I made the mountain with World Machine and I applied a very high resolution bump map to add the fine detail. In my lighting setup, I used a simple round plane with a white-grey material applied to it as a sun reflector. I did this in order to soften the contrast between the directly lit surfaces and the other surfaces. I stole this trick from photography. :-)
To make the interaction in my 3ds Max viewport faster I converted the mountain into a Vray Proxy object.
I wanted to place my buildings into a believable landscape, so I decided to play around with a program called “World Machine” for a bit. I added some ambient occlusion in the mix to make the local contrast stronger. Below you can see the final texture map. Although I am not too happy with the end result, I think it was worth the experience.
I was inspired by the illustration below and I wanted to make my own version in 3D. I am not entirely sure, but I think this illustration is made by Vgjunk. I find it very interesting how the lights and the colours are done. The streets at the bottom are almost completely red and the roofs at the top are black but there is some purple in it too, which gives it a cool kind of haze.
Illustration by VgJunk
This render took a very long time. To speed up the rendering process I made the white lights on the buildings very weak in the base render pass. This way the lights in the building do not really light up their surroundings and it doesn’t have to be calculated. I added a Vray Self Illumination pass to the render and made the white lights stronger in post production. I made use of the Zdepth render pass to add some purple to the atmosphere.