A little talk about the production of materials, the creation of stylized assets and the way to work with the lighting to achieve Blizzard-like look in games.
We’ve had a great chance to talk with Henric Montelius, who’s been working on an astonishing 3d scene, inspired by the beautiful online shooter Overwatch. In this breakdown, you’ll learn more about the production of materials, the creation of stylized assets and the way to work with the lighting.
My name is Henric Montelius and I’m from Stockholm, Sweden, currently studying 3D-graphics at Future Games. Ever since I started with 3D-art and even before then, the stylized look has always been appealing to me. In particular, Blizzard’s games and how well they execute this art style.
The Visby environment is a huge project that I’m currently working on and it’s one of my main projects at Future Games. Visby is a city located on Gotland, the largest island of Sweden. I chose to work with this because I’ve been there every summer of my whole life, and I really like the scenery. Walking along the torn down medieval city wall, right next to these cute houses, creates such a cozy feeling. It was these feelings and memories that inspired me to start the project in the first place. If I start a project on my own terms I always choose something close to my heart. This way I find it easier to stay motivated and have a clear vision of the end result.
I wanted people to see the scene and say “Hey, I’ve walked those streets!”. Therefore, I wound up spending time with Google Maps to find references of the specified area.
My approach to modeling the assets was pretty straight forward as most of the stylized appeal is added in materials and lighting. I used realistic references for the base models and studied Overwatch closely to see how they make use of exaggerated proportions. This made me realize that a lot of props actually have realistic proportions while smaller objects such as foliage can be scaled up greatly to avoid clutter in the scene.
As I don’t have a specific hero piece in the scene I emphasize the importance of an efficient workflow for creating environment models instead. When creating assets for a large environment like this I constantly think about reusability and modularity. So I created a scene with modular pieces, making is easier to create several unique buildings according to the references
This time I modeled the foundation of every house separately but if I were to do something like this again I would probably build modular wall pieces as well.
When modeling like this I try to organize my assets in Maya, some pieces go to ZBrush for high poly sculpting while other assets have a high poly mesh in a hidden layer. Then I combine and triangulate all meshes before importing to Quixel.
The artists at Blizzard are amazing at good use of baked details, so I spent a lot of time doing research in Overwatch to study their assets. Finding the correct balance between polygon usage and baking is crucial for this soft art style. While modeling the low poly assets I experimented a lot before achieving the desired look.
Meshes like the sidewalk rocks got fewer polygons than those for the great wall, since they aren’t as important. I might have overdone this a little bit, but I think that it worked out in the end. Separate rock meshes used for the wall were given extra polygons to match the highpoly mesh improving lighting quality with more accurate shadow maps.
Creating the materials for this scene was a lot of fun as I love to spend time with tiles in ZBrush. The material for the great wall has a bit of a story of itself with endless iterations before I could accept the result. Constantly comparing my result to Overwatch motivated me to keep redoing it until I was satisfied.
Early in the project I was certain that dynamic lighting was the way to go. I didn’t think about light maps at all and tried to cover it up with post-processing. As you see it wasn’t even close to the desired Overwatch look.
I was lucky to get help from Tilmann Milde – Technical Lighting and Shader Artist at DICE – during an environment course. Tilmann got me on the right track by explaining the importance of baked lights with lightmass. This made me start over from scratch, using post-processing very lightly and creating light maps with proper resolution for every object in the scene.
When creating a large scene like this it’s easy to get stressed trying to deliver as much content as possible within a short time. Heavily reducing the scope and deciding that it will be done when I’m satisfied, helped me produce content faster as I became much more motivated.
First I spent a few weeks modeling the foundation of the scene while simultaneously working on other projects. When I decided to reduce the scope it took me around four weeks of full time work to rethink and build everything specific for this composition.
I’m currently working with the rest of the scene and I hope to share it with the community one day!