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Performances in making a complete level in 3DSMax

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    Performances in making a complete level in 3DSMax

    Hello Epic community !

    After having played with Speedtree, Terrain editor, Static meshes, material editor and particle editor, i try to create a complete level for my prototype.
    Before going too far, i would like to know what is(are) the best method, workflow for creating a complete level in a commercial game like Gears of War or other.

    In my case, background story takes place in Australian Outback.
    The level i am going to make can't be done in several ways, i don't think so.

    Here is a part of the level modeled in 3DSMax :

    As you can see, we are in the "rock moutain", with sand on the ground and rock all around.
    I would like to use the Per Poly collision for all the level parts with rocks, standard convex collision with standard rooms etc...
    The level is about 30 times bigger than the part here, so in this case, what is the best way to proceed ?

    - Model all the "rock part" of the level in one mesh (the little part here has 10k polygons) ?
    - Or model several meshes for the level, 30 times this one for example ?
    - In terms of performance, what is the best choice ?
    - In all cases, how could i Unwrap and Texture it properly, for not seeing textures cuts ?

    I can't really just model several little rock and put it on terain, i have tried and i don't have the result i really want, like here...

    Thank you for reading !

    Sorry if my english may be inaccurate.

    Too many polygons for one hallway bro! Unless thats a high polygon model for a normal map that will bog your level.


      Polycount is fine if you cannot see more than 10 of such meshes at once, also depends on if it is multiplayer level and dynamic or static lighting. Also it is prototype means it will run only on his computer no need to lower polycount for lower spec.

      For your level, I would model very low poly top down shape (outline that concept map layout), then extrude it and split into even, square faces. From that you can either use max (subsurface) or go for ZBRUSH.

      Split UVS in way that you have seam always on ground areas where sand is. Then make material that uses vertex color and UV mapping for sand in world space not model space.

      Short: model whole rock part of map as one mesh, then loop and split into smaller ones. This one from picture should be split into 3 to 6 meshes, but all really depends on detail level performance etc.


        Thank you for your answers

        @IllpIll :
        In fact maybe this can be a lot of polygons if my map would have been huge, but it will be composed of about 4 corridors and 5 square rooms.
        I saw Crysis 2 having 850k polygons at screen, in low graphics mode, for example.
        So i guess UDK can easily carry 350k polygons at screen on a good computer ?

        @Nawrot :
        I will follow your advices, you seem to have a lot of experience, as i can see on your website !
        In order to make a material which take in account world space, where do i have to look at ? Is it in UDK material editor or in 3dsMax material editor ?
        Thank you again, these informations are really important to me !


          Total triangles on screen isn't as big of an issue as modeling efficiency. The mesh presented in the original image represents the opposite of efficiency. It's a tesselated mesh, which under most circumstances is unacceptable.

          Edge flow is incredibly important to game art. Beyond technical specific situations, if an edge does not enhance the silhouette it shouldn't be there.

          As far as correcting what you have, I would be forced to rebild this model from the ground up, cleanly. As the edge flow has been completely destroyed by tesselation. It will be impossible to work with and take to final without a lot of errors and headache.

          For the whole level, I would break everything up into visible chunks. As in, each area or object if it can't be seen at any given time then it shouldn't be attached to other objects that can be seen. This allows for visibility culling and other optimizations that, when used properly, reduce the need for concern of triangle counts. If only a single area is being drawn, that area can have a lot more detail.

          There is always UVs seams and texture tiling. It's up to you to creatively cover that up. Luckily, caves are some of the easiest things to do that with. First, Box or Flatten map the whole thing to get an even amount of pixels. If you're using standard units, I suggest a box map of 128 as this is the same texture density as the default brushes in UDK. Then stitch everything back together relaxing as you go. The tricky part here is planning the seams. Plan to have seams where UVs distort heavily, and natural seams (dark areas, hard corners, reccessed areas, material transitions, etc.). Part of final polish is covering those up with decals and static meshes.

          You would also be wise to look into texture blending.


            Woah, this a great answer you gave me here !
            I wish i found such an answer when i was looking for this kind of informations !

            Indeed, i am totally awar the mesh i showed up isn't properly tesselated, i used it to try Mudbox in fact, i am currently building my level from scratch, without this kind of techniques

            I understand the problem you're talkng about with seams, i will read your advice again when i have to, and post here screenshots to have a feedback, and to help people coming here having a nice view of how a map is made, with your advices

            I don't know what is texture blending, i will google it,
            Thank you, i'll keep this post updated with my work


              First step

              Hi everyone !

              I started my level from scratch, with a very very low poly model, and i have a new question:
              How can i navigate easily through my mesh in 3DSMax ?
              I mean, when i have to model tunnels and buildings roof, it becomes very hard to get closer inside.
              Is the only technique to hide polygons when needed ?
              Is there a way to get FPS control style ? or smooth navigation ?

              Here is a screenshot of my short work :

              Thank you !


                First, it's max, it doesn't matter. Setup your pipeline so that you're previewing it in UDK as you're working on it in max. For game art, you need to focus more exclusively on the appearance in game. This will also knock down the hurdles of preparing your mesh for export as well. Sometimes folks get too excited about editor art, and then have to redo most of it once they see how that doesn't work in game.

                In max, you can select polygons or elements and hide selected or hide unselected. Isolate selection is great too.

                If you click on those two feet-prints icon in the bottom-right of max, you'll get FPS controls. Also adjust your perspective view FOV to somewhere between 90-120 depending on what you like. And, put in a character for reference. This can jsut be a box that represents the same size as the player. Then you can select and rotate around that to get a better idea of scale.


                  Just perfect ! Thank you


                    As MaxPower said, it's a great idea to get into the practice of importing something from a 3D package like max into UDK really early on in the process. 'Test' assets are also a good idea also.

                    Another idea is to effectively block out your scene in UDK before you start working on your scene in max. Make a notepad or word document with all of your size specifications so you're halfway done when you start to create your actual scene in max. This will give you a better understanding of scale, and the brushes are easily edited within UDK if any sizes need to be changed.

                    This can also be done with your assets. Make really crude shapes in max with more or less the proportions that you want (Again like Max said, making a box 96 units high (6ft character in Unreal) in max will help with sizing). After this you can drop them into UDK, figure out where they will sit and when it comes to implementing the actual assets it's a case of right-clicking and replacing.

                    Remember to set up your units properly in max for UDK too, a video of this can be found here...

                    Hope some of this makes sense and helps.


                      Thank you donthedragon,
                      This makes sense and helps
                      I am really astonished with the good spirit of the UDK community !


                        No problem mate.

                        Just remember, planning how to do something before you start will help tremendously. In this case just focus on getting your 'pipeline' and the relationship between every program you're using more efficient. For example, try not to put too much effort into the 3D modelling before you know it will work. Keep the modelling clean, and try and put just as much (if not more) time and effort into the texturing process.

                        UDK community is brilliant, we are all learners


                          For viewing in max, split your meshes to sections. Then ALT+X to make them transparent, use layers to hide parts of map.

                          Uv and export now and then to see how level looks and works in game, movement inside is essential, not everything that looks cool is easy to move trough.

                          As others said planning from beginning will save you redoing all. But that wisdom of planning comes with experience, so you are into redoing things over and over again, there is no escape.

                          Worldposition offset tutorial:***..._Tutorial.html


                            Thanks for the tips ,that really helped me navigate through my level !
                            But i am experiencing some difficulties with the zoom (mouse wheel), being too "violent" at once,
                            and the walk through mode being too slow (i tried Q to speed it up but not enough).

                            Concerning my level model, i tried the first version in UDK to walk around and ajust dimensions.
                            That's ok, i can start modeling a bit in it, i start with a little building, ideal for training :

                            I plan to attach violet and green parts, is this a good way of modeling details ?
                            Do i have to manually triangulate (or "quadulate" ??? lol) every part i work on, or is there a tool for this in the end ?

                            Have a nice day !