In recent screenshots of Overgrowth, a lot of people assume that our buildings, trees, and other models are just one epic sculpture made in 3ds Max.
This is not true, and not really sustainable for an indie game with a single artist. Instead, we actually are building a number of reusable components that can fit together in many ways -- sort of like legos. Using our map editor, we can rapidly connect these together in unique ways and make a lot of cool scenes like the one above.
Here's the scene again at a different angle, but with everything shrunk in place, so you can see that it is actually made up of a hundred smaller objects (click here for a larger version).
This technique has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that it dramatically cuts down on development time. We can put together scenes really fast using custom tools that we are building ourselves, in engine. Here's a YouTube video of an early version of our editor, which gets better every week. Additionally, it lets the community build their own intricate maps relatively easily, sort of like in Little Big Planet. For instance, Hale's epic map, Foothold:
The disadvantage is that it is slightly less efficient than if everything was painstakingly created from scratch and hand tuned. Luckily for us, this does not look like it's going to be a bottleneck. If it does, we'll add some more specialized tools or algorithms to help people optimize their levels.