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No skyboxes in UE3...everything is in-level now?

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    No skyboxes in UE3...everything is in-level now?

    Hello all,

    It's been a while since I was active in the UT editing community. The last game I worked was UT2004. My understanding is that with UE3 as seen in UT3, Bulletstorm, and some other modern shooters, skyboxes are no longer being used. The static meshes that used to be placed in a skybox are now just placed in-level.

    If that's the case, how are devs creating expansive cityscapes like what can be seen in many of the Mass Effect 3 levels? (Cannot recall if ME3 is UE2.5 or UE3, but given the release date and the look of things I'd say UE3). Are they just placing a large number of really detailed static meshes near the playable area to simulate buildings? Or is something else going on?

    Comments and thoughts would be much appreciated.

    #2
    Great question.
    • Skyboxes in UT99 and 2KX were faked (built somewhere with in the map and then rendered as if they were over-head skies, except they really weren't) however this did create an illusion of great distance because movement in the level didn't result in any movement of the sky (with the exception of panning textures). This was an excellent pre-mesh method for rendering high quality skies.

    • Skies in UT3 / UT3 engine are the real thing, you are correct they are skies on various meshes: skydomes, halfspheres, fullspheres, etc. which are rendered in actual size and location so what your seeing is really there with in the scene. The potential of the new method is far superior to the legacy method IMO, however one of the problems with the new method is if the sky texture contains moving clouds and you place a Moon or a Planet visibly with in the sky the clouds are behind the Moon instead of in front of the Moon (obviously clouds should always be lower than objects in space right?) so we have to use more meshes and more tricks to overcome this caveat.


    There are some advanced tricks to create a level with variations to the skies depending on which part of the map your in, I'd suggest to look at the map DM-Gateway in editor to give you an idea this.

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      #3
      Above comment from 1X should answer the main question

      In addition to the comment for taking a look at DM-Gateway:
      For a well thought out sky, you might also wanna take a look at Cr4zy's Sky textures and its material setup HERE
      Its a pretty advanced material setup, but with a clear tutorial that can be found HERE, you should have no problem figuring out what each material setup does, and reacts

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        #4
        Thanks, guys!

        I'm still trying to wrap my head around the current gen of UED/UDK. I started with UED for 2K4, then moved to Maya PLE, then Blender, then Max. It's been years since I fooled around with UED, and now the tech is different.

        I really wish I could open a few of those Mass Effect levels in an editor, take a look at some of their tricks. I'd especially love to examine the Ilium cityscape from ME2. I'm assuming there's some forced perspective and other things like that going on, because the skyline seems to extend so far. Either that or the level is mother-huge.

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          #5
          The ME3 "skyboxes" are quite small in actuality, the tricks are pretty simple:

          http://i.imgur.com/HVzIuzq.jpg

          The playable level is where the player can move around in. Close outside the boundaries there's the 3d models for the nearby structures (buildings, foliage etc), with the terrain going a bit further out (since scale is not an issue there). At a certain distance, where the parallax of the player movement is barely noticable anymore, the structures are replaced with flat textures facing the center of the playable area. Beyond that everything is simply painted on the skydome.

          One mission where this is very obvious is Mordin's loyalty mission in ME2, you can clearly see how they built that level. In ME3 they simply extended the range for the 3d objects, but not that far.


          Parallax is the effect you get when you move from side to side, looking at objects far off you can see them 'move' with you more or less depending on how far they are.
          The moon for example has near zero parallax since it's so far away, whereas if you move from side to side behind your pc you can see that your screen is very close to you. Abusing this effect, where and how the player can move, you can make objects seem further away than they actually are.

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