Developing the Cottage - Intro
When creating an environment piece that doesn't come from concept, I'll begin by gathering reference for the object/environment piece. For this example I will be creating a cottage/shack.
Once I've done that, I give myself a chance to relax and to think about the piece I want to build. Starting with silhouettes (as you would a character), I block out very quickly various ideas - some not realistic at all - and after a time, I have asked myself and answered questions about the cottage:
1. What style - in this case realistic (texturing, scale etc.) and fairly traditional wooden. I have reference for wood and stone, but it's only when silhouetting and looking at the detail of my reference, I decide which appeal to me the most.
2. What about the cottage - it is old and abandoned, weathered
3. Location of cottage - sometimes this matters. Is it in a town, is it on a hill, is it solitary, is it repeated throughout a level (changing its nature quite a bit)
4. Will there be old telephone lines, water towers, or wagon carts, or rusted cars, bushland, highrises etc. Things like the telephone lines indicate whether it is modern day or not.
5. Can the player enter the cottage? How close up do you get etc. This will help with texture and detail ideas.
Through this process, I've decided to keep the style recognisable (it isn't a fantasy piece) and the textures will be photoreal. My reference images show two versions of the cottage I intend to use as modelling reference.
Once the process of silhouetting is complete, I thumbnail or sketch up the idea of the building I have... this is the concepting phase, which gives me insight into the dimensions and overall look and feel of the scene. I'd start to think about the peripherals of the 'scene' e.g. watering tanks etc. but I'm not including them at this stage.