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Meet Polysquid Studios, the team that produces high-quality assets for various 3D markets. One of its members discussed how they create assets and operate in marketing.
Hi! We are Polysquid, a 3D art studio based in Riga, Latvia. At the moment, we are a two-man team, however, if needed, we take outsource artists from all over the world. Our main focus is asset making for various 3D markets. We have a strong presence in Unity Asset Store and just started to build our account in Unreal Engine Marketplace. We do take freelance work, but only projects that we like and that suit our skillset.
Our journey to 3D art started in 2009, but Polysquid Studios was created not that long ago, in 2015. At that time, I, Kaspars Pavlovskis, and my business partner Edgars Soiko just finished the university in Latvia and both got our bachelor’s degree in graphic design. We decided to join our forces, so we can take on better projects and cover more art categories.
As for the 3D content making, almost everything is made by us, with few exceptions. Most of the time we each take on a project and push it from start to finish. For every project, our main goal is to produce products that we enjoy making and would buy ourselves. If we are talking about asset packs, then each project starts with market research. We gather data from our competitors, see what we can do better and how we could add something new or different, to the pack. If we see something that we like and can do better, we just go for it! Motivation is really important for us, so we try to be really selective about the art we do.
Here’s a bit about our process. We begin by looking at as many reference images as we can find. It’s not always you can find good images from all angles but it sure helps. Get a good understanding of how the thing works, how it’s assembled and what materials were used.
Now, the technical stuff. Our modeling software of choice is Blender 3D, hated by some, but loved by a lot of small companies and indie 3D artists. Really solid software, with tons of cool tools and features, for game content development.
Depending on what type of project we are taking on, almost every time, we start with a blockout mesh. We feel that blocking out things is the best way to feel out the right scale, proportions and overall feel of the models. By blocking out shapes and sets, you can see major mistakes or parts for improvement at the very beginning. After the blackout comes high poly mesh that is kept pretty clean and with good wireframe. Depending on parts, after the high poly, the models are reused for low poly by simply reducing the polycount and cleaning up geometry.
UV maps are also made in Blender. We use a really powerful plugin TexTools. After the model is done we separate it to avoid bugs in the bake.
We bake maps in Substance Painter or Marmoset viewer. A few years back, when Xnormal was a thing, map baking was such an unpleasant part of the process. Both Marmoset and Substance Painter give much better results much faster.
Here’s a little more about the texturing process in Substance Painter. After the maps are baked a complete model is imported, it’s not separated anymore but has the same UVs. When starting texturing it’s very important to get the base materials down. In this example: used plastic, painted metal, oily metal, rubber etc. Smart materials and masks are used a lot, they are really neat because you can make effects that take a lot of time to paint in, for example, rust, edge damage or dust. Obviously, the procedural approach does not always grant the desired result and you have to paint in extra details to get the final result. This is where the real artistic process of texturing begins, you have to imagine how the prop was used, where was it scratched most, where can you put some greasy fingerprints or maybe the rust starting from the welded parts.
Another important part of the process is creating Alpha textures for logos, signs, writings, etc. This is great for creating a focal point on the model. All this helps giving the prop a backstory and the end result, we hope, is something more than just a generic 3D model.
A smart material library is a must have, if you work with any type of PBR software. We save each material, so we can re-use it later or build on it to make even a better version of it. This helps us save tons of time and produce even better results, each time.
The presentation is also very important to us. We use Marmoset Toolbag to create fully real-time 3D renders in high quality. Every object has to be well lit and at the same time, there must be some focal point to guide the viewer’s eyes.
Basically, everything we make is intended to be used in a game. So, naturally, we have to test it somehow to ensure that users will be able to put them in their games without any issues. Things like scale, right pivots, separated parts is a no-brainer and are done instantly. If we are making an environment, we usually build a small demoscene in the engine, throw in a default controller and just run around. This is a must-have really to be totally sure if all parts are scaled correctly and have no bugs. If it’s a prop than the process is a bit easier.
Never did we think that VR assets are so different from regular 3d models. The scale needed to be just right because the player moves around the world and is able to zoom in really close. If something is not right with the scale, you can instantly feel it in VR. The same goes for the polygons, too low poly count is a no go and there should not be any missing polys, ANYWHERE! Those are just some small lessons learned by working with VR device.
Selling 3D models are not that easy due to the oversaturated market, however, as for all products, the quality over quantity still stands. If you make a really good pack, people will buy it without any marketing behind it. Still, we try to post our new assets on Twitter, Instagram, Unity forum and some other social outlets. Even if it does not help our sales, we still get some exposure from it.
As for the advice, not sure that we can give something really original due to the fact that we still struggle with a lot of things ourselves. However, we feel that motivation and working on the projects that you absolutely believe in and like is the key for longevity. Time is our most precious asset, so don’t waste it on the things you do not enjoy, otherwise, you will be unmotivated and the progress will stop.
Talking about our studio and the things we do is nice but we have to say thanks to people, who helped us along the way. Thanks to Oskars Pavlovskis for helping us with art directing and giving solid advice when things look unsure. We would also mention our business partners and friends, zugzug studio, for awesome teamwork and motivation to move on, with our business.
Be sure to check out our new website polysquid.com and contact us if you have a cool project or other work offer! Rock on!
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev