In this series I would like to share my progress with a rather different visual style: some call it cartoon, others low-poly or polygonal style. Its distinctive features are blocky (but not exclusively cuboid) shapes, visible triangles or quad faces, hard edges, as well as uniform colors.
What I love in this faceted, cartoony style is the clean shapes and silhouettes, it is easy on the eyes, and of course, lightweight in terms of file size and handling. These qualities making this style very popular in the indie dev scene, and many brilliant games use this style to convey a visually calming, story-driven game.
Below you can see games that inspired me:
In this particular scene, simple large-scale forms with warm, soft colors and a straight, forward-driving composition are defining the mood of the setting. I can imagine the thrill when you first arrive in this misty land and start to explore.
It all began in the Blender
Back in 2017, I was fiddling around with the different modifier tools in Blender. I wanted to create a few resource rocks, for later use, but in a more dynamic way than starting with a box and hand-crafting all the vertices. I started with very basic shapes – guess who, cubes and pyramids – and applied different modifiers and varied settings, and watched what happens.
Of course it needed to add the small nicks and cracks manually, but there are many ways to do that part with modifiers too (for example, Booleans). When creating these rocks I used Subdivision modifier, Bevel, and Simple deform – Taper, and Simple deform -Twist. After that I used the Autosmooth settings and some manually selecter hard edges to create sharp edges and smooth surfaces on the swirls.
Rocks are easy to make and a staple for every environment, let it be an arid desert, a rocky beach, a mountainside, or a canyon landscape.
I especially liked the swirly ice-cream looking spires, and decided to make an interesting, fantasy-inspired desert scene with it. I quickly sketched a few cacti and succulents to bring life to my barren rocky desert. Well, to be honest, these became much more cartoon-ish than the rocks, and I decided to keep them curved and mid-poly (5000 tris including thorns).
Setting up the materials and textures was really simple, I used material colors only, and exported the meshes in FBX. Other options could be using Vertex Colors, but I ditched that idea since I wasn’t sure about how those work with Unity at that time.
Scene building in Unity
After moving the meshes into Unity, I created a lineup scene and created my prefabs. I also experimented with Material colors. Then I added a Terrain and started to carve out a canyon-like structure with the basic terrain tools, then painted it with flat colors (brown, sand, red sand etc.) After that I dropped some of the rock prefabs and started to populate the canyon. It was quite a trial-and-error phase, and I wanted to show the best pieces of the rocks and the desert plants. I set up the Camera to focus on a bunch of rocks , and a swirly spire in the background.
You can see that there are dust floating through the canyon, these are simple Particle effects made with the built-in particle tool. Since I wanted to keep it simple and cartoon-like, I didn’t added much post-processing to the scene. However, I could do much better with the lighting setup, which I wasn’t very proficient back then in 2017.
I would like to show my progress in the next few blog posts with my new lowpoly scenes.