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Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
3d artist Lee Hinds shared some tips on how he creates amazing 3d weapons.
My name is Lee Hinds, I’m 25 and I’ve been working on games for about 4 years. I was born in San Diego, California, studied at The Art Institute of California – San Diego. I got interested in game development in high school and decided to learn more about it after graduating. Although I was able to learn Photoshop, research information about CG art, and explore game development in high school, I didn’t really start making 3D art until I got into college. During college, I got an internship at Sony Online Entertainment working on Planetside 2. After the internship, I got hired on as a contract artist on Planetside 2 and mainly worked on making weapons.
I got interested in making guns in 3D while studying in college. One of the things that stood out in my favorite games were weapons, so I wanted to try to get good enough to make them. Also, seeing work from people like Reno “Lonewolf3d” Levi and Alan “Polygoo” Van Ryzin kept me inspired to keep practicing. I like modeling in general because I get to be creative and it feels like solving a puzzle at times. I specifically like making guns because of the final result. Guns are one of my favorite things to look at and study, so that keeps me wanting to make more.
The goal with this project was to try to find and use new techniques that I wasn’t comfortable with. I also wanted to use Fusion 360 and Zbrush with 3DS Max to see if could increase the speed of making complex objects. I started this project by gathering a ton of images of custom AR-15s/M-16s.
I enjoy making guns that feel grounded in reality so when looking at reference, I look at people who make custom parts for real guns. I first began with making a receiver that I thought looked interesting. I also used booleans with low res primetives to cut out shapes so I could easily clean up and continue using edge loops. After making sure all of the proportion looked correct, I started to block in pieces around the receiver to see if I could get something that looked interesting.
Around this point in the project, I took some advice from Ryan Hawkins and decided to stream the rest of the project on Twitch. Doing so kept me motivated during the whole project and allowed me to get instant feedback on the design of the gun.
For pieces like the guard rail, I used ProBoolean in 3DS Max, then polished the edges in Zbrush. Having live booleans makes it easier to figure out a design because of how quickly you can change the shape of whatever you’re making. It’s also helpful if you plan to make a low poly because you can remove all the booleans fast. To see more of this process, you can go to a Polycount thread on this topic here. This is how I made most of the perforations in the model.
I used 3 different techniques for the perforation elements in the rifle. For some components, I modeled with the traditional edge loop method. For other components I used the pro boolean feature in 3ds Max and then polished the edges in Zbrush. I also made some pieces in Fusion 360. The reason for using so many different methods was to learn and practice. I don’t normally use this many techniques but when I’m doing personal projects, I like experimenting so I can come up with different and faster workflows. I didn’t make a low poly version of this gun but you wouldn’t necessarily want as many perforations in the low poly version. It would really be dependent on the type and style of game. A general rule would be if it is close to the camera, like a first person shooter, then you would keep a good amount of the perforations. If it is far from the camera, like a third person shooter, then a lot of those details would be baked down into a normal map. For the receiver and stock, I used edge loops along with the chamfer modifier. After iterating a number of times and getting feedback during the stream, I committed to a design and began setting up the model to render in Keyshot.
Creating the textures was pretty straightforward in Keyshot. Since I knew I wanted to render this in Keyshot, I only unwrapped certain parts of the gun that I knew would have text on it. For the rest of the components, I broke them up by applying different materials in max so it would be easier to work with in Keyshot. Keyshot has a nice camouflage material that you can make cool patterns with so I decided to use that. I made a material with a gradient in it for the scope lens. For some parts of the gun I used a normal map that projected small details on it and everything else was made with Keyshot materials I altered a bit.
It is important to take animation into account when making guns, especially if you want it to look and feel realistic. I had no plans to animate this gun, but I still wanted pieces of the model to feel as if it could work. For example, I didn’t plan on anyone seeing the drum magazine as a standalone asset, but still built it in a way that would look convincing if reloaded.
It’s possible to make pretty much any model work in game. Although this project is a high poly gun, I made sure to set up the file as if I was going to bake it down to a low poly model. I have all of the pro boolean pieces in a separate layer so I could easily start making a game ready gun.
Although this piece didn’t make it into the final, I experimented with a workflow to get a high and low res model out of Fusion 360 to 3DS Max. If you import the model into Max as a IGES model, it will come in as curves, This is beneficial because you can reduce the amount of triangles in the model very easily.