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Student Thread: Matthiaswagg

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So, I had a free day today and a bit of yesterday, so I spent it taking one cell and creating a microcosm of a region in it. I suffered some pit falls and had to relearn a few controls, but I'm actually pretty proud of how it turned out. Any thoughts on how I can improve it or make it more natural?

https://imgur.com/a/aDyq7

I do need to fix the bottom of a river - it's an absolute mess of jagged edges and gross. Any advice on how to do it quickly other than manually editing each thing or softening the whole bottom (that tends to raise the land level).

EDIT: Ended up softening anyway and it looks fine and eliminates the issue of rock dirt parts jutting into the water. Great.

EDIT2: And if you're no longer interested in teaching me that's totally cool. At this point I think it's more just asking for advice and/or critique since I believe I've figured out the basics, but if you don't want to let me know. :) 

Edited by Mattiewagg
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I'm sure uber will stop in soon, but since you're looking for critique I'll give you my 2 cents also. 

Overall it looks quite natural to the eye, with the placement of plants, rocks and ground textures. The one general aspect that sticks out to me is that the concentration of rocks at the riverbank seems unnatural compared to the surrounding area - it can happen, but it's not the typical case to have a river where one bank is a rocky wall in an otherwise grassy area, although of course you could argue that rivers will erode until they find something to stop them. Also, it's OK to resize the rock cliff meshes, they scale pretty well, but the textures can start to look a little off when you have scaled them as small as you do here. 

Something else that just caught my eye is that there is what looks like a rock pile mesh in the lower right hand area of the first picture where the ground texture isn't blended at all. You should either feather the grass texture into the dirt texture of the mesh, or create a new object from that rock pile mesh and change the ground texture of that object to match the surrounding ground texture.

what's that ENB, spectra?

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I'm sure uber will stop in soon, but since you're looking for critique I'll give you my 2 cents also. 

Overall it looks quite natural to the eye, with the placement of plants, rocks and ground textures. The one general aspect that sticks out to me is that the concentration of rocks at the riverbank seems unnatural compared to the surrounding area - it can happen, but it's not the typical case to have a river where one bank is a rocky wall in an otherwise grassy area, although of course you could argue that rivers will erode until they find something to stop them. Also, it's OK to resize the rock cliff meshes, they scale pretty well, but the textures can start to look a little off when you have scaled them as small as you do here. 

Something else that just caught my eye is that there is what looks like a rock pile mesh in the lower right hand area of the first picture where the ground texture isn't blended at all. You should either feather the grass texture into the dirt texture of the mesh, or create a new object from that rock pile mesh and change the ground texture of that object to match the surrounding ground texture.

what's that ENB, spectra?

The rock concentration is a bit irregular, yes, but I'm basing it off of a time when I was visiting a forest area in upper Washington. There was a large river with forest on one side, then a bunch of sharp, almost cliff-like rocks and then the other side had no rocks at all. I added a bit of rock on the other side, however, so it didn't look quite so strange. 

I'll keep that in mind for the textures.

If you mean the one a bit up from the bank - I will cover that up now.

And yep, it's Spectra.

Rock has been fixed. Moved it slightly down on the Z axis and changed the type of rock so it matched the textures. 

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Yes, it's all very nice! Good to hear you fixed the issue with jaggedness. Usually running over the sharpest pieces with the soften brush set to the smallest size will fix that sort of problem. If you really want to go overboard, add some plants into the water as well as rapids VFX, maybe fish. 

Not actually sure what Skyrim uses for water plants. Aside from kelp and slaughterfish eggs there isn't much. BS has more variety available like lilypads. 

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Yes, it's all very nice! Good to hear you fixed the issue with jaggedness. Usually running over the sharpest pieces with the soften brush set to the smallest size will fix that sort of problem. If you really want to go overboard, add some plants into the water as well as rapids VFX, maybe fish. 

Not actually sure what Skyrim uses for water plants. Aside from kelp and slaughterfish eggs there isn't much. BS has more variety available like lilypads. 

Thanks! I'll add a few plants to the river in a bit.

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I'm not an Arcane University teacher or anything, but I have to say Mattie, for someone who is just getting to know the basics of level design it already looks very nice :D What I always do when I make something, but I have the feeling it needs something more, is to just sift through all the models in the category (f.e trees of something), and just look for something that fits. It might be mushrooms, some additional small rockpiles. I always know it when I see it.

The sequence in which you add your objects also matters a lot. And I don't know if you did it like this, but I believe the best way to create organic looking landscapes, is to follow a natural sequence when placing different layers of objects. I actually learned this by watching a making-of video from BGS (I believe it was Oblivion's).

For example you should first start with editing the landscape itself, and then placing rock, mountain and (dirt)cliff objects with the appropriate landscape textures where needed. I mean those mountains would have been there first. The landscape surrounding it adapts to the mountain (sort of, this is kinda hard to explain :P). The mountain would have been there earlier then the village, or the forest so everything would have grown around it.

Then second you can add small plants, grass, roads, rivers, small rockpiles. Basically all the small things. By then you should already have noticed your landscape is getting more cohesive, making it easier (for me at least) to fill in the blank parts so to speak. Here you shoud as well try to follow a natural sequence with for example the plants. Let's say you have plant x here, could the wind have carried it's seeds this far so other patches of it could grow there? There is a river here, am I working in a biome that alllows for water plant to grow? Like I said before, it's all about following the natural sequence.

Last but not least you should add all the major things like trees, broken down trees, basically the big things. As you probably would have expected by now the idea here is to follow a natural sequence as well. First place a big tree on a place where there would be a lot of sunlight. Then add some smaller trees around the big one, and perhaps add some saplings if there is room for it. Depending on the landscape you can change the density of the tree clusters. In a forest you can make it very dense, but if you're working on let's say grasslands it would be better to just place some lonely trees with some tree clusters here and there.

TL;DR: Follow the natural order of things when placing different layers of objects.

So that was my advice of the week :P I hope it helped you, and anyone who might have read this, in any way.

How did you flatten out the tops of the mountains so well? Did you just do it with the free hand tool?

PS: A bit late but I always do it by picking the right radius, holding my left mouse button, and swiping up and down in short strokes with my mouse. I don't know why it works but it works. xD

Edited by Rilax
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That's some really helpful advice. :D

At the moment I had done landscape, textures, and then done the right side (other side of stream) doing trees, smaller stuff, rocks, and then the big rocks on the river and moving over to the other said. The way you've described would be a lot more natural. I'll definitely try it out next time. :) 

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