How to Build a Stylized Game Prop?
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How to Build a Stylized Game Prop?
4 October, 2017
Interview

Kevin Young showed how to create a wonderful asset, which looks like it was taken from World of Warcraft.

Introduction

I’ve been studying 3D Game Art at Kendall College of Art and Design since January 2016. I’ve been working in 3D for about a year now, specializing in environments. I was taught by both Cory Heald and Brian Olmstead for the majority of my time here and I was also given a great opportunity to intern alongside them both at Underbite Games for the past 9 months, expanding my knowledge vastly. I recently departed from that internship but while there, I worked on video game environment projects for both Super Dungeon Tactics and early development of Sentinels: Age of Heroes as well as some outsource work for a Lego Star Wars project.

 

Source of Fel 

The project originated when my instructor, Brian Olmstead, asked what I may want to make for our first project for the upcoming Fall semester and I gave him a handful of concepts to choose from. He ended up choosing the Source of Fel project (Concept by Egor Belavsky) for all of us in class to create. I jumped in to start blocking out the model in Modo and I wanted to make sure the major elements of the scene were well conveyed proportionally while adding a functionality to the piece as needed. I also thought to have some fun and change the skeletal hand to a more gruesome fleshy hand. I had also taken notice of a thread on the Polycount forums that used the same concept for the months of January and February as part of their environment challenge project. While I was much too late to participate in their challenge, I took note of the participants’ work to see how they both struggled and succeeded with their own projects, ultimately contributing to my own success with the model.

Modeling

The modeling began within Modo, blocking out the overall shape of the concept, ensuring that the proportions were adequate. I planned ahead to duplicate the stonework in a radial pattern and sculpted no more than a half-circle of the bricks to save myself some time. I subdivided the model several times within Zbrush to obtain a certain smoothness and detail quality. I paid close attention to the concept for detail and where it was placed to ensure my authenticity. Using Michael Vincente’s brush pack, I was able to easily achieve a hand painted style for both the wood, metal, and stonework. The most challenging part of the sculpt was probably with the rope. I had never before sculpted a rope and while I looked into tutorials that would help me through the process, they were a bit too realistic for the hand-painted approach and I ended up sculpting it entirely by hand, meaning I went through the entire length of the rope making sure each line matched with the last. It was not the most time efficient approach but it certainly matched the hand-painted style I was hoping to achieve within my time constraints. I was, however, given more time effective approaches by Brian to achieve the same look after I completed my sculpt and I plan to use those methods in future projects that require them.

Outside of the sculpt, the most challenging aspect to tackle was the retopology of the candles. Truthfully I believe they are the weakest point in my model. I received some great feedback both in class and from the online community though on ways to improve them, which I plan to do in the next few days.

Textures

The entire project was established in a hand-painted style and while that can be a large topic of it’s own, I’ll attempt to describe the style as best as I possibly can. Before painting anything, I establish that my normal map is correctly applied and I use 3D-Coat’s AO baking to give me a strong depth of shadow. I then apply flat colors and use that as a starting point. I then paint in highlights and blend between them and the base color. Essentially, I use the color picker to choose the in-between color when blending, applied it with a 50% opacity, then again choose the in-between created from other in-between colors and apply it within the blending area. Ultimately I’m just going back and forth between colors. I like to explain painting as the push and pull between color and as an example I like to think of it as waterbending from “The Last Airbender”. Painting is not necessarily creating the perfect shape through the first initial brush stroke, but through repeated motion of back and forth, the proper shape comes to fruition to properly describe the material. It’s difficult to explain but best seen through color blending with actual paint on a canvas. I have a background in traditional painting and it has given me great practice to experiment. With this particular model, I experimented with the use of color in a “thick” application.

Using 3D-Coat

I didn’t necessarily use any smart materials found in 3D-Coat as it was all hand-painted but I did establish myself as the light source and I found it both fun and empowering. In other words, I placed my camera view from where light would originate and I believe it created some positive results. It was crucial to be mindful of what kind of surface material I was trying to describe though. As an example, while painting metal, I needed to push the bright highlights further than anything else and pay close attention to the shape of the model to determine a believable rate that the light would fall-off. The wood and stone were somewhat easier to paint though as they did not require as much of a reflective quality but the principles remained the same. I’m also interested to begin learning how to texture within Substance Painter too in an attempt to both become more familiar with an industry standard and save myself more time. I already have plans in place to use it for my next project which happens to be a large robot.

Setting up in Sketchfab

Setting up the light within Sketchfab was actually really quick and easy. It didn’t take any longer than 20 minutes to just use the standard presets Sketchfab provides and tweak a few settings. Correctly applying the alpha channels to give the grass textures their transparency was another small step to take but nothing of extreme difficulty. I feel that Sketchfab has made the process as easy as possible to display models wonderfully. I have certainly thought to add animation to my model and it’s possible I still will. I would like to see the wheel crank go back and forth to raise and lower a bucket into and out of the source of fel. When it comes time for the animation, I’ll have texture space available for the bucket that currently ceases to exist. I also imagine to repurpose my zombie-esque hand and bone to place on the wheel crank itself, as if it’s responsible for raising and lowering the bucket into and out of the well.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the outcome of my project and I’m excited to continue pushing myself as an artist. I’m also super excited to begin my career path in 3D. I haven’t been working in 3D for a very long time and I am thrilled to think that I can only grow from here. I owe a lot of my newly found skill and knowledge to my teachers and I hope they can see how much I appreciate them and their help. It may be cliche to say, but really, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Thank you so much for this opportunity, it was really fun to be able to share my work! The 3D community is really great at helping one another and I’m glad to now be a part of something so amazing.

Kevin Young, 3D Environment Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.

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