Environmental Art: Concept to Execution Part 3

We previously ended off our scene by refining our blockout with custom meshes, and did a quick pass on integrating medium details into the level.  At this point the overall layout should be set and now it’s time for the nitty gritty.  I only get to doing finer details once all gameplay spaces and layouts are finished, that we can keep our focus on the task at hand.

After having played The Last of Us I was inspired to have an overgrowth through the level.  After all, this level takes place in the mountain tops and having some vegetation would give the sense that the area has been around for quite some time, nature slowly re-claiming its place.  Not only that, I had to find a way to break up the ground surface, since this is the player’s immediate view I did want to invest time into making it interesting.

At first I wasn’t sure if the whole overgrowth concept would work, but I went ahead and used the existing props in UDK to layout some foliage around the level.  As you can see there are vines growing along the architecture and back up into the cliffs. These assets were eventually replaced with custom foliage and simply mashed together in the scene.

(Click image below for animation)


Looking at the ground plane, I used mesh painting to give it some variety and damage.  Mesh painting is a great way to break up surfaces and is widely used in the industry.  I’m not entirely happy with how it turned out but from the point of view of the player it did the trick.  I have the option of either painting in rubble or cracks, or mixing the two on the surface of my ground.  Keep in mind that you need a lot of extra vertices for this to happen smoothly.

Next up were the rocks.  I had originally blocked in the level with UDK assets, but replaced it with my own custom rock model.  This was built in Zbrush which is great for doing models like this.  In my opinion rocks are probably the place to start off if you are learning Zbrush.  Nothing special in the sculpt as my main brushes were ClayTubes, TrimDynamic and Move.  Eventually this rock is going to be used for the entire scene including the background.  You can really get away with doing a lot with just one good rock model.

I had a great suggestion to add color to the scene by adding some flags, so as you can see the red banners give the scene a bit more life and works well as an accent color.

The overall scene is getting there.  We’ve come a long way to this point but one of the main goals of this environment is to feel immersive, as if you were part of something bigger.  To achieve this feeling we are going to take a look at developing the background as if it looks like we are part of an epic mountain top city.

Victor Kam teaches Level Design in the VFS Game Design program