Designing Level Textures.

Modelling, Textures, Animating and other general engine asset topics.

Designing Level Textures.

Postby Epifire on Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:48 pm

I currently am working out some kinks with my texturing skills in XSI so I turned to more basic form of texture creation. I am still working to get some more custom assets to our team's mod and picked up Crazybump for the job. I wanted to get some good textures into the mod, and have not ever really worked much in this area of Source. Naturally I picked up VTFEdit since I hear that is what I need for making vmf/vtf files.

I gave this a look over and am wondering what is the best approach for this, cause I don't see any direct connection of getting my pre-built normal maps connected to the current textures I am building. I know VTFEdit has the ability to generate Normals, but I haven't seen really convincing results from it over what I have seen out of Crazybump. Some of the main pointers are under the general settings for it like Normal Format, and Texture Format. Don't know what a lot of these settings do and would like to get the most out of it.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby MrTwoVideoCards on Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:32 pm

Well generally making normalmaps from a photosource isn't the best way to go. The best program I've seen out there ndo2 which really makes some sexy stuff. If you want to make pro normal maps though you could make a highpoly surface in xsi, or even zbrush, then bake the normals and export it from that.

VTF Edit is generally only so you can save vtf's, view them, or convert VTF's back to tga's/vise-versa.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Epifire on Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:48 pm

Well that really does look great and I might have to give that a try at some point, but right now I got Crazybump (that I did pay for) so I want to start using it on some basic wall textures.

Just wanting to know how to do that, since I can't simply slot a jpg in the materials folder and call it a day.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby MrTwoVideoCards on Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:08 pm

well you'd want to export the image into a TGA, then use VTF edit to take the TGA and save it as a VTF.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Major Banter on Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:17 pm

Yeah the absolute basics are quite simple. You create your texture file and bumpmap, save them as TGAs, import them into VTFedit, save them as VTFs in the relevant folder and create your VMT.

The whole process is on the VDC.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby MayheM on Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:24 pm

Crazybump is awesome if you have a heightmap to work with. I learned after a lot of failed attempts that as MrTwo said, working from photos does not work well with it. However, creating a simple heightmap works GREAT with Crazybump! Granted, this only works if you are able to convert the the image into a simple grayscale version that has no shadows or tones. I tried crating one of a rock surface and it looked like shit! So walls, floors, and things that are going to be flat but the normal will handle subtle details like wood grain and whatever. For more detailed things, wit major variations in height you will have to use the modelling programs as suggested by Mr Two...
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Epifire on Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:31 pm

Well I almost got this one but the normal map is giving me some issues. Getting checkered boards on my materials...

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Never mind I missed a target in the vmf...

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So that is my first custom texture in Source. Now I need to buy a good camera so I don't have to keep getting real life shots from CGtextures.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby skoften on Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:48 pm

Usually, a texture is evenly lit so that you create that light effect ingame with a spotlight and all the cubemaps are right.

About the checkerboard: Check if you have the right compression on that VTF file. Check your .vmt for errors.. etc.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby MrTwoVideoCards on Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:17 pm

Looks pretty good. Also as mayhem said, heightmaps are usually much better off to make normals from, but crazybump seems to make well, crazy normals. Generally generating a heightmap from a photo isn't going to give you very good results either. It's best to go into Photoshop and directly edit the layers so you can get the kind of depth you want.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Epifire on Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:45 pm

Thinking about learning photoshop and using that Ndo2 for models, and just using Crazybump for textures used in levels. I think Crazybump makes normals fine, it just doesn't vary beyond certain parameters dealt by generating from photos. Certainly is a heck of a lot better then the default VTFEdit normals, and it's noticeable since most of the HL 2 textures don't even have a normal mapped variant.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Black_Stormy on Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:54 pm

My first piece of advice is to uninstall VTFedit. It breeds laziness. You can get a vtf exporter for photoshop and gimp, and that gives you far more control over the texture, assigning alpha channels and such for your specularity and being able to modify different colour channels to modify your normal maps. Vmt files are incerdibly simple to write, and learning how to write them makes you far more confident in your skills at modding. VtfEdit encourages you to splash out on random shaders and stuff that you won't need to use, and while it most likely creates vmts that are more technically correct, it sometimes adds parameters that I have never used and I assume just clog the shit up.

Here's one off the top of my head (it's for a model, hence vertexlitgeneric):
Code: Select all
vertexlitgeneric
{
$basetexture path/to/your/diffusemap
$bumpmap path/to/your/normalmap
$phong 1
// phong uses the alpha channel of the normal map as a mask
$phongboost 1.5
$phongfresnelranges "[.25 .5 1]"
$rimlight 1
$rimexponent 4

/*
// alternatively you can use cubemaps for faked reflections
$cubemap env_cubemap
// envmap requires an envmap mask, which you can set with $envmapmask path/to/your/envmap
// but for simplicity, uniformity and optimisation I set the envmap mask to the normal maps alpha channel with
$normalmapalphaenvmapmask 1
// phong and envmap are not able to render from the same vmt at the same time, it's one or the other.
*/
}


And after a few moments on VDC, here's one for brushwork:
Code: Select all
lightmappedgeneric
{
$basetexture path/to/your/diffusemap
$bumpmap path/to/your/normalmap
$detail path/to/your/detailmap
%tooltexture path/to/your/tooltexture
// the tool texture is the preview image you'll see in hammer. Yo only really need to use this if you are making a blend texture
$detailscale .075
$detailblendfactor .5
$detailblendmode 0
$envmap env_cubemap
$envmapmask path/to/your/envmap
$envmaptint "[255 150 0]"
}


Don't know how well it would work but I can't imagine needing any more features on your map. Unfortunately phong specularity doesn't work on brushes, sou you can't have sexy phong or rimlighting. All the info about each parameter is on the vdc, just search for it in the search box to find out more about it (search for "$phong" for example).

One more tip I would offer is that source likes very saturated normal maps, you may have noticed that with your crazybump textures, but for textures with very small details, like a plaster wall or smooth tile, you should use detail maps rather than normal maps. Detail maps are cheaper to render and won't cause the texture to become all noisy and distracting to the player. A lot of custom textures don't realise that less is often more. Sometimes a nice lightmap scale can make all the difference and specularity, normal and detail maps are completely unnecessary.

Also look into blendmodulate textures if you plan on using your textures on displacements, or if you are going to blend them and want them to have a more interesting blend than the default gradient.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Armageddon on Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:04 am

VTFEdit is a very good tool, I never use it's auto .vmt tool though, it has some errors. Also phong for brushes is $lightwarp.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Major Banter on Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:06 am

I have to agree with Stormy, though for different reasons. VTFedit adds another unneeded stage in the already complex pipeline to get textures into Source. Editing and saving directly through Photoshop saves me a lot of time and effort, and makes editing on the fly far easier.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby Epifire on Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:21 am

Ah that sounds like it would be very nice. I think I ought to pickup Photoshop too, cause I could get all my texture editing summed up under one program. That Ndo2 software also will not work without it, so I it would really help a lot of things as I see it.
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Re: Designing Level Textures.

Postby nub on Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:34 am

The only thing I use VTF Edit for is previewing textures real quick without having to load them up in Photoshop. You also get to see alpha maps at work, and you can even make it tile to see if it repeats well or not. Other than that, VTF Edit is kind of useless. The VTF plugin for Photoshop sort of made it obsolete in some regards.

What I'd really like to see is a stand-alone material editor for Source that has a real-time 3D view and lets you modify parameters and whatnot in real time. I know there's such a tool, but it's so redundant to have to constantly change the launch options for Episode 2 to use the tool.
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