After I finished this I discovered there are several scripts out there for 3dsmax that emulate Maya's create polygon tool which shaves off a few steps and some flipped normal problems.
For some of the surfaces such as the roots on the ceiling and the foreground elements I used Power Booleans. This amazing addition to max allowed me to combine the primitive objects together and output a relatively clean quad mesh. After using Power Booleans, I applied a MutiRes modifier to simplify the shape followed by a turbosmooth to get the final base mesh.
Once all of my cave elements were modeled it was time for UV'ing.Â I used Pelt mapping for everything which was incredibly quick and gave me exactly the layout I needed for each chunk due their organic nature.
Below is an image of the base models ready for Zbrush and texturing:
ZBrushing the Cave
My concept of using Zbrush on the cave stemmed from wanting to create the most geometrically detailed rock/dirt terrain as possible. I played around with the option of using old fashioned 2d painted displacement which would have worked just as well. Also, because I was using Brazil 1 for rendering, micropolygon displacements were not available but normal maps were. By using Zbrush I was able to extract highly accurate normal maps from my hi-res meshes using the free Zbrush plugin, Zmapper. I also gained instant feedback, the ability to switch between sculpting and painting on the fly, and overall speed boost. Well, the real reason is because Zbrush is so fun to use.
Before bringing all chunks of the cave into Zbrush, I added a turbosmooth modifer to each chunk with an iteration of 1. The reason for this is to help keep the original form and preserve the seams better after my Zbrush work