I finished this bit some time ago but was distracted by the holidays. For this update, I created the major props for the environment and added them into the scene. This really brought some life into the space, and I can really see it coming together now.
The first thing I focused on, again, was making solid trim sheets to work from. These will be the last pieces I use trim sheets for, the rest of the smaller props will have individual textures. I feel there is still some room for improvement and room for more details, but I am considering using decals for that instead of making overly-complex trim sheets that feel too individualized to certain props making that sheet less versatile.
I went with two sheets for this set, one that was for the pipes, one that was for the other pieces and parts like the support beams. They are both 4K images like the rest and have a good blend of materials and textures to keep the environment interesting. I made sure to color grade them, though, so that they could blend with the environment and not look too out of place, which worked out really well as you will see later in this update. I did, however, intend to leave the pipes brighter in color to better guide the player's eyes through the space.
The models kit has a good variety of shapes and is very versatile. I made three different pipe sizes, but they can easily be scaled up and down to allow for more variety in then with no extra asset creation. This also applies to the individual pipe supports, which can also be scaled to fit any of the other pipes if the space was feeling too repetitive. Here, I have all of the models completed and engine ready.
After adding in these props, this is what the environment looked like. Even this early in the process, the environment looked like it was coming together. The pipes brought composition and unity, and the colors played well with the warm, but grungy, tones. I still feel like I can go back through and add some more variety by scaling some of the pipes differently and rearranging how they are placed, but the general shapes are exactly what I'm looking for.
It was at this point that I wanted to adjust the lighting a little bit to get a better sense of the colors and to make sure it all feels unified. The shots above show directional light coming through walls which created strange shadows that were distracting and didn't represent the space properly.
I fixed the lighting problems, but left the space with very early placeholder lighting. None of this is final. Even with the placeholder lighting, the space came together much better than before. There are no longer distorted, confusing shadows, and it's much easier to get a sense of composition and space.
Finally, I expanded on the size of the environment. Now, the space beneath the grates is taken up by more hallways, leading this hallway to feel like it is part of a large, complex matrix of hallways. This did wonders for making it feel complete and less isolated.
For the next update I plan to make many, many more models to detail the space with. These models will include tools, furniture, gears, vents, and other story-telling items. I will also use that time to add more detail to the lower levels to make sure they feel just as complex as the main space and not out of place. I will also lightly tweak the lighting to be brighter for better images.