Alrighty, this is the first time I've kept a log of how I went about this project and steps to achieve it. Basically it was asked of me if I could do realistic textures of construction environments/props/vehicles or another, and I was thinking in my head, "Hell yeah I can!" but came out with the more moderate response of, "Sure I can." :) So this is what I've got.
This took 6 days to complete the environment and 4 days to complete the excavator. I'll start with the environment workflow. Firstly I collected reference for construction sites, to get a clear memory bank of what's exactly in a construction site, and then looking up further reference of things like how scaffolding works, the exact look of barrels, shipping containers, portaloos, fences, concrete slabs etc. Next came to sketching up rough layouts of how I wanted the environment to look in my sketchbook. After I have a rough top down view of that, its time to come to the modelling phase. I modelled all the assets closely from the reference library I had, making sure I had the looks and proportions right. After I had all the models done came unwrapping and texturing. Running textures through Crazybump & using a fantastic Photoshop plugin called nDo made it soo much easier, it really helps me be efficient. Instant normal & spec maps that looks pimp for tiling textures from Crazybump, and they're so easy to make! With nDo to get really remarkable precision just by creating shapes and converting them to normal maps was awesome too. It really helps out, because to maximise efficiency, why would you need to make a high poly when you can just make a sweet normal map in Photoshop?Next was putting it into UDK and that was pretty simple too since I've had lots of experience with it before. Lighting was easy since Lightmass is the bomb too at getting sexy lighting with little to no hassle. All in all, it turned out well.
Ah! Complex models are intimidating! Again, I gathered bunches upon bunches of reference to get everything looking right for the excavator. Planning out which bits are symmetrical and using the Symmetry modifier helped out a bunch, and just basically modeling each part in different elements and sections of the vehicle works really well. After thats all done, making sure the texture space is even on each and every part was essential, you'd get super blurry textures if I skipped this step. Once again, a little bit of trusty nDo was my friend again to assist in the normal map creation process, to complement using xNormal to project the high poly onto the low poly. Texturing this was a challenge as well, having to properly overlay grime and dirt and scratches on it to get it to look realistic.