling of chunks before detailing (white box room concept) of the scene done and then bring it all into unreal as I started texturing it one by one.

    Should I just start working in unreal from here and just start that instead?
  • whats_true
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    whats_true polycounter lvl 13
    I find that If I take the time to light it in MAX, get everything looking nicely, and have a solid render, I say screw UT3 and move onto something else. Either it goes in UT3 now, or it doesn't. Why put that as second place when you can do it now and learn from it.

    Also, your not keeping anything modular right now, as entire buildings are not the way to go with UT3. Break it up into sections. Your able to get away with doing walls in parts so long as the UV's are proper and the walls are to the grid in powers of 2 (2,4,8,16,32, 64, ect). Doing it in parts allows you to use more polygons per a building, and since your instancing everything, its not a huge hit to the computer.

    EDIT:^so yeah, if you want it to go in UT3, jump in now.
  • penrod
    Hey Sef, I think doing a modular scene in UE3 is a great idea. Now on to the crits. The biggest issue that I am seeing right now is everything is too perfect and parallel. This almost never happens in real life, and is currently making your scene look a little CG. I would try varying some of the heights of the brick walls that are along the street, make the street a little more narrow, and check out how wobbly the curb is.

    The road itself is also looks a little too rounded atm. I like the power lines and how those help break up the scene. I think a few more chimney type things could also help break up the tops of the buildings. Also, the power lines look a little stiff. Maybe try adding a little bit of sag and weight to those guys.

    Keep posting the progress.
  • Karmageddon
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    Karmageddon polycounter lvl 7
    That pole is such a pole <= 3D joke

    OK, you may kill me now.
  • Mark Dygert
    Why does the the top most triangle by the roof slant in? Shouldn't it be flush with the wall? If this was already covered, disregard... With the brick around the front door it also reminds me of the houses in BigTown Fallout3.

    I think the houses need to be longer (front to back) than wide (side to side). But you're mixing a few different kinds of houses in the ref, so it makes it hard to say one way or another.

    I like how the wires on the pole in the topmost ref image string out over the top of the camera, kind of ties the foreground and the background together. It also has a bit of a big top effect and reminds you that there are things behind the camera. If you're going to use that camera angle for final shots I would add those wires.

    Looking pretty good, still kind of raw and early to tell now its going to shape up, nice work so far tho.

    Shep, that image reminds me of a few scenes in Harry Potter ha!
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    SHEPEIRO: Ive tried doing searches of these kinds of houses and I cant find much...you wouldnt happen to have any photos of back home would you ^_^;;

    Also Zilk: Lame joke is lame, I told you last night it was a lame joke!

    vig: what do you mean by the top most triangles? I dont quite follow?
  • Mark Dygert
    The upper part of the right wall where it meets the roof, it slants in toward the peak of the roof. These are brick homes yea? Kind of weird for brick to slope in like that.
  • Chunkey
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    Chunkey polycounter lvl 16
    I can see what Vig's saying, the 2 tris that form the top of the side wall- that should be flat :)

    And Shepeiro and co have very vallid points there- a lot of these kinds of houses are cramped and what you've got in that last pic is a fairly recently built house.

    504419348,20081223233636,p,400x300,photo1.jpg is a good example of a typical yorkshire terraced house

    as well as


    ideal place to look on the interweb are the estate agents sites and do a search around the Leeds/Sheffield/Manchester/Liverpool areas for terraced housing
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    SHEPEIRO polycounter lvl 13
    yeah i think i can dig a few up, im in manchester atm if i remember tomorrow ill take a few photos behind my house here and post them for you,

    and those two photos are of houses roughly 70-90 years apart
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    well since tonight is the polycount meet up in seattle I wont work on this much, so I'll eagerly await those photos tomorrow before I remodel the buildings out :)
  • Joshua Stubbles
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    Joshua Stubbles polycounter lvl 17
    I think the work you've done so far matches the Manchester google image pretty closely. As others have pointed out, it certainly feels a bit clean and perfect though. The older homes that chunkey posted might make a better fit, since they've got far more character than the newer homes. It's just more interesting to the eye.

    The alley center definitely seems a bit too rounded, and too even all the way down. I'll assume you already planned on fudging that up a bit with divets/potholes and such. It's still early, so I don't like being too critical since most things you've probably already planned on doing..

    I think the walls could use some wonky love. A few uneven spots, missing bricks, chipped edges, etc. Also the window frames you made look like they could be optimized some, where the geometry meets up (like in the corners). They could be done like the doorframe you have, where they weld into the corners. Again, I'm sure you already planned on doing so.

    Overall I'd say it's a great start. Love to see what it looks like textured up. Speaking of which, if you ever want to go out for a tex ref trip or something, let me know. I've got a decent Nikon D40 w/tripod which takes nice crisp images for textures. Just have to wait for a cloudy day, though. Taking texture photos sucks on a sunny day (shadows, boo)
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    ok well took things into unreal , big learning curve with somethings, getting basic lighting basic skydome for now (will have cube map tommorrow I promise) sculpted ground for the hill effect. And tileable meshes around , getting the buildings in tommorrow (trust me once I get the buildings done this will look ALOT more full)


  • frubes
    Good start you have there. Nice to see people doing some pre production before diving right in! :) I would double check the scale of the cobbles on the road section. In your original ref they look a bit smaller in their scale. Also i would be inclined to try and add some sort of guttering to bridge the transition between the pavement and the cobbles as theres a really stark transition there currently. The red bricks also look a wee bit saturated. I would just pull them back a bit in terms of the red unless its a concious art direction choice you have made.

    Cool stuff keep it up.
  • Joao Sapiro
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    Joao Sapiro polycounter
    id you want to add that bumpy detail to the road use another texture since those stones would be broken with that irregularity , but i guess thats a tempo photo texture :P throw in the blockout first in unreal ;) good one !
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir ngon master
    in your first picture, look at how the street has both concave, and convex shapes. toward the edges of the road, you'll have a concave (on each side). and the centre of the road will be raised up like a mini hill.
  • onionhead_o
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    onionhead_o polycounter lvl 13
    is it just me or do the normal map of the road look flip
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    frubes: yea I hate working blindly I like to get it all mapped out before diving in........im still waiting to get proper photos of those buildings......I might use the ones posted above in the 2nd design homes if I dont ge them soon...I will also rescale the stones you are correct on that regard!

    onion: yea this point was brought up to me last night (I was very tired when I noticed it) I need to flip my texture cordinates to be negative so it responds correct to the camera angle and light

    gir: Yea I still need to sculpt it better, unreal terrain is a bitch to get right ><

    Johny: I agree with the road, Its a filler for now, I serached on cgtextures and 3d envrionments.sk and still couldnt find that same kinda style //pattern of texture to use (I really dont want to build a high poly for this kinda exercise I dont think its really necessary)

    if anyone has a texture more similar please let me know!

    I will continue more progress soon I promise! Thank you for the advice I will get on it asap!
  • capcaunu
    Unreal 3? How did you get that? Isn't that like a quarter of a ton of $$$? Is there a "promise I won't use it for commercial purposes" version?
  • JasonLavoie
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    JasonLavoie polycounter lvl 12
    capcaunu wrote: »
    Unreal 3? How did you get that? Isn't that like a quarter of a ton of $$$? Is there a "promise I won't use it for commercial purposes" version?

    Yes, it is called Unreal Tournament 3 :)
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    NICE MUSCLE! *flex*

    yea did fixes and stuff, all the fixes and the few new things took me a bit of time

    got terrain blending to work, figured out foliage volumes (for later use) figured out some node effects to give a hardened normal map up close on some things (still tweaking)

    got in little grate thingy

    anyway gonna be working on the buildings tuesday night all night and the telephone pole stuff, so keep a eye out

  • acapulco
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    acapulco polycounter lvl 9
    If you go on like this you will not get to the finish you want. Check your proportions. The street is way to big in width and your walls are way to small in height. I think you want a narrow lil alley. I would suggest half the street for example, but take a closer look at your reference.
    If this was written before... a shame, I didn't read it.
  • Mark Dygert
    I think you have the wrong texture for cobble stones. It Looks to have lighting info in the diffuse and normal that came from a photo of a brick wall. When they wear, they don't chip and have that many hard sharp edges but more rounded and dull. Like rocks in a stream constantly being worn down.


    Unless the lighting is going to be an extreme sunset from the end of the street and have the same relationship with your ground, as the wall did with the sun when the photo was taken.

    I think you could switch out your brick wall texture with something that has more variation both in the brick shape/wear and in hue/sat. It would help show some age. The bricks you have now are kind of stubby and look to be hanging on top and slightly in front of the ones below?

    Keep plugging away you're making progress.
  • ScubaSteve
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    ScubaSteve polycounter lvl 10
    well the scene is still in the rough and am sure everyone has pointed out the areas that you need to address. main thing that is bothering me is that i can tell which texture from the cg texture website that ground texture came from. Vigs floor reference is a better match and this is something that can be created in zbrush as a tileable normalmap. since your camera is so low to the ground i would suggest adding actual brick geometry to the foreground so that it helps the normal map generate that bump that i dont think you are getting from just the normal map alone. i would suggest a bump offset but i dont feel the added instruction cost is worth the effect of u simply having some areas of the floor have bricks coming out. currently your ground seems to be wider than your reference picture and i doesnt portray that closed in feeling yet. i would suggest nailing the ground first since its the base where all your other objects jive from.
  • Tumerboy
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    Tumerboy polycounter lvl 14
    Hey dude, sorry, it's taken me a little while to get in here.

    The cobblestones have been covered. Listen to Vig.

    I'm also with him on the bricks. They're too red, and too saturated. The shots I can find show a lot older looking, brownish bricks, with a lot more variation from brick to brick.

    You seem to be going back and forth a bit, and it may help you to pick a direction and run. Either A) ignore your Geo for now, and work on getting some kick ass materials set up (tileable cobblestones, tileable brick) so you can set the tone for the rest you'll need to deal with later, or B) ignore the materials for now, and keep working on getting your geo into the shape you want.

    You also seem to be playing around with the camera, and FOV, and look like you're trying to recreate that initial shot. Quit it. Ignore composition for now, and get your scene shaped up. THEN worry about composition and camera crap. Messing with the FOV is also causing you to lose the scale of the scene. You'll get a much better feel for scale/proportions by using a standard camera.

    Lastly, I've never seen anywhere in the UK with a bright blue sky like that :P

    Here, have some more ref:

    ("Ginnel" seems to be the preferred spelling.)
  • Joao Sapiro
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    Joao Sapiro polycounter
    also dont forget to make a blockout first , thats the most important before starting texturing individual wal sections etc :) good luck dude !
  • Jet_Pilot
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    Jet_Pilot polycounter lvl 10
    you shouldn't rotate walls to align with the normals of the terrain. Brick walls are built level to the horizon. All of the walls should be parallel to each other.
    Its getting harder and harder to judge your scale. Stop taking screen shots 2 inches from the ground.

    Also are you using UT3 assets in this or is this going to be all you?
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    ok well read through this took the advice

    things done
    -fixed Street brought it in closer, more tighter I hope?
    -Fixed lighting (not right but getting closer to the feel)
    -Learned proper multiple terrain blending of textures
    -Changed cobble stone
    -Changed from static to dynamic lighting (seemed to give better results on what I have currently)
    -darkened the wall textures (might need to add more)


    next steps:

    -Get basic house building modeled in max import into scene to get blocking done correctly on bigger items
    -get pole + wires completely modeled + textured
    -Fix skydome (pinching to the top point right now)
    -model + texture trash cans
    -Create deco layers for garbage aestics for scene (will probably use foliage volume for this)

    I hope this is a step in the right direction based off the comments here
  • danr
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    danr interpolator
    your paving stones at the side of the alley are thicker than the bricks in the wall. Urchins would be forever breaking their legs tripping over these whacking great things

    it's very important to get the basics of scale bang on correct in the early stages, or your whole scene is always going to feel "off", no matter how much work you put into the textures or lighting.
  • Ben Apuna
    I think your skydome might be a bit too small. Unless you are going for the fisheye look you've got right now, scale that skydome up a lot.

    Take a human base mesh and import it into your scene so that you can properly judge the scale of things in relation to it. It will also help you place the camera at eye level so that you can take better screen shots. The camera for your first screen shot is so high up it's making me think all of your walls are miniatures atm, the large cobblestones are only reinforcing this.
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    SHEPEIRO polycounter lvl 13
    i would go back to the blockout stage as danr says its important to get the feel and scale right first big brushstrokes, its like your jumping a few levels of detail in zbrush befor your ready, take your time over the blockout. i find them fun.

    and a back alley doesnt really have paving stones, i think your doing that classic thing of making what you think you saw not what your actually seeing
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir ngon master
    the cobbles should go perpendicular to the road, not straight along its edge.

    that's the first thing i noticed when i saw the images posted above. you also need to raise the centre of the road so the water drains to the edges.
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    ok I got fed up with terrain messing up everything, I learned how to make class decos for the environment which I will be doing soon

    things changed

    -remade Scene completely added basic lighting for now
    -Cobble stone had a revamp and bump offset on it now
    -Basic model home of modeled , not all modular pieces added on it yet, but for now added in for scale purposes
    -Redid side walk made 1 mesh versus multi (no point for this kinda scene..)
    -Fixed alot of scale/ size comparison issues

    Hoping im stepping in a better direction again.. :)

    (Note: Ignore the black space I need to model/ build the grass area to fit this shape correctly, I still havent had a chance to go this far today)


    Next Steps

    -Fixing scale brick sizes of walls + fixing coloring issues still
    - Fix side walk texture/ sizing further (Still not right)
    -Add in modular pieces to buildings
    c-open window versus close type
    -Making light pole as in original ref image(see page 1)
    -Making garbage can

    more to come soon :D
  • Ben Apuna
    Ok, looking better now. I think you are still having some scale issues with the street, sidewalk, and red brick walls.

    The street (cobblestones + sidewalk) still feels a bit too wide, but it depends on what you are going for here. If you are after that sort of back alleyway then I don't think it should be any wider than the width of 4 or 5 people standing side by side. Right now it looks like you could fit maybe 7 or 8.

    As you said the sidewalk is on your list of things to get to. Right now in your scene it still looks like a sidewalk albeit a skinny one, but in all the reference pics I've seen so far I don't think it's supposed to function as a place where people actually walk on top of unless a small car is trying to squeeze by. In your first reference pic they look like places where people leave their trashcans, in Tumerboy's pics they are much thinner, though I'm not sure what purpose they serve. Rain gutters maybe...

    I know you are going to fix the walls, but not sure if you meant scale model+texture or just texture so I'll just throw out my 2 cents here... For the walls they are looking a too short, I'm not certain on this but from the pics Tumerboy posted those walls look like they should be anywhere from shoulder height to slightly taller than a person.

    Then again I might be way, waaay off in my observations. I've never been to the UK, and have nothing like that here in Hawaii :P

    The houses are looking pretty cool, maybe vary the chimeny placement a bit more. Oh and not sure if it's accurate in real life, but I would play with pushing a few of the houses in toward or away from the street ever so slightly to get away from the perfect CG straightness and instanced look of them.

    Anyway, like I said it's getting better so just keep workin on it :)
  • Mark Dygert
    The cobblestone texture is looking good. You might want to break the street up into mesh tiles that reference different pieces of same cobble texture in different ways that way you break up the tiling without adding more textures.


    I think the overall proportions are still off. Curbs are too wide, alley is too wide, not enough backyard.

    1) You need to figure out how the street drains. Does the water run to the curb and into storm drains. Or does it flow to the center of the street and down into the drain you have? How does water get up and over the edge of your drain? The color of the drain looks off, its kind of a white pristine galvanized steel or sheet metal, but most that I've seen are a dark rusty iron set into the ground.

    2) You're missing the curb. The thick dark line isn't helping.

    3) I don't think the sidewalk texture is working very well. They look like giant floor tiles instead of poured concrete. The scale looks to be normal city sized sidewalk. Is this a normal street or a back alley? Back alleys are not known for their sidewalks.

    If it is a normal sidewalk, then it should be made up of large squares not 2 large rectangles smashed into the space a square would normally be. Most of the back alley ref in this thread has a slight bumper you could barely fit a shoe on. If you reduced it to half it should be about right, maybe even a little less. The color could use some correction too to closer match the cobbles.

    You're also near one city that has a lot of cloudy days. It's summer right now so most of the lighting is pretty harsh, but this place is a gold mine on cloudy days. Area's all over Seattle/Bellevue are ripe with urban ref just waiting to be captured. If you have a decent camera (mines starting to show its age but served me well) we should hit up a few places sometime. I've gotten some really good ref down by the Aquarium, Stadiums pike and pine. Most of it was easily turned into textures. It's generally not too busy and people don't ask too many questions or assume you're a tourist.
  • ChrisG
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    ChrisG polycounter lvl 10
    sef, What kind of scene are you going for? A back alley or a road with houses on either side? It seems to me you are mixing both of these up, if you are looking to design a scene with a road then cobbled section needs to be much bigger to accommodate cars and the like. The drains are always on the side of the road about every 20 metres or so- manhole covers on the other hand can be kinda placed willy nilly.

    Pavements normally have a sort of boarder plus a dip for cars but these older houses wont normally have that.- this picture explains what I mean.
  • Neox
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    Neox hero character
    are these really road stones? looks more like very rough wallbricks
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    suddenly I did new stuff and updated



    things to do still:
    -new sky texture
    -Remodel / retexture side walk
    -Begin first pass of building textures
    -Work in deco layers to add in grunge/different grass patches etc
    -model in basics to light pole with wire
    -model in basics to street light
    -model in basics to garbage can
  • whats_true
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    whats_true polycounter lvl 13
    Street is far to straight. Needs more slight bends and curves like your ref in the first post.
  • Jet_Pilot
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    Jet_Pilot polycounter lvl 10
    Since he is using Unreal why don't i see their screen space AO kicking on?
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    havent baked light maps yet.
  • ImSlightlyBored
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    ImSlightlyBored polycounter lvl 13
    screen space is regardless of baked lighting... as it's considered screen space.
    Jet Pilot the reason for that is that SSAO hasn't been in any of the officially released editors yet. It was first implemented in Gears 2.
  • Target_Renegade
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    Target_Renegade polycounter lvl 11
    The layout looks really good to me, a couple of things. The sidewalk texture doesn't look like one and the bricks seem too thin/small.
  • Jet_Pilot
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    Jet_Pilot polycounter lvl 10
    Ahhhh... I thought it came out already... my bad
  • Jeremy Wright
    Edit: disregard my post. Didn't see you stepped the brick walls down.
  • Joshua Stubbles
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    Joshua Stubbles polycounter lvl 17
    Much improved, sef. Some of the things I'm going to mention you already have listed, but I'll jot them down anyways.

    - Satellite dishes. Trying moving them around a bit on adjacent buildings. I know most places have codes on where you can put dishes, but moving them just a bit in any direction can help break up the monotony of their position. Also as they move down the line, their LoS on the satellite will be slightly different (rotation)
    - Red brick walls. Even good construction isn't perfectly straight when it comes to brick. I think if you add a touch of verticality to the walls, it will add a lot. Think of there being rocks or loose foundation underneath. So some parts could sag a smidge, while others might crest some
    - Main road is very very straight. This might be fixed when you do the sidewalk though. I'd expect some concrete bleed over, chips, chunks missing, etc
    - Decals! Since it's so early it's expected that they're missing, but just a friendly reminder to break up a lot of those textures with some nice mung decals.
    - Sidewalk texture. Again you already started you're redoing it. But just pointing out that it looks really stretched in it's current state
  • seforin
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    seforin polycounter lvl 12
    ok uv unwrapped textured and remodeled pieces of the building.

    I will now take this building and make 3 sets using the pieces modular on it right now , and bake out 3 unique light maps.

    right now just diffuse, need to make normal and spec as well

    Well hopping im hitting the quality mark so far

    1- 1024X1024

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