Delos levels were originally going to have a greek beach look to it, so one of my first tasks on Ascension, was to RnD something that'd be easy to use on large areas.
I used terrain shaders to blend different
materials together by using one displacement map, rendered from zBrush. To make it distort, I added a distortion map on the bottom layer. The water is just a transparent mesh with two normals moving
in different directions + one env. map.
Adding a displacement to the shader, made it possible to paint in the sand so it fills up the deeper parts first. It's easy to remove the tiled look you usually get from reusing textures on large
areas, but the only important thing is to keep the shader cycles down. Even a few polygons will run slow if the shader is expensive so you got to balance it all.
I used zBrush to make the coral floor. I made a few different corals and then used Subtools to spread them all over the floor so it all tiled well. I rendered masks to separate the corals from each other so it'd be easier to texture it in photoshop.
The mesh took about a day to make, shaders and distortions another.
Here's the colored version of the sea bottom, blended with a sand texture I made. Mapped on a flat poly card (16 polys).
Ingame mesh test. Mapped on a subdivided polygon (16 polys) to support the vertex lighting we had. I did a parallax test on this as well, using just a poly card, but since the ingame cameras barely never
rotate close up, it was pointless to use since you never saw it as much. Though the FX can be seen if you click on the pictures here. Adds a lot of depth, but it'd only work well if we had user controlled cameras.
I did a few variations to this as well, where these versions have Crystal rocks, Clams and Shells to break it up a bit more and make it look more unique.
Due to design, most of the things on this page were barely used in the end, but it was still a joy to create and can be seen here at least.
The bottom one is the diffuse texture. Top one is just the mesh with AO and normals.