Well That Was Fast

As I said in my last post, we have been working on pre-production for this game project all summer. There is still a lot to be done in that area. One of the biggest concerns for us is the visual style. After all, most of our team is comprised of artists. The game has to look nice. But we also want it to be our own. Photorealism was rejected just about immediately. We don’t however, want to stray too far into a stylized look such that the game looks cartoony. for this we needed a balance. We decided to go with a simplified style, with a bright look and colored accents. We have also decide to go with a somewhat angular and geometric style for the inorganic assets. The inspiration for our style could be said to be a combination of Sunset Overdrive, Halo, and Planetside 2.

Over the course of the summer I’ve been working on some concept art for the game’s weapons (there are still a bunch to do, though) and the last two weeks or so I’ve been working on modeling one of them. The reason I opted to start work on an asset so early is that it allows me time to refine my workflow. I have created assets for games before but never to this scale. I need to be efficient. I’ve also never worked with such a comprehensive workflow before. Check out my process:

For every asset I start with a sketch. These can be rough and are often changed by the time I am ready for the next step.

I never said I was good at drawing, but as long as I can understand the sketches later it’s alright.

After the sketches are complete I create concept art in Illustrator. For the weapons I generally do a side view, a top view, and front/back views. I also create a silhouette view to ensure the weapons are recognizable. This is an important step that many artists overlook. Viewing your assets as silhouettes — whether they be weapons or characters or buildings — ensures they are immediately recognizable and visually distinct.


The next step is to model the asset. This is where our geometric style becomes a real advantage for me. Most of this model I was able to create using simple geometry, and the result is a 3D model that is nearly identical to my illustrated concept art. At this stage it can sometimes become apparent that not everything illustrated is exactly accurate in a 3D space. Case-in-point: the small panel that the trigger is mounted on had to be modified from its original depiction in order to fit into place. I generally try my best to ensure everything lines up but sometimes details slip through. I then take the 3D model and use it to create two more models: a low-poly, game-ready model and a high-poly detail model. The detail model will be used as a source for baking normals to the game-ready mesh once it’s UVs have been laid out.

High-res detail model. This mesh has around 15,000 polys.
Low-res model with contours to show edgeflow. This model has around 900 polys.

As you can see the geometric style of the weapons allows many of the pieces to be down-rezzed with no loss in physical detail. The biggest use of the normal maps derived from the high-res versions is beveling edges. There will be surface detail in the normal maps as well (such as on the grip of this gun) but it is less evident on this particular asset. I also plan on using nDo, a Photoshop plugin that allows me to paint surface normals, to add detail as I see fit during the texturing process.

As of now this is the farthest I have gotten on this asset. I’ll talk more about the process of UV mapping, texturing, and importing into UDK later on.

Well That Was Fast

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