I got into the company more than 5 years ago. Before, 3D was just my hobby, I worked as a biochemist at a toxicology laboratory for 4 years.
After a while, my love for 3D modeling grew to the desire to work in art, and I began exploring CG. The only software I knew was 3Ds Max, it wasn’t enough. I started learning Maya, ZBrush, and Mari. After about a year of daily practice, I made a first model worth showing on my portfolio. It was Rheinmetall 12.8cm K44 L/55. It became my starting point. That year I also met a person who became my friend and mentor.
My career at Wargaming started in a junior position. It was the period when they were changing old graphics to HD. My first months were tough: I had to learn a lot of new software, follow very high-quality standards. Now I am a Senior 3D Artist. I work both on styles and standard models of tanks. I also research new ways of realistic 3D models creation and take part in teaching juniors.
Object 907 “Graphite” 3D Style
The Idea of the Project
We are steadily implementing advanced technologies to work faster and improve the quality of our models. One of our latest novelties is photogrammetry. I took part in a few expeditions. We were sent to islands, where we were scanning stones, rocks, and ground for several weeks.
We also visited museums to scan vehicles. It was a very interesting experience. Skills gained while photogrammetry has proven to be useful for the art side of tank creation.
Besides, I have been mentoring one of the 3D courses taught at Wargaming Forge. Here you can find some artworks of our alumnus.
We have a well-established workflow of model creation. We work in close cooperation with historical consultants. They are responsible for references and blueprints for 3D artists.
Then, as a 3D Artist, I create a low-poly tank model in Maya. The process is quite standard. The Graphite polycount is 68595 tris. There are two UV sets with 4K, three UV sets with 2K, one UV set with 512 tris.
I work with UVs in UVLayout. I think it is one of the most useful applications for 3D mapping. When it's ready, the model is sent to our historians for approval and to QA.
Then comes my favorite stage - high-poly creation and normal baking. The high-poly is made in ZBrush, from a low-poly model. As for tools, I often use ZModeler and creases.
I pay special attention to the realism of each detail. Instead of working with all details at once, I prefer to divide them.
In the beginning, I divide a tank body into sheets of armor plates and connect them with welding seams.
After that, I get down to small details.
That’s how the model looks like with Normal maps.
Then, I bake Ambient Occlusion and export the tank to Substance Painter. To make the texturing easier, I detach some elements from the model.
After about two weeks the final textures are ready.
Before the actual creation, 3D style goes through the concept stage to define its key idea and direction. Then, 3D artists, historical consultant, supervisor, and art director work together to achieve the desired look.
As for Graphite, I had done a lot of diligent work, researching interesting prototypes of different units of the tank in archives and history magazines.
The key element of the style became an antiballistic missile defense system that existed in reality. I didn’t find its photos, so I took some elements from the soviet anti-tank gun MT-12P “Ruta”.
There were no special tricks at this stage, I used a low-poly and normal map.
My materials look quite realistic. I have learned from my experience, that there are two key factors: interesting normal maps and correct values of PBS materials.
One more important element is the texture used in the normal map. A detailed texture will help you make the materials more prominent.
You can see the difference in the screenshot.
1 - Rolled metal
2 - Cast metal
3 - Thin metal
The texture is important to have in mind while drawing the masks for wear and dirt.
I do the texturing in Substance Painter. Here I create all necessary materials. This time my pipeline didn’t include Megascans Mixer.
The realism was achieved by imitation of the real tank painting process.
The sequence I use is:
1 - Raw metal
2 - Patina
3 - Primer
4 - Paint
The Wear and Damage are painted with a normal map taken into account. This sequence gives me a quite realistic result.
When Paint and Wear maps are ready, I draw the Dust Map. It is made on the base of Ambient Occlusion and Curvature Maps.
Then, I make other materials: rubber, oil, soot, and labels.
My first tanks were baked right in the game engine. But there were limitations on lighting adjustments and I moved to Marmoset.
The scene itself is simple. Besides a standard HDRI, I used a few lighting sources and a floor texture made from a photo scan.
The result of Marmoset rendering:
Then, I made a color correction in Photoshop and connected the background and floor. The picture I got after that was my final version of the artwork.
Here is how the postprocessing looks like:
The most difficult part for me was to keep all my ideas within polycount and texel limits. There is always a great temptation to make as many details as possible. But unfortunately, artistic ambitions are currently constrained by hardware limits.
The texturing was quite tough too but it is the way to make the model look realistic.
Nowadays, the main constraint of 3D graphics is PCs of gamers. Few people play on truly top hardware. Most gamers have quite weak computers. This group is always taken into consideration while game development.
As for the future of 3D… I believe that the future belongs to Artificial Intelligence. I am also sure that photogrammetry and material libraries will grow in popularity, raising the CG quality standards higher and higher.