View Full Version : [WIP] - Environment, needs critiques

12 December 2010, 02:26 AM
Hello all! I'm working on developing a portfolio (just quit my testing job to focus on modeling), and could really use some suggestions to help get this thing looking great. I'll be adding more images as more items are ready for critique.

Things are still pretty rough, so i'm sure there is plenty to fix. Working in MAX for now, and will be importing into UDK to set up the scene.

These are based on the awesome sketches of Matt Barrett (
Since they are rough sketches, figuring out the aesthetics is a bit tricky, so art direction is welcomed.

12 December 2010, 03:08 PM
It looks like a solid foundation :)
There are a couple of things I think you should consider --

I see no sign of people actually living in these houses, no scrap, no functional objects to make their life easier, no dirt.. You know?

The civilization reminds of the tibetan civilization so doing your research is vital and it will come across.

You need to start comparing your work with current gen games (such as this: )

Instead of relying too much on the concept you should take the opportunity to "plus" his stuff. Make it better, show your future employer that you have the capabilities of taking a concept and "plus" it... I'm not talking about the technicalities of just making it in 3D but also the underlying ideas -- What kind of civilization is this? Where is it located? Why does the houses look like this? What other ideas and constructions can you come up with that fit this village of yours? :)

Knowing Matt Barrett's stuff, it's probably to emulate the sand dunes of a desert for better camouflage and protection -- But camouflage from what? ;)

I love Matt Barretts stuff.. So you better not **** this up! So good luck :)

01 January 2011, 11:53 PM
Thanks for the suggestions. I started looking at Red Dead Redemption for some guidance. Reworked some of the textures, got them into UDK and put together a shader that will let me paint between the plaster and underlying brick. Here is a screenshot to show what i've changed: (the normal/spec maps haven't been updated)

not bad, can see some spots where I need to fix the unwrap, but thats simple enough.
The new problem is that everything was fine for a while, then when I rebuilt lighting, this happened:

I have no idea what in the world is causing that. Gonna post on some UDK forums and hopefully get a response while I make some more miscellanea to have laying about.

01 January 2011, 12:13 AM
That's really great to hear about your motivation, and that you are working from professional sketches. Something that brings your models down, I think, are the textures. The style of the models is slightly toony or maybe a better word is illustrative. The style of your textures should reflect this. You are using fairly realistic textures, and I think this takes away from the beauty of the model itself.

At the moment the models are nice. The texture are nice. But it's like putting a boustier on your granny. They don't really go together, and your brain has a little battle as a result.

If you are interested in this sort of look, check out this blog post which talks about texture building technique.

Hope this helps! Good luck on the portfolio. I'm looking forward to seeing it as it progresses.


01 January 2011, 11:16 AM
Those artifacts on that lower render look like a UV problem.
Have you rendered an AO / shadow map ? Looks like that to me, but on the wrong UV channel
or the UV channel has lost it's co-ords....

01 January 2011, 06:11 PM
Whystler - thanks for the comments, you make some interesting points. I was wanting to do something more "realistic" because that would probably be more relevant to the current job market. I may modify the models a bit, or I may investigate the texture approach you pointed out. (bookmarking that site, lots of good info in all his posts)

NikLG - I think what happened was that I created a second UV channel for the shadowmap, but never finished making unique co-ords for it. Then I started some vertex painting for the shader I'm using and it resulted in a ClusterF---. Finished the Unwrap, reexported and works fine now.

01 January 2011, 07:25 PM
Have you also considered checking that the normals are facing the right direction? I've seen that sort of thing happen when your normals are facing inward rather than outward.

01 January 2011, 10:51 PM
the textures are bit inconsistent right now.

Stone looks ok, but planks are too clean and straight compare to the aged state of the stone parts.

I would add some grunge/misplacement to those wooden planks.

Also those 2 supports under the curved roof seem un necessary as they do not support nothing significant to justify their "solidness".

Maybe some roof props would help as well? Something like old rusty antenna for example?

02 February 2011, 12:55 AM
Hi all,

Thanks for all the advice. Progress has been much slower than i wanted, but gotta fight through the technical problems.

Here is a couple screenshots to show whats changed. got some crates (whole and broken with matching planks), a bunch of new plants, cleaned up UVs, improved textures, and some roof props.

gotta get the rest of the buildings in shape now, maybe change the ground texture, and then I'll return polish everything.

02 February 2011, 12:41 PM
Your work is looking very nice but I have a question. Before bringing the mesh into UDK do you combine all the objects in the model into one mesh or was each part imported as a different object and then put together in the UDK? How did you handle the exporting of the texture to the udk?

02 February 2011, 05:03 PM
I'm only combining certain parts together, depending on how i want to use them in UDK. in this image, the building is 1 model, the antennas are all seperate (so i can mix and match per building) and then 4 different crate models.

Textures and models are independent of each other. My house model uses 4 different textures using a Multi/Sub-Object material, and when you export that, it only stores the UV information per texture channel.

UDK uses Materials instead of Textures, which gives a lot of flexibility. For example, the brick/plaster section of my house in Max only displays one of those textures. However, in UDK, i made a shader that allows me to blend between the brick and plaster textures (See here (

Not sure if that is understandable

02 February 2011, 04:11 PM
It's perfectly understandable.
It is the same technique used for ground texture (in the HL2 map editor). It's very easier to get a render close to the reality.

The only thing that disturb me is the weird window texture... what is it exactly? It looks like green glass, used for bottle of wine :)

The rest is looking very nice

p.s. Are they able to receive TV Channels in the desert? :)

02 February 2011, 06:00 PM
The textures are coming along. Unfortunately, you have a small problem that people run into early on. Your scale is off. If you put a reg. Size human in the scene. How big is he compare to the env. You might find that your crates are too big, your door too big etc....your texture detail is also too big.
Currently, your crates are making your building look like a miniature. You have scale issues. The planks on the building are also too large compare to what they are in real life. It almost feels like for every plank, it should be more like two thinner ones.

02 February 2011, 09:50 AM

crates are defo too big.


02 February 2011, 10:27 PM
First, very cool that you’re working up your portfolio and shooting for an art position. :thumbsup: Best of luck.

Regarding your current project, I have a few questions and pointers.

I’m curious as to the story you’re trying to tell with your image. I find something that can really help is to try to think of a story or a drama when approaching environment art as it can help give reason for doing things the way you’re doing them. What’s the story of your scene? Where is this supposed to be? It looks like there’s enough vegetation to not be an extremely hot desert, but the cracks in the building could suggest otherwise. The poles and utilities on the top of the building seem pretty modern, but the rest of the building seems dilapidated and not very lived-in. I would like to see you take a pass at trying to unify your environment and your assets in relation to a story and “world”.

I agree with the others that there does seem to be an overriding proportion issue. If you try building a prop-human (just a cube of about average adult height) and modeling your assets next to it, it could help your scale feel more believable. I especially notice the scale differences in the door, windows, utilities and wood panels. Sometimes incorrect proportions can create a sense of drama and visual interest, but if that’s what you’re shooting for be careful to still keep your assets in a believable range next to each other.

One thing that can really help start to bring your assets together to create a more “same world” feeling is unification of your diffuse texture palette and value range. I’m seeing blue, green, yellow, orange, pinky/beige and purple. I’m also seeing some white-white and black-black in some areas, but less wide black/white variance in others. Maybe take a pass at sampling the saturation and hue values of your diffuse textures and try bringing them to a more similar range. Think also about what time of day you want it to be, and the color of your sky and sun… these things will all affect your finalized world palette and values.

I’d love to see a wireframe of your assets. Just taking a quick glace it seems like you’re in a decent, low poly range. Don’t be afraid to add some nice bevels and smoothing groupage to get more visual interest going on your mesh. Especially since this is a personal project you shouldn’t be excessively mesh bound.

Do you have any plans for how you’re going to ground your building to the terrain? Right now it feels like it’s floating a little, mostly because the lighting appears to create a soft edge next to the terrain. Maybe consider bringing in some of that terrain detail up onto the lower part of your building walls like you’d expect in real life.

Good work so far! Looking forward to seeing where you take it.

04 April 2011, 02:01 AM
After a log delay, back with a major overhaul of the scene:

04 April 2011, 01:55 PM
Now that, is looking good!
A huge difference to your earlier posts and its evident you've really pushed your self to improve.

I think the textures are fine now, perhaps you could tweak the white on the building some so that it had a bit more of a yellow tinge to it but hmm.. it being the color it is now makes it stand out from the environment.

The only thing which really stands out to me is the barrel by the door - it looks like it might be a little on the small side, but the main thing is if a barrel was placed at that angle, it'd topple!

Awesome scene - As a consumer I would be happy with that level of graphics as well as the visual styling, were I to buy it :p

04 April 2011, 02:43 PM
I really like the trees! Did you create the trees?

04 April 2011, 11:01 AM
Looks like a very beautiful scenery so far... cheers! :cool:

05 May 2011, 08:12 PM
I love that scene, the architecture is quite something. A query, what software were the trees made in?

05 May 2011, 12:42 AM
Thanks everyone! The trees were made with SpeedTree modeler. The version that ships with UDK has some features removed that I would have liked to make the trees look a little better (i.e. being able to import them into MAX), but they are good enough for the backdrop.

Now just need to find a studio hiring that likes my stuff as much as the rest of you...

05 May 2011, 09:17 AM
Speedtree eh? I assume you have the free trial, as it costs a very pretty penny for the full shebang. Some very impressive trees regardless, nothing beats a lush, green forest in a game.

05 May 2011, 04:59 AM
A version of Speedtree comes piled in with UDK (which is free). I've used it to get a few trees out, there were no real restrictions, so I'm assuming it is a full version.

05 May 2011, 05:07 PM
When I try to export, it tells me, "Mesh Exporting is disabled in this version of the SpeedTree Modeler. Please contact to learn how to upgrade to the full version." This is using SpeedTree 5.0 and the April UDK. It can compile into a format that UDK will use, but nothing else. If you have another way, that would be most helpful.

05 May 2011, 06:56 AM
Hmm, I'm not on my PC right now, so I'm going to reel off the best i know. To get it out, you need to take that tree from the Modeller into the Compiler. It installs with speed tree. I think there is an option for it, maybe send to compiler or something.
Compiler opens and you just compile it on the default settings into a format UDK likes.

Look through these ( for more info, it's how I learned. There are a couple of videos for this.

06 June 2011, 03:22 AM
oh, never tried from the compiler, I'll have to take a look at that later.

Made some changes based on feed back from my teachers, and now I think I'm finally done with this environment unless anyone else has some suggestions:

06 June 2011, 04:19 PM
Hey Kelly, Looks good. Are you out in Kirkland, Wa? MS land? if you connected with the right people I think they would have a contract at least for you. Ive seen less get an opportunity, maybe not a rehire :) but atleast a shot.

06 June 2011, 03:11 PM
oh, never tried from the compiler, I'll have to take a look at that later.

Made some changes based on feed back from my teachers, and now I think I'm finally done with this environment unless anyone else has some suggestions:

Is that some Ambient Occlusion I see there? It adds a lot of depth.

06 June 2011, 06:42 PM
Micah-H - yep, I'm in the MS area, but so far, no bites. the job search phase is always the most difficult. I'm not good at selling myself, just want to make game art.

benfclark - yes, you are seeing some AO. as long as you set up your models correctly, UDK will take care of the AO for you. Doesn't take too much work, and the improvement is significant.

06 June 2011, 07:13 PM
Micah-H - yep, I'm in the MS area, but so far, no bites. the job search phase is always the most difficult. I'm not good at selling myself, just want to make game art.

benfclark - yes, you are seeing some AO. as long as you set up your models correctly, UDK will take care of the AO for you. Doesn't take too much work, and the improvement is significant.

That's... Brilliant, I must acquire UDK for my renders, it sounds sublime...

06 June 2011, 02:17 PM
Great work man, I really love the atmosphere in this scene!

07 July 2011, 09:26 PM
This is so awesome!

Love the stylised look and feel to the scene and the warm feeling of the lighting.

Would it be cheeky of me to ask if you will be releasing your maps for download so we can have an explore :P

You also introduced me to the art of Matt Barrett so thank you for that :)

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