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volume 1, issue 33

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

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Related Links:

DRAW Partner!: Chris Buecheler's article on games and 2D art.

Two Programs, Two Dimensions: Rick Grossenbacher's tutorial on using Photoshop and Illustrator to create original 2D images.


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Painting on Polygons:
Creating A Space Scene (part 1)

By Rick "Flatness" Grossenbacher


Iím going to get more into making seamless textures in a future article where itís much more critical on flat surfaces.

The seams are taken care of, so now Iím going to use the Offset filter to set it back to the position it was originally at. Step 1 of the 6 is done, now on to step 2.


STEP 2: Create a sphere primitive in 3-D Studio MAX

Open up 3-D Studio MAX and create a sphere. My radius was about 53 and I put plenty of segments in it, 42. Youíll want a lot of segments for obvious reasons.

Notice that I tilted the sphere a bit. It makes for a more interesting composition.

Done. Now on to step 3.


STEP 3: Lights need to be placed in the scene

For me, getting the lighting just the way I want it in MAX is the most difficult part of the program. Itís easy to visualize how I want it in my head, but getting it that way is a different story. Ugh, It can get frustrating. You will probably have to do several test renders to get it positioned correctly.

For our space scene, we need a main source of light -- a nearby sun. To simulate this, in the Top Viewport, create a Target Directional Light pointing straight into the planet.

In the General Parameters, set the following settings for the Directional Light:

Multiplier: 2.5 (we want that baby bright)

Contrast: 20 (we also want some pretty contrasty, hard light).

Now, for the ambiently lighted side of the planet. That is kind of a contradiction in terms, actually. There really isnít such a thing as ambient lighting in space, unless you are talking about reflections from planets, nebulas, etc. Anyway, I wonít even bother going into the topic about lighting properties in space. Letís just keep going and ask questions later.

Unless you want the other side of the planet to be pitch black, create a second Target Directional Light as shown in the figure.

The settings for this side of the planet are much different:

Multiplier: 0.335 (pretty dim)

Contrast: 0.0 (we want that lighting very soft)

Here is what the lights should look approximately like from the Front Viewport (donít worry about the grid, I just left that in to give you an idea on where things are at -- the grid doesnít serve any real purpose):

Notice how both lights are pointing downward on the planet.

Ok, render it, and if you set it up the same as mine, it will look about like this.


STEP 4: The bitmap needs to be imported into MAX and made into a material

I decided to make mine into a Raytrace material. Itís definitely the most powerful material in MAX, but if you arenít comfortable with that type of material, or if you are using an earlier version of MAX that doesnít support a Raytrace material, donít worry, a Standard material will work fine. Iíll let you know what you need to adjust for as we go.

1. Open up the Material Editor.

2. Pick your material type (ie. Standard or Raytrace).

3. In the Maps section, Check the Diffuse box.

4. Click the Map slot next to Diffuse and load in your bitmap.

5. Check the Bump box. (one note, if you are using the Raytrace material, the bump slot isnít in the Maps section. Itís in the Basic Parameters section. Theyíve moved it).

6. Drag your bitmap name from the Diffuse slot into the Bump slot 5. Set the Bump amount to 40.

7. In the Basic Parameters section, set the Shininess to 45, and the Shininess Strength to 15.

8. Select the sphere object (our planet) if it isnít already.

9. Click the Assign Material to Selection button in the Materials Editor.


STEP 5: Mapping coordinates need to be set/tweaked

Actually, there were already mapping coordinates generated when we created the sphere, but we need to do some adjusting, so:

1. Click the Modify tab.

2. Apply a UVW Map modifier to the sphere.

3. Set the Map Type to Spherical.

4. In the Alignment section, press the Fit button to make sure the mapping icon fits the sphere.

5. Press the Sub-Object button so that the Gizmo turns yellow.

6. Rotate the Gizmo so the map looks cool on the sphere. You will probably need to do a series of test renders so you can get the map to look just the way you want it. Or you may want to have your map shown in your viewport as a guide. Or better yet, you may want to do both (thatís what I did).

STEP 6: Render the planet.

Go ahead and render your planet when you feel the mapping is about how you want it. Here is what mine looked like.

Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.

To see it more clearly, bring this image into Photoshop and press the Ďfí key a couple of times to set the screen to a black background, then press the Ďtabí key to hide your menus. I very much recommend doing this because it is a pain to see a dark image in a web-browser.

When you are looking at the planet, notice the little bumps on the surface -- that was from our bump-mapping that we had set. They are most visibly seen at the point where light and darkness meet.

Also, notice how the bump-mapping is very consistent on the whole planet. That looks pretty crappy. We need to fix that. Unfortunately, Iím out of time for this issue, so weíll have to get to that next time.

For now, take a look at the image below. It is about what we will have for a planet when we are done, to give you an idea of what we are striving for.

Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.

Bring this big image into Photoshop as well. When looking at this version, there are several things to take notice of.

1. The color is richer. I probably should have done that with my bitmap to begin with, how was I to know how it would look after I mapped it on the sphere and rendered it? So, I just touched that up in Photoshop.

2. There is a glow around the planet. Even a slight glow gives it a hell of a lot more interest and depth.

3. The bump-mapping is much better. Take a look at how it is bumped very prominently towards the top and bottom, and quite smooth in the middle. It isnít consistent like the earlier version (I think it looks much more realistic this way).

4. I threw some stars in. Iíll get more into making stars later (and some better ones that I currently have in there).

If you have trouble viewing either of the planet images, you may need to bring up the brightness of the image. Itís a real pain trying to compensate for everyoneís monitor. Theyíre all different, so I had to find a common medium. Heck, you may even need to darken them up a bit too -- particularly if you are viewing on a Macintosh -- those monitors seem to be quite bright.

Iím out of time, but Iíll tell you how all four of the above steps were accomplished as well as some new stuff like a spiral galaxy and whatever else I can think of in part two of this tutorial. If you have any questions on the tutorial this far, feel free to e-mail me.


- Rick Grossenbacher is a professional 2D artist and graphic designer. Amongst other things, he has worked on the upcoming title Daikatana from Ion Storm, and done freelance work for RCA and Sony records.


Credits: Painting on Polygons is © 1999 Rick Grossenbacher. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, or we'll paint you white against a white background.