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Virtual gardener
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Original Poster
#1 Old 14th Jan 2019 at 1:38 PM
Default Polycount guide - A guide for beginners and advanced creators!
We all have moderated polycounts before, but if you’re not as familiar with meshing itself (or maybe even a beginner) this might just be more of a guessing game for you rather than actually knowing the answer! Does it cause a small moment where you might find yourself doubting if this is really too high or not?

Now, what does one need to do to understand what is high poly? We actually want to know what polycounts are of course!

(If you're looking for a tutorial more explaining it from a meshing perspective rather than just numbers, check out this tiptorial!: )

The basics

Polygon count (aka polycounts):
Usually (but not always) triangular, polygons arise when an object's surface is modelled, vertices are selected, and the object is rendered in a wireframe model. ... The polygon count refers to the number of polygons being rendered per frame

What is a polygon:
Triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, and hexagons are all polygons. The more of these shapes on a mesh, the more polycount it will have! Therefore it’s good to see how many “dots” or also known as vertices the mesh has . If you’re sculpting your mesh, these dots can easily get around 20,000+

Low poly:
Low poly is a polygon mesh in 3D computer graphics that has a relatively small number of polygons. Low poly meshes occur in real-time applications (e.g. games). This makes it so the further the player’s camera zooms out, the more the game engine has to render, the faster it will be because it’s only loading the low polys!

High poly:
High poly is a polygon mesh in 3D computer graphics that has a relatively huge number of polygons compared to the low poly mesh. High poly meshes also occur in real-time applications such as games, but are always loaded when zoomed in close to the mesh, therefore you get a much more detailed mesh! Also, because the game engine doesn’t have as many objects to render.

Why are high and low polys so important?
As explained in the descriptions, the game has 2 versions of the mesh: Low poly and high poly. Whenever the player is zoomed in as far as possible, then the game is probably only rendering the world, floor and the object focused on. It knows that there are things in the background but it completely ignores it for just those 3 high poly meshes! When zooming out, the world, floor and the object now would have 20 trees, maybe 10 stones, 30 different furniture… as you can see, if the game was loading all those high poly meshes together, the slower the game will be, it could even cause crashing in worse cases! That’s why, when the game thinks it’s too much, it switches all those meshes into low poly meshes to make it as easy as possible for itself without (much) lag!

But I have a high-end PC? Why should I care?
If you’re sharing your CC, there’s a big chance still that there will be someone downloading your content that has a low-end PC. This could be because their knowledge about computers isn’t as great, and because we all like CC! For personal usage i’d just say, go with what you think is good, but be aware that high-end PCs doesn’t necessarily mean that the game will never be laggy or crash-y again. The Low-end PC people are beginning you!
Virtual gardener
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Original Poster
#2 Old 14th Jan 2019 at 1:40 PM
How to determine CASPARTS polycounts.

Now that we know what polycounts are and why they’re important, we want to know when it comes to the sims what really is too much? Have a small guide:

The sim’s body in average polys (without the head):

3K for TS2
4k for TS3
4.5K for TS4

So say we have a dress for ts3 that has some flower accessories. We know the original body is 4K for TS3. Say it has a giant bow and 6 buttons and a zipper. Now the buttons should be an average of 200 polys max. The bow, because of it’s a complex shape, could be higher than this (approx. 4k?)

Counting this up (keeping in mind the max rather than the minimum) would be:


For tops I also made a small polycount scheme for that:

TS2: ~1250
TS3: ~1950
TS4: ~2150

Tops would be almost half of the full body polycount. One thing to keep in mind that for females because of the boobs, the polycount might be slightly bigger by say 200-300 polys.

But if we had a TS2 female top, with a collar and 4 buttons, we know that usually, this should be 1250 with maybe an addition of that 200-300 polys for ze boobz. Now for the accessory, because the collar is also something roundish, don’t be surprised this could be around 600 to even 1k in poly because of it. The buttons would be around 200 polys max.

Counting this up (keeping in mind the max rather than the minimum) would be:



For bottoms (including the feet):

TS2: ~1750
TS3: ~2050
TS4: ~2350

Now keep in mind this includes feet as well. So if a bottom is around the same actual polycount as listed above, then no worries!

But say we have a TS4 skirt with 6 decorative buttons across the front part. Now we know for TS4 we know the bottom is cira 2350 in polycount. For this occasion, we want to take into account that each button shouldn’t be taking 1-2k polycount in. For buttons like that, it should actually be around 200 polys max.

Counting this up (keeping in mind the max rather than the minimum) would be:

The maths:

Virtual gardener
staff: administrator
Original Poster
#3 Old 14th Jan 2019 at 1:40 PM
Marvelous designer (and like) Meshes
This program is an awesome tool if you’re familiar with sewing but just can’t model clothing well or at all! But Marvelous designer was originally made for the clothing design industry, meaning, it wasn’t actually made for games to begin with! So with that in mind, you need to be aware of the fact that Marvelous designer (And really, all cloth simulator tools/programs) to get a good result are incredibly high in polycount. Now of course there are ways around this:

Note: Marvelous designer meshes are usually the case, especially if you have a lot of MD meshes installed, the cause of lagging/crashing games. Mainly because these meshes tend to be super high in polycounts.

Now, obviously, if we were going to go with the polycount that was mentioned above for modeled-by-hand CASparts (aka maxis match), the mesh would look incredibly blocky and just not good-looking anymore. So for that of course, we can go a little beyond this

When sharing MD meshes, you’d really want to make sure that what the actual body part polycount is adds at least 5-10k on top of it.

So for example for a full body CASpart:

TS2: 3K + 10k = 13k
TS3: 4k + 10k = 14k
TS4: 4.5K + 10k = 14.5k

So say you’re making this dress for ts4, then it should be around 15k max. (If it has a lot of buttons or accessories, then you can count 1k with it.)

For bottoms (including the feet):

TS2: ~1750 + 5k = 6750
TS3: ~2050 + 5k = 7050
TS4: ~2350 + 5k = 7350

(The 5k is of course half of the 10k that we usually add to full body meshes)

For tops:

TS2: ~1250 + 5k = 6250
TS3: ~1950 + 5k = 6950
TS4: ~2150 + 5k = 7150

Making meshes look awesome and detailed through textures:
When you start meshing, you have this believe that every single detail is actually created by, well, meshing it in! Which actually is not quite true. Have an example! (You can click on the images to see them full HD)

I meshed this coat recently. As you can see, the original mesh doesn’t really have much bumps or stuff that goes outside it.

But with the multiplier texture added to it, you can sort of see debt and things that need to pop out a bit! If not, making shadows for it

I then made the bump map for it, and mixing that with the multiplier texture, it actually had more details becoming more prominent! Most of the bumps going you see isn’t meshed in, it’s all of the textures work!

Now you’d think “Wait we can go one step more?” Yep we can! Specular maps are amazing. Unfortunately for TS2 it only really stops with the bump map. But for the Creators who can do things with specular maps because they create for ts3/4, It will definitely make your CC looking incredibly good!

Here are a few tutorials and workflows on how to do this!
Virtual gardener
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Original Poster
#4 Old 14th Jan 2019 at 1:41 PM
Polycounts for objects

Objects, furniture, paintings etc. Something that a sim can interact with also have polycounts. Obviously, since they’re meshes! (Yep, even that plane-looking painting you downloaded!)

However, seeing what is high in polys here can be a difficult task, mainly since we don’t really have a “base” to guess from like we’d with CASpart and the sim body’s polycount. There is though a way to guess this which is through shapes! Obviously, this is also more experience-ish so you might have a moment where someone would say that something is way too high in polycount but you might think it’s decent.

The basics of understanding what shape will always be higher in polycount

Let’s take a look at this cube. Super simple looking, the shape is, well, blocky. This could be the shape of a table, door, computer, etc. But let’s see what the polycount for this cube is, which is 6. Pretty low am I right?

Now if we look at this sphere, it has quite some faces going on to make it look like a sphere really right? Now a couch can have a lot of roundish shapes, a cup, a pot, even a car. It’s okay if these meshes are a tad on the higher side of course! This sphere however is 519 polys although that doesn’t mean every rounded mesh should be that in polycount

What is normal between shapes that are a bit more blocky or rounded?

This really depends on the mesh. Say we made a super simple chair, no rounded bits, just a simple chair made out of cube shapes. It’s very common for that to be around ~300 in polycount (or about 100-200 added to it).

But, what about mixed shape-y meshes? Well, lemme tell you a story about polycounts… exciting!

I’ve been meshing for myself and for the sims for a good 6 years now, 2 years ago I became a staff member on the site and checking polycounts was of course the thing that needed checking to make sure that the meshes wouldn’t be too high to crash downloaders' game's. Basically a quality control before it would affect anyone else’s games This particular mesh happened to be this flower stand, a very pretty one actually! (Click me to see the flowerstand! ) at first thought, you might have gone “10664 faces 13132 vertex?? That’s a lot!!” Which initially was my first thought too when I saw it, but the reason why I did was because I only looked at what would be reasonable for the stand without the flowers in them. Obviously then it would be a tad too high, but then I remembered this project I did that I never released. Now if we concentrate on the flower-y bits you can see quite clearly that every single leave is done with a plane, which really is the only way to make good-looking flowers. For a mesh like this it sounds logical for it to be high in polycount!


I do have a few other examples but I think this by itself is a really good one! Especially since at first thought you’d think it’s far too high but really it’s just… well, perfectly fine.

So what did we look at here:
  • The way it has been meshed
  • The shapes (so what we just learnt, roundish meshes are usually a bit higher in polys than block-y meshes)
  • Whether it sounds reasonable the way it has been meshed.

When it comes to these sorts of meshes, you might need a basic understanding of meshing, though it’s perfectly doable to guess what is supposedly high and what isn’t. I will leave a few examples though:

As you can see, the tv takes the cube shape in itself, although the shape of the screen is a tad curvy, but overall it’s, well, cube-y! Now if you focus on the tv itself, you can see that the extra vertices added to it is, well, unnecessary. It doesn’t add much value to the shape in this case, so we know that the left version is super high in polycount, and thus, can cause lag, crashing, etc.

Pen holders are by itself usually roundish, so we know this takes over the same kind of shape as a sphere! Therefore, it’s understandable that this holder will be a tad higher. However, most modelers know “The more vertices, the smoother the holder looks!” Now, yes, this is true, but there should be a limit. The right version of the cup shows that, despite the left one looking pretty and smooth, that the right might not look as curvy but still looking great! If we were to going to add the left version of this cup into our games, it will cause lag and crashing.

Note: Keep in mind that the bigger the item, the more visible it would be that the item is a bit block-y looking around the curves, so it would make sense that a rounded trash can would be a tad (so not by much) higher than a pen holder
Mad Poster
#5 Old 15th Jan 2019 at 1:15 AM Last edited by simmer22 : 16th Jan 2019 at 9:20 PM.
Nice guide!

Some notes and additions:

The flower you could do full double-sided planes like for the leaves (all petals on one plane), but layer them and rotate a bit to get a layered effect. There's usually no need to make that many individual petals for ingame use. This would give you fewer polys, and the result would look nice for most small-ish flowers not meant for close-ups.

Another thing is that when you make meshes from scratch, it's always a good idea to start low-poly, and wait with any kind of subdividing modifier on the whole mesh until you're done with the base. Before you add the modifier, smooth the mesh. That way you can see when it's subdivided enough, and it's a good idea to not get up much closer than you'd normally do ingame. If you apply the modifier, start very low, one iteration at a time. Each iteration of subdividing adds roughly 4 times as many polys to the mesh, so be very careful. After you've applied the subdivider modifier (if you even need it - with good meshing you can often get by without one unless there's lots of rounded edges), you can go around the mesh and remove loops that don't add anything to the geometry. You can get very far with textures and using smoothing (which are NOT the same as adding geometry - smoothing takes away sharp edges, so the meshes appear more rounded without actually adding more geometry.

(Same mesh - it's the default sphere in Blender. Wireframe in the left, without smoothing in the middle, with smoothing to the right).

And a lower-poly version. Not too much difference when you use smoothing, is there? The size does matter, because if the sphere is meant to be very small you really should use a lower-poly base sphere. Sometimes you can get away with as low as a 6-10 sided sphere. If the sphere is meant to be big, you can use a somewhat higher-poly base mesh.

Nearly all meshes for game use look perfectly fine at below 20.000 polys, and most can get away with 10.000 or less, including hairs, clothes, rounded couches, and what have you. There's usually no need to go higher unless there's a lot of intricate details - most 20.000+ meshes I've seen haven't needed that much. I've downloaded 300.000+ poly meshes from the web and gotten them down well under 20.000 without them looking much different from the original. No need to have more polys than strictly needed, even if you have a high-end computer.

Also, think size and what the items are meant to be used for. Extreme closeups? Then it's okay to add more details. Regular closeups (face/torso on a sim)? A little detail is fine, but you can still get very far with just smoothing. In the background? Don't bother with details, and make the mesh lower poly, because nobody'll see the details anyway. Size is also important to consider. Is the mesh the relative size of a cell phone? Then it needs less detail. Size of a house? May need a bit more detail. For small detail, use a bump/normal map and a detailed texture instead of adding more polygons - it takes you a long way.

And get your polygon flow straightened up! Good polygon flow is when the majority of your meshing looks like squares, and you get continous edge loops in the right places. Vertices with 4 lines going out is good. Vertices with more than 4 lines will cause weirdness in the mesh (but can't always be avoided, so it's better to hide these areas where they're not too visible - they don't show in flat areas). Triangles that don't form nice rectangles will cause weirdness in the mesh. Good polygon flow can be alpha-omega in making low-poly meshes, because the more weirdness there is in the mesh, the more tempting it will be to add geometry to fix it. More often, straightening up the poly flow makes the mesh look a lot better in itself, and makes life easier when you're doing bone assignments on clothes.

(good poly flow, particularly for clothes and other animated items, is when you've got horizontal and vertical lines going roughly parallel to each other in rectangles (or two triangles/faces in a rectangle, depending on program), and straight edge loops. Bad poly flow is when nothing is lining up and edge loops are all over the place.

Large textures can also cause problems like lag, so if the item is small enough to not need a 2048+ texture, don't bother giving it one. In all three games you can get away with 512 and 1024-sized textures for objects.

And finally, I've seen so many UV maps I just wanted to throw in the bin and start over. They take up 1/8 of the available space, they're awkward to texture, the polygons don't hang together, and so on. If the mesh is nice but the finished UVmap looks like someone threw a 10.000+ piece puzzle all over the floor and didn't bother cleaning up, you did something wrong. Make sure as much of your mesh as possible hangs together via the vertices, so you get a continuous mesh part to color in. If the UVs are tiny, you need a bigger texture - so whenever possible, make the UVs cover a larger part of the map. Larger UVs = smaller texture size needed. If your mesh has a good poly flow, the UVmap is much easier to make.
Field Researcher
#6 Old 16th Jan 2019 at 8:50 PM
Thanks for such a handy reference guide. Nicely illustrated to keep me from getting lost.


We have been stuck too long with "New Mesh" as the apex of creation.
_ WesHowe
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