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Wiktor Öhman from Quixel was kind enough to talk about material creation for his awesome Soviet Mecha project. He described how you can speed up the whole process and produce high quality visuals much faster.
My name is Wiktor Öhman and I’m the Lead Artist at Quixel, the developers of NDO, DDO, 3DO and Megascans. Previously I’ve worked on games such as FarCry 3 at Ubisoft Massive, Mortal Online at Star Vault and The Solus Project as a 3D Artist.
I started with 3D in 2007 when I studied at The School of Future Entertainment and later The Game Assembly.
Soviet Mecha Project
I found this really nice concept by Michal Kus and I got really inspired. I’ve always loved the bulkiness and rawness of old soviet designs. I also thought it’d work really well as a project for NDO and DDO as it’s got a lot of welding seams and bolts and so on. I’d never really made welding seams before in NDO and I’d only made them using various plugins in 3D applications, which required a lot of work, so I was hoping to create a nice workflow for that, which I did. I also always enjoy highpoly texturing, so that was a bonus.
I use both 3ds Max and Maya, but for this I decided to go with Maya. A lot of the details were added as floaters, such as the bolts and so on, but a lot of them were added using NDO Painter, simply painting the details out directly onto the model. The welding pattern is a very simple brush I made that I just painted in between the mesh segments, pretty much.
The entire thing was textured with the SUITE. As I mentioned previously, the welds and most of the bolts were added using NDO by painting directly onto the mesh, which is a super-intuitive and fast workflow. I then took the detailed normal map and plugged it into DDO along with the mesh and a color ID map.
In DDO I utilized the bundled Smart Materials and tweaked the colors and reflectance values for a base. At this point I was actually feeling pretty happy with it, but I also added some more specific details such as dust, dirt, rust and so on to make it look a bit more worn and customized.
The lights are actually super simple and “cheaty”! The red lights are simply spheres I placed on the model and applied a flat colored emissive texture to. And the large headlight is pretty much the same, just a simple emissive texture, but the normal map and reflectance makes it look pretty realistic.
Adding the Details
The decals were mostly added manually, nothing magical about that! If I was unsure of the position of a decal I just painted a rough blockout of the decal on the mesh and used that as a reference for the placement of it. As for the wear and tear, that was extremely easy. I’d say it’s more difficult designing interesting clean materials. You can create as much wear and tear as you want to by using the Dynamask Editor in DDO. The most basic wear and tear I’d say is the edge wear, which is achieved by utilizing the edge mask of the curvature map. To make it look less procedural I used a scanned material to mask out parts of the edge wear.
That’s the great part about Quixel SUITE. It speeds up your workflow incredibly much. The base for any texture can be created in the matter of minutes, giving you a lot of time to simply polish and make it look amazing. The Smart Materials provide you with a great, solid base to work from. Once you have a base you like, just move on and create your custom materials and details.
Tips and Tricks
I’d say kill your darlings. Don’t be afraid to throw away your texture and redo it if doesn’t work. That’s the good part about DDO. The turnaround time is incredibly fast. I did a lot of different version before I settled on the version you see in a matter of less than an hour. Do quick and basic tests, play around with basic reflectance and once you’ve nailed that you go in and start adding details. Also, don’t obsess over small parts at first, get the general base done first and then you can obsess as much as you want.
There seems to be a lot of confusion around PBR, when there really shouldn’t be. It’s actually very easy to work with and there are tons of great tutorials and papers on the subject on the internet. If you’re feeling unsure about how it work, just do a quick Google search and check out a couple of tutorials – it’s worth it!