Experiences with Environments: Part 1 Creation

Concept Used for Creation. Arted by Jeremy Love

At the beginning of Term 3, I decided to start on a journey and I never would have expected to have learned so much. I wanted to create a whole environment from scratch, while keeping up with my schoolwork. At first, I believed that the mixture of the two would be easy, but I soon figured out that my skills and drive would be tested.

Welcome to the three part series of Experiences with Environments. These articles explain my process, problems and successes that I found during my progress of creating a full scene. The series will cover my ideology from concept, creation in Autodesk Maya and Pixologic Zbrush, creation of textures, then finally, transferring to and creating materials in Epic’s Unreal Development Kit and Unity 3D. This part covers concept, creation of Maya and Zbrush elements, and textures.

The first step to my quest was finding a good piece of concept art. I wanted to find a piece that would challenge my skills, but keep within my skill level. Therefore, I picked the picture featured at the beginning of the article. What caught my eye the most was the reflections and the emissive lights within the environment. I did not previously know how to create these effects, so I sought out to make this picture a virtual reality. Thank you to Jeremy Love from JeremyLove.com for inspiring me with this picture.

The next step was creating the environment in Maya. After three attempts, I finally modelled everything:

Everything Modelled

After modelling everything, I noticed that my generator did not have half of the detail that the concept picture did. I decided to bring the generator (big cylinder in the middle) and the turbines (the surrounding smaller cylinders around the generator) into Zbrush to add of the details in the concept. Once I thought the objects had enough detail, I exported them to be used in Eat 3D’s xNormal. I baked the high poly model onto the low poly model into a normal map, which I placed on the models. Here is the scene with the newly created models:

Models in Maya after Zbrush detailing session

After making the normal maps for the models, I started texturing. Texturing was very tough to make realistic enough for the concept picture. The hardest part of texturing was the metal, since it was in almost every model in the scene. In order to save time, I decided to make each metal texture differently, as seen in the scene below:

Texturing the Models

Each metal texture is very different and the three pictures below show a closer view of the metals.

One                                                                      Two                                                            Three

Three Metal Textures

The first texture had good colors, but the normals were too strong and seemed to counter the cleanliness of the concept art. The next texture was too rusty in color, but the normals were closer to the concept. Finally, the last texture was spot on; I liked the colors and I liked the normals.

This texturing style worked well for me, since I was not adept at creating metal textures. I was able to trial and error different grunge brushes, colors, spec, and normals to perfection. Once I found the perfect texture combination, I copied the same texture combination onto all metallic objects.

After creating the materials, I decided to add emission to the scene. It ended up being easier than I thought to implement in Maya, and created interesting vantage points within the scene.

I added the final touches to the textures and models and created a mental ray render of the scene:

Final Scene in Maya

I was pleased with the outcome, but the render took 3 minutes and 43 seconds to complete. I kept the scene under 10,000 polys, but it took too long to render. It would like good inside of a movie, but it would take too long to render in a game. Therefore, I exported each model into .fbx format for integration into Unity 3D and Epic’s Unreal Development Kit, to attempt to create the same effects in a game engine.

Next week, I will discuss importing models, creating materials, and lighting the scene in Epic’s Unreal Development Kit. Thank you for reading, and see you next week.


James Watson is a Game Design student at VFS