Creating a Game Asset in ZBrush and Blender

Creating a Game Asset in ZBrush and Blender

Vasiliy Poryagin shared the complete workflow of creating an elaborate game-ready door in ZBrush, Blender, Substance Painter, and UE4.

Introduction

Hi, my name is Vasiliy Poryagin. I am from the beautiful city of Irkutsk from faraway snowy Siberia. 

My immersion into three-dimensional art has been amazing. I discovered a wonderful world where you can bring to life almost all of your ideas. And it is awesome.

I began with Blender where I found the fantastic Sculpt Mode, and it was a terrific discovery for me. Realizing that I like to sculpt more, I plunged into ZBrush, and this is probably why my pipeline is quite strange. I am not a fan of classical methods, and I am sure that if something works, then it doesn't matter how it was made.

I am constantly evolving, refining, and changing my approaches to development. It is important to me.

How do I study?

It is quite easy, there is nothing difficult in it. Now there are lots of lessons on Youtube and Artstation, and many of them are free. Over time, however, I have understood that the best way to learn something is to set a goal that you cannot complete right now. It is this thorny path through a complex maze with many turns and dead ends that will lead you to a true solution of the task. And it actually works. This is learning for me. Defeats, victories, and then repeat…

Projects

Currently, I am working on a character for a video game, - it is a robot and at the moment, it is just a sculpt in ZBrush. I think it does not look very good just yet.

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Recently, I have finished making a Bridges pack for the Unreal Marketplace. It was a pretty familiar kind of work for me because previously, I made a Doors pack, - and this is what I want to talk about in detail.

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Doors Pack: Idea

One day, on a wonderful winter evening, while walking around my good old city illuminated by yellow street lights and passing through its deserted streets, I stumbled across a stunning old door. It inspired me. At that moment, I thought it would look nice in a video game. When I came home, I was fully determined to create a pack of doors for the Unreal Marketplace.

The doors are not just a portal in the environment, but it is also an element of art, an exquisite creation symbolizing the transition from one hypostasis to another. And that really inspired me to act.

I tried to portray the doors in different styles, - some in the fantasy style, others in the medieval one, and some in the classical antique style. Also, I wanted to make them diverse.

Workflow

The pipeline for this project was quite simple, I used only three tools: ZBrush, Substance Painter,  and Unreal Engine 4. Each time I use them, I experience a true pleasure.

Searching for references

Pinterest, a fantastic website everybody knows about, deals best with this task. I do not recommend going to Artstation because intuitively, you will build upon the skill level of other artists. After finding enough pictures, I put them in PureRef (an amazingly simple and genius tool, it is so convenient that it is an absolute must-have).

Concept

You can skip it but for me, it is a required step as I find it difficult to invent something during sculpting. Concepts shouldn't be complex; these are just sketches for you. Half of the details can be kept in mind. The main thing is to determine the basic shapes. And it also helps to simply not forget your drawing skills. After all, drawing is cool.

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Layout

Based on earlier sketches, I begin to add the main elements. These are simple objects, nothing complex, just shapes. For convenience, you can use the new feature in ZBrush called Silhouette, it might help you. In this work, I used ZModeler, but it can be done with the simple Deformer tool (although, ZModeler is awesome and working with it is a real aesthetic pleasure). At this stage, I am ready for experiments and constantly coming up with something new just to make the production cycle simpler.

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Sculpt

Here, I also keep everything really simple. You need to break chamfers only in places where it is appropriate. And of course, you need to have in store as many Alphas as possible. Without Alphas, the work will take too much time, and we cannot afford it. On average, my high poly models have up to 40 000 000 polygons; this number allows me to conveniently work with the model on my rather outdated hardware (CPU 1950X). With that being said, I do not use subdivision levels as I constantly rebuild the model using DynaMesh;  Projection also doesn't always work as I need it to.

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Low poly

And here we are at the low poly stage. I hope that soon we will leave low poly behind altogether. I do not do classic retopology (sorry, old-timers) as during the production stage I'm focusing on the result. I just use Decimation Master and it works, - you get a nice triangulated model which of course will need to be fixed.

This is important! First in ZBrush, use MeshIntegrity – Fix Mesh. Then, Blender Mesh – Clean up. The polycount for the low poly is about 10 000 triangles which, with Unreal Engine 5 and new Nanite technology coming next year will be considered quite low.

UVs

UVs are also not complicated, but very important. Previously, I used the built-in tool UV Master, it is quite good, but I prefer to do it in Blender after cleaning up the geometry.

Texturing

In Painter, as well as in ZBrush, you should already have your own smart materials that you can be used anytime. For me, it is a basic smart material with generators and filters that can be customized for each project.

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First, we choose the colors by simply throwing in different colors and picking the best combinations. Next, detailing. For this, I use generators and brushes. I detail wooden and metal elements more thoroughly as they usually stand out. At this stage, texturing turns into drawing and it is fantastic.

Maps Roughness and Normals are the icing on the cake, they make the work look finished and pleasant.

In UE4

Export into UE4 is always the final step for me. It is quite mechanical and does not imply any creative work.

Right away in an empty project, I create the following folders:

Name_project
- Textures
- Meshes
- Materials
- Maps

Then, I export meshes and textures into the engine.

This is important! You need to turn off sRGB for OcclusionRoughnessMetallic map, a good tip for it can be found here.

Afterword

And we're donу! Working on this project was quite interesting. Thank you all for reading and I wish everyone success in your next creative projects!

Vasiliy Poryagin, Concept Artist

Interview conducted by Ellie Harisova

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    Creating a Game Asset in ZBrush and Blender