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How to go about adding unique detail to a huge, unique object?

Ok, so I have this idea for a game that takes place on huge floating islands floating over a huge ocean (maybe some small islands) and, in my process of trying to figure out what WILL be an issue in making this, I realized that I have no idea how I would go about having these huge ‘rocks’ essentially be finely detailed enough for the player to not have an issue with things not looking realistic, but also not having obviously repeating textures everywhere.

This is a big issue because the player is going to be climbing these rocks, like, all the time, with their face plastered right at the rocks (not first person, rather 3rd person over the shoulder, but still). I don’t even know how I would go about using textures for it, because these floating islands can be up to a mile tall (the islands are more vertical, than they are horizontal, view image below), so its really a better way to think of them as landscapes, in terms of scale. However, landscapes are flat, and the player needs to be able to crawl/climb over every side of these islands if they want to.

A pretty accurate look for what I want my game to look like, though the islands in this image are a tad smaller than what I had envisioned.
floating_island_by_molybdenumgp03.jpg

And on top of those issues, there will be caves in these islands, some huge caves, some small. Where do those even fit in, in terms of textures.

And normal maps! Yea, I bet that you could get away with a ‘less defined’ highpoly for the huge island, but in areas where there will inevitably need to be more detail, how do I incorporate that close detail normal work onto such a huge model, that is specific to the model, and still keeping a single model (instead of adding in smaller ‘bits’ whenever I want an area to have more detail).

Or who knows, maybe im just thinking about this all wrong. My gut says that there are answers to these problems, and my gut ‘usually’ isn’t wrong, but my mind can’t bring to the fore what those answers could possibly be. If anyone can help shed some light on this rocky situation (hur hur), I’d be most grateful.

Hey Knobby.

I´m facing the same challange as you. My Solution for that is pretty simple.

Model the Island you want to have. In your case i would really model them in 3d software though. There you simply model your island and model some stones. Now you simple put them onto the island. The more stones you use the more detailed you get. You can then use the UVMaps to put Detail to your stones to make them unique.

A small pic what i mean.

Cheers

UE4_6.jpg

Edit: If you want a smooth transition between stones and the island you nee to align the surface pointing to the to the island and there wont be glitches anymore.

You’re talking about a classic case of Level of Detail. You can have a higher-poly island mesh that’s used close in, and a low poly LOD mesh that replaces it when it’s at distance.

Or just plan your models and use low poly versions for distant areas the player can’t get to.

What i meant about not being able to do a standard high poly low poly setup is that the island is so huge, even if I use the 8k by 8k texture (which is the largest you can use in UE4 i think), it won’t be able to hold enough information for the island to look high detailed when up close.

Why not build your island out of many smaller pieces instead of trying to do one big one. For example, there is an Unreal tutorial out there where the guy builds a rock cliff out of essentially one static mesh (of course you could use multiple) put placed differently so that it all looks natural.

This would be much easier to do, and the player would never know.

Don’t even think about one huge mesh for sky island.
Use large-sized rocks as a brushes and build your island with them.
Check out videos about “Edge of the mists” from Guild wars 2 for examples how to build levels with sky islands nicely
https://youtube.com/watch?v=spTMWOJlgj4

Aside from breaking things up into smaller objects (for example, making a few unique varieties of those “disc” objects as needed, then instancing them to save memory), you can use multiple texture maps as needed to get higher resolution detail.

The less detail you need on the island, the less unique pieces are needed, but either way, it’s still likely a good idea to instance objects anyway to save memory, at least up to a certain point.

Complex natural scenes in general require a lot of objects clumped together. Creating a useful set of varying rocks will be very useful for modeling out the cliffsides.