For someone who lives in the european forests area (as me) or in the asian steppes (as my artist) the word 'desert' means 'endless sands with no plants'. Sahara desert is the best example. Sahara looks like this:
So our desert level was made with Sahara in mind. Artist painted terrain with sand texture, added few rocks and our level looked like this:
Well, it could be ok if our game took place in the Northern Africa... But our game is about the south of the US! I think guys from southern states laughed at this moment thinking 'that's not the desert, that's emptiness!'
At last, we've started to google references. In fact, we had to start from googling refs, but... you know... 'this is just test level, let's do this quick!'... And then you realize that your 'test level' is in production. We took the Mojave desert as our reference point:
Flowers, bushes, cactuses, even small trees! Joyfull colors and many forms of plants! Nothing common with Sahara. We've started to make foliage assets but it was too slow. Artist never did such 3d models. But we make Gun Road with UE 4, and UE 4 have great asset marketplace. Well, not so big as Unity, I suppose. Anyway, we've found a good pack and bought it. Remember our empty desert? Now it looks like this:
Electric poles are another part of our improvements. Bushes and cactuses are everywhere now, even in town:
The next step is turning static meshes into dynamic ones or even destructible. For example, we've added physics to cargo containers:
Now player can hit container, hear loud metallic sound and move it a bit. Big foliage assets will be turned to destructibles - cactuses will be smashable by wheels.
For just 12 bucks we've turned our desert to proper one. Of course there is still a lot of work - we need to repaint some parts of the terrain, add more foliage and so on. But at this we already able to produce very interesting in-game picture:
Foliage is a great way to make your game more interesting and pretty. It could be combined with different color effects and weather. Now we're experimenting with post-processing shaders. I love this one, I call it 'decay-shader':
I'm not sure it will be added to the production but it looks very interesting :-)
P.S.: We're still on Greenlight, please support us!