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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!
I was 4 years old when my dad (co-founder of Germany’s first Mac-Club) brought home an Apple Macintosh and I got in touch with the first graphic programs. When I was 11 years old I got my first raytracing software, but my true passion for 3D started when I saw Gears of War for the first time. I asked myself if I would be able to achieve such a visual quality one day.
Working on Games
When you work for the arch viz or VFX industry you have literally no boundaries when it comes to creating beautiful images. Every image and composition the audience will see is planned and highly polished. Games are a little bit different here since the player can interact with the medium and has got influence on what is drawn on the screen.
Tasks you could achieve easily in offline-rendering (e.g. movies) could become pretty tricky in realtime rendering (games).
I am always looking for software packages that provide efficient workflows, a good usability and the capacity of dealing with most of the daily tasks. In production, I try to switch between them as little as possible to save time. Today MODO has become my favourite modeling tool (beside Zbrush for sculpting) . It fulfills most of my needs for modeling, retopo and unwrapping.
When it comes to texturing there is no way around Allegorithmic’s Substance Tools. Substance Painter is fast, stable and flexible. Besides, it can bake all kinds of base maps and got a neat renderer for presentation on board.
Modern hardware is capable of handling tons of data, but if you set yourself tough limits in the first place you might end up with some free resources when you need them. Stress tests will show you the limits of your game engine and hardware.
Let’s end this misunderstanding once for all. You can stylize 3d assets in PBR the same way you did in standard rendering. The PBR workflow makes realistic surfaces and imperfection on the micro surface much easier. That’s why we see so many artists doing realistic stuff today.
In standard rendering, you had to paint in your light and shadow information to your diffuse texture so it fits to your scene lighting. Even if the same artist would paint the same asset twice it would look different. And when the scene lighting changes drastically the artist has to paint a new texture set for the new conditions.
There are only benefits when it comes to lighting and material consistency, since you can define materials that will stay accurate in all lighting conditions.
You can still paint in these information if you want to. You can still stylize. It looks even more beautiful in PBR.
Usually I start by creating the most basic materials for texturing the scene. I love the idea behind Allegorithmic’s smart materials.
Once you have built up (or downloaded) a library of smart materials you can share them with your team, tweak them (e.g. change the color, roughness, make them more rusty, add more dirt, etc.) or combine them to create completely new materials.
How to Break Into The Industry?
By making cool stuff. A great portfolio is still a door opener.
In most cases it is better to show just a few great portfolio pieces than many that are of average quality. Make something you love, not what you think might be expected from you.
Another great way to connect with people that love to make games are game jams. There you will meet a lot of talented enthusiasts (some of them may already work in the game industry).