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Follow a practical guide to building 3D cityscapes for games. IAuthor Adam Crespi constructs a city block in 3ds Max utilizing low-polygon modeling and advanced texturing techniques. The course shows how to model common city elements such as buildings, intersections, curbs, and roofs and explains how to expand a city quickly and easily by reusing existing geometry in a modular way. The course also sheds light on simulating real-world detail with baking, lighting, and ambient occlusion techniques and offers a series of best practices for exporting to the Unity gaming engine.
Once we've got a color and a bump texture constructed for an object or a building, we're going to use that bump to make a normal map. A normal map is basically you can think of as a bump map plus a direction so the surfaces look like they are oriented correctly to the light. It is more involved with it, but that's the nuts and bolts on it. What I want to do in this building is in a normal map, pop out certain details, such as the sill here, the detail around the window, the stepping and the color, and also little bit of relief between the bricks. This darkness right here between the bricks is dirt that's collected over time in the recesses in the mortar.
I have my Color and Bump groups ready from the previous exercises and in them are the layers so I can get to them easily. I've taken my bump map and desaturated all the layers and eliminated the ones that aren't going to affect the depth in it. Now I'm ready to use nDo, a free script available from cgted.com, to make my normal map in Photoshop. Alternately, there are plug-ins available form NVIDIA and other manufacturers and also standalone programs that can do this. We have many options available. It's really a question of what workflow you'd like to use.
For this, I'll start with my Bump group and make sure that I have enough range between the brick and the stone for things to show. I will also make sure that things like the stepping in my windows have enough range or contrast between them. Lastly, I will clone this group by selecting it in the Layer palette, holding Alt and dragging, turning off the original and then on the new group pressing Ctrl+E to merge the group into one layer. Now it's ready to become a normal map. To activate nDo we can either install it or simply run the script straight from the drive.
As you can see, nDo went through quite a few steps to get this normal map. The rainbows here in the normal map are due to the way the normals affect direction and surface orientation, with blue providing direction or strength and red and green providing surface orientation on X and Y, thereby giving it that rainbow appearance. In the nDo dialog, then I have a choice over how does this look. Under the Style I have Bevel and Emboss. I will try Emboss and see how this looks.
It's always important to try different ways. One way may not work exactly but another look may be available and get you the results you want. It only takes a little bit of experimentation. Under Technique I'm going to run it as a Chisel Hard, because right now my brick to me is looking a little bit pillowy, a little bit rounded. That's better. Now the brick is flatter. The last part is I will play with the Depth and the Scale. I'll bring up the Depth 2000. Every time I make a change nDo will update. It's going to give me a little more relief in there, and finally I'll bring up the Scale to maybe 500.
I'm going to give this a guess and see if it works. One of the most important things here to note is that I'm working on a separate layer and I've preserved my original group. If this doesn't work I can always come back and very easily re-clone the group and make a new normal map without having lost any data. I'll try this and see if it works. I will hit Close on the nDo dialog and then save this out as a TIFF, bringing it into 3ds Max. I will also save the final color image as well. In 3ds Max, I have added a little light into my scene, so that once I turn on realistic with scene lights, I can see how the normal map reacts. After all the surfaces should look like they're oriented correctly to the light.
I will make sure in the Viewport settings that under Lighting and Shadows, I am Illuminating with the Scene Lights. It takes a minute and there is my scene light showing nicely in the scene with its shadows done correctly as they are raytraced. Now I will update the material. Selecting an object, I will press M for Material Editor and here's my material I have running for the texture. I will click on the M for the Diffuse Texture and in the Bitmap Parameters change from the existing map to the new one. As a note, I like to name my map so I can find them easily in a list.
In this case the color of the building has a C at the end. The normal map has an N. I will use other convention, say S for Shine or B for Bump. In the absence of the naming convention which may be an alphanumeric string given by a studio, something like this let's you recognize easily where texture should go. Under Maps in the Bump slot, I will add in a normal bump. First select a normal bump and then in the Normal slot, updating it with a bitmap, in which case I'll go find my normal map.
Once I've done that, and this updates, hopefully I can see my normal map in action. What I may do to make it easier to see is in the unwrap UVW Modifier, turn off the scenes, as we can see them overlaying on the mesh and possibly obscuring detail. I will uncheck the Map Seams and Peel Seams and then I need to adjust the strength of the normal map. In the Normal we have the strength and also a bump strength. I will bring up the Normal strength to 6, go up to the parent, and bring the Bump up to 100%, and now I can start to see some detail.
What I really notice it is in the chiseling here on the stone. As I select the light and move, we can see that chiseling appear to change lighting somewhat. That is the normal map in action. I can also see as I move the light and even better when I turn off the Occlusion how the window stepping is working. With Occlusion off, the lights selected and moving, I can see how the windows appear to have more detail and levels. Even though they are really just flat polygons. It's a very quick workflow. To work in a grayscale bump in Photoshop and then convert to a normal map afterwards, rather than taking a hard surface object like this, a building, out to an external sculpting program, we can have a very easy time doing normals that look really good in a scene by painting them gray and then converting them.
nDo is one such plug-in and there are many available. Whatever works to get the normal map out is good. In this chapter, we've constructed diffuse and bump maps through an organized named and layered workflow. We've also taken that bump map and converted it easily to a normal map for adding extra depth and realism to our facade. We can apply this best practice and workflow to any building we need to construct for our city.
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