Designing modular elements
Video: Designing modular elementsDesigning modular elements provides you with in-depth training on 3D + Animation. Taught by Adam Crespi as part of the Creating Game Environments in Maya and Photoshop
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This course is a practical guide to constructing 3D buildings that can be used to populate video game environments. Author Adam Crespi starts with a gas station taken from a photograph—retrieving measurements and dimensions with modular blocking and planning techniques in Adobe Photoshop—and then re-creates the building in Maya with polygonal modeling and advanced texturing techniques. The course shows how to model elements such as walls, doors, and roofs, including stacking UVs on a texture sheet, and also sheds light on simulating real-world details like dirt, wear, and grime, using ambient occlusion and normal baking in a high- to low-poly workflow. The final chapter shows how to export the model to the Unity gaming engine for final cleanup and rendering.
- Analyzing concept art for contours, texture, and shadow detail
- Blocking out the basic form of a building
- Modeling modular elements
- Planning for occlusion and texture stacking
- Creating the low-poly-count elements
- Planning a texture sheet
- Stacking UVs
- Transferring maps
- Baking occlusion and normal maps
- Drawing detail at the right size
- Painting layers of dirt and wear
- Adding lights and refining materials
Designing modular elements
Now that I've got my building blocked out, I can start to model my modules. I'll turn on my wireframe on shaded so I can see things and orbit around a bit. What I will start on are the modules for the garage doors here on the side. Back here in Photoshop, I'm going to just mark out those modules. I'll press Ctrl+Shift+N a new layer, and I've changed my color over to a green so it's easy to see. In this case, I'm going to make this first module the full-width garage door module, going from the corner of the building to the edge of the garage door and including this edge of the wall.
My plan then in this model is that this second garage door, even though the wall is slimmer here, will share the same texture. We can think of it as the texture simply flows off that module. In reality, as long as I'm careful on the painting, I'll avoid a seam right there and I have a good easy match right here at a corner, where it's okay to have a slight mismatch in the texture. I had also said these doors are 9 feet wide, 10 feet tall, and that this wall section was 3 feet wide, and the wall above the door was 4 feet.
Back here in Maya then, I'm going to start out modeling my module. I want to model as elegant as possible, starting with the outside and working my way in, modeling the inside of the building if I need it, as a separate object. I'll press spacebar for the hotbox and click on the Maya button and choose Side View. What I'll do usually is to turn off the grid and press F to focus. There's my building and I'm ready to start modeling. I'll hold Shift and right-click and make a poly plane. I'm going to snap this in, holding V and clicking on that first corner and dragging down to the bottom of the canopy module and letting it go.
Pressing 4 lets me show in a wireframe and there's that first plane. Now I can go to the INPUTS and change that Width over to 12. It's the right size and just not in the right place, but I'm going to move it in a minute. What I need then is to take a piece out of here that is 10 feet tall and 9 feet wide. There's any number of ways to do this. What I'll start out with is putting in some width and height subdivisions. Now I can take these and move them over.
Remember that I had started out this building at zero. If we look at our major element here as an example, the Translate Y is at 7 feet, because it's 14 feet tall and the center is in the center. What this will let me do in modeling is use either a relative or absolute transform to move this edge in the right place. I'll press F10 for Edge, double-click on that edge, and up here in the menu line input, I'm going to leave it at the Absolute Transform. Now I can put the Y height at 10 and it's in the right place.
I'll take this second edge loop, hold V, and snap it over right onto the other one, actually making an irrational shape temporarily. In this case, what I'll do is flying out that option and choose Relative Transform in the menu line input. I'll move back by -3 on the Z, and now I've got the wall element the right width. I'll go back to my Perspective view, press F8 for object, and slide this forward so I can see it in a shaded view.
Now I'm going to press F11 for face, pick this big face, and extrude it in. This will become one of my garage doors. I'll hold Shift and right-click and choose Extrude Face. I'm going to slide this back, and I've got any number of ways to do it. I can pull it back on the Z axis till it looks right, or over here in the INPUTS, I can put in a precise number. I'm going to say that wall is 6 inches thick, so I'll put in -0.5, or half a foot.
My module is almost ready. It's very clean, economical in polys and light tight. I'm going to pick this bottom face and delete it, as I've a floor polygon later that will cover that. I'm going to leave in this side polygon as I'll need it to match up on this side. Finally, I'm going to sow up these vertices to get rid of one more polygon. I'll press spacebar for the Hotbox and under Edit Mesh, I'll choose the Merge Vertex tool.
I'll click on one vertex and drag over to the corner, and I'll do this again from bottom to top and now I have the clean miter. I'll press F8 and hold Shift and right-click and choose Soften/Harden Edge > Harden Edge. Now I'm ready to delete the history. I'll press Shift+Alt+D or Alt+D, delete the history, and make sure it's gone. It looks like it didn't work because I was still in Vertex mode, so I want to make sure I'm in the whole object, or Object mode, first.
I'll delete the history and I've got a module ready to unwrap. It's important to do this to keep it light tight and precise. I'll try a quick experiment to finish this out and see if it worked. I'm going to duplicate this object. Pick both because I don't care which one goes front to back. Choose, under Modify on my Hotbox, the Align tool, and align them. It worked perfectly. My garage door modules line up exactly, and I can see right here, this is going to be a perfect place to line up that texture.
As long as I've good continuity on the top here, things will match, and I can have as many garage doors as I want. I've set myself up here for a clean texture break on the garage door in the module, where this large polygon will get that separate texture with the garage door and its windows and panels. Then I'll have my wall texture all way up here and over. I could use this same module to make the other garage door module. The difference on that one is once I've unwrap this piece, I'll take these edges and slide them back.
They're going to share the same texture and just have less geometry. If I built it right, I can even use this module, minus the garage door faces, to help make the wall that goes right here where the cashier station is. I'll keep modeling my modules, making them in small pieces, getting them ready for an unwrap and then to assemble the final building.
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