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John Mesplay: Texturing a Gun From Destiny

We’ve spoken with John Mesplay about his impressive Destiny fan art. He talked about the design of this unusual weapon, described

We’ve spoken with John Mesplay about his impressive Destiny fan art. He talked about the design of this unusual weapon, described his material creation tips and gave some advice to beginners.


John Mesplay, US Army veteran, 3D artist, gamer. First job in the industry was for Luma Pictures, I also spend some time at TNG VFX in Los Angeles, CA.  I currently work at Nerd Kingdom, an independent gaming company in Dallas, TX.

Projects I’ve worked on, Films:  “Guardians of the Galaxy”, “In the Heart of the Sea”, “Ant Man”, “Hail, Caesar!”  TV Shows: “Agents of Sheild”, “The Flash”, “Once Upon a Time”, and “Sleepy Hollow”,  And various other smaller part on other projects.

Iron Execution

I’m a huge Destiny fan (a video game made by Bungie).  I just love the mix of fantasy and sci-fi they have created a grandiose, dystopian vision of a Sol System future.

The weapons in the game, especially the “exotic” class of weapon are particularly awesome for me, and I want to create one that could fit in that weapon tear.  With there new expansion based around the lore of a PVP related event called Iron Banner I wanted to create a exotic weapon specifically for the Iron Lords, “Iron Execution”.   Which you become by participating in the Iron Banner PVP event. This weapon is based on a concept by Chris Perrault:



Hard surface modeled in Maya, details in Zbrush, smaller details and easier created details put in the normal map with nDo and Quixel Suite.  I just thought this concept was perfect for the Iron Banner and wanted to create it in 3D so this could plausibly be used in game.






Adding the Details

With the fantasy/sci-fi feel of Destiny this weapon was perfect fit I wanted to make it look heavy, hard, sharp and deadly.  I thought the best way to do this is make it look like newly cast, polished but slightly used iron; maybe for an Iron Execution. The decorative elements were made in Zbrush and normal map techniques in nDo, Quixel Suite. I think these elements lend to the unique or exotic feel to the weapon much like other weapons in the game that are exotic have.






The materials I wanted to get across were iron/steel something hard and cold. Then wood for a balance and older style weapon feel bring back the fantasy feel in a sci-fi style weapon.

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I used Substance for the base materials and then edited them a bit with there procedural editing tools.

I wanted it to look old but relic like, not to used and not to dirty more like it had been on a mountain top used by some old dead Iron Lord and left there for new Iron lords to find.  I chose the wood color mainly because I wanted to contrast it with the lighter metal but also make it look old at the same time.  The main challenges with all materials is the balance, not over doing the details while trying to make it look interesting.  I spent along time on the roughness map just to try to get the right feel since metal always looks a bit different depending on the image based lighting you use.

The intricate details are just little random strokes duplicated many times and made in to a normal overlay layer to bump in to the metal making it look engraved.  Some of the larger details are also made this way, but made to bump out.

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Connecting the Parts

Well, it’s understanding of what you want to do with the model, do you want a more sci-fi object, clean shapes, some highly crafted object or do you want a gritty welded object with dirty grime and stuff everywhere on it like its been used and beat up.  I went for the highly crafted and clean, getting it as close as I could to the concept, as if in a real pipeline. Thinking this is all I have to base the model on without any other guidance, besides the Destiny art style itself.

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For the wood, since I couldn’t get the right look in either Substance or Quixel materials, I just used an old wood texture I’ve had in a folder (which happens more than you might think sometimes – using old texturing techniques never fails)  then just used Substance material values in the roughness and metalness maps for its reflectively.  I used Quixel to extract the normal details from the wood then hand-painted some in and lined them up in the diff, ruff, metal maps.  I made it a bit shiny as if it had been lacquered in the past but rubbed off in the logically places there you would hold the weapon and touch it to your cheek/helmet.

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Combining Quixel and Substance Painter 

I think the best way to get started with these programs is to work on something really small at first, one set of maps and a simple object. That way you can get to texturing fast and spend a lot of time and not get burnt out on the project.  Then just get on YouTube and follow tutorials and online documentation.

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I’ve been using Quixel for a while and just started using Substance. Both are powerful and easy to use and I think both have there strengths and weaknesses. Quixel is faster at getting normals in and editing them, while Substance is better at hand painting and editing details, like scratches and seams on your model (in my opinion). I think my workflow in the future will quickly become normals in Quxiel and then full material set up in Substance and final edits in Photoshop.

John Mesplay, 3D artist

interesting links




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