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Jan 18, 2024

Assembling a land in The Sandbox as an Environment Artist

This document is a guide to instruct you on filling a land based on what I have learned in 2 months of work as an Environment Artist

Introduction

This document is a guide to instruct you on filling a land based on what I have learned in 2 months of work as an environment artist. I will use a practice land as an example.

Make sure to follow all the advice.

Required Software

  • MagicaVoxel
  • VoxEdit
  • The Sandbox Maker
  • Photoshop (optional)

Tips

Focus on:

  • Color palettes
  • Coherence/consistency
  • Visual narrative

Upload assets from scratch to The Sandbox

One month ago, I wrote a document about introducing assets from scratch in The Sandbox and detailed the entire process. Here it is in case you need it: “From Scratch to The Sandbox”.

Blocks

Land sketch

Before laying or creating terrain blocks, it is advisable to prepare the design of the idea you want to express. Perhaps consider making a sketch of the placement of buildings or structures.

Land building

This is an example of a spherical building made of blocks. I used the “Plotz Modeller” web page to complete the process.

You have the flexibility to choose the shape of the building or structure. The construction is done in layers, and it’s crucial to ensure complete symmetry. Initially, it might seem complex, and mistakes can set you back, but as you adapt, it becomes a straightforward mechanical task.

Block land example

It is essential to scatter different blocks across the land to achieve a density of color.

Position them at different heights to impart realism and an organic touch to the environment.

Sphere brush
Sphere brush example

To infuse it with an organic feel and simplify the process of crafting large structures or mountains, using the sphere brush with carefully set width, height and depth proves to be highly beneficial.

Cave

It’s possible to use the same block brush to create openings for caves or underground spaces.

Props

Regarding props, the process it is simpler — fill the land according to your preferences, trying to maintain aesthetics, a consistent colour palette, and adherence to the block size.

It’s crucial to maintain a reference list for each of the prop you intend to model and implement in the land.

Props should not exceed the dimensions of 512x512x512. If your asset is larger, divide it as needed to fit within those dimensions. Here’s an example of how to fill the land with props: animating a significant number of props is crucial, as it offers a much greater sense that the land is alive.

Prop example

Contoured example

One trick I’ve learned is to create vegetation props and blend them with the height of the blocks. This adds a greater sense of height and offers an organic feel to the environment.

Particles

If the terrain allows for vegetation, filling the land becomes much easier, whether it’s in corners or flat areas.

Integrating animated particlescan be a challenging touch to achieve, but if you manage to make them complement the scene, they add a touch of fantasy.

Within each prop, behaviors and components can be added, available in The Sandbox Maker. This allows you to create lifts, stairs, doors, push buttons, and more.

Elevator animation

Characters / animals / alive entities

Animals animation

To bring a land to life and give it a vibrant feel, NPCs are the master touch. Depending on the theme of the land, NPCs can be characters, animals or any living entity.

Createing characters based on the templates from The Sandbox ensures that the proportions are right and ready for your creative touch.

To prevent the repetition of the same asset in multiple instances, it’s advisable to position them in different locations and manually rotate them or use the "R" key, which rotates the props randomly on the x-axis.

NPC example

On the flip side, if you want the land to have a playable aspect, you can design characters or entities to function as NPCs. The can activate quests within the land, drop important items, and contribute to the interactive elements of the experience.

Conclusion

The most crucial aspect is to apply a critical eye when modeling and placing assets. This skill improves gradually with practice.

Visual storytelling plays an important role in an environment. Create specific zones that convey meaning simply through the arragement of assets in the scene, like a road or a lake with fish.

Don't get frustrated if you don't achieve the desired result initially. Seek feedback, and explore references from other reliable projects to enhance your skills.

Magica Voxel
Voxedit
voxel
Art
Development
PJ Martínez
Lead Environmental Artist
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