3D Game & Interactive Design

Works created with Unity, Maya, Zbrush etc. designed to be interactive.


So I sculpted the beautiful column in Zbrush, and was pleased with result.


After some trial and error and lots of crashing due to a really high polycount, I managed to export it into Maya. Here are my notes on how I exported my texture maps.


This was looking decent in Maya, so I used Maya’s “Send to Unreal” feature, thinking I was in the home stretch, but this was the result.


I tried simply exporting it as an FBX for Unreal, but it didn’t send the textures over (see column on the left).


One of the issues I identified was that my computer kept crashing when I tried to do thing like export UVs, so I went back to a longer set of notes I took in class, and found the helpful “work on clone” option. This worked like a charm. I was able to export Texture Maps and a Normal map. Rather than using the GoZ feature, I exported as OBJ and opened it it Maya. I then created a new Lambert material and applied the Texture and Normal (bump) maps from the files I had exported. Looking pretty good!


I used Maya’s “Send to Unreal” button, but it once again had disastrous results. Something is not wrapping the UVs correctly with this method.


This time in Maya I exported the column manually as an OBJ. Although it was laying on it’s side when I imported it into Unreal, the textures were correct and I simply had to rotate it into position.


This seems to have done the trick! From now on I will export/import things manually as OBJs rather than trust the built-in exporter buttons in the software.


Continuing Unreal

I’ve hit a few stumbling blocks in Unreal. I agree with some people who have said that Unreal makes everything 10 times harder than it needs to be, the but results are worth it. (I hope!)

I used the garden elevation illustration I created earlier in Illustrator, and brought it into Maya (Create/Illustrator object) to make the twirl pathway. I used the landscaping and smooth tools to sculpt the terrain to suit it better.


I applied a cobblestone material, but I wasn’t happy with the scale of it. I followed this tutorial, but couldn’t find a way to scale the texture. Not sure what I am missing here.


Here is a screenshot of the Material Editor.


I thought perhaps the material seemed too large because I had scaled up the path object by 300 when I imported it. I went back and scaled up the object in Maya and re-imported it, but that had no effect.

For now, I decided to go forward with a different texture. I may smooth out the terrain a bit, but I kind of liked how the path looked a bit eroded here.


Unreal Engine – landscaping

For this part, my goal was to further sculpt the terrain in Unreal Engine into a garden landscape. I created a basic elevation (top-down view) in Adobe Illustrator to serve as a guide, create a simple Plane in Unreal, and applied the texture to the plane. I wanted to control the transparency of it, but Unreal seems to make this ridiculously difficult, so I worked around that by moving it up off my terrain and turning it on and off a bit.


I dropped in some cylinders FPO (For Position Only) to get a feel for where I want my sculpted columns to be located in the future.

I began trying to sculpt the pathways. Whoa! Brush intensity too high. Not what I was going for.


This is more like it. Next steps will be to create a stone pathway along the raised areas and fill in more landscaping.


Tiger Lilly


Another asset I created for the second “sacral” chakra garden is the Tiger Lily. I had initially created this as a low-poly object in Maya for use in the Sacral Chakra game I created in Unity.


I imported the low-poly model into Zbrush using the GoZ plugin, which is quite handy (when it works properly).



One area of difficulty I seem to encounter regularly is the crease that forms when you add a sphere to create additional sculpting material (in this case I was trying to plug the hole in the bottom of the low-poly model of the flower.) I found that using the H-Polish brush works well for smoothing out creases.

Poly flower

Once I smoothed and shaped the model, I used Zbrush’s Spotlight tool to add color and texture, borrowing from a photograph of a tiger lily I found online. From there I added a stem and leaves, which I also polypainted.

Tigerlily merged

I plan to duplicate several of these for use in the Chakra Garden I’m creating in Unreal Engine.

Creating the Seashell

I began the seashell model as a low-poly asset created in Maya for the Chakra game I created in Unity. To create this shape, I used Maya’s Helix tool and gave it volume with an extrusion. I used Lattice Deformation to help shape the form, and even after deleting history and freezing deformations, I was unable to use the GoZ feature to import it into ZBrush. Instead, I exported it as an OBJ to simplify the geometry and make it ready to import.


Here is the shape imported into Zbrush.


One of the issues I had was that I could not make the shell hollow. If I deleted the end cap, it caused the shell to have no volume when imported into Zbrush. I decided the leave the endcap, but do a negative extrusion to push it back into the shell a bit. Once imported into Zbrush, I used the Move tool to massage the shape and push it back further, but was unhappy with the flatness of the shape. I wondered if it were possible to Divide just that one area to give it more polys. Using a Mask, I found that you can indeed Divide to add polys to just a specific area. This gave me more geometry to work with.

shell masked

I began shaping the outer edges of the seashell to look more organic. I also stretched out the shell to be longer.

shell masked2

After getting a shape I was more pleased with, I began using the Dam Standard brush with a variety of Alphas to add detail.

seashell1 seashell2 seashell3 seashell4 seashell5

At this point I was ready to use Polypaint to add color.


Finally, I used a darker polypaint color along with Zadd to give it some depth to create the ridges.


Overall I would say I was fairly happy with this sculpt. Going forward, if I had to do another one, I would have taken the advise of my professor to do more preliminary sketches from reference, because I’m not sure the bottom of it looks entirely realistic. Creating sketches would have helped firmly fix the initial shape in my mind. For now I plan to use this to push forward into the rest of the project. Perhaps another time I can spend an entire day creating seashells. 🙂

Landscaping with fountain in UE4

Today I began setting up a scene in Unreal Engine 4. I began by watching this tutorial by Levon Church that had a handy link for importing some ready-made foliage. I was able to create a grassy landscape, then import some happy little trees, then import my fountain.

Happy trees
Happy trees

Fountain on grass

Fountain on grass

Next steps will be to see what I can create directly in UE4, vs. what needs to be created externally in Maya and Zbrush then imported.

Importing the Fountain into Unreal Engine

Yesterday I wasn’t happy with the resolution and look of the fountain, so I exported it at a higher res and re-textured it in Maya. The file size went from 242kb to 1MB.

Higher res fountain

Higher res fountain

Today was the first day I actually launched Unreal Engine and I was able to import the fountain asset into a scene.

Unreal Engine
Unreal Engine

My first thoughts are that Unreal Engine seems way more complicated than Unity. The UI is very cluttered, and you actually have to go through the Epic Games launcher just to get to the game engine. Once in the actual editor, there seems to be a lot going on. Even a blank scene comes with a bunch of pre-built chairs, tables, etc cluttering the screen. This will take some getting used to.

Modeling the Fountain, export to Maya

For my fountain “hero piece” I began by creating a low-poly model in Maya, then brought it into Zbrush for more organic sculpting. Here is the sculpted “red clay” version.

Fountain modeled in Zbrush
Fountain modeled in Zbrush

Zbrush allows you to create Polygroups from Normals. This basically lets you group areas of you model according to which direction the topology is facing and organize these facing “normals” by color. This can be helpful for exporting or isolation sections.

Polygroups from Normals
Polygroups from Normals

After watching several hours of tutorials on Pluralsight.com on prepping Zbrush files as game assets, I was able to create polypainted version. I enjoyed the process of painting directly on the model in 3D, rather than painting on flat UVs in Photoshop then wrapping them around a model.

I exported the polypaint texture maps from Zbrush, then exported the low-poly version of the fountain model into Maya, where I used the Hypershader to apply the high-res texture map to the low-poly model.

Polypainted fountain
Polypainted fountain

Polypainted fountain in Maya

Polypainted fountain in Maya

I think this could still use a lot of work. I wasn’t entirely successful getting Bumpmaps to be as dramatic as I wanted. It’s possible I could export a few more types of maps (ambient occlusion, etc) and tweak them in Photoshop, then reapply them in Maya via the Hypershader. But for now I was happy that I had gone through the entire process of scuplting, polypainting, then exporting back into Maya. This asset could them be sent over to a game engine like Unreal or Unity for inclusion in a larger scene.

Low-poly game assets

I created some low-poly game assets in Maya to import into Unity to prototype the game and experiment with game mechanics. These represent the element of Water, plus a 3D version of the Sacral Chakra symbol.

Low-poly assets
Low-poly assets

After the initial game build, I felt they needed more color, so I used the Hypershader in Maya to give them some color for the final prototype. I also created some background texturing for the floor of the game.

Assets in Unity
Assets in Unity

I used the Roll a Ball tutorial for Unity as a template to create the game prototype. I was really glad this tutorial allowed me to copy/paste the code provided as I followed along in Unity, because I have very little programming experience.

Here is the link to the final game prototype!

SevenGyre 3D Interactive Scene

My project will be an interactive 3D model of a fantasy landscape to simulate the 2nd or “Sacral” Chakra known in Sanskrit as “Svadhisthana,” meaning “your own place.” (In traditions of Yoga practice there are seven Chakras that align along the spine.) The 2nd chakra is located along the lumbar vertebrae, slightly below the navel. It is associated with sensuality, creativity, passionate emotions, flow and flexibility. Associations with this chakra include:

  •         A circle with six petals
  •         A moon crescent
  •         The color orange
  •         Element of water


Symbol for the 2nd "Sacral" chakra
Symbol for the 2nd “Sacral” chakra

To make the scene interactive, I plan to create a series of objects that the player places in specific locations around a fountain. If they select the right objects, a spiral of colorful “energy” emerges from the fountain. I would also like to recreate the Koi fish I created in a previous class. I feel that using Zbrush will help me create a more realistic and beautiful model. If there is time, I would also like to create music soundtrack.

Similar projects:

  •         Deepak Chopra and Wevr Studio’s “Finding Your True Self,” a VR guided meditation
  •         Snowworld” a VR simulation developed by University of Washington Seattle and Harborview Burn Center. Used to assist burn patients alleviate pain.
  •        Yana VR Relaxation for Google Cardboard. Basic graphics of a beach environment with ambient music soundtract.

Software needed:

Unity, ZBrush, Maya, Photoshop, Audition (sound editing)

Unity screenshot
Unity screenshot

Assets needed:

  •         “Sphere” environment – a 360 ° environment/playscape
  •         Fountain
  •         Koi fish
  •         Assorted objects – mandala symbol disc, seashell, goblet, etc.
  •         Music

Estimated timeline for each asset:

Prototype scene assembly in Unity 2/21

Prototype game mechanics/interactivity 2/27

Refinement of objects…more to come…


Estimate budget:

Purchase Zbrush $500

Unknowns in software:

  •         Improving modeling skills
  •         How to make spiral energy in fountain
  •         Pipeline from creating objects in Zbrush and Maya then bringing them into Unity
  •         How to use Unity

Steps to complete prototype:

Create rapid prototype to test game mechanics, then refine modeling for each asset, optimize for Unity, import into Unity, refine game mechanics/interaction, import soundtrack and sound effects.