Creating a Metaroom - Part 3: Background - Posted Thursday, 24th August 2006 by Liam

Part 2 of 7 from the Creation of a Metaroom: From Inception to Release series of articles.

We’ll look at several different ways of making the background of a room, including modelling, painting, and compositing from other images- some prefer to use just one of these techniques, others like to mix and match. For example: I tend to model everything, whereas Liger likes to composite rooms from C2 and C3/DS backgrounds. It is all a matter of preference, in the end - whatever works for you!

Introduction

The background is, in my opinion, the most important part of the room. It is what will catch potential player’s eyes first, encourage them to get your room, and keep them interested. A good room will always have something new to see - whether it be a small detail which reveals itself after some studying, or simply an intricate pattern on the bark of a tree.

Detail, beauty and good design are what make a room truly fascinating and worth having in your game. Random’s Room is really great for testing due to its spaciousness, but as a player, wouldn’t you prefer having something like the Norngarden or Aquatilis Caverna in your game, with their attention to detail and colourful array of plants, rocks and scenery?

We’ll look at several different ways of making the background of a room, including modelling, painting, and compositing from other images- some prefer to use just one of these techniques, others like to mix and match. For example: I tend to model everything, whereas Liger likes to composite rooms from C2 and C3/DS backgrounds. It is all a matter of preference, in the end - whatever works for you!

Firstly, though, we’ll take a look at modelling, because it is the one I’m most familiar with!



3D Modelling

3D modelling is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be an incredibly useful way of creating metaroom backgrounds from scratch.

I use 3D Studio Max, as does Moe. Before its collapse, 3DSMax is also what most of the Creature Labs artists used. Some of them used Lightwave, and it should be noted that even Napes switched to Maya. Each 3D program has its benefits and drawbacks.

Tomtschek uses Bryce 3D, which is one of the most affordable professional 3D programs, and despite its limited modelling capability manages to create breathtaking rooms which can snare your eyes for hours.

Some have used Rhino 3D, such as Zareb and MK112, and yet others use Blender.

Once again, it is a matter of personal preference, and what you’re used to. For your reference, here are some screenshots of the different programs. Generally, visual people will prefer 3DS Max and Maya, whilst programming people will prefer Blender and Lightwave 3D.

There is no set way to create metarooms- but Moe and I can give you a few tips here and there, as well as show you some of the work we’ve done before using 3D.

Here is an example of rooms done in 3d, as well as some standalone objects. It is prohibited for anyone to use graphics from this in any project without explicit permission from Moe, in case you were wondering.



Note that this is for 3DS Max - some of the features described and used may not be in all 3D graphics programs.

Get to know your program thoroughly before continuing or even attempting to understand the following. Some basic tutorials should cover what you need to know. It should be mentioned that it might be daunting at first- multiple view ports, countless tools, and seemingly endless menus that some programs flaunt can overwhelm you at first. Take it slow. Learning to model in 3D is a big learning curve, so don’t assume you can just whip up a gorgeous room within minutes of starting up the program. I don’t mean to be discouraging, but keeping perspective now and then is a good idea.

Firstly, decide which technique you want to use - box modelling, spline modelling, nurbs modelling... the list goes on. I often use a combination of splines and polygon modelling for my rooms- splines for the walls, and polygon modelling for the assorted large objects such as rocks, ledges, hills and the like.

Most 3d applications have an option of applying your image to the background of a view port. From there you can easily trace your image and work out the basic shape with a technique of choice. unless you can't scan anything, in which case your best bet is redrawing it in paint, Photoshop or some other 3d program. Try not to work from a piece of paper in front of you onto the screen, because if you want to stay true to your sketch you’ll get a better result when the room begins to take shape.

Begin to flesh out the room with some of the ideas you put down to paper, such as rocks, shelves, tables, anything semi-large. Once those are done, get down to the small details... grass, smaller plants, anything you want.

Here’s a series of screenshots of how Terra Pluvialis developed, for a brief example of how I work.

Download the Terra Pluvialis progress shots!

We have progress shots for one of zareb’s unfinished rooms which is ‘up for grabs’, so to speak, originally made for Edynn!



And here is a tutorial by Moe on how to achieve an effect similar to what is used in Docking Station - hope it is helpful in some way! - Moe's Room Basics Tutorial

If you’re confused about how to make a metaroom look like a metaroom and how it all fits together, download this file - also by Moe, this is a very simple metaroom using basic procedural textures which demonstrates how a simple, clean, and neat background can be achieved. It also demonstrates how to place objects to simulate depth.

(Download will be up soon!)


Painting

This is another way of doing it - one I do not have much experience in, but will attempt to show you with the help of Sentinal and Zareb. I’ve found having a Graphics Tablet can help a lot when painting a room, but some people - notably the two people helping with this part of the tutorial, Sentinal (of The Den and Raccoon Norn fame) and Zareb (of The Ancient Arch and Gardenia fame) - have done it without the aid of a Tablet.

Often painting and compositing are blended together to create something new with something old, while adding completely new elements in. I believe C3 and Docking Station used a combination of 3D and painting - once again, it is just personal preference as to how you work.

For a much more detailed tutorial on painting a room in Photoshop, have a look at zareb’s Metaroom tutorial!

(Will be up soon!)


Thanks to Sentinal, we also have an example of how he went about creating the Den room 1. Very cool!



We also have an open-source background from Sentinal, which he started once but never completed - so if you'd like to do some agents and finish it, feel free, just make sure you credit Sent for the background!



Cut-and-paste

Some of the coolest rooms have been done using cut and paste techniques, including Terra, Terra Reborn, the Aquatilis Pod and many more. Cutting and pasting is probably the simplest and most effective technique, and though sometimes it is more rewarding to make everything by hand some choose to use cut and paste, and are brilliant at it.

Cutting and pasting is very simple to do; find a part of C1, C2, C3, or DS that you like, paste it onto a blank image, get another part, paste, and blend them together.

I won't detail how to do this, as it isn't my area of expertise; it is, however, very easy and most can do it with little to no trouble at all.


Program links and resources

Interested in doing Creatures backgrounds, but don’t know what to get? Here are some links to some awesome free programs and resources to help you get started!

• The GIMP (gimp.org)
• Blender3D (blender.org)


Intro - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

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