My name is Grzegorz Wisniewski and I work as an Environment Artist on next-gen games. I consider all of my personal projects to be a nice break from everyday work where I have to deal with engine/console restrictions and also poly count and texture size limits.
This project was simply meant to be a texture test, but as I kept working on it I decided to make it a complete scene. I start each new project by collecting as many reference photos as possible - this step I find to be very essential (Fig.01)!
I started my scene with a simple, low poly block out to help me find the right composition, camera angle and basic light set up. After I had finished modelling the main objects I added details, like cracks and so on, to make both the objects and textures look more natural (Fig.02).
I modelled many and various props to scatter around, which I found helped the environment become more realistic and believable. These small details always help me to switch my imagination into reality, as I believe that the true power of environmental scenes lies in the details (Fig.03 - 04)!
The modelling process used basic polygon techniques, and I paid more attention to the textures rather than the geometry in this project. When I'm working, I find it a lot easier to keep real size measurements for all objects.
Textures & UVs
I must say that the texturing was my favourite part of the entire project! UVs were done using planar mapping and unfold to adjust the overlapping edges. For most objects I used standard Maya shaders with normal map, diffuse, reflection and specular, and also a few MR materials for smaller elements. I used numerous textures overlaid on top of each other to get the final result. I really enjoy creating large textures; in this case the resolution for the main buildings was about 2k per texture.
I usually start off with a base material, correct the colour and contrast, and then add smaller elements (Fig.05). The trick when adding details is not to make the texture look too heavy. I always bake an occlusion map with a very small distance to find areas where more details need to be added, as using just UV alone is not enough (Fig.06). It is also very important to keep the same density of textures when transferring details from different files.