I figure I will write a blog post every month now. Just for fun and because I can!
So - what's happening? Not much! I am modeling every day now and it is like some kind of infection, because I can't stop myself from modeling/texturing these days! Part of that has to do with my learning process, involving UDK. At some point I started understanding tradeoffs. I can become a much better environment artist and save copious amounts of time and work, if I lay out a 3D foundation in Maya and do the rest in UDK.
What does that mean? Well, in the past I modeled and textured each asset individually, treating even a simple wall as an individual asset. That resulted in countless materials and tons of individual textures for even simple objects, such as a favela house.
Lately I realized that I can put 90% of my environments into one shader-compound (material), use vertex paint and instances and still get the feeling of uniquely textured meshes. Instead of 140 materials, I suddenly need only 10 - and much fewer textures. And I can still use my "old" workflow" for hero assets and props that need detail.
So - my modeling life got easier. I have worked on my workflow and spent god knows how many hours reading threads on Polycount and doing tutorials over and over (it only works, if you repeat them). Now, there is literally nothing I cannot do with environements! I can make them as big as I like and still only use 5 materials. The next thing to learn would be to make them procedurally. As far as I know that's not even difficult.
Good times! It's not paying off yet in cash, but I am getting a firm grasp of environment creation and different methods for achieving modularity. It really gets me stoked about all the things I can do in the future, since there are literally no limits any more. I know the tech - I've done everything wrong once, before I did it right in UDK. The engine cost me nerves, but in the end it really paid up. It's a great engine with some unique flaws and my experience of the past year with UDK is really good and can't be paid for in money.