Dragos Matkovski did a little talk about the way he creates fantastic low poly games with Unity.
My name is Dragos Matkovski, currently living in Brasov, Romania. I am a self-employed artist specialized in environment art.
I got into game development back in 2011 as a 3d modeler. The first projects I’ve worked on were hidden object part adventure games.
My portfolio wasn’t gaming oriented and it was never my goal to end up in the gaming industry, I mostly had small experiments done in 3ds Max over the course of student years.
I remember one moment that pushed my 3d modeling interest forward. It was back in 2006 when I bought an issue of 3D World magazine, on the cover was a work done by this one. The level of detail and realism fascinated me.
So my interest in 3D started early and without a certain focus, I was enjoying the process of creating virtual worlds.
Environment experiments with Unity
I have a strong interest for illustration and concept art and closely follow a lot of artists. I think this is one reason why stylized art is more compelling to me. I appreciate the skill required to simplify things to their essence and I always try to do that in my work.
I still appreciate and enjoy realism in art but I only do it occasionally.
Figuring out the visuals of the game
Working for Bullet Ville suits my preference toward stylized art perfectly. The simplified look keeps the work volume under control by leaving out many of the steps usually required in the graphics pipeline. We had to achieve this without settling on the low poly style we are so accustomed to, yet build worlds that feel unique and beautiful in a timely manner.
I try to pay extra attention to the object’s silhouette and always add an imperfection even to the most beautiful shape.
Producing content for the game
I start with the big shapes, assets that the composition will be built around. Then I continue with smaller and smaller details. I very often try and challenge myself to achieve a convincing shape with the lowest number of polys possible.
Furthermore, in the early stage of concepting we relied a lot on the Asset Store for models that were aligned with our vision and taste for the game’s visuals. This saved us lots of time iterating on the style, so thanks to all content creators out there!
Every scene was built inside Unity with a focus on mood and lighting.
This workflow allowed us to move from pre-production to production faster, since we already had the rough lighting setup, models, proportions, and layout set inside the engine.
I usually start with modeling a few key elements and stage them inside 3ds Max, if I feel I have a solid base I start moving things to Unity.
I look for a strong composition and set the camera. I populate the scene from the camera’s point of view, emphasizing the composition even more. I repeat this process across the map in different locations of interest, making sure every area is pleasing to look at.
I consider the scene a canvas where I paint the shapes, I guess that’s my “trick”.
For the lighting I relied mostly on the Directional Light in combination with the Ambient Gradient colors because most of the scenes are set outside. For the materials I used the Standard Shader where I could easily control the colors over multiple objects from the color swatch.
But what really made the scenes feel alive are a combination of Image Effects, to name the main ones: Amplify Occlusion, Amplify Color, Stylized Fog and Beautify.
I feel like any tool that gives direct access to controlling the colors in the scene is super useful.
I’m passionate about cinematography and I try to apply it to the best of my knowledge. I use it to sell different moods, to show the scale or put focus on something.
Making low poly assets work
Sure. Even if you’re doing stylized work, always look up references. Your memory of an object might be far from the truth and incomplete. After you gather a few, try to understand the essence of what you’re about to create. If you know the model will be used multiple times, don’t add details that stand out to it and make sure it looks good from every angle.