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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.
Now it's time to model. I've added on to this drawing additional linework showing mesh lines in green and shaded in yellow to show texture modules. So you can see actually the whole top floor is one big texture module. This will give us the vertical relief panels, a small and a large horizontal, a large section of cornice, and a section of table. If we do it this way, we can tile this texture all the way around the building. I'll miter the material right here at the corner and the texture will simply flow on to the extra geometry.
At the end then, this'll be limited geometry using part of a texture module. I'll go into 3ds Max and the first thing I'll do is measure the distance between windows using a poly plane, because it looks like the cornice sits on the top of the window and the bottom of the next window up, matching this arrangement. So I'll start out with that. Then I'll use the Extrude and Bevel tools to make the additional cornice elements. Here in 3ds Max, I have the existing model of the building from previous exercises. Notice that I've kind of tuned up the textures a little bit, getting the brickwork looking sharp, adding little detail to the window and the sill, and generally giving it another pass.
It's perfectly okay to do that. It's very fine to look at the first pass of work and say, "That was a neat learning exercise. Let's do this again." And I did it here and I think I got a better result from it. The other thing I'm doing is I've added in a direct light. And this direct light, which is really just big enough to catch the scene, has raytraced shadows. So I can take advantage in Max of using the Realistic+Edged Faces Display Mode and see the elements shadow as I make them. After all we're after shadow lines. That's the big deal here, and I want to know that I'm doing it right.
I'll start out by pressing F for Front View. Then I'll hit Ctrl+Right-Click and make a plane for measuring. I'll snap this plane onto any convenient vertices. And really what I care about on the plane is the Length, 48. I'll do this technique quite often, using a plane or a rectangle to measure, especially between points that are not aligned with each other and I need one dimension, rather than using a measuring tape which may give me a different measurement. I'll delete the plane and go up to the top of the building.
What I'll start out with here is another plane. Ctrl+Right-Click and choosing Plane. And I'll snap this plane cleanly all the way across the building. Really I don't care that the Length is 0. I'm going to come back and change that. What I care about is it's snapped cleanly across from corner-to-corner. I'll put in a length of 48, 2 Length Segments, and 1 Width Segment. This will give me the geometry I need to match the mesh lines I had drawn. I've moved the plane up and now I'll snap it down to the top of my windows.
I can already see the shadow lines are emerging where I want them. It looks like based on the reference that I need to move this edge up slightly. I'll convert this Plane to an Editable Poly, select Edge, and move this edge up maybe five or six inches using the Transform Type-In. Alternately, you can just pull on the Y-axis, turning off Snap, to get in the right place. I'm going to watch the X, Y, and Z fields down here at the bottom to see how much I'm moving. That's good! Now I can spin over into an isometric view and move the top edge out to give me that protrusion on the cornice which is important in the silhouette.
I'll use the Transform Type-In for this, moving out by -12 on the X. This gives me the downward facing polygon that will be mostly in shadow but has detail. Finally, I'll extrude this edge back. I'll right-click and choose the dialog next to Extrude. Alternately we can simply choose Extrude and move this later. I'll extrude it out to give myself some geometry. The danger with extruding like that is we do get a base width, giving me an extra piece and moving that edge down.
This is a case to actually use the dialog in extrusion. That way I can take out this base width by zeroing it and putting that extrusion where I need it to be. If you notice, I didn't care about how far it extruded. What I'll do is now use my Snap tool, first on the Y and then on the Z axis, to get this in the right place. I'll register on an edge and snap over to the existing geometry. Then I'll take it on the Z axis, register on a vertex, Spacebar for selection lock, and snap it down onto itself.
Now I know it's in the right place. I need to make the rest of the cornice. What I'll do in this is back here in the front view use Bevel to make the whole module. Then the texture will tile across. Alternately, I can do it in pieces and see if there's any geometry I need to eliminate. I'm going to take the first approach. With the edge selected, I'll use the dialog next to the Extrude tool again on the right-click menu. I'll spin around into an orthographic to see this properly. Once I've got this polygon flattened out, using this Edge dialog to go in the right direction is really useful and easy.
I'll make this first one -120.0. That way the edge pops out. If you notice, it went in the wrong direction. Sometimes we need to check this and take the negative out or add one in. +120.0 gives me my wall. Now I need to go back and look at the reference drawing and see if I'm getting enough length and width in here. Where I've gone to so far is from the bottom of the window all the way up to that first line. I need to add in some extra mesh lines in here eventually. But first I'll extrude out for that cornice.
I'll hit the plus to apply and continue. The extrusion went out to 120, which is too far. I'll change that distance to 18 inches. Now I've got the throw or the reach on my cornice to give me a shadow underneath correctly. I'll hit the plus and change to a negative. This one will go -12. Hit the plus again, I'll come up, and now I can extrude and move, or extrude, move, and shape later. In this case, I'll hit the plus once, twice.
This gives me geometry but it's in the wrong direction, but now I've got the steps in my cornice I need. The last part then, I'll go into a side view such as the Left or Right, and move this up where I need, looking at the profile. I'll switch over in orthographic here to Left. I'll also press F3 to go to a wireframe and check OK. Now in my extrusion, I can pull this up where I need. I'll pull it up and out to give me the proper throw on the cornice.
Then maybe switch to Vertex and move this as it needs to be. Now I can start to get the feel on my cornice in the right way. That big, big shelf there that's going to cast my shadows. Switching back to a shaded view, it looks like I'm in pretty good shape. I've got big shadows off this, self-shadowing, and it's ready for smoothing groups and texture. I also need to miter this corner here. A quick technique for mitering corners is to switch to a wireframe and start to move these edges out until we get a 45.
What I'll do sometimes is to measure that distance and move as needed. I'll copy that length and move my vertices. If I did this to an exact extrusion, I could also move it. And I'll make this miter by grabbing these pieces and moving them. My cornice is almost complete. What I've done is to move these vertices out, measuring the distance, and creating a miter so that when I mirror this over at a 45, it'll match exactly.
I've created in the cornice those long shadow lines as well as the pieces that really need to stick out in silhouette, remembering that the back side of the building, which would be here on the right, is effectively blank brick. It's made to go next to another structure. The last part then for shadowing is to take this top edge by selecting Edge and extruding it straight back. I'll right-click, pick the dialog next to Extrude, and give myself some dimension, just checking OK.
Now I can use my Move tool and snap to pull this all way back to the wall. I'll work on the Z-axis first, pressing Spacebar for selection lock, pulling it down, then switching to the Y-axis, and snapping all the way back. The important thing with cornices is to think of them often as long-spanning elements, similar to the vertical elements we added on the building in previous exercises. In this case, this cornice, which appears to be one monolithic piece, will actually get three plus texture modules.
The texture will simply span onto the miter and over here to cap the end where the texture repeats, we just don't have the extra windows. This would be simple geometry but will give me the shadow lines I need, and that's the important part because it's really up in the air for everybody to see.
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