View Full Version : Ghost Town WIP

11 November 2007, 06:04 PM

I've been working on modeling a ghost town environment for a couple of days and thought I'd share my progress. The ghost town is based on a town abandoned during the 1950's when Route 66 lost traffic to the interstate and commerce no longer came to the town.

The structures in this scene are an old garage, gas station/ general store and a hotel.

The polycount in this scene, including the pickup truck is 7646 polys.

WIP Page -

Any comments or ideas for improvement are greatly appreciated.


- MH

11 November 2007, 08:44 PM
It looks fantastic only thing is at the moment the proportions looks a bit exaggerated and almost cartoon like, then again the fact its not textured yet might be giving me this impression. Unless this is the style you are going for (you didnt say)

Hurry up and get some textures on it, im watching this one. :thumbsup:

11 November 2007, 09:36 PM
Looking really good.I like the layout as well- nice focus you've created.

I'm keen on seeing wher you take this.


Psionic Design
11 November 2007, 03:31 PM
Looks pretty cool so far, cant wait to see some textures going in there!!

11 November 2007, 06:47 AM
very teamfortress2-esque (is that the right way to say it?)
anyway - i am loving it so far! can't wait to see what you do with the texures!

keep up the awesome, clean work - and keep us posted!
really looking forward to this piece!


11 November 2007, 07:38 AM
Very exciting project I love how you have modeled the land scape I can already see the the dessert route 66 ghost town emerge

btw I think the "alpha planes" i dont know how to do it but I think the key term is Billboarding

I dono I havnt really played with it much b/c I tried doing it for many architectual models but had no success...
But I hope you do cause Im sure it will look alot better and more detailed

Keep it up cant wait to see the next step:thumbsup:

11 November 2007, 02:55 PM

Thanks everyone for the comments so far. From what I've read so far, I'm on a good start to this project. Minor things that I'd like to improve on are objects like rocks and foliage to scatter in the background.

I was inspired to start this project after seeing some of the environment work in CARS: Maternational, which was produced by Rainbow Studios. (one of the places where I would like to work.) I also had some Team Fortress influences as well, both projects have a stylized look to them - maybe I'll blend both influences?

Well, The next step on this project will be to make a previz painting for my textures and lighting to get an idea what direction I will be taking. I will be updating as soon as I have a few ready.


- MH

11 November 2007, 06:35 AM
Finally done with unwrapping! So, I'm on to a few lighting tests to establish the scene. Here's what I've got so far:

The foliage and rocks still need to be added into the scene. I've got a few basic elements thrown in there, but I plan on modeling a few more variations of cactus and rocks to scatter about the scene.

Comments and suggestions are appreciated.


- MH

11 November 2007, 03:54 PM
It looks great. To me it almost looks like a scene from the movie Tremors. If you watch the first movie they have a ton of reference material for a kinda run down desert town.

11 November 2007, 05:20 AM

I've decided to go with the afternoon render since that seems to have the most impact. After settling on the choice of lighting, I decided on making a few changes to the key and fill lights in the scene.

The next step is to start adding in the alpha planes and desert landscaping. I'm very interested in seeing how this turns out.


- MH

11 November 2007, 05:02 PM
wow, i love the lightning. Even untextured that already gives good impression.
Just the mountains on the last shot seem to have too cubic clif.

11 November 2007, 08:27 AM
I've been spending the last couple of days working on textures for my scene, including shooting an afternoon sky panorama and piecing it together for the sky dome and putting together a texture for the telephone pole.

Here's what I have so far.

I'm thinking of building the desert landscaping up in layers by scattering various types of foliage and rocks over a tiling texture on the ground.

One thing I'd like to know is whether it's possible to take another texture and layer it over the current texture by projecting it. Each poly has the same UV coordinates for the ground so my texture isn't stretching too much, but the limitation of that is that each polygon has the same texture. If there was some sort of way to overlay a texture on top of it that was UV independent, that would be great.


- MH

11 November 2007, 01:46 PM
nice job.
yes u can do that. R u in max?
If yes, here`s what u can do. U have to map ur terrain such as u want ur "projected" texture to appear on it. Then apply another map channel to ur unwrap modifier (1 is by default, so probably u will do channel 2). And in the Material Editor specify which map uses which maopping channel. All ur tiled textures will probably use ch.1 and single "projected" texture - ch.2. This allows different maps to use different unwrapping layouts of the same mesh.

And of course u will have to mix ur ground texture with overlaying one whether through mask or multiply. And u probably will want to disable tiling for "projected" texture ;)

Ur landscape shapes up really cool; however, I think that now there is too much bump. Even if it is a sunset with strong shadows, that may be better shown with shaded sides of rocks/shrubs, cause that what creates such a contrast. But usually the ground itself doesnt have moon-like surface ;) After all I beleive that with such a bumpiness u go too far from the style that was evident on ur first shots.

11 November 2007, 05:24 PM

Thanks for your helpful comments. I am working in 3dsmax, so I'll spend some time today applying your solution to the problem. Hope for the best.

The texture for the ground is very preliminary right now, and I agree with your comments on the bumpiness. It needs to be more flat and the bumps need to be much smaller to match the scale of the scene. I think one of the problems is the scaling of the texture. Right now, the texture is much too large for each section that is 56 feet across. If I started dropping in foliage and rocks, that issue would become very apparent, so it's a must-fix.

I'm going to spend some time painting out the shadows on the textures as well. There's lots of work to be done on the ground.


- MH

11 November 2007, 10:18 PM
You can also just do a blend or mix of 2 textures in Max. Overlap them and use another image or procedural texture for the transparency/blend map. Each can use the same UV map or a different type (like a basic linear, spherical, etc. projection).

11 November 2007, 03:34 PM
You can also just do a blend or mix of 2 textures in Max. Overlap them and use another image or procedural texture for the transparency/blend map. Each can use the same UV map or a different type (like a basic linear, spherical, etc. projection).

You can also use vertex colours to paint a mask if you want to. Just place a vertex colour map in the mask slot and use a vertex paint modifier to paint a black and white mask on your mesh.

11 November 2007, 09:29 AM
Thanks guys for the suggestions. I decided to go with vertex painting and some texture projections for the ground in my scene. I didn't realize why Max had multiple map channels until now : )

There's still a lot of work to be done on the ground plane and I'd like to get a better texture projection around the base of the abandoned structures. I plan on flattening that texture out a bit and giving it some caked mud, rust spots around metal objects and maybe a few oil stains around the garage and gas station.

Well, it's 2 AM. I'll et back to this later.

Doea anyone know of a site where I can pick up some high resolution pictures of ghost towns or abandoned structures? I plan on getting the building textures started sometime this week.


- MH

11 November 2007, 11:08 AM
oooh.. the texture on your rock formation has to large a scale and is a little stretchy in some areas.. I can almost see the sand grains from over here :)

Anyway... I love the work you have done on this! So please continue I am sure it is going to turn out fantastic!


11 November 2007, 06:35 PM
Yep, that texture is still preliminary. I have plans for the rock formations and that involves some work in Zbrush to make it look more like a rock formation than a sand sculpture.

Thanks for your comments!

- MH

11 November 2007, 03:09 AM

Loving this looks great, cant wait to see more.

Chris Y

11 November 2007, 04:24 AM
Alright, after a brief break, here's some more progress.

I've started texturing the old roadway that runs through the town and scattered a bunch of rocks around the scene to break up the surface a bit. Some cracked dirt has also been added to the side of the garage.

I'm not entirely satisfied with the roadway just yet. I'm thinking of making the sections in the middle of the road larger and more solid since they would be less affected by traffic. I'malso tempted to scatter rocks and place a few plants along the sides of the road. Maybe have a plant grow out of the cracks in the road at some points?

The background mountain still needs some work...I'll be getting started on that very soon.

- MH

11 November 2007, 06:14 PM
nice job, I`m digging the atmoshpere ;)

Imo western-style roads r just more dense soil. E.g. I didnt see any rocks layed out artificially to make the road. All what I saw in movies for example is just more flat surface that has slightly lighter color with trails from wheels. If you want to add marks and make ur road more look like in Cars, probably a regular ashpalt with large cracks would fit better.

But yes, good idea to add plants where ur cracks will be ;)

11 November 2007, 07:20 PM
Great work so far. Love the lighting. In regards to the train tracks, all those I can remember have been built on a mound of small rocks raised atleast 8 inches above ground level, although I haven't spent much time in the desert.

11 November 2007, 08:25 PM
In regards to the train tracks, all those I can remember have been built on a mound of small rocks...

Yup, ballast is used, it fills in between & around the ties.

Overcrit would be the tracks are too close to the fence. Really good stuff so far!!

11 November 2007, 06:51 AM
These are some very helpful comments. Thank you.

I'll be fixing the issues with the road and train tracks shortly. The road is likely to be one of the more difficult fixes, but I think cracked asphalt is really the best way to go since the ghost town was abandoned back in the 1950's and used to have traffic coming off from Route 66. Now, I need to find those textures and take another shot at the road.

Looks like I'll be checking the references again. I should have more renders soon.

- MH

12 December 2007, 05:35 AM
Ok, here we go. Here is this weekend's progress.

I had maybe about six hours to work on this since the last iteration...I've had a lot of things relating to family, etc that got in my way so this project has been on the backburner.

But the good news is that the desert landscaping is almost done. There are just a few things I need to finish up on before I move on to the fun part of the project, which is the ghost town itself.

Major changes include widening the road to make it closer to human scale (hence the green box), some major texture work on the desert mesas and some more texture work on the road. There was a lighting change (change to key to fill ratio) to make the scene visually pop a bit more.

The railroad tracks still need to be completed and I've been meaning to texture the rocks underneath the tracks. That is one of the next items on my list of things to do.

Let me know what you think.

- MH

12 December 2007, 01:42 PM
wicked man!
it looks damn great!
but the cracks on the road are maybe a bit too deep...

12 December 2007, 03:57 PM
Now it looks way more realistic comparing to ur first untextured shots. I dont`t know if u changed ur concept, anyways, it looks like going far from initial idea. Me honestly I liked a lot first look that it had.

An angular stylised landscape works worse with realistic textures, cause it just seems very low poly. However, with stylized textures a-la Pixar that would actually be perfect.

Imo, there r 2 styles that contradict one another. For example, one may look at ur work and accept ur world as realistic due to realistic textures, but there is not enough detail and wrong proportions for that. Or one may accept this as cartoony due to modelling, but that is not working because of realistic surfaces :(

12 December 2007, 06:57 PM
Looking great man!

the only thing that is bothering me is the cliff textures, there is too much sand and not enough rock. Cliff sides should not be any sand and lots of rocks.

Great looking scene though.!

12 December 2007, 04:48 AM

Sorry for the long wait on the reply.

I've had an artwork committment with another side project at work, so that has been taking up a lot of my time.

Your comments about the realism of the textures against the cartoony aspects of the scene make sense to me. I've been trying to achieve the Pixar look with this scene, but it hasn't quite got to that point yet. The challenge is to balance my polygon budget with a realistic, yet stylized look. A lot of those hard edges in my scene are causing issues and I've been smoothing those out as much as possible.

If you have any ideas as to what would make this look more like a Pixar scene, feel free to take a render and redline/ paintover it with your ideas.


- MH

12 December 2007, 06:15 AM
Its lookin pretty good
But I think the thing that might be a problem is I think the land scape textureing the cliff texture are pretty stretched and I think they could be a little more tiled.
Here is a thread with some good info on terrain work
I would say check out Cars and through it in and watch the part with the desert and road, and study it look for clues of how they did the modeling and detail.
trailor "66" is a good place to look at the movies desert detail too

Lookin good keep it up:thumbsup:

12 December 2007, 05:00 AM
it is hard for me to describe since I am not a good writer ;), but if shortly I think it should have less bumpiness (whitch I personally find in ur shots too strong even for realistic style).
Also in Cars (since u use it as main source of inspiration as I see), textures r more clean. They seem being a photos, but in contrast to photos they keep minimum of details. Textures in Cars don't tend to be noisy. Despite there r lots of different objects in the scene, one may easily notice each (even the snallest) object, and their shape don't get mixed with many over-detailed textures. There r even parts in some textures that seem to not have any detail at all except for plain color. I am sure there r some subtle detail, but it stays almost un-noticable, cause it is just not needed to be too attractive for ur attention.

Since I am working on a kinda deserted environment as well (but realistic one), a while ago I geathered some ref images from Cars, so I hope they may help u. ( ( (
Check the architecture textures, especially the shot with 2 italian guys (Guido and ....), look how the white wall texture on the right side transitions from light dirt to almost plain white color with slight spatter.

Also I think shots from Pixar's Boundin' may help u a lot. Textures there r even more clean. They keep only necessary lines and shades, just make u have a clue about the material.
Chesk it here:

P.S.: also I find ur texture a bit too low res, that is why crack and other details look too harsh, especially on the road.

But anyways, u r doing a good job, keep it up!

12 December 2007, 06:33 PM
Matroskin, HughieDM,

Thanks for your input.

While I focus on the side project at work, I'll be thinking about ways to improve upon this scene. I've got a few ideas from watching the Boundin trailer and from looking at a several hi-res stills from it's just a matter of applying them to the scene in a practical way.

I might expand out the desert landscape a bit to make it more massive in comparison to the ghost town and add in more mesas and geometry for the mountains far off in the background. Anything to add some visual interest to the scene.

The sky might see some changes as well. We'll see.


- MH

06 June 2008, 05:04 AM

It's been a while since the last update. Overtime at work and other committments put this project on the back burner, but now I'm determined to finish this thing.

My recent focus has been to take care of the texturing, one asset at a time. I'm keeping things simple for right now, working with rgb, spec and normal maps.

The idea is to eventually transfer this project to a game engine or editor, such as Unreal. So, I am dealing with some limitations.

So far, I've received some great feedback from my co-workers, but would like to get some ideas from those of you out there who are interested in helping me improve this piece.


- Matt H.

07 July 2008, 04:54 AM
Hey all,

Here's this week's progress on the Ghost Town project. My focus was to move forward on texturing the more difficult assets, one at a time.

Let me know what you think.


- Matt H. (

07 July 2008, 03:49 AM
Hey fellow THQian, it's looking real good. I like the lighting a lot. I think you need to push the story a bit more. At the moment it looks like a couple buildings on the side of a long desert highway that nobody lives in. I'm trying to understand why nobody lives there or where they went. Did they vanish? Did they pick up all they could and leave in a hurry? Was everyone killed by a pack of bandits? Did aliens abduct them and probe their anuses?

Figure out what the story is and dress the scene accordingly. If everyone picked up and left ASAP maybe add a burnt down building, open the doors up, a bunch of stuff left by the road that couldn't fit in the car, or even a dog leashed to the telephone poll (sad).

07 July 2008, 06:30 AM
Hey guys.

I've been focusing on the texture work this week and hope to have all of the old product advertisements, logos and message boards painted by Friday. My first session has turned up some decent logos, so I'm going to continue on with these and hopefully have them implemented in my scene by this weekend. In case anyone was wondering, all of these are hand-painted in photoshop.

Thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback, Ben. Wish I could have posted my reply here sooner but it's been a very busy week at THQ Phoenix.

Your comments got me thinking and I need to better establish a story for my scene. Part of what has been lacking was evidence that these commercial buildings were previously inhabited and frequented by visitors. The story behind this scene is that thie ghost town was once a bustling area until Route 66 was decommissioned and railroad traffic no longer came through the area due to the interstate picking up traffic. With the traffic went the people and they left in droves to the inner city. Left behind were the shells of these buildings. Most have taken damage over the years due to curious tourists and the occasional vandal. Most, however erode away with nature, blending into the landscape.

Here are some sample textures.

Take it easy,

- Matt H.

07 July 2008, 10:06 AM
I really like this scene, the texture samples look good too. One thing that I was thinking of is the light coming from the right hand side of the scene... It puts all the cool details you have in shadow. On the other hand, if it was more visible it might make the scene more busy which might detract from the desolate air you might be going for :)

08 August 2008, 05:48 AM
Well, this is finally starting to come along.

With the exception of a few assets, I've implemented most of the architectural textures for this scene. A few things are still work in progress including the old truck. For now, it just has a diffuse texture. I'm planning on adding some cinderblocks for the front axles and possibly busting out the front lights.

The tree is also WIP and I plan on finishing that along with the rest of the foliage (which is currently missing from this scene.)

The environment still needs some work and I see the mountain behind the saloon to be a particular challenge. It's a simple mesh, but the scale of the texture alone is going to be very tricky get to look 'right'. Perhaps a heightmap may be a better way to go for mountains. Either that, or sculpt the mountain in zbrush. What do you guys think? What's the best way to handle that sort of asset?

Feedback is always appreciated.


- Matt H.

08 August 2008, 05:57 PM
Hey man this is looking good. I have a few crits for you. The bump in the road texture seems a bit too strong. Also the ground texture itself seems a little low res. Also, I think that the blue sky doesn't really fit in too well with the lighting of the scene. When looking at the scene without the sky, it looks like the scene is set during a sunrise/sunset, with the really long shadows and the overall orange-ish feel. I think having a nice orangy sky will make the scene more unified. Keep it up!

08 August 2008, 01:06 PM
the scene looks really cool now.

I think that the bump on ur road is too strong though. Also the bump map itself seems to be too rough and rounded. looks like its made of some organical tissue, especially on the sides of the road :)
Anyways, keep it up, u had a good progress!

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