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Hello. I thought I would start with giving you a little information about myself. My name is Andrew Finch and I'm an environment artist in the games industry. I've always wanted to create tutorials that would help others to get into the games industry, so I have come up with this tutorial which concentrates on creating a portfolio piece from start to finish. A very common problem I encounter is people not completing a project because they get bored or have bitten off more than they can chew and can't find their way to the finish line. With this in mind, I have structured this tutorial in easy-to-follow chunks which are not too overwhelming.
A lot of tutorials out there concentrate on creating individual assets. This is okay because it teaches you how to produce a nice detailed asset, but I think if you are going to present it to a potential employer you need to show off your asset by putting it in a little scene. This allows you to show off multiple skills, not just modeling and texturing. The level I will create is reasonably small and basic and is hopefully easy to follow, but what it will do is prepare you to start and finish your own projects and produce a really nice portfolio piece.
At the end of this tutorial you will be able to export textures from Photoshop and 3D assets (static meshes) from 3ds Max and then import them into the UDK game engine. You will also be able to set up a level in a way that will allow you to create a standalone program of your level and be able to distribute it in your portfolio to future employers or even just to your friends. I will also cover lighting and post effects to really add polish to your environment and make it stand out and look professional. This tutorial is not an in-depth guide to UDK or 3ds Max and Photoshop, I will show you how I created this environment but basic knowledge of the applications is required.
To get your hands on UDK you can download it from here: http://www.udk.com/download
. Once downloaded, you will get the game engine and a small library of assets available for you to use in your environment. The advantage of this library is that you can quickly populate your scene and add lots of detail. This will help you to figure out how many assets you really need to create a convincing scene. The disadvantage of using these assets is that it can make you lazy and discourage you from producing your own assets. When it comes to interview time you will be asked exactly what you have made in the environment and it won't look good if you're using other people's work to make yours look better.
For this tutorial I will create some assets and textures but because of the time restrictions, I will also use some assets from the library to bulk up the scene. I encourage you to create 100% of your own assets to further impress possible employers.
So let's start by taking a look at the finished scene (Fig.01). The scene is made from BSP geometry, Static meshes, particles, lighting and post effects. So what exactly are these?
BSP Geometry - This is basic geometry that is created in the UDK engine and can be textured in the same way you would texture geometry in a 3D package. This is the base that we will build on layer upon layer to get a detailed environment. This step is important because it shows us how big the level will be and it will allow us to move about in the world and get a feel for the space and make sure it looks right. The BSP geometry is easy to edit so if something is not right we can fix it quickly. If we were to create the whole level from complex static meshes it would take a lot longer to make edits. These images show the BSP geometry and then the BSP geometry with static meshes added (Fig.02a - 02b).