Hard Surface Character Workflow for Games

Hard Surface Character Workflow for Games

Leslie Van den Broeck shared a little information about the way he produced his amazing award-winning character for the Artstation competition. A very nice look at the concept production, sculpting, and painting.


My name is Leslie Van den Broeck. I’m an artist from Belgium currently working for Blizzard Entertainment on Heroes of the Storm. Before Blizzard, I worked at Larian Studios in Belgium on Divinity Original Sin where I got my start in the game industry. I’ve been a professional 3d artist for about 5 and a half years now. 



I read about the Artstation Beyond Human challenge and it seemed to nicely lineup with some of the things O wanted to experiment with as a personal project. The main goal I had was to start getting familiar with Maya since I’ve been a 3DS Max guy since I started learning 3d in school and wanted to see the benefits of another program like Maya. Every time I start a bigger more time-consuming project I try to have secondary reasons like this attached to it so apart from practice I learn something extra in the process.

When I saw Hue Teo’s concepts for the previous round of the challenge they immediately spoke to me, they had a unique vibe to them while still being very readable silhouettes and not too ‘out there’ in terms of design either.

I like things that look badass, are very readable in terms of visual shapes, and still have some exploration to them for the 3d part.


When I start a project like this I try to have a concept figured out for 1 view at least, so if I’m working on a concept then that’s already in place. If I don’t have a concept but an idea I’ll probably do a very rough sketch. At the same time I’ll gather a bunch of reference for the style, mood and details I want. 

This is so important when creating a character since it gives you new ideas and options instead of just going by whats in your head already.

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From there on I’ll do a rough 3d blockout, this is the fastest and most fun stage for me since I can get the idea out in a short amount of time and figure out how everything work in a 3d space. I rarely try to make the character exactly like the concept but do my own take on it for personal projects since it adds to the personal feel of it rather than trying to trace every line. That’s another reason why I prefer very loose concepts over highly polished ones, I’m not trying to be a copy machine but an artist with input and ideas of my own.

Even though this model might look a bit more complex than the work I usually do, it actually is fairly simple in structure, a lot of it references human anatomy but it makes it even easier to manage since all the shapes can be separated out.

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Its more about getting the proportions right than thinking about the details. I was planning to do more small details in the final texture phase but ended up liking the broader surface look of it being broken up by the scratched paint look.


For the actual textures I used Substance Painter, I love the Substance tools since they allow me to be faster and think in more real-life terms about what I’m doing rather than the individual maps. 

In a professional setting, I don’t use Painter at all so its yet another tool to explore for me when working on this. After making a lot of color variations for different skins at work I very well know which types of looks and color combinations I personally like so it just came down to choosing the right one for the project. The industrial but very vibrant look of the yellow and black combination always speaks to me so it was a no-brainer to try it out, after trying it I was really happy with it so I didn’t feel I needed to do different things just for the sake of it being different and the deadline was creeping up, so having that decisions made, helped me finish this up in time.

The technical side of this project wasn’t the most complicated one , I’m used to making characters under a 15k triangles with a 1024 texture maps so 100k and 4k texture maps weren’t a concern to me at all. It allowed me to not worry too much about cutting down the mesh too much but I of course tried to keep it a functional mesh. After modeling the high poly pieces in Maya I already had a lot of geo to work with for the low poly so optimizing went very fast and there were only a few pieces like the uperarms and legs that I had to manually retop.

Baking was done in Substance Designer since it allows me to bake by mesh names and the maps are good to go for Substance Painter. Then finally for presentation, I used Marmoset Viewer since it’s so easy to use and it gives you the option to export a viewer file so others can look at the 3d model. I tried playing with some flipbook shaders at one point so get electricity effects on the model but ended up cutting it since I couldn’t export it to the viewer file, eventually, I’d love to see this guy rigged up and animated and I might experiment with effects a bit further.


The biggest hurdle on this was time management, after the blockout phase the entire process slowed down quite a bit since I was trying to learn Maya while cleaning up that blockout. Also just making the time after work to work on this project wasn’t always as convenient but I think in the end didn’t have to rush it too much so it was fine. More time does allow for more experimentation with textures and presentation though and that’s never a bad thing to do.

I really enjoyed working on this and pushing my knowledge a bit further, hopefully, I can do more of these types of projects in the future!

Leslie Van den Broeck, Senior 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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